Total Pageviews

Thursday, 1 October 2015

The Cornish Gidleys' diaspora to Mexico

The Traveller supplement of September 26th 2015 to the Independent newspaper has inspired this post. Gidleys in Cornwall in the mid 19th century mainly worked in the mining industry and their skills in a dying industry at home were much in demand abroad. Their most exotic destination must be Mexico, and the Independent's supplement featured an article entitled "Cornwall in the Sierras" on the town of Pachuca and its Cornish heritage. This heritage includes the introduction of football to Mexico with the first ever match in the country held at Pachuca in 1900 and also the introduction of the pasty, paste in Spanish, which the Mexicans have adapted to their own taste with a range of spicy sweet and savoury fillings. There is a huge range of paste shops in Pachuca, plus a Museo del Paste. In 2008 Redruth in Cornwall was twinned with Pachuca to commemorate their common heritage.
Dr Sharron Schwartz's Exeter University project on the Cornish in Latin America has provided me with much extra information.
The main square in Real del Monte
The first Gidley to emigrate to Mexico was William Gidley born in 1808. William was the favourite male name for Gidleys in Cornwall and I have 23 of them on the Cornish tree; many of them married a Mary or Mary Ann and called their children after themselves. This makes identification difficult and occasionally the evidence conflicts, so I may have come to some wrong conclusions, but I think this particular William was the son of William Gidley and Thomasine Thomas. In 1841 he was a miner at Carharrack, near Gwennap, about 2 miles from Redruth. By the late 1840s Cornwall was arguably the most important mining district in the world, accounting for nearly a quarter of total recorded global copper ore output, but by the 1860s, being so far from the coalfields, the industry in Cornwall was in decline. But Cornish mining technology and skilled labour was in great demand throughout the world, and many residents emigrated in search of work. William Gidley must have seen the writing on the wall sooner than most, or perhaps he was attracted by the higher wages, for by 1847 he was in Mexico as an employee of the Real del Monte Mining Company; homepay £20 in September 1847. However, by the 1850s it seems that Wlliam had moved on to the mining region of California. His wife (just one of the Mary Ann Gidleys) never seems to have left Cornwall and died there in 1881, but his son William Henry Gidley born in 1840 in Cornwall was also in Township 8, Calaveras, California in 1860. I haven't found a death for William Henry Gidley (he was in Mariposa, California in 1870), but his father, the older William, is approximately the right age for the William Gidley who died in yet another mining area, Gold Hill, Storey County, Nevada, USA in 1872. The cause of death was asthma.
Other Gidleys were resident in Mexico for short periods. A second William Gidley was probably the nephew of William Gidley of the previous paragraph, was born in 1839 in Gwennap, the son of John Thomas Gidley, a copper miner of Carharrack, and his wife, Mary Ann Allen. This William was successful in his enterprises. His mining career began at the Poldice Mine. He emigrated to Mexico in 1867, was still there in 1871, but it also looks as though he too moved on to Nevada, where he was in 1880, although his obituary gives the impression his stay in Mexico was uninterrupted for 20 years. By 1891 he had returned to his wife in Cornwall, was living on his own means, and was proud to call himself a (mine) captain, which was inscribed on his tombstone in St Day. He left the respectable sum of £4780 19s 9d on his death in 1907, which was inherited by the only remaining member of his family, his daughter Eliza Gidley. His obituary, kindly sent to me by Gill, a Cornish-Mexican expert, records that he too died of a lung disease, an occupational hazard for miners. His obituary ends that he was "always open-hearted and willing to help all societies for the welfare of the community."
William and his wife, Mary Ann Craze, had three children, William John, Nanny/Nannie Jane and Eliza, born between 1864 and 1867. Only wife Mary Ann and younger daughter Eliza were never resident in Mexico. Son William John Gidley had two separate spells there, the first being in the 1870s. The Cornish in Latin America database records that in 1897 William John Gidley returned to Pachuca from Cornwall after an absence of 19 years to be the Mine Secretary of the Santa Gertrudis mine, but his sudden exposure to Pachuca's rarifed atmosphere killed him. It also records intriguingly that he had brought with him a ram and two ewes from the Prince of Wales' farm at Sandringham.
His sister Nannie Jane Gidley also emigrated to Mexico. She married another Gwennap man, John Odgers, in 1885 in the Southampton registration district, presumably near their port of embarkation, and they set off for the San Pedro Mine, Real del Monte, Pachuca. Their time there was short. John Odgers died on 22 January 1887, and Nanny Jane followed him a few weeks later. Both are buried in the Panteon Ingles, the English Cemetery, where all headstones apparently face towards Great Britain. A separate cemetery was necessary in the predominantly Catholic country. In the early days swamp fever was a terrifyingly swift and unpleasant death, but it is not known what carried off the Odgers couple.

The Panteon Ingles

The grave of John and Nannie Jane Odgers
So what sort of life would the Gidleys have had in Pachuca? It was a small town in the mountains about 50 miles from Mexico City, and Real del Monte, the mining district, was just outside the main town. The silver mines were redeveloped from the 1830s onwards by British financed companies, and by the 1870s there were 350 Cornish residents in Pachuca. As well as the pasties and football, the Cornish folk brought other sports with them including cricket - William Henry Gidley was a member of the cricket team in 1886. They brought Methodism too, although a chapel was not built until 1901 and all services before then took place in people's homes, just as in the early days in Cornwall. Their cottages were built in the Cornish style with red corrugated iron roofs, and the men would stroll of a Saturday evening in the town square, repairing to a hotel bar to sing Cornish songs and hymns. The Cornish women formed Ladies' Aid societies and organised a picnic each year on Queen Victoria's birthday. Not until 1906 when the mines were taken over by an American company, and 1910 when there was a revolution in Mexico, did the Cornish population in Pachuca go into decline. Much money had been sent home to Cornwall by then, an important contribution to the Cornish economy. Mexican remittances had helped to build the Wesleyan Chapel in Redruth, Cornwall. In return, parcels of fragrant saffron would arrive regularly at the Pachuca Post Office.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

The UK Lunacy Patients Admission Registers, 1846-1912

There are several Gidleys in the asylum Admission Registers published on Ancestry, and, although some patients recovered after some months or years of treatment, there are some sad stories to tell.
The saddest story has to be that of Richard Gidley who spent over 50 years incarcerated in Colney Hatch Asylum, near Barnet in North London. He was admitted in October 1861, a pauper male (as opposed to being a fee-paying private patient) and, presumably, in those unenlightened days never left its doors until his death in January 1912. So who was this Richard Gidley? I think he must be Richard William Gidley, born on 16 February 1827 and christened at St Marylebone in London on 17 June 1827. His parents were Richard and Sarah Gidley and I have no idea where or when they married. I haven't find any trace so far of a Richard Gidley in that area of London at that time, nor any likely burial. According to the baptismal register Richard senior was in trade, residing at Augustus Street, St Pancras. But the family unit was broken up by the 1841 census when Richard junior was found in the St Pancras Workhouse. I haven't found a burial for his mother Sarah between 1827 and 1841 in London, so possibly Richard junior's illness had started to manifest itself by then and he wasn't able to live with his family. It's possible that his mother Sarah was in Shoreditch, described as Independent, in 1841, and in 1851 a widow, born in St Olave's, Surrey, living with her niece and her family, and with the same niece and a nephew in 1861, although whether this is the correct Sarah who was the mother of Richard is pure conjecture. This Sarah was buried in Abney Park cemetery in North London in 1866, aged 75.
To return to Richard Gidley, inmate of the Asylum, I couldn't find him in 1851, but he is living on his own in 1861 in Brunswick Street, St Pancras, working as a grocer. Only a few months later he was admitted to Colney Hatch.
Another sad story was the admittance of two brothers to Devon County Asylum in Exminster in the 1870s, where both died as teenagers. The two oldest sons of Richard Coulton Gidley of Beenley Farm in Diptford, Devon, were admitted as pauper males. This is strange, as their father was one of the better-off Gidleys of that time, being a farmer in the 1871 census of 175 acres, employing three men, two women and one boy. He continued to prosper locally, acting as Relieving Officer to several parishes, and by the time of his burial in 1930 in Totnes, he was the oldest resident of that town at 98 years of age. But his two oldest sons - there were ten children in the family altogether, although only two survived their father - George and Walter William Gidley, entered the asylum aged 14 and 12 years old respectively. Sadly, both only lived for another ten months to one year after their admittance, and died in the asylum in December 1877 and January 1879.
Mary Colman Gidley of the Bovey Tracey Gidleys was another sad case. She was christened in West Teignmouth in Devon in 1832, the elder daughter of George Gidley and his wife Sarah Colman. The family had moved to Dover, Kent by 1841, where George was a fly proprietor in Town Wall Lane. A fly was a horse-drawn public coach or delivery wagon, especially one let out for hire, or possibly a light, two-wheeled cab. The family stayed in Dover for several years, but had moved on to Limehouse in London by 1861 where George continued as a cab proprietor. Mary was still living at home then, described as a needlewoman. But by 1870 there were family difficulties. George died in 1872 in East London, but in 1871 his wife Sarah was working as a cook in Marylebone, West London, and was described as a widow. Their daughter Mary was admitted to Peckham Asylum in 1870, then moved to Hanwell Asylum (a place I knew well from the outside under its later name of St Bernard's, as it was near my childhood home) a few months later in 1871, described as "not improved". Hanwell prided itself on its up-to-date treatment of the mentally ill, but Mary was moved on again in 1877 to Banstead Asylum in Surrey. In 1881 she is probably enumerated as "M.C.G., imbecile, unable to follow any ocupation". She died in Banstead three years later, in 1884.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

The eighteenth century three John Gidleys problem

There are three separate trees which begin with a John Gidley of approximately the same age - all born between 1758 and 1765.
The Bovey Tracey tree begins with John Gidley who married Elizabeth Purday in Bovey Tracey in 1789. John died in December 1842 aged 77, making him born about 1765.
The Brixham tree begins with John Gidley who married Hannah Earle in 1789 in Brixham and who was buried there in 1841 aged 83. He was therefore born about 1758.
The Marldon tree starts with John Gidley who married Mary Gale in 1792 in Kingsteignton. Marldon was at that time his place of residence. He died in 1818 in Marldon, aged 56, so was born about 1762.
So we have three different John Gidleys who have moved away from their place of birth. There is no possibility that any of them are the same person as all are producing children at approximately the same time in their separate places of abode.
I have four possibilities for them, and probably only DNA testing will be able to sort them for certain. There are two possible John Gidleys on the Winkleigh tree, who vanish after their baptisms. First cousins, they must have been almost exactly the same age, one being christened in February 1760 and the other in March 1760. Then there are two John Gidleys, also first cousins, of approximately the right age on the Dean Prior tree who don't seem to have been buried there.
John Gidley number 1 of Winkleigh was the son of Richard and Mary Gidley. His cousin John Gidley number 2 was the son of John Gidley and his wife Mary. There is a possible link for number 2 with Brixham, as the parish apprenticed his brother Samuel in 1773 to John Ash of Brixham, for husbandry. The whole family was destitute, having been subject to a removal order from South Tawton to Spreyton that same year. This order mentions John and his wife and names three children, Samuel, Mary and Joanna all under 10. (Father John was possibly the same John Gidley of South Tawton committed to gaol for sheep stealing in 1763). So had John number 1 died? Or had he already set off for pastures new? If he was still living at the time of the removal order in 1773, he may have been deemed independent at the age of 13 and capable of earning his own living.
There is also a possible link with the Brixham family for John Gidley number 1 of Winkleigh. John & Hannah's children's names bear distinct similarities with those of Winkleigh families. The Brixham children were called Mary, Elizabeth, John, Ann, Hannah, and, most tellingly, Richard (given to two sons, so it was obviously important), Fanny and Samuel. There had been an earlier, probably unrelated family, of Gidleys in Brixham in the 17th and 18th centuries, which originated with Hercules/Archilaus Gidley of Churston Ferrers but this family seems to have died out with the deaths of Nicholas Gidley and Elizabeth Gidley in 1772 and 1792 respectively. However, both the earlier and the later families used the then rather unusual first name Allen - Allin Griffin Corde Gidley christened in 1766, and Allen Herbert Gidley just over a hundred years later. Was this a popular name in Brixham?
A correspondent a few years ago had employed a researcher who had come to the definite conclusion that the John Gidley of Brixham was one of the Winkleigh family, although my correspondent could not pin her down on evidence, just that "it is all there in the Record Office". The year of birth derived from John's age at burial in Brixham is a couple of years out from 1760, when both John Gidleys of Winkleigh were christened, but I think that's a reasonable margin of error.
The Bovey Tracey John Gidley married Elizabeth Knapman in 1789. The names of their children don't give many clues - George (twice), Mary, Elizabeth, John and possibly William who founded the Kenton Gidley family. There is, however, a second marriage in Bovey Tracey in 1798, nine years after John's, which could just possibly be significant.
The two John Gidleys of Dean Prior I shall call John number 3 and John number 4. John Gidley number 3 was the son of George Gidley and his wife Joan, who died at John's birth - they were buried and christened respectively on the same day. Father George then married again and had two more children, George and Dorothy, until he too died when John was only eight. One thing has been very evident as I drew up Gidley family trees: those who emigrated or who moved some distance away from their place of birth were very often those who were orphaned or who had step-parents and obviously felt they had less stake in their native locality. John number 3 fell into that category. Did his half brother George follow him to Bovey Tracey to marry there in 1798? This is pure speculation on my part, especially as John of Bovey Tracey's date of birth derived from his age at burial is 1765, some way out from John number 3's christening in 1758. His death, however, was officially registered by a non-family member, so may have been a guess.
John number 4, first cousin of number 3, was the son of Henry Gidley and his wife Lucy Collins. He was born in 1768, and his mother died when John was a teenager, his father also marrying again. His age would therefore fit the Bovey Tracey John Gidley better. There are no clues for the John Gidley of Marldon who married in 1792. His children were called Samuel, Mary, Jane and Tryphena. Samuel was a common name in the Winkleigh family and not in the Dean Prior family, but it may have come from his wife's side. This John was buried at the age of 56 in 1818, which would make his year of birth 1762, a fairly reasonable fit for three of the John Gidleys.
So you could mix and match any of the four John Gidleys to the three available trees and unless a descendant takes a DNA test, I don't think it can be unravelled. And of course there could be yet more John Gidleys whose baptisms weren't recorded and who I'm not even aware of!

Friday, 3 April 2015

A small family of Gidleys in Woodland, near Ipplepen, Devon

Note the capital letter for Woodland - it's a very small parish in South Devon, near the village of Ipplepen - and I've just discovered in the Devon parish records now available on FindMyPast a small family of Gidleys in Woodland in the eighteenth century. Not that they are going to be of much use to anyone wanting to trace their family further back, as the main family consisted of six daughters, and their parents were John and Mary, probably the most common names you could have. So there is no clue as to their origin.
The first mention of a Gidley in Woodland is the baptism of a son William Gidly (it is noteworthy that the surname was always spelt without with the "e" throughout the Woodland parish registers) in 1696 to William Gidley and his wife Mary. Her maiden name was Fox and the couple were married in 1695 in Woodland. But this family comes to an abrupt end there. A Jane Gidley married John Paine in 1697 in Woodland.
The next mention of a Gidley in Woodland is in 1720, when a daughter, Elizabeth Gidley, is baptised in 1720, her parents being John Gidley and his wife Mary. I don't have a marriage for them. Further daughters Mary, Ann, Agnes, Jane and Margaret followed in succession until 1736. Father John Gidley was buried in 1767, and mother Mary Gidley in 1780, both in Woodland. I had hoped that these children would provide parentage for the Gidley marriages in Kingskerswell not yet attached to a tree. They took place between 1756 and 1774. Four brides, Ann Gidley, Elizabeth Gidley, Mary Gidley and Jane Gidley married, respectively, John West, Thomas Jago, Samuel Neck and John Hill, but it seems more likely that Jane Gidley of the Woodland family married Richard Butchers in Woodland in 1756, and her sister Elizabeth Gidley married John Tapper in 1750, also in Woodland.
There is a burial record for a Margaret Gidley, possibly the youngest daughter, in 1760 in Woodland. Fourth daughter Agnes Gidley apparently moved the seven miles or so to Marldon, Devon, where she had an illegitimate son John Gidley (again spelt without the "e") who was born and died in 1758. Agnes herself died the following year in Marldon.
Just who John and the earlier William Gidley of Woodland were, I can't guess. Woodland is only five or six miles away from Buckfastleigh and Dean Prior, where there were of course large numbers of Gidleys. But Ipplepen, so close by, was also where two of my own family married in the early nineteenth century, having travelled the 25 miles south from Spreyton.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Thomas Henry Gidley, a 19th century Gidley hero in Hong Kong

I just found this by accident today, whilst checking on the Gidley Medal for a correspondent.
The following extract is taken from A Social History of the Hong Kong Cemetery, by Patricia Lim. In 1894 an outbreak of bubonic plague was widespread in the slums of Hong Kong. By May 1894 nearly 400 plague cases had been found and by June there were nearly 800 - 900 dead. The police were roped in to help control the spread of the disease.
"Thomas Henry Gidley and George Phelps were among the policemen to receive honourable mention and public thanks. Gidley, who died in 1904 aged 31, must have been 21 when he was made ward master on the Hygeia [a hospital ship moored at sea] and responsible for the plague victims during every stage of their illness, from admitting them, to nursing them and finally, all too often, to coffining the corpses. Phelps worked with him, removing the victims of the disease from their houses to the hospital ship and later helping with the coffining of the dead, which included filling the occupied coffins with quicklime. Gidley, who won a plague medal in 1894, lost a daughter, Eugenie Esmeralda Ernestine aged 4 years to the plague in 1886. A policeman with a young family during these years must have been fraught with worry."
Now these dates don't add up. If Thomas Gidley was 21 in 1894, he was only 13 in 1886 when his "daughter" died, and therefore only 9 when she was born.
I checked his details. Thomas Henry Gidley was indeed born in 1873 - in Plymouth, Devon, the oldest child of Hubert John Gidley (sometimes just known as John) and his wife Elizabeth, nee Diamond. Hubert John was born in Bishopsteignton, Devon, a member of that Gidley branch I call the Gidleys of Chudleigh. By the 1871 census Hubert John was a sailor based in Plymouth. By 1881 he had become a Police Constable in Plymouth. But by 1898 Hubert John and his family had set out to seek their fortune far from Devon, and is found on the Hong Kong voters' lists as a foreman at the China Sugar Refining Company.
Possibly his health declined rapidly after that, as by 1901 I think he is back in Plymouth, having found employment as a drayman and living with his sister Susan Purdie. His wife and children remained in Hong Kong at that time.
I have so far located nine children for Hubert John and Elizabeth. The oldest was Thomas Henry, our hero of the 1894 plague year. He was indeed just 21 at this time and rose to become an Inspector of Police by the time of his early death in 1904. However, he did not marry Florence Alice Leyman until 1900 in Portsmouth, back in England. I have not found any children for them so far. Florence may have died in England in 1952.
The next five children of Hubert John and Elizabeth were all born in Plymouth between 1874 and 1881 - Rosina Florence, Hubert John W, Bertha Ann, Venetia May and Sydney Maurice. They became an extremely well-travelled family.
Rosina Florence married Edward Jacobs in "China" (probably Hong Kong)in 1894. Her sister Venetia was also married in Hong Kong, to Leonard Bliss. Sister Bertha, however, married in British Columbia, Canada, in 1898, Thomas McNichol.
Brother Hubert John W, who was a member of the Sanitary Dept. in Hong Kong married Emily Sybil Russell in 1906 in Plymouth, Devon and then went out to British Columbia, possibly to join sister Bertha, to fill a similar post in Vancouver. Two children were born to them there, then Hubert died in 1913, and Emily brought the two children home to England, where a third child was born postumously in Bristol in 1914. Then the family was off again, emigrating to Australia in 1923.
Sydney Maurice Gidley was difficult to track. The only record I have of him is of his departure from Liverpool for Shanghai in 1921 with his wife Eleanor, and his two small daughters, Margaret and Enid. His place of marriage and their places of birth are not known. In 1941 there is a tantalising extract from the wartime diary of A. H. Potts, published on the Old Hong Kong website (
"Mon, 8 Dec 1941
After the first few days an excellent chap named Gidley (?) was put in charge of the coolies and drivers, he housed and fed them in the racecourse stables and lived there with them – he arranged that if a man was to be away during chow time that some biscuits and a tin of meat was given to them before leaving; however he was too late as during the first few days many lorries were lost through deliberate sabotage, which was undoubtedly largely due to the treatment meted out to the drivers.
Fri, 12 Dec 1941
The coolie labour which we were employing was to remain with Gidley in charge. We packed up after tiffin and moved out to Shouson Hill, ...
Mon, 15 Dec 1941
We found Capt. Wiseman in charge of the small pool at Happy Valley and attached ourselves to him for rations, but I arranged for my men to sleep in one of the private boxes so that they would be undisturbed. Major Grieve was also there in charge of coolie labour, his command of 12th Co. RASC having been transferred to Major Dewer. Lt. Gidley was still living in the stables with his coolies."
Sydney Maurice was too old at 60 to be a Lieutenant in the Army, but it's possible he later had a son. But it could be another Gidley entirely.
And finally the three youngest children of Hubert John Gidley and his wife Elizabeth were all born in Hong Kong, and, sadly, all died there too, at a young age. They are all buried in Hong Kong Cemetery. Angus George Gidley born in 1886, died in 1901, aged 15. Laura Frances born 1888, died aged 11 months in 1889, and Eugenie Esmeralda Ernestine, born in 1891, died in 1896 aged 4.
So this is the solution to Patricia Lim's error. Eugenie was Thomas's sister, not his daughter, and her date of death was not 1886 but 1896, after the plague had passed (though I have no idea what she died of). The inscription on the grave she shares with her sister Laura reads "In loving memory of/ Laura Frances/ died October 22nd 1889/ aged 11 months/ also of/ Eugenie Esmeralda Ernestine/ died March 31st 1896/ aged 4 years and 5 months/ children of Hubert and Elizabeth Gidley/ Far too lovely were our darlings/ for this cold and bitter life/ and although we weep to miss them/ they are far from worldly strife."