Sometime before 1927, my paternal grandmother, Ada, had a child out of wedlock. The child was handed over to a family member to bring up, a family member who was safely married. The child, a girl, was brought up believing the family member was her parent.
Ada married my grandfather Ernest in 1927 and they proceeded to have some legitimate children including, eventually, my dad. Ada died shortly afterwards in 1933. In fact, dad never knew his mother. And, as far as he knew, he only had a couple of brothers for siblings
Fast forward to the 1980’s when mum and dad came over to the UK for a visit home. A party was organised by dad’s family where he met the sister he’d never known. While a lovely surprise, it was also very upsetting. How could a family deliberately take away a child from its mother and keep the child a dirty secret for so long?
Well, on Friday, I researched a very similar case.
Sydney Eade was born in 1889 to the unmarried Minnie Nash who was just 16. I have no idea who the father was. There is no birth certificate because these children were not recorded given the shame the families felt.
There is some indication (family history perhaps) that Sydney’s biological father was a Canadian soldier but what he was doing in Wrecclesham, Surrey in 1889 is anyone’s guess. Maybe he was a travelling snake oil salesman or a circus performer. It’s not relevant.
Minnie Nash had a married older sister called Fanny. She had married Alfred James Eade in 1877 and suddenly found herself with a son called Sydney. Naturally he was given the surname Eade. The Eade’s already had two children, Sydney’s cousins John and Anne and they had two more after Sydney’s appearance.
Meanwhile, Minnie was packed off to work as a servant in a big house in Aldershot. In 1892, she returned briefly to Wrecclesham where she married Earnest Alfred Wilkinson but they quickly moved to Nunhead where they spent the rest of their lives. They had five children. On her marriage entry in the parish record, Minnie’s father’s name is not recorded – the box has a line through it. He was still alive but, I reckon, he’d disowned her.
That’s not to say that Sydney didn’t know who his mother was. He joined the army in 1907, aged 18 and, as far as his army application form is concerned, he states that his mother was Minnie and his father was her husband, Ernest. He also lists their various children, some as his siblings, some as step siblings. It’s all very confusing. More confusing is he lists Fanny as his grandmother.
While in the army, Sydney saw a lot of travel. He spent time in Gibralta, Somalia, South Africa, to name but a few. He spent some time in hospitals for an abscess and then, more seriously, a hernia before heading for the front at the outbreak of war.
Reading his service record he seems like a nice enough chap. He had a few isolated charges for overstaying passes and being a bit drunk in the barracks but nothing out of the ordinary. Apparently he was considered quite a good gardener.
He eventually died in action at Gheluvelt in Belgium.
I’d like to think that perhaps Sydney’s siblings (and half siblings) knew who he really was before he died because I know how dad felt about not knowing he had a sister for most of her life. It’s rather sad and so very unnecessary.