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  • Wendy Percival

Finding Bessey - one letter out!

Don't you love it when you knock down a brick wall by coming at it sideways?


I decided it was time to have another bash at tracing the family of my 3x great grandmother, Elizabeth “Bessey” Holland. Bessey was born in Eccleshall, Staffordshire, in 1813 and I knew from the parish record of her marriage to Thomas Shelley in 1840, that her father was called Thomas. But as Staffordshire was awash with Thomas Hollands, it was impossible to know which Thomas was the right one.



Check out those witnesses


Going back to the marriage record image, I homed in on one on of the witnesses, Benjamin Bradbourne (also spelled, so I’ve since discovered, Bradburn, Bradbourn and, wrongly transcribed in some places as Bradbond).


I tracked Benjamin down on the 1851 census and wasn’t surprised to find him living in the same area as my 3x great grandparents. His wife was called Ann and a record popped up for a baptism in 1845 of one of their children, named Thomas Holland Bradburn. Aha!


Betsey not Bessey?


A trawl through the marriage indexes confirmed that Benjamin was Bessey’s brother-in-law, his wife being Ann Holland (though not, the Ann Holland with a baby called Emma who I came across recently – see Another Out-of-wedlock Story).


When I tracked down Ann’s details, I found she had a younger sister called Betsey, born the same year as my Bessey - 1813 - and, like Bessey, had been baptised in Eccleshall as had Ann and all her other siblings. Could it be that my failure to find Bessey in the past was because she was known as Betsey? I’m surprised the name variant tool hadn’t picked up on the one letter difference!


Holy Trinity Church, Eccleshall © Tony Grist via Wikimedia Commons

Anyway, the nice thing is that, subject to cross-checking, it looks as though I can add my 4x great grandparents to my tree: Thomas Holland, born 1766 and the delightfully named, Ann Butter, born 1772. I look forward to finding out more.


Tantalising mystery


While browsing the family records, I came across something intriguing. One of the hints which came up was an image of a marriage certificate apparently concerning the wedding of one of Bessey's nieces. In the notes someone had transcribed all the information on the certificate and next to the name of the groom, had written: Bachelor!!!!!!!!


Why so many exclamation marks? Sounds like an interesting story worth unravelling. I think I should go and investigate!