As a keen family historian, I spend a lot of time researching off-shoots and branches of mine and my husband’s family trees. From time to time my eye is caught by a record which opens a whole new area for me to research.
Such a thing happened when I was following the record trail for Jane Bean (1817-1887) my first cousin five times removed. Jane was baptised on 23 January 1817 in Acklam in the East Riding of Yorkshire. She was the daughter of William, a nurseryman and his wife Ann. In the 1823 Baines directory the family were living in nearby Leavening.
Jane married George Grey, a tailor, in York, in 1840 and they had four children. By 1851 three of them were living with Jane’s parents in Leavening and no census records for either George or Jane could be found.
I wondered what had happened to George and Jane and was surprised to find her next in the 1861 census in Dorset, some considerable distance from Yorkshire. There she was described as the wife of James Cameron (1813-1882). The couple were recorded as living in Clifton Road, Grove, Isle of Portland, Dorset where James was an assistant warder in the prison service at the nearby Grove prison. Other warders from the prison were also living in Clifton Rd. Two of Jane’s daughters, Mary Ann (and her husband John) and Georgiana (1845-1914), were living with James and Jane. Mary Ann (1841-1931) had married John Carrick Rennie (1831-1914), a prison warder, on 17 May 1860. The witnesses to their marriage were her sister Georgiana and William Parkin. The certificate gives Mary Ann’s fathers name as George Grey, a tailor, but does not indicate if he was alive or dead. John and Mary had moved to Brixton by 1871, where John was a prison officer in Wormwood Scrubs. (The following OS map dated 1903 is Dorset LVIII.SE.)
How Jane and James met is not clear, nor is when her first husband George Grey died. What is interesting about James is that he was in receipt of an army pension. His military records suggest that he was born on 13 October 1813 in New South Wales, Australia. James had enlisted in the British Army in the East Indies on 20th October 1826 at the age of 13. He served in the 13th Light Dragoons and participated in the Crimean War (1854-1856). As a private he was a survivor of the Charge of the Light Brigade which took place during the battle of Balaclava on 25 October 1854. It is said to be one of the most “infamous blunders” in military history, according to the National Army Museum. (The following painting of the Charge of the Light Brigade dated 2 Jan 1855 is by Henry Brabazon Utmston.)
James was wounded in the battle and eventually ended up in Scutari hospital where he spent from 31 October 1854 to 27 March 1855 recovering, before being sent home. He was promoted to corporal on 1 September 1855 and then sent to the Royal Hospital Kilmainham where he was declared unfit for service due to his chronic rheumatism 15 December 1855. James was discharged from the army on 17 October 1856 with no trade and his declared destination as London. James’ pension records provide potential clues as to where he went next. When he first received his army pension, he was in the London North district; by July 1857 he had moved to the Salisbury district, according to his Royal Hospital Chelsea records.
By the 1871 census James and Jane had moved to Lancashire and by 1881 were living in Salford with Jane’s daughter Georgiana and her family. James died on 11 December 1882 and buried in the Weaste cemetery in Salford. His death notice in the Manchester Evening News edition of 15 December 1882 was headlined “Death of a Balaclava Hero”. Perhaps almost 30 years later views on the Charge of the Light Brigade had begun to change to acknowledge those who had survived that most infamous military blunder?
So, it was something of a surprise that I had a link, through my first cousin five times removed to a survivor of the Charge of the Light Brigade.
Note: the map used in this blog has been reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland under the following creative commons licence https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/ and sourced from the NLS maps site https://maps.nls.uk/.
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British Army Service Records. Collection: Royal Hospital Chelsea: Admission Books, Registers and Papers 1702-1876. https://www.findmypast.co.uk : accessed December 2022.
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UK, Royal Hospital Chelsea Pensioner Soldier Service Records, 1760-1920. https://ancestry.co.uk : accessed December 2022.
Urmston, Henry Brabazon. (1855) The Charge of the Light Brigade. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Main_Page : accessed December 2022.
Yorkshire baptisms. https://www.findmypast.co.uk : accessed December 2022.
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