Finding the reality behind family stories can sometimes be a heartbreaking or rewarding journey. This is Sylvia Kendricks research path that lead her to the reward of discovering a branch of the family hidden from view...Ed
...it was spoken of in whispers behind your hand..
So what did I know about Aunt Anne?
Verbal information from her brother (Grandfather):
Thinks: What mental hospitals were in existence around Mobberley, Cheshire, circa 1900? Anne was born in Mobberley in 1882.
Telephone: Used to locate Manchester Mental Hospital. No - she had not been a patient there. They suggested I try Denbigh Hospital, North Wales, it might have been a possibility for someone living in Cheshire at that time.
Telephone: Imagine my delight when I spoke to the Administrator there and she said Martha Anne Pickin had been a patient there from 1909 until she died in 1944 and that her death certificate had been issued to her son Maurice!
Tot of brandy! Maurice, Maurice - a son Maurice - this was news!
..maybe she shouldn’t have told me..
Faux-pas! I blurted out that Maurice was an unknown element. The Administrator started to flap - maybe she shouldn’t have told me etc….. assumed I would have known…….
BMD Indexes: Martha Anne Pickin born in 1882. I searched from her 14th year until 1912. Found only one Maurice Pickin in all those years - it had to be mine!
Certificate: I purchased Maurice’s birth certificate. He had been born 15th October 1901 in the Workhouse at Stoke-on-Trent. Mother entered as Sarah Ann Pickin, domestic servant of Hanley.
Thinks: Was this when she was “jilted”? Was she thrown out because of the pregnancy?
Melodrama: Was she thrown out with the proverbial shilling and told never to darken these doors again?
Memo: Must stop watching those movies!
Six months later: I wrote to Denbigh to clarify a point. Their reply provided more astonishment:
Double brandy! Noel, Noel - another son Noel!
BMD Indexes: Another search soon turned up Noel, born 10th March 1907 in Caledonia Street, Liverpool; mother a hospital nurse.
Trade Directories: The couple living there were a Mr and Mrs. McKenzie, her occupation being a midwife. So I don’t think the actual house is of any relevance.
Liverpool Library: The street was no longer standing, but I asked at the Central Library, Liverpool and found a photograph of the street circa 1965. I had it duplicated.
Noted: There are several hospitals in close proximity to Caledonia Street and maybe Anne may have worked in one of them.
Jobs to do: Write to the Central Liverpool Hospital and try to see if Anne was listed as an employee in their records.
Denbigh Hospital: I asked them whether they photographed patients on admission. They replied, “No.” However they did tell me that the medical cause for Anne’s placement in the hospital was melancholia and hearing voices.
What a thing to be locked up for, for the rest of your life
Dictionary: Definition of melancholia: mental illness characterised by depression, habitual tendency to sadness and depression, pensive sadness, sad, saddening.
Thinks: What a thing to be locked up for, for the rest of your life - it was probably post-natal depression, plus a dim view of two men who had left her in the lurch!
Search for Maurice: Knowledge: 1944 (mother’s death) he was based at Farringdon and his Army number 15448.
Army records: Letters galore to Army records turned up nothing. Without his regiment they can’t locate him.
Thinks: Ask what is available in Kew with regard to men discharged from the 2nd World War, in the way of indexes. (Told recently this army number is prior to 2nd World War).
BMD Indexes: Searched for marriage and death certificates (for both sons). Neither found up to the present day.
Thinks: Did they emigrate?
Search for Noel: In 1944 (mother’s death) he was living at St. Vincent’s Home, 102 Moseley Road, Birmingham. Who should I write to after all this time?
Directory Enquiries: Have you a number for a St.Vincent’s Home in Birmingham? Surprise - the place still existed, now an old people’s home, but, yes, it had been a boys’ home. Would I write in with my request - would I!
Letter: Reply confirmed that Noel had been admitted to Father Hudson’s Homes in February 1916, at the request of Wrexham Union Central Home. He remained there until November 1924 when he transferred to their Working Boys Hostel in Birmingham. In 1928 he left to go into lodgings - he would have been 21 years of age - but no, Maurice had not been brought up there.
1) Wrexham again!
Letter: To Wrexham County Council - where were the Wrexham Union Central Home records kept? Eureka! At Ruthin Record Office.
Letter: To the Archivist at Ruthin RO. Someone must have been in a good mood that day, because the Archivist evidently searched through the records and sent me the following information:
Admission and discharge books of the master of Wrexham Workhouse 1907-11 and 1914-17:
A thank you: I have looked through the books recently myself - they are not indexed and the information must have taken ages to find. I was most grateful when I realised how lucky I had been.
Curious point: Noel was entered on these registers as Roman Catholic, hence him being sent to the Catholic Boys’ Home in Birmingham in 1916. Anne was not RC, but she may have had Noel baptised in a Catholic Church. I have tried all the Liverpool ones. Or, could it have been one of those bureaucratic mistakes, a simple clerical error? Unless I find a baptism for him, I will never know.
1) Try Catholic Church in Wrexham, also Rainhill and and Prescot.
Letter: I even wrote to the Special Department at DHSS, Newcastle - no luck.
..the book had travelled around all those years and amazingly presented itself..
1) Anne’s own hymn book and prayer book, inscribed “A Pickin 1897, given to her by her mother”.
I “discovered” it at my sister-in-law’s in a spare bedroom. She thought it was her husband’s and had never even opened it. My sister-in-law and family had lived in Birmingham, Holland and Belgium and returned to Cheshire - the book had travelled around all those years and amazingly presented itself on a table when I chanced to be visiting.
Discovered: A Plaistow Hospital in London. Did Anne go there between 1901 and 1909? The book was printed in London.
Letter: To Plaistow Hospital - no records of staff remain from around 1900.
More recent research: When I visited Ruthin RO to look for myself at the Workhouse records and entries for Noel I had the pages photocopied and the column show: Roman Catholic, quite clearly: mother in asylum; child - unfit at present; adopted 10th November 1910. When I pointed out to the Archivist that he had in fact been brought up in several Boys’ Homes, she was surprised and said perhaps the adoption intended had fallen through. Unfortunately the case papers had been lost.
Electoral Registers: for Marchwiel were referred to when Noel was placed in Wrexham Workhouse. I looked back from 1909, the date of Anne’s entry to the asylum. 1904 back to 1888 revealed her father Thomas Pickin farming at Plas Eyton, Marchwiel. He farmed at Mobberley from 1879 to 1888 and not as I thought up to 1900. Hence the sightings of Anne and her brother horse-riding around Wrexham in their youth. So was she thrown out in 1901, before she gave birth to Maurice in the Workhouse at Stoke-on-Trent? Was she allowed back? Did she work in London? In 1904 her parents moved from Marchwiel to Prescot, nearer to her brother: he had opened an upholstery business there. Who did she stay with up to 1909? The Wrexham entry stated “admitted from Marchwiel, observation,” and “removed from Rainhill, Liverpool”.
Letter: To Rainhill Mental Hospital but no records of her there.
To do list: I am still working on the various avenues to follow and one day I WILL find out what happened to Maurice and Noel.