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
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.)|
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.)|
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.)|
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.)|
"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.