Wednesday 3 November 2010

A few pieces of paper tell a story

I bought a bundle of assorted documents on Ebay a while ago, mainly because it included some decorative billheads I was interested in. Of course I looked at everything else in the bundle, and noticed the same name 'Bradbury' appeared on three of them, and a story began to unfold...

The first is a bill for Poor Rates from Huddersfield Poor Law Union, dated 11 September and addressed to Mr J R Bradbury, 15 Fitzwilliam Street West. But 'J R' has been crossed out and replaced with 'Marian', and the receipt, also dated 11 September, is made out to 'Mrs Marian Bradbury'. 

I guessed that Mr Bradbury had recently died, and the third piece of paper, a builder's bill, confirms this; there are items dated May, June, July and August 1876 for window repairs and the replacement of a water closet, then on 25 August "to 1 strong oak coffin, lined, padded and mattress &c £5 15s 6d".

A quick check of the National Probate Calendar on Ancestry shows an entry in 1876 for the Will of Jonathan Rhodes Bradbury, late of 15 Fitzwilliam Street West, woolstapler, who died 22 August. Probate was granted 14 October to Mary Ann Bradbury of the same address, widow and relict. His death entry on FreeBMD shows that he was 45 years old. It also showed his marriage to Mary Ann Ring in 1858, and FamilySearch gave me the exact date, 14 June 1858, in Strood, near Rochester in Kent. This is a very long way from Huddersfield, but a search in the 1871 census found the family as visitors in a household in Ilkley, Yorkshire (RG 10/4302 folio 99 page 28) shows that Mrs Bradbury was born in Canterbury. The couple also had 3 children, Mary A, 11, Benjamin, 5, and Herbert, 8 months. So poor Mrs Bradbury was not only a widow, she was quite a young widow with young children.

Three pieces of paper, the kind that would usually be thrown away, but they have a story to tell


  1. DearAUDREY,
    You blog post will likely be discovered in months or years to come when a descendant searches for Marian Bradbury or Jonathan Rhodes Bradbury because you've taken the time to rescue these documents, scan them and post them to your blog.

    I remember tender feelings when searching for an ancestral serviceman's pension file and seeing the handwritten bill submitted by his son for his father's burial suit, coffin and cemetery plot.

    THANKS AUDREY in advance on behalf of the Bradbury descendants. And THANKS for showing researchers different records than are normally encountered when doing basic genealogical research.

  2. Thanks, Myrt, for your kind comment. You should see some of the other things I have acquired in 'lucky dip' bundles of documents! I have some lovely decorative bill-heads, mostly from about a century ago. I think I feel another post coming on...

  3. Great story!! Thanks for sharing! Love, Joy