More Bell Family Going to America

In a previous blog I wrote about George, Harry and Edward Charles Bell, sons of George and Harriet Bell (nee Collins) of Mereworth, Kent, England, who had immigrated to the United States of America between 1890 and 1909.

I also acknowledged the incredible work my Bell ‘cousin’, Glenda B. of Idaho, had undertaken to help to solve the immigration riddle of George, Harry and Edward Charles Bell and find their families.

We know that Harry and Edward Bell went to Owossa, Michigan because their elder brother George Bell and his family had settled there.

The question then arose to the reason George Bell had immigrated there in 1890. There seemed to be no obvious reason, however, when we studied the pattern of immigration of the Bell families to Australia, we found that family nearly always went to family, already established there.

If a similar pattern was present in the USA, what family did George Bell go out to in Owossa, Michigan in 1890?

Glenda was to team up with me again to try and solve this intriguing question.

While researching George, Harry and Edward Charles Bell, Glenda had collected information on all persons with the Bell surname, particularly in the Owossa area. One person who seemed to stand out and claimed our interest was a ‘John Bell’. From various USA Census Returns we knew he had come from England. His wife Elizabeth, a son John, and daughters Elizabeth and Mary Ann Bell were also listed as having been born in England. However, the youngest daughter, Harriet, was claimed to have been born in Michigan about 1859. This gave us an approximate time span for the family’s emigration to Michigan.

Glenda was able to use indexes and files in the Michigan State, City and University Libraries as well as employ the services of local historians to gather a large collection of cemetery, funeral home, census and newspapers records for this family. From those records she put together a detailed biography and timeline for John Bell and his family.

Glenda shared this material with me and I was able to use it along with other documents I held, to gain further clues for research back in England. I then purchased marriage, birth and death certificates from the Maidstone Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages, which confirmed my hypothesis for this family.

We were finally able to establish that John Bell (b.1822), the youngest son of John and Mary Bell (nee Kemp), of Mereworth, Kent, a carpenter by trade was living at Staplehurst, Kent, when he married Harriet Hatcher on 8 September 1851. Their children were John (b.1851); Elizabeth (b.1853) and Mary Ann (b.1855). At that time, life in Kent was difficult, with little employment and no opportunities.

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Staplehurst Parish Church – Copyright, Nola Mackey,2004

John and Harriet Bell decided to immigrate to the United States of America. John Bell travelled to London where he bought a steerage passage on the Palestine which sailed for New York. He arrived there on 12 May 1857. He is believed to have immediately gained employment and sent the money home for Harriet to purchased a passage for herself and the children on the Palestine the following year. This ship left London and sailed to the German port of Bremen where several German immigrants came on board before sailing for New York. The Palestine arrived in New York on 29 May 1858.

Soon afterwards John and Harriet Bell joined many other families on a wagon train west to Michigan and settled in the frontier town of Saginsaw. Harriet Bell died soon after arrival, at the birth of their youngest daughter. She was named Harriet in memory of her mother. John Bell needed someone to care for his young family and married Elizabeth Parkinson at Oakland on 21 March 1860.

The family moved on to Owosso, where John Bell later bought a block of land. After much hard work and perseverance John and Elizabeth Bell built up a large market garden of more than ten acres. John sold the produce in town from a cart and was well known and respected in the community.

Their children married and lived in Michigan.

John Bell (b.1851) married Mary Conklin in 1888, but had no family. He died in a rail accident in 1895.

Elizabeth Bell (b.1853) married Andrew Case in 1871 and had a number of children: Edward George,b.1872; Selina Lillian, b.1873; Bert Lee, b.1876; John Henry, b. 1878; Chester, b.1882; Theodore Leonard, b.1884; Lawrence Andrew, b.1888; William Nelson, b.1895 and Harlan I, b.1899.

Mary Ann Bell (b.1855) married William Clark Munro and had two sons: Francis Eugene, b. 1877 and Chester William, b.1887.

Harriet Bell (b.1859) married Byron Le Clear and had a son John, b. 1887.

Glenda was again able to trace and contact descendants of these families. They had been interested in family history and had done a lot of research in USA, but had not been able to find where the family originated in England.

Imagine their surprise when we contacted them and were not only able to show them where the family came from, but also where they fitted into this huge ‘family tree’, which reached back to the 16th Century.

Although these families were not on our Bell Family line, Glenda and I believed it right we should share our knowledge and research with other family members.

In recent years these families have put considerable material on-line about their families.

John Bell (b.1822) was the younger brother of George Bell’s Grandfather, Thomas Bell (b.1803), and therefore a Great-uncle to George Bell. We believe this is the family George Bell went out to Ossowo, Michigan in 1890. John Bell died in 1895 a few years after George’s arrival.

However,were John and Harriet Bell the first in our Bell family to emigrate from Kent to the United States of America, or had they also gone out to family?

 

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Sarah Cornwall Cheeseman – A Delightful Chance

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.

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St Mary’s East Farleigh, Kent   [Copyright- Nola Mackey, 2004]

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.]

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All Saints, Staplehurst, Kent   [Copyright – Nola Mackey, 2004]

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.

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Baptismal Font, All Saints Maidstone,Kent   [Copyright- Nola Mackey, 2004]

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.

Robin and Mercy Bell of Kent, England and Scone in New South Wales

I have been researching my Bell ancestors since childhood when my maternal grandmother told me stories of bushrangers, gold miners and colourful family characters. I must admit it is still my favourite family when it comes to research.

It is now more than fifty years since I bought my first certificate, which was the death certificate of George Bell, my grandmothers paternal grandfather, who died in 1894 at Picton in New South Wales.

Since that time I have traced these ancestors back to the Middle Ages in Kent, England. I have also traced many twigs and branches of the Bell Family Tree’. Some of these I have published in book form.

For twenty years I also published a Bell Family Newsletter in which I kept the family members up to date with the family research. Family members also sent details of their ‘twigs’ and ‘branches’ which was also shared through these newsletters.

Although I no longer publish the newsletter I’m always interested in the research of these families and from time to time I solve long standing puzzles and make wonderful break-throughs.

I now intend to share these with family members through my blog and articles on my website. This blog is about the family of Robin and Mercy Bell (nee Cox), who immigrated from Mereworth, Kent,on board the Woodbridge, which arrived in Sydney on 15 September 1838. These were the uncle and Aunt of my fore mentioned George Bell. Much of the story of this family and their descendants is told in ‘The Descendants of Robin and Mercy Bell’, which is available through this website.

I have continued to research this family line to try and solve mysteries and find information not available when the book was printed. I found some of the missing information at a later date and shared it with interested family members in the Bell Family Newsletters Nos 41 and 42. Now I have been able to find more on this family, particularly the women, before the family immigrated.

Mercy Cox was born about 1782, probably in Staplehurst, Kent, the seventh child and youngest daughter of Uriah and Anne Cox (nee Poole). Her baptism has not been found, but it is possibly in the Congregational Church records, as were her older brothers and sisters.

Mercy Cox married James Cheeseman on 8 November 1800 at Smarden in Kent. James was the eldest son of Solomon and Sarah Cheeseman (nee Cornwall) and had been born at Marden Kent in 1767.

Ann Pool, the eldest daughter of James and Mercy Cheeseman was born at Staplehurst, and was baptised on 4 July 1802.

In late 1803 James Cheeseman went away to the Napoleonic Wars, and never returned. In the Staplehurst Overseers Account Books we find that the parish paid Mercy Cheeseman a weekly allowance from parish funds for nearly three years. On the 18 December 1803 the infant daughter of Mercy and James Cheeseman died and was buried in the churchyard at Staplehurst.

On the 22 April 1804 another daughter was born to Mercy and she was baptised in the Staplehurst church on 22 April. She was named Sarah Cornwall Cheeseman for James’ mother.

Mercy’s parish allowance payments stop on 14 April 1806. Lady Day, the 25 March is the first day of the Church year, and it would appear these payments stopped soon afterwards. After the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, there was a break in hostilities with France, so one would expect James Cheeseman to return home to his family. Obviously not having put in an appearance by the end of the church year in March 1806, the parish may not have been willing to continue to support his family, and may have tried to resettle them in the husband’s parish of birth, Marden, Kent.

Sometime in 1806 another daughter was born to Mercy Cheeseman, possibly at Marden. She was baptised at Marden on 31 January 1808 and is recorded at the daughter of James and Mercy Cheeseman. I will write more about these three daughters of Mercy Cheeseman in my next blog.

It was about this time that Mercy Cheeseman formed a relationship with Robin Bell of East Farleigh, Kent. Robin, the fourth child and third son of Thomas and Ann Bell (nee Lawrence) was born at Mereworth, Kent, and baptised there on 15 March 1785.

Jane Bell the eldest daughter of Robin and Mercy Bell was baptised at East Farleigh on 28 February 1808. She died at Maidstone the following year and was buried in All Saints churchyard on 25 November.

It had been over seven years since Mercy Cheeseman’s husband, James had gone off to war, and the general conclusion was that he had perished, as he had not returned home to his family. Robin Bell and Mercy Cheeseman were married at East Farleigh on 10 October 1811.

On the 10 November 1811, Ann Bell, the daughter of Robin and Mercy Bell was baptised at East Farleigh. She later married her cousin Josiah Bell and remained in England when her parents and siblings emigrated.

Mary Bell, the third daughter of Robin and Mercy Bell was baptised at East Farleigh on 16 January 1814. On 4 August 1834 there was a Removal Order for her to be removed from East Farleigh and returned to Mereworth her father’s parish of birth because she was expecting a child. At her examination on 18 August 1834 she named John Saunders, a labourer of Brenchley as the father. She remained at East Farleigh with Mereworth Parish Overseers paying parish relief to East Farleigh for her keep. In the following month a son was born to Mary and she named him Robert in honour of her father. He was baptised at East Farleigh on 7 October 1834. He died just before his third birthday and was buried in St Mary’s churchyard, East Farleigh on 26 September 1837.At this stage nothing further is known of Mary Bell. She may have been the Mary Ann Bell who married George Terry at Maidstone in 1836.

Further children were born to Robin and Mercy Bell including the following:

Robert Bell baptised 28 April 1816 at St Mary’s East Farleigh.

Henry Stirling Bell baptised 16 August 1818 at St Mary’s East Farleigh. Died and was buried there on 5 March 1820.

John Bell, baptised 28 May 1820 at St Mary’s East Farleigh.

Thomas Bell, baptised 7 June 1822, at All Saints Maidstone.

James Bell, baptised 7 November 1824, at St Mary’s East Farleigh.

Jethro Bell, baptised 18 March 1827, at All Saints, Maidstone.

Charlotte Bell, baptised 15 November 1829, at St Mary’s East Farleigh.

All these children emigrated with their parents on board the Woodbridge in 1838. Much of their life and descendants can be found in my book, The Descendants of Robin and Mercy Bell.