Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Black Sheep

My husband, Sean, is rooted in far more easily-researchable spots than I am. For example, his Baines side is firmly rooted in England. One of his ancestors is Thomas Sunderland, a great-great-great grandfather, who married his great-great-great grandmother Mary Beal. This man was quite the mystery for some time - I have been totally unable to find any information out about his death.

Based on various records, I belive that Thomas:

  • Was born 27 July 1811 in St. Cuthbert parish, York, Yorkshire, and christened 28 July 1811 in the same place, and later in May 1812.
  • Was living in Catton, Yorkshire on 3 February 1835; Stamford Bridge, Yorkshire on 24 Sep 1835; and Walmgate, Yorkshire on 22 Jul 1838.
  • Was a tallow chandler 24 Sep 1835 and 22 July 1838. He was also referred to as being a tallow chandler after his death on his son John Beal Sunderland's marriage certificate.
  • He married Mary Beal in Bossall, Yorkshire on 3 Feb 1835. As their daughter Jane was christened in September of that same year, I'm guessing Mary was pregnant when they married.
  • Their son John Beal Sunderland (Sean's great-great grandfather) was born 4 Jul 1838 in Walmgate, Yorkshire.

Mary Sunderland (nee Beal) and her children Jane and John then show up on the 1841 census living with her parents in Buttercrambe. Thomas is nowhere in sight. I assumed he was dead, but was puzzled by the appearance of a Thomas Sunderland, 25, tallow chandler, living in High Street, Gateshead, Durham, with Mary Sunderland, also 25 (remember that adults' ages were rounded down to the nearest multiple of 5 in the 1841 census), and Jane Sunderland (10), Job Sunderland (7) and Paul Sunderland (4). I figured that this was either an extraordinary coincidence, or that my Thomas Sunderland had been committing bigamy for a number of years. The bigamy theory, I thought, was ridiculously far-fetched. It was much more likely that my Thomas Sunderland died between late 1837 (when son John was conceived) and 1841 (when Mary was living with her parents), and I just couldn't find his death record, for whatever reason. Perhaps he died at sea?

Until the British Newspaper Archive came online and I found this:

Thomas SUNDERLAND having left his Wife and Family chargeable to the Parish of St. Dennis, in the City of York. The said Thomas SUNDERLAND is a Tallow Chandler, aged 30 years, stands 5 feet 8 inches high, has light hair, dark brown eyes, fair complexion, has lately been seen in Newcastle. Whoever will give such Information as leads to the apprehension of the said Thomas SUNDERLAND , shall, on the apprehension of the said Thomas SUNDERLAND , receive a REWARD of ONE POUND from the Board of Guardians of the said Union.
By Order, Henry BREAREY , Clerk.
York, Oct. 21st. 1842.

So he didn't die, he just up and left Mary! This would certainly explain my inability to find a death record between 1837 and 1841.

(Incidentally, Mary went on to have an illegitimate son William Harling Sunderland - coincidentally, there was a farm servant named George Harland living in her parents' household in 1841 - before marrying again to a John Farrell and having two more children, one of whom was born only six or seventh months after the wedding. Mary seems to have gone in for the extramarital sex!)

And then! I found this incredible article in the British Newspaper Archive:

The Nottinghamshire Guardian, Thursday Evening, September 6, 1849.
We have this week to record another of those disgraceful occurrences that have of late been so prevalent, and which so much prove the necessity of a strong law for the miantenance of decency and order amongst a portion of her gracious Majesty's liege subjects. We allude to the perpetration, by an inhabitant of Nottingham, of a most bare-faced and heartless case of bigamy, the circumstances of which are briefly these. Thomas Sunderland, who was formerly a tallow chandler but latterly a painter, has for a long time been residing in Nottingham, with his wife and 5 children. Though not in very good circumstances, they had, apparently, lived comfortably together up to Wednesday, the 23rd ult, when he informed Mrs. Sunderland that he had three weeks' work to do at Matlock, and that, therefore, he should be obliged to leave her for a short time. At his request she packed up all his best clothes and his working materials, and when they parted he kissed her fondly, telling her that she should receive some money from him on Saturday. The anxious wife waited patiently until the time came on which her husband had promised to remit part of his earnings, but instead of the much looked for assistance, a local newspaper was placed in her hands, containing the cruel announcement that he who, when they were blithe and young, had won her love by his solicitations and his prayers; that he who, at the altar's foot, had sworn before the Great Supreme to love and cherish her until separated by the hand of death; that he who had always been so kind to their children, and apparently, so devoted to herself, had been married at Saint Peter's Church, in this town, on the very day he had deserted her under the pretence that he was going to a seat of work at Matlock. We will not attempt to describe the agonised feelings of the injured wife, and still more injured mother. After she had, however, in some measure conquered her grief, she determined to test the truth of the announcement, which stated that her husband had been married to a Miss Mary Beckitt, of Gedling. She proceded to the village and soon ascertained that such a person had lately been cook in a highly respectable gentleman's house there. On going thither she found that Miss Mary Beckitt had in truth been married to a Thomas Sunderland, and from the description she received there could be no doubt that it was her own cruel husband. While on a visit to Gedling he had become enamoured of the fair cook, to whom he instantly paid his addresses as a single man, and the result had been as above narrated. The gentleman owning the house could not at first give credit to the unfortunate Mrs. Sunderland's story, and at his request, and with funds kindly given by him, she returned to Nottingham, and procured their marriage lines, which she afterwards produced at Gedling. The cook was still remaining there, waiting until Sunderland fetched her away. With her the injured wife obtained an interview which was of the most distressing description. The cause of Sunderland's base conduct here became apparent. Mary Beckitt was a good looking woman; and, what no doubt had been a greater inducement to a selfish man, she had contrived to save a little money from her earnings. She declared, however, that the wretch should not touch one farthing of it. She could not give full credence to the distressing tale upon which Mrs. Sunderland promised to give her most conclusive proof if she would go to Nottingham. A short time aftwards they met again in a house in Crown-court, in this town, and Mrs. Sunderland produced a letter couched in the most endearing terms, which she had received from her husband since his marriage with his second wife. This appeared quite conclusive, though not very satisfactory. But to return to the man--if man he may be called--who so deliberately committed this grevious wrong. On Saturday night he was at Burton's public-house, Long Eaton, singing sentimental songs, and delivering small essays on the beauties of the English poets, for the amusement of the company. Wood, one of the porters at the Maypole, was present, and, having heard of the circumstances which we have, as accurately as possible, narrated, on returning to Nottingham he went to Mrs. Sunderland and told her where her truant husband was. She instantly took train for Long Eaton, and proceeded straightway to Burton's house. Sunderland, either perceiving her approach, or having been warned of the fact, jumped out of a back window and took a cross country flight, over hedge, ditch, and dyke, to the station, where he took a second-class ticket for Derby, and seemed very impatient for the arrival of the up train from Nottingham. Mrs. Sunderland, who had witnessed his retreat, followed, as quickly as she could, in his wake, and arrived sufficiently near the station to see the train arrive and observe her husband assist a woman out of a third into a second-class carriage into which he also sprang. The carriage doors were speedily secured; the guard hailed the engineer with "All right," while the heart of the forsaken wife felt that all was wrong; and the huge engine shrieked, puffed, and moved first slowly, and then rapidly along, leaving on the platform the deeply injured, and sorrowing wife. We understand she has not since heard of him; but we trust that before long he will be hunted down and made to pay the penalty for pepetrating so gross a breach of domestic ties, and so great an offence agains the public propriety.


So although I have yet to be able to prove it with documentation, I strongly suspect that our Thomas Sunderland; the tallow chandler Thomas Sunderland in the 1841 census; and the Thomas Sunderland in the above article are all one and the same! I will certainly need to order the marriage certificate for Thomas Sunderland and Mary Beckitt to see what it says about the groom. My Thomas Sunderland was himself illegitimate, so if it's the same guy, the marriage certificate will either give no information for the father; information on his mother; information on his mother's husband (he was conceived after his mother's husband died); or, assuming he knows it, information on the man who really was his father, whoever that was (I certainly don't know).

What a fabulous article in the Nottinghamshire Guardian! What storytelling! What drama! What subjectivity!

And what a cad, eh?

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