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Last-ditch attempt to find Florence Maud Marjorie Brooks

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Last-ditch attempt to find Florence Maud Marjorie Brooks

Postby JaneyH » Tue Jul 07, 2015 8:53 pm

I posted this on Roots Chat about a month ago but didn't get anywhere. While readership between the two sites obviously overlaps, I'm re-posting here in the hope that someone different may see it / be inspired / suggest a new line of enquiry.

I’m wondering if anyone can help me find any details about the above-named person. She was the second partner of my great-grandfather, Oliver William Bowdler (1883-1953).

To set the scene, Oliver married my great-grandmother (Lilian Maud Evans) in 1908 and went on to have nine children together, one of whom was my grandfather. Up until 1922 they lived in Blaize Bailey and then Newnham in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire. In 1922 my great-grandmother was sent to the workhouse in Westbury-on-Severn; the children were with her briefly, then (apart from my grandfather) sent to a children’s home. Oliver was committed to a month’s hard labour at Gloucester Prison in late 1922 for not having contributed towards his wife’s upkeep. I know nothing more about my great-grandmother, apart from the fact she died in a mental institution in Devon in 1952 (I have her death certificate).

At some point Oliver moved to Cardiff. His next child, Peter W.O. Bowdler, was born in Cardiff on 16 October 1923. I have a copy of the birth certificate, which records the father as being O.W. Bowdler, occupation motor driver (wholesale grocers), living at 57 Penhevad Street, Cardiff. The mother is shown as Florence Maud Marjorie Brooks, occupation domestic servant, same address. Both parents are listed as being informants of the registration, but there is no indication that Oliver and Florence were married.

There then follow five more Bowdler children with the mother shown as Brooks: twins Patrick and Gordon (born and sadly died 1925, Cardiff); Marion (born 1926, Cardiff); Ruth (born 1927, Okehampton Devon, died 1928 same place); and Kenneth (born & died 1929, Okehampton, Devon). I have newspaper reports of the funerals of Ruth and Kenneth who died in Devon. In both cases they refer to the parents as “Mr & Mrs O. Bowdler, who have only recently come to reside in the vicinity”.

At some point in the 1930s Florence disappears from the scene; Oliver had three further children between 1938 and 1943 with Beatrice Manley, whom he later married in 1946. Again, from newspaper reports, I know that Oliver divorced in 1945 – I assume this divorce is actually from my great-grandmother … not least because her death certificate says she’s the divorced wife of Oliver William Bowdler.

Peter Bowdler died in 1955; Marion Bowdler married Leonard Collins in 1942 and had two children. I believe she may have remarried in 1971 to a Mr Lemon - if so, I have a possible death record for 2002. However, given her year of birth, it is possible she could still be alive. There is a private tree on Ancestry that lists Marion but I am unsure whether to contact the owner given some of this particular history is difficult and perhaps sensitive to descendants.

So – finally – some questions. Can anyone find a marriage between Oliver and Florence? I’ve looked on and off for the past year but have been unable to find one. I’m assuming they never actually married. Can anyone find any other information about Florence? Everything I know (which not much) is shown above. Despite there being three first names, Brooks is such a common surname that nothing I’ve turned up can be her with any degree of certainty. Workhouse minutes clearly indicate that Oliver was still in Newnham in January 1923, yet Peter was born October the same year. My assumption is therefore that Florence either lived close by (and they eloped to Cardiff when she was pregnant) or that she was already in Cardiff and Oliver visited periodically, moving there properly at some point during 1923). Newnham is on the railway line from Gloucester to Cardiff so travel between the two would have been relatively straight-forward.

Please note that I have reams of information about my great-grandfather - it is Florence Brooks who I'm focusing on here.
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Re: Last-ditch attempt to find Florence Maud Marjorie Brooks

Postby Sylcec » Wed Jul 08, 2015 8:03 am

I agree that it is unlikely that Oliver BOWDLER and Florence BROOKS married - any such union would have been bigamous. Of course we know that many such unions did occur, but consider the likelihood that Florence was already aware of and may have had personal knowledge of your gt grandmother and family - a friend, employee at the workhouse infirmary or other institution, neighbour .....

I wonder how old she was? My guess (and it is only a guess) is that she would have been born in the period 1885-1905 and most likely in the 1890s. If she also hailed from a west country location, there are these possibilities:
Births Dec 1890 Brooks Florence Maud Bath 5c 509
Births Mar 1892 Brooks Florence Maud Bedminster 5c 641
Births Dec 1893 Brooks Florence Maud Plymouth 5b 240
Births Jun 1896 Brooks Florence Maud Tavistock 5b 350

It's very frustrating trying to identify suitable people on the 1901 and 1911 censuses as very few of the Florence Brooks seem to include a middle name or initial!

Have you tried searching for her name on electoral rolls in the 1920s and 1930s?

I understand your reluctance to possibly cause distress to the owner of the Ancestry tree which mentions their daughter Marion - however, there is really nothing to lose by attempting to contact the tree owner, who may or may not respond to your overtures. I would write briefly in these sort of terms: "I believe that I may be related to Marion Bowdler on your tree as my great grandparents were Oliver Bowdler and his first wife Lillian. I would be pleased to hear from you to share family information of mutual interest."

best wishes and good luck.
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Re: Last-ditch attempt to find Florence Maud Marjorie Brooks

Postby JaneyH » Wed Jul 08, 2015 9:02 pm

Dear Sylvia, Thanks for your wise counsel!

It was only on reading your reply that I realised that of course my grandfather must have known Florence, since the newspaper articles about the funerals of Ruth and Kenneth mention the fact that he (and indeed other siblings from Oliver's first marriage to Lilian Maud) were among the mourners in Devon.

I've plucked up the courage to send a brief message to the owner of the private tree on Ancestry which includes Marion Bowdler, daughter of my great-grandfather and Florence Brooks. While Ancestry indicates that the owner has not been active for over a year it's fingers crossed - I've had some luck in recent months doing this with other tree owners with shared ancestors. I guess the worst that can happen is either to be ignored or to get a reply telling me to go away.

My Mum was aged 10 when Oliver William Bowdler died, so she has little recollection of her grandfather as a person, let alone knowing anything about his background. My grandfather (her father) rarely spoke of his childhood, other than to say he "had a hard time". The more I discover, the more I can understand why. As you'll appreciate, some of what I've uncovered - particularly about the workhouse episode and my great-grandmother being in mental institutions - has been difficult to share with my Mum. What shocked her most was to find that Lilian Maud only died in 1952 (within my Mum's lifetime) when she had always assumed she'd died in the 1920s.

I'll do some more searching with regard to electoral rolls for Florence, but I suspect that if none of these get me anywhere it may be one to file away until the 1921 Census is published. That would at least give me a chance to try and find Florence much closer in time to when she met my great-grandfather.

Janey
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Re: Last-ditch attempt to find Florence Maud Marjorie Brooks

Postby LotsMissing » Sun Jul 19, 2015 1:42 am

It might be a coincidence, but a Florence Brooks (born 9 August 1892) died in Okehampton in 1978.

By the way, do the names Peter, Patrick, Gordon, Marion, Ruth and Kenneth appear in the Bowdler side of the family? If not, that could give you a clue to Florence's parents/grandparents/siblings.
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Re: Last-ditch attempt to find Florence Maud Marjorie Brooks

Postby JaneyH » Sun Jul 19, 2015 8:03 am

Thanks for that one, LotsMissing - I'll follow it up. The six names of Oliver & Florence's children are not Bowdler names. (With many ancestors having 8-10 children each there are certainly Christian names that crop up regularly. These six names do not occur anywhere else.). However, Peter's middle names are 'William Oliver' and Marion's middle name is Olive, so my great-grandfather had some influence over names.


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Re: Last-ditch attempt to find Florence Maud Marjorie Brooks

Postby AMBLY » Sun Jul 19, 2015 11:53 am

Hi Janey

Just wondering, are you aware of the Newspaper reports from late April 1922, where Lilian was brought up before the court at Little Dean on a charge of 'wandering abroad' on the night of the 27th. April? Sad reading really :cry:

Was published in Gloucester Journal - Saturday 29 April 1922

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Re: Last-ditch attempt to find Florence Maud Marjorie Brooks

Postby AMBLY » Sun Jul 19, 2015 12:41 pm

Hi again,

A question regard the 1929 funeral of Oliver & Florence's son Kenneth, aside from the BOWDLER Mam & Dad and siblings mentioned, have you looked into any of the others mentioned, or know who they are (thinking, could be from Florence's side):

Bearers:
Walter HOOKWAY
Cyril RICHARDS
Leslie SPICER
John PIPER

Mesdames:
W CLEMENT Jnr
G V HOOKWAY
P MEARDON

Messrs:
R NOBLE
T MEARDON
W SPICER

Floral Tributes:
Mr & Mrs HEADON & Ida
From Sanctuary College: Jack, May, Dorothy & Marjorie PIPER

Cheers
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Re: Last-ditch attempt to find Florence Maud Marjorie Brooks

Postby JaneyH » Sun Jul 19, 2015 3:00 pm

Dear Ambly,

I'm already aware of the newspaper article - it opened up a whole new avenue of research for me last year. In fact, we ended up having a family holiday to the Forest of Dean, visiting various locations and also going to the Archives in Gloucester to look at the workhouse records.

With regards to the mourners, it hadn't occurred to me to research them particularly. However it's another line of enquiry to pursue.

Janey


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Re: Last-ditch attempt to find Florence Maud Marjorie Brooks

Postby ianbee » Mon Sep 26, 2016 3:03 pm

Hi Janey
Don't know if you've made any progress on this, I know it's a been a longstanding brick wall for you.
Looking at it again, I've had an idea, but it's all very problematical!

From the electoral registers and other sources you have mentioned -
On the 1928 register, Oliver William + Florence Maud Bowdler were living at Boasley Wood Park, in the parish of Bratton Clovelly. Oliver also listed at Upcott Farm?
Then at Upcott, and you have the deaths of Ruth and Kenneth in 1928/9, and the funeral reports -
On the 1931 electoral register, in Chawleigh, Oliver William Bowdler was listed at Chapel Cottage. But no Florence, so presumably she had gone by then?

Next, the newspaper report, 10 June 1932 about the creditors meeting. In which Oliver says that one of the causes of his failure was "death in the family"
Now I know you've wondered about this. Was he referring to the children's deaths or was he maybe referring to Florence?
topic11426.html

Oliver and Florence could have split up of course. Though the children were with Oliver? Alternatively, Florence may have died, presumably around 1930? If so there's no obvious Bowdler/Brooks death.
But what if Florence, like Oliver, had been, or still was, married to someone else? (presumably there is no indication of it from the birth certificates, but still, they don't always tell the truth!)
Could perhaps Florence's death have been registered under another married name?
If she died before Oliver moved to Chawleigh, the district could still be Okehampton.

In which case, there may be only one real possibility -
March 1930 Okehampton 5b 487
Hamilton, Florence M.
age 35

That is the first BMD instance of the name Hamilton in Okehampton district since 1911!
Investigating further, there were surprisingly few Hamilton-Brooks marriages. One is
March 1916 Devonport 5b 743
Brooks, Florence M.
Hamilton, John R.

Only one birth of a Hamilton, mother Brooks, in the next ten years or more! Impossible to know for sure if it is connected, but interesting.
Dec 1919 Cardiff 11a 973
Hamilton, Margery J.
mother Brooks

Curiously, the next Hamilton registration in Okehampton after the death of Florence in 1930 is this marriage
Dec 1938 Okehampton 5b 1004
Brook, Thomas E.
Hamilton, Marjorie J.

Again, can't say for sure whether it's the same person who was born in Cardiff. Although I'm not too worried by the different spelling.
It's kind of tantalizing! Maybe something you could investigate perhaps.
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Re: Last-ditch attempt to find Florence Maud Marjorie Brooks

Postby ianbee » Mon Sep 26, 2016 4:48 pm

Hi Janey
Really don't know what you will make of this! Looks like it was the same Florence who married in Devonport, later living in Cardiff at any rate.
Newspaper report
Barry Dock News, 22 June 1917, page 7 bottom of col 4
http://newspapers.library.wales/view/4130612/4130619

Barry Police Court
Placed under Probation
Florence Hamilton....

followed by
Villain Sent for Four Months
John Ralph Hamilton, husband of the defendant in last case...

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