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Years ago I inherited a small portrait of a relative which I thought was painted by my maternal grandmother.  I had no idea who it was.  Recently my brother obtained, through family in England, four more similar ones which were part of a set.  It seems they were of the Jones sisters and a “great grandmother”.  The four recent additions have rather vague information on the back (including the “My great-grandmother”).  I can identify one of them only as I had her marriage details noted in a family tree.   On the back of one of the paintings is written “Mrs Mansell”, on another “Mrs Goff”.

However, considering the dates involved, my grandmother can’t possibly have painted them from life, so who was the painter? Her mother?

From recent census returns I’d downloaded, I tried to figure out who was who and also do some searches at familysearch.org to find any possible marriages of Jones and Goff/Gough or Mansell.

My grandmother had written 12 names as offspring of Richard and Anne Jones.  I have descendants of four of them.  I had possible christening dates of one other.  Five out of 12 isn’t great.  Of those 12, eight were girls.  I knew the marriage details of two of those eight (one of which is my great-great grandmother, Catherine).  The painting which has nothing written on the back is, I suspect, Catherine.  That left 6 girls unaccounted for and 2 remaining paintings to identify.  Census returns for 1841-1861 reveal only the names of four girls.  Presumably the others were born earlier and left home or they died young.

As mentioned, I searched familysearch.org for marriages.  I found a marriage of Edward Mansell to Sarah Jones but this was in 1859 and my Sarah was still living at home (as a housekeeper) in 1861 (her mother had died in 1857).  It’s quite possible that a husband died in those two years but in the 1861 census there is an Edward still living.  Unfortunately I couldn’t get details of the rest of the household – one needs money for that.  I also found a Thomas Goff marrying an Elizabeth Jones in 1843 (a bit early?) and in 1861 (a bit late).  It’s all just guesswork which is rather annoying and it doesn’t help me identify the ladies in the paintings.

Below is “Mrs Mansell”,

and her sister, “Mrs Goff”.

The other painting of “My great-grandmother” is also a mystery.  If the back of these were written by the owner of the paintings (my grandmother’s sister) then this woman is possibly the mother of the girls, Anne Jones (nee Phillips) which seems likely.

“Great grandmother” below.

I had very limited success with finding births/baptisms for all these Jones’.  There were a lot of Richard and Anne Jones couples who gave birth in Shropshire in the early 1800s it seems.  I found three that seemed definite (only one of which was a girl) and another two more that were possible (judging by the place names).  The others seemed a bit far away from the towns of the rest of the family.

So, not a lot of success overall.  Two women in the paintings are still a mystery.

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As a distraction from thoughts of the death of my young cat the night before, I did a Google search of some surnames and areas.  I found a partial family tree of someone who had a distant relative included.  From that tree I was able to fill in more descendants from a branch of Kercher.  It’s rather like filling in pieces of the puzzle and is very satisfying.  I also downloaded some old photos of the ancestral village.

I must back up the information gathered so far on the computer.

Well old lady from England didn’t ring until 11.15am.  I didn’t get any clear information from her rambling but I did get my cousin’s email address.

While I was waiting for her phone call I thought I might as well use some credits on thegenealogist.co.uk.  Looking up births, deaths or marriages was a complete waste of time.  It cost one credit to look up a possible but there was no information to help to confirm it was the right person.  For example my Elizabeth Darlington could’ve been married in Nantwich, Warrington or Salford.  How was I to know?  There was no information about the spouse.

So I turned to census returns which were way more useful.

Since the the old lady had mentioned Asher, I decided to look  up the census returns for Asher from 1841 to 1901.  I checked which I already had and did some others with good results.  Then I decided to save the PDF file of the actual entries of all of them, using up a fair number of credits.

I tried the same for Powell with limited results and again saved the PDFs of the certainties.

It was my deceased maternal grandmother who had got me onto this family research.  I still have the handwritten tree she’d written out for her mother’s side of the family.  Her grandmother was married to Richard Powell and his parents, according to her notes, were Edward and Ann Powell.  However, last year another researcher gave me a family tree saying that Richard’s parents were Richard and Martha.  I noted down the details (somewhere – it’s probably in the pad I’ve mislaid!) but didn’t want to believe her.

So I did a search for Richard Powells in the census returns and found the family of the one the researcher mentioned.  A later census which included my grandmother’s mother and the aunts and uncles had Richard as born in Lydham, Shropshire.  Unfortunately, the earlier one which included Martha and Richard had the son born in Lydham, Shropshire so it definitely looked like the same one.  Dammit.  I wanted my grandmother to be right.

I did find an Edward and Ann Powell but there was no sign of Richard and the only sibling my grandmother had written was William and there was no mention of him in the census either.  They were old enough to be lodgers elsewhere, but that doesn’t help.  Dammit!

Anyway, nothing like a prod from a fellow researcher, as well as a fast-approaching expiry to get me working on the family history.

I won’t be renewing my sub to the NZGS.  I also don’t think I’ll renew my sub to the Hampshire Family History Society (which I joined last year).  There’s really no point unless you’re in the country.  You have to be there for anything useful and that includes the NZ society too.  The library’s in Auckland and all the events seem to happen there.  I”m not getting anything out of it at all.

My sub to the website I mentioned is expiring in a week.  I won’t be renewing that either.  I found it frustrating and I didn’t bother going back to  use up all my credits (of which I had quite a bit).  A waste of money for the whole lot.

I received a phone call last night from an old lady in England.  We’d last corresponded about the Asher family in 2000!  She rang in the hope I still lived here.  It was 10pm so she said she’d ring the next morning (for me) as she had some information about a fellow researcher and I think she mentioned my cousin’s name!  I’ve lost touch with that side of the family – my mother’s side.  After she died, her brother and his kids never bothered to keep in touch.  Now, obviously, one of the kids is interested in the family tree.  She sent me an email a couple of years ago which I replied to but to which she never responded.  It’ll be weird to get in touch again through a virtual stranger in England!

A year or two ago I came across a death notice for this cousin’s father (my uncle) – at least I think it might have been.  I thought I might have written it down somewhere, but do you think I can find it or even search online again? No.  I seem to have mislaid my pad of notes – just great – even more unorganised than usual.  That’s the problem with having a surge of activity surrounding research, then put it down thinking you’ll come back to it and over a year later, you can’t find where you put it.  I”m not impressed with myself.  How careless!

So, currently waiting for this phone call and hopefully get details about my cousin.  I’m ashamed to say I have no details about her or her sister or mother in my tree.  My mother did die over 30 years ago and with no contact, it’s easy to forget.