Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Dear Sis & Bro: a 1904 Letter From Tom

The letter from Tom Berry was written 29 Oct 1904;
both letter and envelope give the address –
34 Fydell St., Boston, Lincolnshire, England,

showing they belong together;

and received January [8] 1905 in Rockefeller, Lake County, Illinois.
A letter from Tom Berry is just another one of those wonderful things I have to add to the fabric of my Lincolnshire ancestors' lives in the 1800s and early 1900s. This letter holds clues to what is happening with the Berry and Vamplew family in 1904 Lincolnshire. The bulk of the letter is very transcribable, and I hope I have deciphered it accurately. 

Having the envelope, too, was a nice gift; I'm able to establish who wrote the letter and how he is connected to my family in Rockefeller a little easier. Otherwise, I wouldn't know much more than it's a letter from Tom Berry in Boston to a sister & brother somewhere else. The envelope is addressed to my great grandfather John PORTOUS in Rockefeller, Lake Co. Ill., USA. ("PORTOUS" That's a new spelling for my maiden name which was spelled PORTEOUS in Rockefeller [now Mundelein] and most commonly spelled PORTAS in Lincolnshire, England.)

Because I know who wrote the letter and who it was sent to, I can enjoy the contents without all those questions dancing in my mind. 
There is a word in this letter which isn't and shouldn't be used in today's vocabulary. 
I can not take it out of my transcript because it is written as it is in the letter. 
Please understand it isn't my word. You will know which one it is as you read on.
34 Fydell St    Boston Lincs   EnglandDec 29 [19]04
Dear Sis & Bro
I have been looking for your letter that I received from you but it has gone somewhere, anyway I can’t find it, So I must send you a few lines to tell you I was very pleased to have a letter from you and glad to hear that you were all middling, We are just middling, only just I am thankful today I enjoy good health  Lizzie has been unwell for a long time, she is very cheerful  full of thirst as a rule, but as a dreadful cough, the boys & girls are real well, Arthur the eldest boy & his wife are well now, Bert, the 2nd boy is at Horncastle & Woodhall Spa bookstalls on the ? & is doing real well, Will is in a shipping office & getting on well, Nellie is a teacher and getting on fine, Minnie is at home helping Ma, and works like a little Nigger; I am sory to tell you that when I went home to the woodside last Sunday I found our old folks in a very quer way. They have been gradually getting worse for some time, they are both real deaf, Father has a cancer on his ear, & mother had a nasty fall & cannot walk, She as to be lifted out of her chair onto the Sofa & back again and we have sent for Betsy & she has gone to see to them though, so they will be alright on that score, but mother was anxious that you all should know just how they were fixed, Ana & Mr Bell are middling but she is nearly done for with looking after mother before Betsy got there, George & Family

Obviously "Sis" is my great grandmother Mary Ann (Vamplew). Owing to the fact that "Sis" was written first, one would think it means a sibling wrote the letter. Well, Mary Ann didn't have a brother Tom, but she did have a brother-in-law Tom BERRY and he's the correspondent; I read ahead.

Tom married Mary Ann's sister Eliza. I like to put people in their rightful place on the family tree. It is easier to understand how everyone "fits" within a family; I don't have to go off on a search tangent and never get back to my main purpose. 

My like to question even the little things as I sort through my family history. Sometimes there are breakthroughs gained doing this. I'm not just a "names and dates" family historian. I like to fill in many blanks especially those tidbits. So – Why wouldn't Eliza write to her sister? Was it because she didn't know how to write? Or was Tom the official family letter writer? No matter, just curious.

Tom writes: "glad to hear that you were all middling, We are just middling,"  [middling: adj., neither very good nor very bad...] I love that word "middling"! Tom uses it several times in this letter. You don't hear it much today, but I can remember my dad using it often. 

Lizzie, a common nickname, is Eliza. Tom and Eliza had five children: Arthur James, Thomas Bertie, Wilfred, Mary Helen (Nellie), and Minnie. All five are mentioned in this letter, and their bios updated for John and Mary Ann. It is uplifting to know the children are all doing well. There doesn't seem to be any grandchildren for Tom and Eliza. These are things I note in my family tree program.

"I am sory to tell you that when I went home to the woodside last Sunday I found our old folks in a very quer way." When I read this, I looked up the Vamplews in my family tree program to see when g-g-grandparents died. James Vamplew died Oct. 1905 and Anne (Rouse) Vamplew died Dec. 1906. This letter is preparing the family across the pond for what is inevitable with the "old folks." This news will also be passed along to Uncle John about his sister's condition.
The "old folks" James and Anne (Rouse) Vamplew. 
This picture is a early one could be in the 1850s.

"She as to be lifted out of her chair onto the Sofa & back again" Tom and Eliza have sent for Betsy who is Eliza's oldest sister Elizabeth. Would the fact "mother was anxious that you all should know just how they are fixed," be the reason for the letter? 

I speculate "Ana" is Eliza's next older sister Georgiana who married William Ogden BELL when she was almost 50. "George" is Eliza's youngest brother who is the only son of James and Anne's who didn't emigrate to America. George married Anna SHAW who could also be the Ana mentioned; they had 12 children. I have met two of their grandsons; we visit with them when we are in Lincolnshire.
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are middling only Georges wife has a bad toe, I am sorry I lost your letter because I cannot answer it, we had a very hot & dry summer & did middling in the store and now we are having a taste of winter, and trade is very dull,  I have not heard from uncle John for a long time but have written to him, I hear him must excuse this teribble, and if you cannot read it, send it back and I will write it over again, we all join in wishing you all a very happy prosperous new year & hope you have had a happy Chritmas, I cannot remember weather thave sent you my picture, will do so if you will let me know  well good bye & god bless you all is the prayer of you here Tom Berry
They all send there love to you, and I hope you will not be long before you writeAmen Tom

George's family are all "middling," too, and it's interesting Tom mentions that Anna has a "bad toe." One would think that wasn't important enough to write about, but I think it's kind of neat in its own right. I can only guess the next letter from Tom might have told of her toe being amputated or maybe it is better and she is able to walk with ease again. Fun little things like that in a letter brings a smile to my face.

Tom goes on with "I have not heard from uncle John," uncle John Rouse that is, in America; he who was the recipient of the Henry Vamplew and Barton letters written about in my recent blog posts.

"I cannot remember weather thave sent you my picture," Reading this again, I remembered a picture I have which is a strong possibility it's Tom and his sons Arthur, Thomas, and Wilfred (Will).

This image was identified by one of George Vamplew's grandsons.
He only knew which man was Tom Berry (middle front), and guessed the others were his sons,
but couldn't pick out which son was Arthur (the oldest), Thomas (next oldest), or Wilfred (the youngest)?
I don't know which son is which either. Why are just the men pictured?

Tom writes a little about his "store." What kind of store was it? It's December and they are just "having a taste of winter, and trade is very dull." I'm sure the conditions in the otherwise mild winters unlike ours in Chicago area would cause people not to come out as much. They would be staying in and "making do." Boston is a market town, and if on market days, the customers aren't there...it could be very hard on a business. 

The 1881 census shows Tom as a "Master Baker"; 1891 he is a "Confectioner Baker." According to the 1901 census he was a "baker, grocer, shop keeper" on his "Own Account." The 1901 census verifies Tom Berry is the letter writer with the address being the same on the letter and envelope. The names of all his children who are all single at this time, is another verification. By the 1911 census Minnie is still home, single at 25. None of the others are listed.

(1901 Census; Berry family living at 34 Fydell St., Boston)
Thomas R.  head   47   baker, grocer, shop keeper   Own Account   b. Macclesfield, Cheshire
Eliza  wife   51   b. Tumby Woodside
Arthur J.    son   22  Hotel bookkeeper   worker  b. Boston
Thomas B.   son   19   Bookstall assistant   worker   b. Boston
Wilfred   son   18   shipping clerk   worker   b. Boston
Mary H.    daur   16    teacher school   worker   b. Boston
Minnie    daur   14    b. Boston

Source Citation: Class: RG13; Piece: 3046; Folio: 135; Page: 30.
Source Information: Ancestry.com. 1901 England Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2005.

I love building more family facts from a letter, and to pick out clues to life in Lincolnshire. I just wish I had one letter from America answering any of the letters I have posted so far. I can only imagine what is written to England.

Maybe one of these days, I will get lucky and by surprise, come into a letter or two – just to make my family history more interesting and a little closer to complete.

So little told, but so much said.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Just who are these Bartons who want to come to America, too!

1869 Letter to uncle John Rouse from Frank and Eliza Barton.

Here is the Barton letter mentioned in Henry Vamplew's 1869 letter. I first saw the name BARTON in my great grandfather John Portus' 1870 letter to "Hunckle and Ant" in Illinois about 15 years ago. Who was Mr. Barton? What significance did he have for great grandfather to mention him? Back then, I thought Mr. Barton was one of those "agents" who advertise work and land in America to entice people to emigrate. Well, this letter squashes that theory.

The Barton letter is kind of a godsend. If nothing else, it answered some old questions I have had and took me on a short journey that's weaving through my Portus, Vamplew, and Rouse families in England and Illinois. And had brought me to finding a distant cousin along the way who has given me permission to use an image found on Ancestry.

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First page right side.
Market-Rasen August-2
Dear Sir,
I received your letter yesterday through Mrs Briggs and I am very much abliged to you for your kind offer. I had almost given up all hopes of hearing from you. So that I was not a littel surprized when it came. You will perceive that we are not at Horncastle now. We have been here about 5 or 6 weeks. I am sorry to tell you that 20 / – to the pound is about all we are worth. So that if you will be kind enough to send the tickets as you have

Eventhough this letter starts out "Dear Sir," later on in the letter we find it is written to John Rouse. John plays a prominent role in my three-letter scenario postings. I would love to get a look at a letter written to the Bartons, but that won't happen. I think this letter is written August 2, 1869. In the Skirbeck letter written Oct. 1869, from Henry Vamplew to uncle John, it mentions the Bartons had written. I would think this could be the letter.

The Bartons lived in Horncastle and then in Market Rasen about 25-30 miles northwest of Tumby Woodside which is about 10 miles south of Horncastle. Without a car, Market Rasen would probably be an over-night stay for anyone visiting from Tumby Woodside.

I checked Ancestry.com for 1861 census and found a Francis BARTON living in a Jackson household as a servant. I have no idea what kind of work he was doing by the time of this letter. He and Eliza weren't on the 1871 census because they had already received their tickets and were in America and are listed in the 1880 US census in rural Illinois.

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Second page left side.

kindly proffered to do. I am sure I should feel greatly indepted to you. and would pay you back the amount as soon as posible.

I shall not have an oppertunity of going to Mareham to see Mrs Duddles at preasant but I will rite to her. I hope you will send as soon as possible.
[Eliza's writing here on]
Dear Unckall as my Husband has not time to finish is letter I may say that we were very glad to hear that you were all well and geting on so comfortably and I am glad 

Frank has written down to the middle of this page. He writes clear enough for me to transcribe and he uses punctuation unlike Henry in the previous letters posted. He is learned and you would think he was in a profession which he needs to know how to read and write. He doesn't seem to be the usual farm labourer or servant with a limited amount of learning who didn't need to know how in order to do those jobs back then.

At the bottom of this page is where Eliza takes over the letter. Why wouldn't Frank have the time to finish it? Well, anyway, here we find out the letter is written to "Unckall". (I love the spelling.) I knew this letter was written to uncle John Rouse since it was in the bunch of other letters I got last year, so now how is Mrs. Barton connected to uncle John?  

Could the connection be through the DUDDLES? Are the Duddles related to Rouses? The Duddles name has been mentioned in two letters already, so there might be a connection. The ROUSEs and BARTONs know the Duddles family since they are all from the same area in Lincolnshire. How does Eliza and Frank fit in?

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Second page right side.
to say that my mother and brother and sisters are still enjoying good health with my husband I ofer you my sincere thanks for so kindly helping us and will do all that lay in my power to repay you if we live to get there our baby is well and I trust we shall be happy amongst you when we come with best love to Aund and all my Cusoans I must 
Conclude all
unite with me inlove to you

Doing a little poking around and checking what I had in my tree program, I found Eliza's father is Jarvis BRIGGS and her mother is Martha ROUSE (uncle John's sister). By 1861 census in Horncastle, her mother was a widow at 36; Martha is on the 1871 census, but I can't find her on 1881. I will leave further searching to a Rouse or Briggs family historian. 

Their "baby" is Miriam who would have just been born not long before this letter was written. She is on the 1880 US census as 11 years old, born in England. If the letter were written in 1869 as thought, that would add up. The next child on that census was born in Illinois.

+ + + + +
First page left side.

Frank and Eliza Barton

Mr F. Barton
Waterloo Street
Market Rasen

ps  you will please send us all the information you can

I searched for "Frank" Barton and found his name is really Francis. I wasn't surprised by that finding, genealogists are always finding name variations and nicknames being used from time to time. 

I wasn't sure when they were going to emigrate, but it had to have been sometime after the 1870 US census was taken because they weren't found anywhere. I haven't been able to find them on Ancestry.com passenger lists index either, but did find Eliza going back to England around 1892. 

Francis Barton is found on the 1880 census in Norton, Buckingham Township, Kankakee County, Illinois, with five children: Miriam (11), Samuel (9), John (5), Charles (3), and Alice M (4 months). All children were born in Illinois except Miriam. Francis is a Preacher. That would make sense of the writing, spelling, punctuation. Being a preacher also might explain why he didn't have time to "finish" the letter -- maybe he was called on parish duties.

Settling in Norton, Kankakee County is interesting to me because now it ties with another Lincolnshire family PATCHETT. Martha, daughter of Michael and Martha (RADFORD) DUDDLES married Paddison Patchett about 1850 in the Tattershall/Coningsby area near Tumby. They migrated to Illinois sometime long before the Bartons. 

On the 1870 US census for Norton, Kankakee County, I find Paddison, Martha, and seven children. I am sure they all knew one another because those villages in that area of Lincolnshire, England, are very close together. Three of their seven children were born in England. The fourth child (first born in Illinois) was 12 at the time of the census which puts the Patchett family in Illinois around 1858.

As I'm writing this, I recall another letter in the "bunch" that is from Kankakee County. I must root it out and read it again. Oh, what a sidetracking journey I'm on. These letters are answering a few questions I've been curious about for a long time plus filling in some of the blanks on collateral lines. It is also keeping me writing.


1880 US census / Norton, Kankakee County, Illinois
Francis Barton is a Preacher.
Eliza is "Wife"

On the 1900 census, the family I found the Barton family in Wheaton, DuPage County, straight north of Kankakee County about 70 miles, and about 25 miles west of Chicago. Francis is a "Laborer" not a preacher. I suspect preaching was his chosen profession, he moved his family up to Wheaton in particular because it known as a "religious" town.

1900 US census / Wheaton, DuPage County, Illinois
Francis Barton is a Laborer.
Eliza is "Wife"

By 1910 census, Frank was listed as a minister in the Congregational Church in Wheaton. 

1910 US census / Wheaton, DuPage County, Illinois
Francis Barton is a Minister.
Eliza is "Wife"

And according to Alan Dugan who gave me permission to use the headstone image below, Francis was a "circuit riding preacher." Just a day ago, I contacted Alan through his Ancestry.com Dugan Family Tree  where he has more pictures pertaining to his Barton family and Lincolnshire, England. We are distant cousins as it turns out through the Rouse family. Our common ancestor is Henry and Elizabeth (Clarke) Rouse.

Wheaton Cemetery in Wheaton, Illinois
Francis Barton 1842-1918
Eliza (Briggs) Barton 1845-1922

Lincolnshire family connections don't end with the Duddles, Pattchetts, Rouses, etc. Wheaton also was the home of my g-g uncle James W. VAMPLEW - uncle John's nephew! To add to this mess, my g-g-grandfather James Vamplew was illegitimate son of James PATCHETT, Paddison's uncle! Story of James is on another post of August 25, 2012 "Puzzle Piece Payoff Started With The UK Censuses."

You can see how close these villages were to one another. Horncastle and Market Rasen are further north off this view. "A•" = Tattershall; "B•" = Coningsby; "C•" = Tumby; "D•" = Tumby Woodside; "E•" = Mareham le Fen

Oh, here is a copy of the Kankakee letter I mentioned. I'm going to go through another whole story. It isn't complete but it tells a bit about the Bartons in downstate rural Illinois. Frank is preaching down there also. 

Norton kankakee Co Ills
Dear Uncle And Aunt
it is A long time since we herd any thing from you and I believe I rote the last letter but never mind so you answer this one well we are all well at present I had A letter from Mother a little while A Gos and she says do you ever hear from your Uncle Rouse for I do not she was well but had been quite sick our children are getting big Minnie was ten years old ?? day the diphtheria has been bad around hear some of the neighbors have lost 8 of their children a family lost 3 each an do others i but our ? be hat is very favorably we have 4 now 3 boys and 1 girl Frank had An axident last spring he was cuting edge and a thorn
flew into his eye and he is nearly blind of that eye but it dose not harm nor disfigure him any and the other is all sight we are trying to buy A farm of 80 ackers joining on to Mr Patchett but do not know yet wether we shall be able to make it or not but intend to pray pretty hard there is a house on it A nice Orchard on it we have got A town about 4 miles and A half from us and plenty of Cole about the same distance Frank is preaching on this cirket again he preached ?? fore 3 years and oak and on foe three more  now he is stationed hear again by the ?? and request of the peple  Now Uncle why can't you and Aunt come out to see us the cares run to Buckingham the name of our new town you would see the country and Mr Patchett and buy land at 25 dolars an acker
Pretty interesting and that is the last of the Barton letters. I know who they are and how they fit in with my family. I can stop wondering who Mr. Barton is.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Henry's 1870 Letter: Decision not to come to America

These pages were more challenging to transcribe than the others in my last posting. For some of the words I have put questions marks in their place, some words put (?) next to which questions my deciphering. I think some of the words might not make sense and if anyone can help me out, I would appreciate it very much.

In a letter dated October 29, 1869, Henry wrote about his uncertain decision to come to America  (see last post)Then just about five months later, Henry writes to his uncle John and Ant Rouse again; he has decided not to travel to Lake County, Illinois. It is interesting that by March he seems to be having money concerns, but in the last letter, Henry thought he had enough to get by. I'm curious what happened in that short period of time.

Although Henry's letter didn't reveal as much as I would have liked, it did hand me an unexpected item towards the end. The letter also induced more questions than I garnered answers.

Henry's 1870 letter to uncle and Ant [Rouse].

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First page right.

March 11th 1870

My Dear uncle and Ant it is with plesure that i ansure your kind leter and was very glad to hear frome you you must estcuse me not ansuring your leter of so long a time fore I have had to concider over money things Bud I i ham now setled not to cum to a America this Spring I sopose that J Portus and Sister Mary Ann and thair 3 childern is a going to cum after all

This statement surprised me after reading the 1869 letter – "i ham now setled not to cum to a America this Spring" – he is having some reservations because of money, but reassures uncle John and Ant [Matilda] that his sister Mary Ann and brother-in-law John Portas are still coming. I think as I read further, there is talk of more siblings taking passage, but he didn't elaborate.

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Second page left.
I think that you will Sune have a new(?) of us if they keep cuming   you niver menchened cuson Eliza when you rote   bud pleas to give my Love to her when you see her My Mother and father send thair kind love to you all  Mother is not so well as she ust to be i think bud is up on the ? as usule And i think that she Bracks(?) very mutch now i should think you would scarce(?) now them now if you could see them   I went home the other week ant

I don't know who "cuson Eliza" is. I checked my tree program with no luck. John and Matilda Rouse had 10 (known) children and none of the girls were old enough to get married by 1870. So I will leave that question to a Rouse family historian to answer. 

"Mother" is still not well. What was her ailment of five months now? I just wonder how she was getting on during the time between 1870 and 1906 when she passed. "i think that she Bracks very mutch" I have no idea what Bracks means or if that is the word used. I checked in my dialect book "Wodds and Doggerybaw - A Lincolnshire Dialect Dictionary by J.M. Sims-Kimbrey" and the closest word I found was Brackle which means brittle. This might mean her bones are (or health is) brittle. I don't know... I've been to Lincolnshire several times and have talked to many rural Lincs residents...I can assure you, I couldn't understand half what they said! I was always asking them to repeat what they said.

I guess the old saying about England and United States is true: "We are two countries separated by a common language."

Henry must still live down in Skirbeck because he said "I went home the other week." I am sure his apprenticeship must be over, but maybe there are projects or work down in the Boston area more than up in Tumby Woodside area.

+ + + + +
Second page right.
tried to git you Mrs Bailey that now Mrs Baileys adress Bud did not git it she Lives Summers on the boders of Notinghamshire She tould mother that she should like to hear fron you bud when she cums again Mother will tell er wat you said she cums a bout twice a year fore the rents   I think I about don all you wished me to doo in your leter and if you want to ? eney think   Eney time if you will write to me i will try to a blige you if i can whe have had rather a sharper winter

This "Mrs. Bailey" collects rents. I wonder who she is. Is she a Vamplew married into the Bailey family? Hmmm... Does she collect from properties she owns or is she collecting for someone else? Is one of the places she collects from the Vamplews? I know there are still Baileys in that area so I wonder if this Mrs. Bailey is part of that Bailey family? Maybe this is a question I could pose to the RootsWeb Lincolnshire mail list. I'll think on this.

Henry again gives a little casual information about the area "whe have had rather a sharper winter" – Was it colder than usual? I wonder what was happening in 1870? This winter (2013) Lincolnshire is getting an unusual amount of snow and cold for that area. 

+ + + + +
First page left.

hear then usul and by all a pearence it will be a Backard Spring all traids(?) is looking very dull hear hat the presant witch i think will make peple emegrait if they can git of eney wear it is talked of not that gover ment is going to say an emegraison rait on the cuntry to send peple fall a ? I ham very mutch Abliged to you fore writing to me and hope to meet you sum day I should like very well to converse with you a litle on gods work in a America

Henry predicts the bad weather will "make people emegrait"; I'm wondering what the government is up to, also. This page was hard to understand or to make sense of. 

According to a Vamplew family historian's account of Henry's life, as an adult, he had an affiliation in the Wesleyan Methodist church in Boston, Lincolnshire. But as a child and young adult, Henry attended the Wesleyan Methodist church in Mareham le Fen and he played the concertina at church doings. When uncle John lived in Lincs he taught men's bible class in that church. 

Henry is very religious and am sure he has heard that uncle John was, too..."I should like very well to converse with you a little on gods work in a America..." I guess it is natural for Henry to look up to his uncle and want to talk about God's work and all. Here in the United States, one of Henry's grandsons became a minister and lived up in Michigan.

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Third page front.

fore if there is no time fore puplick worship i ham shure it wauld not Sut me Long now Mr Portus that is cuming is not so mutch fore it i think it is our duty to live fore a nother and a beter world fore as life is unsarton feth is sure and after Deth the Judgment wear we must all meet wither prepaired or unprepared I ham hapy to say that you with me was born in a cristian land

"if there is no time fore puplick worship i ham shure it would not Sut me Long" Henry seems to be worried he won't be able to have time for church and is sure it wouldn't suit him very long to be without going to services.

Oh my! On the other hand, here is something I was surprised with: "Mr Portus that is cuming is not so mutch fore it..."  Sure seems Henry doesn't have much regard for persons who, in his eyes, aren't religious including his brother-in-law – my great grandfather John – "Mr Portus"! This is new to me. This seems to trouble Henry very much. I'm sure Henry or any of us will never know if g-grandfather went to Heaven or Hell. John and Mary Ann Portus joined the Ivanhoe Congregational Church in Ivanhoe, Illinois May 6, 1877. I'm sure g-grandfather redeemed himself before his Judgement Day. 

Now I'm curious how the relationship was between Henry and Mr Portus once both of them were here in the same area of Lake County, Illinois. I'll keep my ears open for any hints in family stories.

Why would Henry call his brother-in-law Mr. Portus? Was it with disrespect because of his perceived religious non-values or just because uncle John didn't know Mary Ann's husband and this was a way to place him? I can only guess and wonder.

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Third page back.

May we one and each live a christions Life and ? and meet each other in heven hat Last for crist sake So i must conclude with my kind love to you all oping to find you all in good elth as it leaves me hat the present so I remane yours and tenley(?) H Vanplew
tumby Wood Side
Near Coningsby

Does Henry not believe he will be coming to America and that he will only meet uncle John in Heaven? I do know Henry did immigrate to America the following year. I love Henry's expression "...it leaves me hat the present..."

I'm glad Henry signed off with place names. Wait a minute, he wrote this letter from the place he was presently at. Does he still live in Skirbeck or not? Did he go home to visit or to live?

I do love these letters. There are so many things learned and so many more questions to ask. And so, this leaves me "at the present," also...that is until I transcribe another letter from the past.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Henry's 1869 Letter: Thinking of Coming to America

In my June 16, 2012 posting "I touched the original letter and got goose bumps, too!"  I wrote about my great grandparents John and Mary Ann (Vamplew) PORTUS' letter to Mary Ann's uncle John ROUSE about their passage to America. Uncle John encouraged and probably was their sponsor to immigrate to Lake County, Illinois in 1870.

Well, recently I was looking through my files and came across digital images of several letters that had particular interest to my direct lineage. Cousin Sharon and I had visited another cousin who gave me permission to take pictures of them. Once home, I emailed the images along with my quick transcriptions to Sharon. Then never looked at the bunch until recently.

Initially when I read through the letters, I really didn't LOOK at them that closely. As I re-read the 1869 one from Henry Vamplew, the "Skirbeck letter," I found my previous transcription needed to be re-read, too. Several words which I couldn't decipher before, were magically readable this time! How does that happen? It really pays to revisit items periodically because you can discover so much more the second or third time around. I set out to correct my mistakes and while I matched the letters words with the transcription, I began to analyze what this letter really contained.

The Skirbeck letter was written by Mary Ann's brother Henry (my 2x great uncle); dated Oct. 29, 1869; he was about age 25. Henry was born about 1844 to James and Anne (Rouse) Vamplew. He is the oldest male child in the family of four boys and six girls. 

This old, browned, folded paper is pretty neat because it holds a letter written about five months before my great grandparents John wrote the letter to Mary Ann's uncle John they were ready to sail on April 19, 1970. Henry wants to come to America, but seems to be on the edge of uncertainty. He is concerned he won't have work or a livelihood in the new country. Henry describes what is happening in Lincolnshire and in the family. He writes a little gossip, and talks of a Mr. Barton and wife Eliza, an Ant Huton, and a Mr. Brooks.

Henry Vamplew letter Oct 29, 1869 from Skirbeck, Lincolnshire, England to Lake County, Illinois. 
(One sheet, front and back.)

Let's get a few knowns taken care of: John and Matilda ROUSE are "uncle and Ant." "Mother" is Anne spouse of James VAMPLEW; they lived in Tumby Woodside, Lincs, England. Anne is John Rouse's sister. "Skirbeck" is a town next to Boston on its southeast side. Boston is about 12 miles southeast from Tumby Woodside.

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(Front, right side.)
Skirbeck Boston 1869
Oct 29
Dear uncle and Ant
I have not had mutch plesur of knowing you yet Bud i have thought of coming to America of a late and i can’t git mothers consent yet i was not home last Sunday and Mother wished me to write to you she has been verey hill of a late they live wear they did when you was in England all bud they have got a new house to live in i ham the hauldest  since my name is Henry Vamplew if have larned to be a comon carpenter my wages is about 1 pound a week here i live in Skirbeck with my master i ham single yet my toow ouldest sisters is marred Betsy as only 
"I have not had mutch plesur of knowing you yet" – Henry was about four years old when uncle John migrated to Illinois about 1848, so he is introducing himself in the letter "my name is Henry Vamplew." "Mother" would have been about 53 years old, "very hill" at the time; she died 1906 at age 90.

In my above transcription, I underlined a curious item "they live wear they did when you was in England all bud they have got a new house to live in" – Hmmmm... The original Vamplew house image (Apr. 26 post) had a thatched cottage with two girls standing out front. In another picture on these previous posts, James and Anne Vamplew were sitting in front of the "Will Porteous house in England." I wonder if this underlined statement could have anything to do with whose house it was; I was curious about that in April 26 and 29, 2012 posts. Just something for me to keep in mind as my cousin Sharon and I continue our quest to identify a couple hundred old pictures.

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(Back, left side.)
1 child living Mary Ann as 3 children living i dont think they will ever cum to America now her husband is a plat layer on the line i think e only gits 15 shilins a week Bud i dont mind fore every one cuming with me if I ever git of for i woould rather see if i like the cuntory my self ferst fore theair is so many people give it a bad name now a days bud i think if it is wors then this it is said fore if things dose not alter soon i think it will bee a bad winter for the labouring class fore the farmers will not find them work scarse a tall now and they have got them down to 2 shilings a day now fore weat is thought verey low now it is makin on averge £6 and £7 shilings a quarter Bud Stock is Dear Now  So i must leave of with this sort of alking and come to what i want 

It's interesting how Henry says Betsey has only one child living. This implies she had one or more child(ren) previously. Elizabeth (Betsey) married William LEALAND in 1863. Her "one living child" is Ann Vamplew LELAND b. abt 1865. All tolled the Lealands had six known children. 

Mary Ann has "3 children living." Her first child Elizabeth Ann died at seven months in1864. The three "living" are Georgiana A. b. 1865, William Dennis b. 1867, and John Henry b. 1869. 

Henry states "i dont think they will ever cum to America" but they did the following April. John is a platelayer which has to do with laying track for the railroad. I'm not sure if 15 shillings a week is a good wage. Was John and Henry planning on coming to America together?  The following April 1870, John, Mary Ann, and the "3 children living" left for America.

I guess in 1869, with the American Civil War being over for four short years, Henry was a little hesitant to emigrate since "many people give it a bad name now a days." This was in the middle of "Reconstruction Era" which was plagued with "growing pains" so to speak. This period ended about 1877.

Henry gives a little insight on the state of the working class in Lincs. Around this time there were some problems with prices on grain and I think not too long into 1870s there was a farm workers revolt. This might be an inkling of things to come – "they have got them down to 2 shilings a day now fore weat" – that doesn't sound too good. I'm not sure what if he is writing is British pounds or what, but if they are earning an average of 6 or 7 pounds a quarter, I don't think that is too good. "Stock is Dear Now" must mean there isn't enough stock to supply the needs of the people. If anyone can explain this, I would appreciate it.

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(Back, right side.)
I want you if you pleas to write to us and to give me a little informasoon of the prise of Carpenters tools in america if you can fore if i doo cum i want to know if i had beter bring a few tools with me bud i think that thay would be so hevey that if i can git them hat a modest rate thear it would be a foley to be trubled with them i have been wanting to cum ever since Mr. Duddles was over bud I took a Deeal to git me Started i think that i have yet money a nuff to see me thear on my own acount Bud mother says that if i do go she wil go a nall Bud i think she is the best wear she is i should like to now a little about how much it would cost me to git to you in a respectuble way if you can give me a little insit i will be a bilge to you for it  

Henry asks uncle John for information on the price of carpenters tools in America. I guess  his ticket would cost extra because weight of his possessions and his tools might cost more to take than if he bought the tools necessary when he got to Lake County. Henry feels he has saved enough money to get there on his own account. A good case for living in Lake County must have been given; "i have been wanting to cum ever since Mr. Duddles was over." Mr Duddles was an early settler in Diamond Lake, Lake County, but originally was from the same area in Lincolnshire as my Rouse, Portas, and Vamplew ancestors lived.

Henry is also wondering how much would it cost him to "git to you in a respectuble way" and that he will be obliged for a little insight. I would think he is inquiring about the land travel once he arrives. I have no idea how he got to Illinois, but I would think it were by train.

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(Front, left side.)
i was to give my parents kind Love to you all and i think tecking them all to gither they seem to be in a midling way as we may expect fore ould peple i was round a many them all about the 1 of October i had not the pleasure of seeing Mr. Barton nor Eliza i under stand thay was a going to cum to you thin back and i think if i was to cum i should like to cum in the spring Bud i dont think that they will git if yet Bud as they have riten to you i think that i need not say nothink a bought Ant fore they would tell you all Mr. Brooks lives in the ould Home yet as usul your Ant Huton lives wear they did unchel is did if you did not know So i don’t think that i can tell you mutch more nowes fore i don’t know mutch a bout the time when you was this way Nor i ham not with mother fore her to tell me eney think about times

I must investigate the role Mr. Barton played in John and Mary Ann's passage to America. This isn't the first time I saw the name Barton in connection to my family. Refer to June 16, 2012 posting "I touched the original letter and got goose bumps, too!" for the first. And I have a letter (dated August 2 - no year - possibly same year as Henry's letter 1869) from the Barton's to uncle John. I'll post it another time.  

"Mr. Brooks lives in the ould Home yet"; Henry's aunt Rebecca Rouse married a George Brooks. I would suspect this is the Brooks he is writing about. Rebecca died 1895. I'm not sure who "your Ant Huton" is yet. He is writing to uncle John, I wonder if she is John's father Henry Rouse's sister, or mother Elizabeth CLARKE's. I will have to ask a cousin who has the Rouse genealogy. Henry Rouse died about 1851 in Illinois and his wife Elizabeth died in 1846 in Tumby a village a couple miles west of Tumby Woodside.

In this letter, one page front and back, where Henry didn't use punctuation' it's hard to tell if the letter ends with the word "times" or not. I think it does and Henry just ran out of room because he signed "Henry" on the first page.

Henry did emigrate in 1871, but not before he writes another letter saying he wasn't coming. He met his wife Sarah ALMOND at the boarding house he was staying at. The boarding house was run by the Almond's who are from Thimbleby, Lincolnshire, England. Nine years later, on the 1880 census, Henry is shown as a Carpenter; his household is shown to include wife Sarah Ann (Almond), sons James R. and John R.; daughter Anna E. They are living in Fremont, Lake County, Illinois.

Besides John and Mary Ann coming to American (1870) to be near uncle John Rouse, Henry's second youngest brother James comes in 1872; Henry's next younger brother, John Vamplew sought passage on same ship with William Dennis and Elizabeth PORTAS (my 2x great grandparents) in 1875 eventually settling in Kansas. Staying in England are  Henry's parents, and the rest of the siblings: Elizabeth, Georgiana, Eliza, George W., Lucy Ann, and Matilda.

I love these letters from England because of the phonetic spellings, using no punctuation, and the simple rural Lincolnshire, England dialect. Every time I look at a letter, I discover some little surprise or treasure to hunt down later, I find tidbits of 19th century rural life of the working class. I haven't found "gentry" or "royalty" connections,  either. I don't think any connection will be found in the letters I'm exploring.