Recently, I passed through Polesworth, near Tamworth, in Staffordshire, as I continue to explore England’s canal network, this time on the Coventry Canal. George’s life story is confusing.
Memories of Pooley Mine
I stood and watched as they pull it down,
the blackened gear head of Pooley Mine.
the big black wheels rock and stumble.
and part of history began to crumble.
Locked in twisted steel
were memories of men of coal
who gave their sweat and blood
to hew the coal that lay below.
I stood and watched them cap the shaft,
and thoughts went deep below,
like the blackened hand whose fingers
burrowed deep into my soul,
gone this once proud mine.
This monument to miners past reminded me that I had not been able to trace one George Dennis, oldest brother of great grandfather John Dennis. When the rest of his family moved to Brownhills in about 1852 George did not go with them.
I know from the family Bible that George was born in December 1834 and, from the 1851 census that he was born at Moira, Leicestershire, the oldest child of Henry and Dorothy Dennis, my second great grandparents.
In 1861 George was a lodger at Winshill, Derbyshire, another mining settlement, and in 1881 at Polesworth, specifically Birchmoor. Whether George worked at Pooley mine, I have no idea, but the geography suggests Birch Coppice was a more likely place of employment. What remains of Pooley Mine is now a country park alongside the Coventry Canal, between Alvecote and Polesworth. It has mainly been taken over by birch woods. and the blackened wheel recalled by Mr Hendy now has a coat of many colours.
Beyond that George proved elusive. I have been unable to find him in the 1871 and 1891 censuses, and have found nothing to suggest that some terrible fate had befallen him in the dark bowels of Warwickshire. But I thought I would have one last try to round off his story.
A new search revealed an intriguing record of marriage in 1892. Suddenly, there was light …
… but who was the widow Elizabeth Payne? I have yet to find any record.
Her father’s name is recorded as Charles Ray. The only record I have found of an Elizabeth Ray whose father was Charles appears in the 1851 census for Stotfold, Bedfordshire. At that time Charles was an agricultural labourer, but the entry of marriage says shoemaker. And I have not found a record of Elizabeth Ray marrying a Payne.
George was the right age, a bachelor, coal miner and father Henry. Surely, the right man. Both bride and groom were residents of Blackwell.
I wondered if the witnesses were significant. I have not found Eliza Henry. In 1891 John England was a framework knitter in Blackwell, but seems to have no family connection.
The next thing I found was in the GRO Index of Deaths for 1895, and I ordered a PDF version.
For George to have had a son-on-law, he must have had a married daughter. However, I can find no record of a Dennis – Walters wedding. The search is complicated by George’s status as bachelor, meaning he had not previously married. Any daughter was therefore illegitimate and may have been named, perhaps not baptised, by her mother, so her surname might not have been Dennis. Could Payne be a clue?
George appears to have had no long-term home, so it is not easy to narrow down a search for a birth, or baptism, or census record based on geography.
So, what of W Walters, son-in-law?
I checked the 1891 census for Blackwell. There was one Ellen Walters, widow, but none of the people I am trying to find, including at New Lane, the address on the entry of death. A trawl of New Lane and the rest of Blackwell 1901 also drew a blank.
In the 1891 census, at 17 Sunny Bank, Tibshelf, Derbyshire, close to Blackwell, was a Walter H Walters, 37, coal miner, born Swanwick, also close to Blackwell. His wife was Eliza, Notts, looks like Warsop – Worksop? Eliza would not be out of kilter with Dennis family preferences.
In 1881 William H Walters was also at Tibshelf. His wife was Elizabeth, 26, born Hardstaff, Derbyshire. There was a marriage between Walter Henry Walters and Eliza Gallimore at Tibshelf on 23 August 1875 (Ancestry image), but her father’s name is given as Samuel Gallimore. The family appears whole in the 1861 census at “Mosbro” [Mosborough, to the south east of Sheffield], including 4-year old Eliza, born Worksop. Looks like a dead end.
Well, this is what family history research is all about. Blind alleys, red herrings, wild goose chases. But, one day, the truth will out. Just not this day, that’s all.