Friday, February 07, 2014

52 Ancestors - #4 Joan ANDREWS

Today's 52 Ancestors entry is a look at a story I was told as a child and how what we hear is not always the whole story.

The Story

As a child, I can recall various people telling me about my Grandfather's cousin.  I would be told that Uncle Jim (James Henry ANDREWS, my Grandfather's paternal Uncle) had a daughter.  This daughter was never names, but in many ways as a child that didn't matter to me as the story was a warning in its self. 

When she was young, this little girl had an accident and was scolded by hot water.  As a result she sadly died- the warning was don't play with hot water or you could be badly hurt or even die.  The story continued that the girl’s mother couldn't cope which what had happened and deserted her husband.  I was always under the impression that the mother had been giving the little girl a bath and poured hot water on the child accidentally, which resulted in fatal scolding. 

The Reality

I tracked down Uncle Jim's marriage and found the name of his with, this allowed me to use the index of births to find potential children.  In the 20 years after Uncle Jim's marriage, only five children were born with the name ANDREWS and the correct mother's maiden name, all these children were born in the area that I knew my family was living at the time.  One of the children was called Joan, I thought instantly that must be her, as the remaining four appeared to have boy’s names.  I decided to throw caution to the wind and ordered her birth certificate.  When it arrived, I found that Joan was indeed Uncle Jim's daughter.  

So now, I have a name but how much of the story was true?  The Index of death registration was my next port of call.  In the search box I put Joan's name, year of birth +/- 1 year and a 20-year period for a death - I had five results, only one was in was in the right county and registration district for where the family lived, this person was also just 3 years old.  Knowing that there was no guarantee that this was the person I was looking for, I opted to order the certificate to find out. 

The death certificate arrived and I was not prepared for what I read.  The certificate was for Joan ANDREWS, a 3-year-old girl and the daughter of James Andrews.  The place of death was given as the same street that her father was living prior to marriage, which lead me to think she was indeed mine.  Suddenly I didn't want to read the box listing the cause of death but this was the reason I wanted her death certificate.  Having gathered my thoughts I read the box for cause of death: effects of accidental scolding.  The next box is the informant’s signature, qualification and date, this read: certificate received from Rees Jenkin RHYS Coroner for Glamorgan Inquest held 10 July 1924.

July 10th, 1924?  I knew that date well!  This was the day that my Grandfather was born, I couldn't help wonder if the shock of Joan's death had brought my Great-Grandmother into labour or if the inquest was a stress too far for her.

Now I knew that part of the story was true but still not what had caused the scolding.  A local newspaper held the answer with just two short paragraphs.

A verdict of “Accidental death” was returned at an inquest at Bargoed to-day on Joan Andrews, the daughter of James Andrews, Park-place, Gilfach, who died Friday last from scalds received that day. 
Evidence was given by Mrs E. Blewitt, the child’s grandmother, who said that there was a bucket of hot water on the floor, and she placed the child on the sofa for safety.  The little one, however, climbed down and knocked the bucket over and was scalded.  The Child was delicate, and subject to fits, and died soon afterwards from fits.
 South Wales Echo, Thursday July 10th, 1924

Now I have an answer.  The little girl I remember being told about was named Joan, she did die after being scalded but it seems it was an accident while she was in the care of her Grandmother and not her mother.  I know that Joan’s mother did leave her husband some time after Joan’s death, eventually she and James divorced and she remarried many years later.  James never remarried; he lived with his younger brother and his brother’s family for many years contributing to the household income.

In Memory of John ANDREWS, 21 May 1921 – 5 July 1924

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