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.
+ + + + +

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.

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