Monday, 31 October 2016

The Mystery of Mary Ann - looking for connections

One of the things I love about family history research (apart from the thrill of stumbling upon something surprising by accident, of course) is the buzz of gathering together those intriguing bits of information which, could, might, possibly, join together to reveal another long-hidden secret which has so far eluded me.

Mary Ann Diggory in later years
October's been one of those gathering months in my continuing quest to discover more in the intriguing story of my great aunt, Mary Ann Diggory, and what was behind her decision to walk out on her family in 1904, when she was 16. If you're unfamiliar with the background, my post The Mystery of Mary Ann, will fill you in.

After the thrill of unpicking the secret of Mary Ann's connection with Mary Downes in last month's post, I set-to with great determination to see what other gems I could crack.

Murrell Family

I decided first to focus on the Murrell family. Annie, as Mary Ann was generally known, had lived with the Murrell family for several years.

I'd learned from the Registration of Nurses records, that she was living with them at 68 Foregate Street, Shrewsbury in 1937 and was still resident in 1940, after they'd moved to The Gateway, Monkmoor, Shrewsbury. By 1943 she'd moved to her own house at 18 Woodfield Avenue, Shrewsbury, where she remained until she went into a nursing home in the 1980s, towards the end of her life.

Pontesbury connection

So how did she know the Murrell's? As nothing obvious linked her to Edwin Foley Murrell, and I'd drawn a blank on any mention of Annie in his will, I decided to concentrate on his wife, Alice Maud and discovered her maiden name was Randles. Alice's father was Edward Randles, a draper, who was born in Pontesbury in 1838.

The Pontesbury connection was interesting as Annie's mother, Eliza Roberts, had been born in Pontesbury in 1841, as had her brother, Jonathan in 1845 and her father, Timothy Roberts, in 1813. What's more, Alice Murrell moved to a nursing home called Cliffdale, also in Pontesbury, before she died in 1954.

Alice Murrell left a will and I sent for a copy, thinking, again, that Annie may have been mentioned in some way, giving a clue to their association. But no, Alice's beneficiaries were her two sons, her daughters-in-law and her sister, Marian Randles.

But what about Cliffdale House? Had she chosen it because of her family connections in Pontesbury? Or did she perhaps have links to Cliffdale House itself?

Medical link?

Cliffdale is currently a care home and their website told me that it had been a private residence up until 1945. I looked it up on the 1911 census and discovered a surgeon lived there, called Jameson. His first name was listed as Alfred but you might agree from looking at the entry below, that it doesn't look much like Alfred to me! (I'm still trying to work out what it is.)

But whatever his name, was this a link? Did Cliffdale, having a medical connection, have anything to do with Annie becoming a nurse?

And what about the rest of the Randles family? Did the Roberts family and the Randles know one another in Pontesbury? Or was this merely a coincidence?

I'm currently working my way through both families to see if I can tie them up in any way.

Then I plan to turn my attention back to those years after Annie left home but before she began her nursing training in Surrey in 1912. Where was she back then? I still haven't found her on the 1911 census. Was she hiding under an assumed name....?

Perhaps if I gather enough tenuous links, and with a fair wind and the odd lucky break, I might eventually manage to join up the dots! I'll keep you posted.