by Shane Badham
This story is about the families above and how I set about researching their lives using the sources I found. At the end I have included some charts to help clarify the genealogy. In one to two places I had difficulty in writing a transcript of the Minister’s writing, so I have replaced the doubtful text with a question mark (?), or encased a word in brackets [ ].
Florence Edgecumbe Badham
My great-grandfather, Alonzo, married Helen Davis in 1852 at St. James Bristol.
My grandfather Stanley Martyn was born in 1853, followed by Edith Helen, Percy George Davis and Florence Edgecumbe. Two other children were born later in Melksham. Florence’s middle name of Edgecumbe was of interest to me and it took me several years to discover the link to the Edgecumbes.
The Mother of Helen Davis
On my first attempt on the IGI to find out the name of Helen Davis’ mother, I found a George Davis marrying an Anne Tucker, in 1802, at Nether Stowey, Somerset. This was to prove false when, with help from Tim Ellis, I discovered the Moravian register for Bristol.
Initially I concentrated on the Badhams and Davises and found that Helen was born in 1825. This made the Tucker marriage less likely. Also the births of the older children, especially William in 1821, indicated that the Nether Stowey marriage was not the correct one.
I found a possible IGI reference for a marriage in 1820 and subsequently viewed the parish register: George Davis married Ann Edgecumbe, on the 1st May 1820, in St. Phillip and St. Jacob, Bristol.
Their children were William Augustus, George Frederick, Helen and Henry. Ann died in 1829. Only William, who died two years later aged 10, and Helen were to survive beyond their mother’s death.
George’s second marriage was to a Sarah according to the census of 1841, and they had one son, Nathaniel.
Sarah is important, because William was only eight and Helen only four years old at the time of their mother’s death. Helen would therefore come to know her step-mother better than her natural mother.
I was unable to find their marriage based on Nathaniel’s age of 5 years in that 1841 census return.
The Moravian Register
With Tim’s help I found the PRO (now TNA) film RG4/1631 at the FRC. Although Tim had used the LDS film, he had recorded the PRO number as well. I found the births of my Badham and Davis children between 1812 and 1836.
At the start of the Moravian Register were the names of the officers of the Church and in addition to James Billings Badham was John Edgecumbe. On a later visit I collected all the Edgecumbe births, baptisms, deaths and burials. On a further visit I collected the Fripps and Mauds, because Arabella had married George Downing Fripp and James later married Mary Maud (they were both widowed in the same year).
The register has proved to be a major resource for my research but, of course, no marriages! Like many other churches, the Moravian records end with the coming of Civil Registration.
The Moravian Diaries
The diaries, held at the University of Bristol Arts and Social Sciences Library, have been an even greater resource than the register. In addition to the personal details of members of these families; births and deaths, and marriages after 1837 are mentioned, and the “Memoranda” or obituaries of the lives of these people are fascinating and a wonderful resource for further research.
The Death of Ann Edgecumbe
Ann, wife of John Edgecumbe, died on the 5th March 1844 aged 81. Her funeral took place on 12th March at 12 o’clock. Her children read an account of her life, part of which I give below.
"Our dear Mother was born at Kingswood July 25th 1762. Her parents were not members of the Bretheren’s Church; but from childhood she attended there frequently, some young friends of hers being members.” The minister describes her strong attachment to the church.
“In her 14 year she entered the Economy just commenced in her native place, [that is, living in the settlement and supporting and being supported by the settlement] and soon after her admission, she attained to the various privileges of the Bretheren’s Church and subsequently became a Director of that Institute.
“In December 1792, she was united with her now bereaved partner, in which important ??ation her various excellent qualities were apparent. As an affectionate wife and Mother, she was [for?] ever studying the comfort and happiness of those around her. Their union was blessed with 6 Children, 2 sons were called to Eternity in early life and two daughters at a more advanced age, whose death deeply wounded her affectionate heart.”
The minister continues with examples of her character and faith. Also her decline over two to three years and her final hours, when she was, though her faith, ready to meet her maker.
So, here we have her birth, marriage date and details of her children. From the register we know of the following children: Ann, Christian Elias, Elizabeth, Nathaniel, Sarah and Charles James. The burial register says that Christian and Charles died as infants and Ann, George Davis’ wife, died in 1829. Nathaniel married and had three children. The first two died in infancy, and the third, also a Nathaniel, survived beyond his father’s death in 1848 aged 50. Sarah also survived, as we shall see later.
That leaves Elizabeth. According to the diaries, she went to the Bedford settlement on July 17th 1833, to be employed as the Governess in the Ladies' school there. She must have died there between 1833 and 1844. I will probably consult the RG4 archive when I next visit the FRC, but this is not the end of the story.
The Death of John Edgecumbe
About one year after Ann’s death, John Edgecumbe died on the 14th December 1845, aged 84 at about 7 o’clock in the evening. According to his death certificate he was a watchmaker and his son, Nathaniel, had taken up the same vocation. An announcement of his death was made to the Committee, who had just finished their meeting, and it was noted that John had been a member of that committee for 41 years.
His funeral took place on the 23rd December, when his children read a Memorandum of his life, part of which I give below.
“Our dear father was born at Malmsbury, March 18th 1761, and dedicated to the Lord in holy Baptism, in the B'rs Congregation at that place, his Parents being members of that Congregation. At the early age of six months, he was deprived of a father's care; by his happy departure his widowed mother was left with a family of seven young children, which she trained in the nature and admonition of the Lord, and had the happiness to see that her earnest prayers and constant watchfulness were crowned with success, five of them becoming members of that church to which she herself considered it a favour to belong.
“The early years of this her youngest son were particularly marked, as indeed his whole life, by a most affectionate disposition which greatly endeared him to his family. At the age of 14 years he left the peaceful home and came to Bristol, where no longer under the watchful eye of an affectionate Mother, the seductive allurements of the world and the deceitfulness of the human heart, drew him aside from communication with his Saviour, and he for a time became a lover of pleasure more than a lover of God; and was entangled in the pursuits of a vain and perishing world.
“Oct. 4th 1784 he entered into the marriage state, this union was blessed with two children who survive him; but his compassionate Saviour still followed him in mercy, and by means of his chastening rod brought his erring child back into the fold. The happy death of his much loved partner of consumption, led him to seek consolation at the foot of the cross, and in communion with the flock of Jesus.”
On April 1st 1793 he re-entered the Moravian church and became a member of that congregation.“On Decber 4th, 1794 he again entered into the marriage state, this union was continued through the long space of 51 years and was blessed with six children...”
At this point the minister repeats what was written on the occasion of Ann’s funeral. However, we now have the date of his birth and of his first marriage, and also details of the children of that marriage.
The minister mentions the death of his second wife, although he was greatly saddened by her departure, his faith, now stronger, helped him to come to terms with her death, his comment being, "Thy will not mine be done."
Having got firm dates for both marriages, I did a search using the LDS web site, “Family Search” (see the long URL below). It was very successful. John’s first marriage was to Sarah Nashe on the 4th October 1784 at St. James, Bristol and the second to Ann Gingell of Bittern Parish on the 4th December 1792 at St. Phillip and St. Jacob, Bristol. Both were subsequently confirmed at Bristol R.O.
As you may have gathered, I sent for the death certificates of Ann and John (and Nathaniel). The informants on the death certificates of Ann and John were Mary Edgecumbe and John Edgecumbe, respectively! These are obviously John’s children by his first marriage.
On a visit to the Bristol R.O. last May, I discovered the birth of Mary Edgecumbe on the 6th February 1786 at St. James’, Bristol. No sign of John (Jnr.) at St. James, St. Michael, or at St. Phillip and St. Jacob.
The death of George Davis
I have been hunting for the death of George Davis for several years too, without success. Helen gave the name of her father on the occasion of her marriages to Alonzo in 1852 and to Charles Ferris O’Connor in 1866. I assumed that he was still alive, because there was no reference to him being deceased. I think that it is possible that he was still very much “alive” in her mind.
I found several references to George in the diaries. On the death of his wife, Ann, the minister wrote. “Her marriage with B'r G. Davis was blessed with 4 children, two of whom have preceded their mother into eternity while the little ones are left with the afflicted Widower, who's situation moves ones sympathy the more, because his deafness and ill health almost incapacitates him for attending to his business, that of a Grocer.” I knew about his business, which also included sugar refining. I am sure he relied on Ann’s help in running the shop.
Further comments were: on the 31st March 1831 “...hastily[?] readmitted the married pair G & S Davis.” At the time I was not convinced that this was our George, not having seen the 1841 senses return; on the 25th July 1833, “B'r Geo. Davis went down to Devonshire for his health.”
In the diary for 1843, November 24th there is an entry, “The mar'd Br Geo. Davis dep'd this life.” His funeral was on 1st December at 12 o’clock. I sent for his death certificate. The informant turned out to be Nathaniel Edgecumbe, present at the death.
This set me thinking: his second wife is Sarah, his son is called Nathaniel and Nathaniel Edgecumbe is present at his death and reports the death to the Registrar! I concluded that his second wife was Sarah Edgecumbe and of course Nathaniel Edgecumbe is Sarah Edgecumbe’s older brother! I checked the parishes close to where they lived - St. Michaels and St. James - nothing. The approximate dates I used were based on Nathaniel’s birth in 1836. I then had another good think. Marrying your deceased wife’s sister was illegal up until 1907, so they would have gone to a parish where they were not well known. I searched on the LDS web site, “Family Search” using both names, George Davis and Sarah Edgecumbe, and there it was, in the Parish of Filton just to the north of Bristol!
I can only surmise the reasons for their marriage, considering all the relevant dates. It is possible that, since Sarah was the only unmarried surviving daughter, an agreement was reached for her to help look after George and his surviving children. Maybe they married for appearances sake, having moved to Filton. Perhaps love blossomed late and it was six years before Nathaniel was born.
That’s my best shot!
I have really enjoyed this part of my research. It has been very enlightening and educating to learn how they thought in those days and the trials they faced. I am also impressed by their faith; at that time unfettered by our modern sciences and outlook on life.