Saturday, 27 January 2018

Hidden Treasures: more findings

Writing the articles in Hidden Treasures gave me the chance to look closely at some of the research I had already done. The information in my files is so varied that it readily lent itself to illustrating a wide range of documents that can be used to tell more about the people who went before us.

The women I highlighted came from such different backgrounds: Jane Tripp, a pioneer and American Revolutionary War pension applicant; Sarah Arment, a London wife and mother desperate to save her menfolk from the punishment of the courts and Mary Rideout, a Dorset widow who had a child long after her husband’s death. Then there were the Strange ladies, Mary and Charlotte whose lives were separated by more than 50 years. By Charlotte’s time the Strange family had to work for a living and Charlotte carried on the family business. Mary, who lived many years earlier, lived the life of a lady and was able to keep in touch with far flung relatives through her correspondence.

Some examples of that correspondence are in my files. One letter, written in 1837, is of particular interest. Mary Strange wrote it to her nephew Norton Townshend who was living in Avon, Ohio.  She wrote to him about friends, neighbours and family; items that I will enjoy puzzling out. There was also talk of the weather and his request for information about Van Diemen’s land. The most interesting parts of the letter touched on social changes: the abolition of Church Rates and the coming of the railway to Kilsby, Northamptonshire. This would have been of interest to both Mary Strange and Norton Townshend as both used to live there. It was a reminder of how the sweeping changes of this time period affected individuals, including our ancestors. 

But it was a particular statement that really caught my attention. Mary wrote, “We are glad to find that the slave question is become the subject of discussion in your part of the world, hope you will by perseverance accomplish so desirable an object as well as constitute consistency of character.” Was this a provocative challenge from one person to another or a directive from an elder to a much younger family member? 

Whether challenge or directive, it appears that Norton Strange Townshend was a worthy kinsperson who shared his aunt’s concerns about the slave question. He was one of about 50 delegates from the US to the World’s Antislavery Convention in London, England in 1840.* Mary Strange must have been proud of her nephew for this and for his other accomplishments, or at least, those which she lived to see. His biography is available through the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress 1774 – present. His achievements were many and I am happy to add this unexpected connection to my family tree. 

 The Church in Kilsby where Mary Strange's father preached


Biographical Directory of the United States Congress 1774 – present