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bubblebelle

A mystery solved: A big thank you

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Many of you on this forum, have unwittingly been caught up in the Merry go Round, that has been my search for information on my Great Grandfather, George Arthur Perry. Even the mention of his name probably is enough to give you the vapours. It certainly does me.

The mystery has been solved, although I am sure this is not the end of his story, and I thought you may be interested in the outcome.

As you may recall, I started out 6 or 7 years ago, with very vague recollections of conversations with my Dad. I knew his Grandfather had been married twice and had a son from the former wife, Jessie. and the other children with the latter, Edith. He was the first borough surveyor for Paddington Council, he wore a smoking jacket and a fez and when his wife died he married the ‘nanny’.

Who knew with so little information, I could come such a long way, uncover secrets that ancestors had thought they had taken to their graves, and gone on a journey taking in the ‘goldrush’ in Australia, researching voyages of the Beagle and Charles Darwin, travelling from London to Northumberland to Coventry and back to London again, and from Santiago to the Atacama desert in Chile. Some of all this has been in vain, but has been interesting nonetheless.

So how much truth was there in those vague recollected stories?

Well, early on in my research, I found a cousins family tree on Ancestry and I received a family photo, the first I had seen of wider family and there in the centre of the family was a man wearing a fez. The borough surveyor was slightly off track, his occupation in later life, was that of a Sanitary Inspector, which would be recognised as an early public health officer, however his job did involve the supply of clean water and drainage systems and yes he did work for Paddington council.

Along the way I made contact with another cousin in Australia, descendants of the older half brother who had emigrated there. He supplied me with a document that Great Grandfather had written about his work, within this were accounts of cholera and smallpox outbreaks that he was responsible for controlling. I think he may have had some OCD tendencies as he reported that he had kept plans of the drainage pipes he had overseen over his career.

As for marrying the ‘Nanny’, in fact it was the ‘nurse’ employed in caring for his wife in the latter stages of TB. The ‘nurse’ was my GreatGrandmother.

But there was so much more to this man. On initial viewing he appeared to be an upstanding middle class Victorian, but scratch the surface and the veneer quickly tarnished. The nurse was 3 months pregnant when they married 5 months post his wife’s death. It quickly became apparent that his, at the time thought to be his first wife, and he were officers within the Salvation Army. Reading an article at the library about the SA, it was suggested that early members were often more affluent men, who had a history of hard drinking. From the picture, I had built of this man, this made sense, but I was getting conflicting information from various cousins that I was continuing to find, so a lot of information and personal judgements were put to the back of my mind. Meanwhile a whole new set of family stories and reminiscenses were shared, and the focus of my attention was to follow these up.

We all became bogged down in passenger lists to Australia for the ‘goldrush’, there was a chance that George and his father were passengers on the SS Great Britain, but everything came to naught. However the 2 marriage certificates had the same information that his father, George was a surgeon.

Along the way the family story was that he was a ships surgeon, and this was where my own flight of fancy came in as a John George Perry was in contact with Charles Darwin, he was a member of the Royal Astronomical Society and there was an expedition to Chile in the 1850’s in preparation of a transit of Venus. Clutching at straws, I looked into this, but again came up with nothing. Julie (Darksecretz) pointed me in the direction of the medical registers and I caught the Obsessive bug and ended up following every George Perry, surgeon, doctor of medicine or apothecary, through the census, only to discount each and every one of them, but just to be on the safe side, I checked them all over again…. Several times.

The marriage certificate to Jessie, indicated he was a widower, when he married her, and so I searched for another wife, following many more George Perry’s through the census. My search was further hampered by his interchanging first names over the years, oh how naive I was, with the benefit of hindsight. There was an Elizabeth Perry dying in the right sort of area, but she was so much older than George. There was also a possible match for him in newspaper reports at the time, but I could not find evidence to piece it all together.

So for several years, I put him on the back burner, occasionally returning to see if I could find anything new. Then, with Ancestry publishing Warwickshire parish records, by chance, as the record was damaged so the full names were not legible, I found the missing marriage, my hunch had been correct and it was to an Elizabeth, and the death was correct too.

This marriage indicated a couple of further hunches, it was possible that George had a history of alcohol, his older wife, being the widow of a publican and the cause of her death, being a fatty liver, this is of relevance to information to recent discoveries. It also indicated that the various newspaper court reports were also related to my George.

Again the trail went quite, something in the back of my mind was niggling that there may be another wife between Elizabeth and Jessie. To me, he felt like a man who didn’t like to be alone. Only a few weeks ago, I posted, whether any other members of the forum felt the same, this of course resulted in me going through loads of marriage again, that I had previously discounted.

It was at this time that I suddenly received an email from a new cousin via Ancestry. She had details of a ‘bigamy’ court case in London. The accompanying newspaper report fitted George perfectly. It named him as marrying Jessie in Jan 1881 and then marrying Ann in Feb 1881. His excuse was that he married both of them under assumed names and he had been ‘out of sorts’ when he married Ann. This information indicated that not only had be interchanged his first names, but had used at least 3 surname in his life. Whilst he had used ‘Perry’ since the mid 1870’s he had actually been born a ‘Pye’.

Everything then slotted into place quickly, the assertion that he had been born in Chile was proven by a baptism found on the familysearch site, along with 2 siblings, one of which fitted the recollections of George’s eldest son. The assertion that his father, George, was a surgeon, is also proven to be true. The ships surgeon, at present looks unlikely, and his mother being a Spanish princess, has certainly been disproved.

Going back to Ann, she fitted a similar profile to his wife Elizabeth, again she was in her 50’s and the widow of a publican. George’s punishment, for his bigamous marriage, was 2 months imprisonment with hard labour. His life turned around, with Jessie forgiving him and he embracing the Salvation Army life.

I still would not be surprised if I found another marriage between Elizabeth and Jessie, I have 2 new surnames to research.

In the meantime questions as to his choice of women, may be answered with the possibility of both his parents, by the age of 12. According to the 1861 census return his mother was a widow, therefore the stories of accompanying his father to Australia appear unlikely. I am awaiting the certificate but I believe his mother died in 1863.

Way back in the day, I recall someone mentioning this ‘Pye’ family, I wonder if they will read this, they will they know how close to the mark they were.

Meanwhile, if anyone is interested or has a link to this man and would like to know more, well just get in touch, I am more than happy to share.

So a big thank you to all of those, that have helped along the way and take heart that those brick walls can be broken down.

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