Sunday, 13 March 2011

Deaths (written October 1999)

I have been much preoccupied by death. Fortunately there hasn't been a family tragedy, but coincidentally a number of documents on the subject have come to light in the last few days that may be of interest.  
Let us start with an extraordinary letter from a condemned man at Newgate Jail which is being added to the Document Collection. William LONGMUIR writes from the 'condemned hold' to a Mrs COTTUM on 21 Oct 1725:  'I return you a thousand thanks for your favours as for my life I have no friend to stir about, so I have no dependence and I don't know that the death warrant may come down on Saturday night or on Sunday we expect it at farthest so I hope. If we die on Monday you will be so kind as to let me see you once more at chapel on Sunday. But if the warrant comes down when it will as soon as I know I will send [for] you directly as you shall know when it is. I should be glad to see you once more which is all at present from your most unfortunate servant. PS I should for ever be bound to pray for you. If you would give me a few papers into your church for me while only your prayers are desired for a young man [that] is under sentence of death.'   
Apart from the letter we know nothing more about this unfortunate man or the reason that he was languishing in Newgate. Can, as they say in the TV crime programmes, anybody help with this case? [See below]

Kingsley Ireland from Australia thinks that William LONGMUIR was actually William LONGMIRE and I misread the letter, which is quite possible. We have conducted a lively corresondence. He writes:

It was with interest that I saw your blog as a descendant of the William LONGMIRe from Holborn who emigrated to America via Newgate in 1725
I am a descendant of George LONGMIRE, Quaker, of Colthouse near Hawkshead, Lake Dirstrict, Cumbria who married Ann BRAITHWAITE in 1692. His descendant, Hiram LONGMIRE emigrated to South Australia in 1848 with his wife Ann and 5 children.  In 1972 I published a book "The Family History of Hiram LONGMIRE 1814-1880", consisting of   52pages.
You may view this book FREE nowadays as it has been put by a relative more adept at computers than I am, on the Facebook site that has been set up under Hiram LONGMIRE. You may need to trawl backwards until you see the 3 oval  busts and the title in gothic print, after which you may Forward the pages.
For many years I was in communication with Mrs Marie RICE of Tacoma, WA who wrote a book about the James LONGMIRE (ancestor of her husband, Robert) who crossed in a covered wagon along the Oregon Traill and established the Longmire Springs on Mt Rainier. We excahnged information about  the ancestry and history of the LONGMIRE family, and I was aware of James's descent from the emigrant William.
A number of years ago I saw in the accessions of the Society of Genealogists, London  library, a letter written from Newgate by William LONGMIRE dated 21 Oct. 1725  to his patroness, benefactress and friend, Mrs Cottum, who my well have been influential in having his sentence commuted to transportation. It begins "I return a thousand thanks for your favours"
I am an inept old fogey with computers and don't know how to scan and make attachments. I could send you a copy of the one-page hand-written letter by post if you shared a postal address with me. If you are not happy to do that, I could probably find a relative/friend who could email it.
It is a "copy of the copy" and is not very clear, but I would not say indecipherable. You may wish to obtain another copy direct from the Society of Genealogists, London.
I would like it to become freely available to ALL descendants of William LONGMIRE of Holborn-Newgate via sites on the Internet, but my only proviso is that I would like the annotation to state that the original letter is in the Library of the Society of Genealogists, London, and its existence was brought to the notice of William's descendants  by Kingsley IRELAND "Tregare"  128 Penrice Road    Angaston (Barossa Valley) South Australia  AUSTRALIA 5353      Skype: kingsley..ireland

Death at least since July 1837 has been accompanied by a death certificate. The certificates themselves are often not terribly informative, so are often ignored by family historians. Given below are two examples. They come from the Brooks Davies Collection, the first few boxes of which (it is a huge collection) is available in the Upper Library.   Firstly, the tragic death of a newborn baby:   Herbert Hatton Joseph COLLINS died aged 6 weeks dated 15 Jan 1896.  Place of death: 60 Prince Edward Road, Hackney. Reason congenital syphilis. Son of George Collins, gen labourer and Eliza (present at death)  I'm no expert, but I presume that one of the parents was carrying the disease and passed it on to their child. Was Eliza a (former) prostitute, or did George pick it up from a local whore? We shall probably never know. 
Secondly, the death of one of Edwardian England's most prominent showmen and aviation pioneer:   Samuel Franklin CODY died 7 August 1912, Cove, Aldershot age 52, aviator, died by accidental collapse of an aeroplane   CODY was born COWDREY in Texas in 1860 and took the surname in honour of Buffalo Bill Cody. He came to England with various shows during the 1880s and 1890s and settled here permanently at the turn of the century. Something of an enthusiastic for new inventions, especially aviation, he made the first powered flight at Aldershot in 1904.  
According to an article in the Sunday Telegraph Magazine for 21 January 1996 he had asked that 'When my time comes I hope it will be swift and sudden death from one of my own aeroplanes.'   
Wills and probate are often part of the ritual of death. Wills can, of course, tell us quite a lot about the will maker and his or her relationship to the rest of the family.
Another item destined for the document collection is the will for William BARWICH, a planter on Barbados who made his will in May 1752, and added various codicils as he outlived his family. He had obviously long ago fallen out with his son Samuel for he bequeathed him £100 with the comment: 'and since by an unparalleled conduct and turning a deaf ear to all [] he hath perversely [] himself of my blessing I bequeath him that of Esau, by his sword shall he live, and I do give him the said hundred pounds to buy himself a sword accordingly.'
He had also had problems with his daughters, Jane and Mary, for he left his estate to his (estranged?) wife, Elizabeth, who had returned to Europe. The reason for this is that his daughters 'who have made it their choice to depend on her which is the reason for me to leave them to their own election.' In fact his daughters died before him, for they are deleted from the will by a codicil of 1756.
On the other hand he is keen to ensure that his widowed mother is well looked after leaving her rooms in a house in his plantation with instructions that she shall have full use of the kitchens. And, as this was still the age of slavery, his mother was to have the 'use of Negro woman named Alley for the term of her natural life.'
If his family should die before him, always a possibility in tropic climates, the estate should go to Nathaniel CARPENTER, son of Nathaniel CARPENTER, of London merchant 'the man I loved best and received most kindness while living.' Carpenter however is excluded from the will by a later codicil, perhaps the two fell out or Carpenter died.
While sorting out material to be microfilmed for the document collection I came across this GRO death certificate dated 21 November 1837 for John Durdin, age 2, japan polisher of Aston, Birmingham. The information was supplied by the mother who perhaps got confused in her grief. If not they certainly started children working early in those days!

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