This year as I have returned to researching my ancestors, it has be a wonderful chance to catch up with many cousins of all degrees. We have had such fun getting newly, or reacquainted, over photographs, documents and other family memorabilia.
Blogging has also allowed me the delightful chance of acknowledging the very best practises in ‘family history’, in that many people have contacted me with encouragement and offering information and assistance, some from the other side of the world.
In September 2012 I blogged about the daughters of James and Mercy Cheeseman of Staplehurst, Kent, England. In that blog I mentioned how the Parish Chest records had given me much information about this family. James Cheeseman is said to have gone to fight in the Napoleonic Wars in late 1803, and never returned home. His widow, Mercy, later married Robin Bell, the brother of my ancestor, Thomas Bell. The marriage had taken place at East Farleigh, Kent in 1811.
I have often noted in my blogs that I have been researching my family history for nearly fifty years. One of the loveliest things about being a long term family historian, is the wonderful and valuable network, I have built up over many years. For instance, when I became a member of the Kent Family History Society forty years ago, I found so many members living locally in Kent were willing to assist in any way they could, and I in turn was able to help many, with ‘twigs’ of their family, who had emigrated to Australia, at sometime. Many of these friendships remain today, although the contact may only be at Christmas, or even less frequent.
However, while we are beavering away at our own research, if we come across any material we think might be useful to any one in the ‘network’ we pass it on. This happened to me to me a few weeks ago. It had been many years since Margaret H. had been in contact with me, but she had been researching one of her ancestors, who had gone off to the Napoleonic Wars, and had come across probable regimental details of our James Cheeseman, and knew I would be interested.
She had also read my blogs and knew I was looking for information on Sarah Cornwall Cheeseman, the eldest surviving daughter of James and Mercy Cheeseman (nee Cox). Margaret not only gave me the date and place of Sarah Cornwall Cheeseman’s marriage, but also details of their children and subsequent life, which I have been able to follow up in on-line indexes of baptisms, marriages and burials as well as census returns. I had also purchased many records of Kent over the years, and those too have also been useful for my current research.
Briefly, Sarah Cornwall Cheeseman was born 13 April 1804, at Staplehurst, Kent, some months after her father went away to war. She was named ‘Sarah Cornwall’ after her paternal grandmother, and baptised at All Saints, Staplehurst. For some years the ‘parish’ paid Mercy Cheeseman, the wife of James, some four shillings a week for the care of her family. [Further details of these payments and other information about this can be found in “Mercy Cheeseman-Bell,” Nola Mackey, Bell Family Newsletter, No 42, July 2001.]
Mercy Cheeseman had an illegitimate daughter, Elizabeth in 1806. Mercy and her two daughters moved to East Farleigh, with Robin Bell in 1808. Robin Bell and Mercy Cheeseman married in 1811. This couple had a number of children born at East Farleigh, before the family finally emigrated to Australia in 1838.
Sarah Cornwall Cheeseman grew up in East Farleigh and went into service at a young age. She had an illegitimate daughter born in August 1821. She was baptised at St Mary’s, East Farleigh on 19 August 1821, and given the name Hannah. [Ref: East Farleigh Parish Registers,(microfilm, P142-1-1, p34), purchased from Kent Archives and Library of Kentish Studies, Maidstone ]
It is possible, and indeed probable, that she was left in the care of her maternal grandmother, Mercy Bell at East Farleigh.
Robin and Mercy Bell had had a family of six, by this time, but two had died in infancy.
Hannah Cheeseman, the infant daughter of Sarah Cornwall Cheeseman, died at seven weeks of age and was buried at St Mary’s Churchyard, East Farleigh on 14 October 1821.
Meanwhile, as coincidence would have it, Sarah Cornwall Cheeseman had gone to Maidstone and had been married that very day, at All Saints, to Isaac Wheeler. This couple had a number of children over the next twenty years. All were baptised at All Saints, Maidstone:- Henry, 1823; Susannah,1826; Mercy, 1828; Charles,1830; Isaac, 1833; Sarah Ann Elizabeth, 1834; Sophia, 1836 and Harriet, 1838.
This family can be tracked through all the census for Kent, in on-line subscription sites. Sarah Cornwell Wheeler and her family stayed in Kent, when her mother, step-father and their family emigrated.
Although this is not my direct line in the Bell family, I still get the greatest pleasure in being able to help other family historians make a little progress in their ancestral quest.