Finding Missing Family Members


Sometimes finding individuals who died 150 years ago can be easier than finding those who died recently, or are still alive, but this is exactly what Time Detectives™ are sometimes asked to do.

We were recently approached by a client we have worked with before, a member of the Redknapp Family (yes Harry’s relations) to help track down an Uncle who was believed to have died, but contact with him and his children had been lost over the years.

Finding such records for very recent deaths when you have no details can be problematic, and takes careful research, in this case a trawl of all the Redknap and Redknapp death records up until fairly recently failed to show any positive hits.  This meant that we had to step back into the history of the individual concerned, and then carefully moving forward through marriages and children’s births to pin point the geography of the Family.  In this particular case, we hit upon census, polling, and Merchant Navy records to confirm addresses and relationships over time.

Along the way a picture builds up of a man who travelled the world serving in the Merchant Marine, running the gauntlet of German U-Boats, this allowed us to find him on a ship in New York.  We also found him on the Thames as a Lighterman, that had been a Redknapp Family trade for 200 years (you can read more about the Redknapps on the River Thames here – The Redknapp Family History Part 1; Origins, Redheaded Merchants on the Thames).  So he had a full life, and eventually retired to Essex, his life was fascinating in itself.  merchantseaman

The last area we searched turned up a hit on a funeral service that seemed to fit the identity of the man concerned, but contained very few details of anything other than the funeral service itself, but gave us a rough date to go by.

Once the trail started to dry up, it was necessary to come down to the man’s children, this was made harder as he had daughters, meaning that when they married, there was a name change bringing an extra layer of complexity to the search.  If they disappeared from the records, was it because they married, or because they died?  In this case, one daughter died, and two married.

At this point research has to centre more on old telephone directories, lists of voters, and sometime social media.  The search is helped if the people concerned have middle names, and also if their married names are less common.  Our search took us back to Essex, and to a number of streets across a fifteen year period, gradually narrowing the number of likely people, until we were confident that we had found our client’s relations, and could pass on the information for them to make contact direct, although there is the option of Time Detectives™ making first contact if there is the worry of what the reaction will be, fortunately that wasn’t the case in this instance, the Family had just drifted apart over the years, as is often the case.

Lastly we investigated local Newspapers, and Emergency Service Records, to see if we could find more information concerning our client’s Uncle, and sadly we did.  He had tragically died in an accidental house fire.  This information was passed on to our client.

So a Family reunited and a mystery solved.

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Published in: on February 26, 2019 at 6:39 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Redknapp Family History Part 3: The Dockers’ Tribe of London


The White Death, and the beginning of the end of the Watermen and Lightermen’s Tribe.

Joseph Reuben was the couple’s only son to survive into adulthood.  With his Father gone, and his Mother remarried to Levi Hill, he was apprenticed as a Butcher’s Boy by his Redknap relations in Hampton Wick back at the west end of the Thames.  But it would not be long before he was in the Tribe of Lightermen working with his Redknap and Pressman relatives up at the docks around East London, where he met and married Harriet Patterson, a Mariner’s daughter, in 1863.

Conditions in the cramped living conditions of East London were very different from the leafy lanes and terraced cottages of the watermen in Twickenham.  Diseases stalked the east London tenements and courts, especially “The White Death” colloquially called Consumption; because it consumed it’s victims, withering them away to pale thin wrecks.  This was Tuberculosis, TB, or Phthisis as it was called at the time, and in the spring of 1876 Joseph Reuben became a victim, weakening, losing weight, coughing up blood, losing the ability to work effectively, until hi death in the cold winter month of February 1877 after a nine month illness.  His mother Sarah (now Sarah Hill) reported his death.

As TB could incubate in families, sometimes with no obvious outward symptoms for decades, parents would infect children and children their siblings and their own children over generations, in this germ ridden environment it is quite possible that Joseph Reuben’s father, Joseph Edward Redknap may have disappeared from the records if he was suffering from the disease and died in the workhouse or on the river without properly being entered in the records.  The White Plague may have been haunting the family.

The Dockers Tribe

Joseph Reuben was the couple’s only son to survive into adulthood.  With his Father gone, and his mother remarried to Levi Hill, he was apprenticed as a Butcher’s Boy by his Redknap relations in Hampton Wick back at the west end of the Thames.  But it would not be long before he was in the Tribe of waterman working with his Redknap and Pressman relatives up at the docks around East London, where he met and married Harriet Patterson, a Mariner’s daughter, in 1863.

After Joseph’s early demise, Harriett keeps body and soul together for the family by moving in with a Norwegian Mariner, Arent Anderson.  It wasn’t that unusual for a attractive Cockney Widows to marry Scandinavian sailors plying their trade between the Frozen North and the Port of London.  Arent agreed to Marry Harriett in 1880 once she fell pregnant by him, but managed, by being away at sea for much of the following 15 years to put off actually marrying her.  Despite this she bore him two daughters in 1881 and 1891, eventually marrying him in 1895, and dieing a year later, perhaps the marriage was a concession by Arent to Harriett before her health finally failed her.  Her demise would cause her husband to settle for a while in Poplar working as a Dock Labourer, bringing us into contact with the Docker’s Tribe.  But fate would be cruel to the family and Arent would die in 1907 while away at sea in Norway, leaving £15 2s to his eldest daughter Harriett to administer.

Levi George William Redknap (Harry Redknapp’s Great Grandfather) worked as an errand boy after his father Joseph Reuben’s  death, to help bring some money into the household prior to his mother taking up with Arent Anderson.  Levi graduated from that to the obvious employment in the Docklands of a Dock labourer; the opportunities for Watermen and Lightermen had dwindled thanks to the more efficient transport of steamships, that had forced the muscle power of the Watermen and Lightermen off the Thames and into the Docks, using their muscles to unload sacks of goods instead of boats.

The Tribe of Watermen and Lightermen had had its day, and was entering the twilight of its existence, to dwindle to a shadow of its former numbers into the Twentieth Century.

The transition from Boatmen to Dock Labourers was a desperate one.  This was not an upward move brought about by new technologies, this was a trade and its associated Tribe collapsing, leaving the descendants of the Tribe to scramble as best they could for whatever other work they could get, which, around the Docks, was Dock Labouring; this would turn into the London Tribe of Dock Labourers.  Levi did have an advantage, in as much as being a Lighterman from a long line of Watermen and Lightermen on both sides of his parents’ families, he would have stood higher in the dockside pecking order.  Well connected through friends and family, Levi would have found it that much easier to get into work in the dockyards, and by the time of his late teens or early adulthood Levi was working on the Dockside, albeit at the bottom of the pile as a Labourer.  Despite the hardness of the times, in 1888 Levi married Ann Garner a girl from Peckham.

The Trade in the London Docks had been growing since the Napoleonic Wars. Although subject to the occasional downturn due to government legislation restricting imports and exports over the years, as a whole the tendency was upwards.   With the coming of the Railways from the 1840s, allowing  goods to be shipped out of the growing dockyards of London, and onto the home counties and beyond by goods train, rather than just serving the river borne and horse borne cartage area that had restricted the onsale of goods before the railways.

Although trade to the London Docks had been on the up, the same cannot be said for the wages of the Dockers.  The owners of the Docks squeezed them hard, and there was widespread petty corruption on the part of the Foremen and their cronies, the “Royals”; friends and family of the Foremen, deciding who would get work on which day.

Wages were starvation level for a common Dockside Labourer,  at 5 pence an hour.  The Dockers were demanding “The Dockers’ Tanner” six pence an hour, plus a small bonus for unloading a ship ahead of schedule, and 8 pence an hour for overtime; trivial amounts by today’s standards, but in an age when Labouring Dockers had to literally fight each other at the Dock gate for the jobs on offer whilst the Foremen and Royals looked on and laughed, the Dock owners felt that their Labour force was ripe for exploitation.

The scene had been set over the previous two years when the Match Girls had gone on strike and won, followed by the Gas workers at Becton.  Unions for the more skilled workers on the Docks were already in existence, and a power struggle ensued to control a Union for the common Dockside Labourers.  This struggle was ultimately won in 1889 by Ben Tillet.  In the same year Dockers down tools and walked off the job, Tillet pounced, declared a strike, and garnered support from not only the other dockside unions and other workers, but also from the Catholic Church, whose Priests saw first-hand the hardships and deprivations of their mainly Irish Catholic Parishoners in the London Docks, as well as being in the spirirt of an edict from the Pope who had spoken out against both exploitative Capitalism, and Revolutionary atheistic Socialism, both of which were rife in Europe.

Levi would have been in the thick of this situation, times would have been hard to say the least, no work meant no money, breaking the strike would mean fist fights day in and day out with the rest of the community while the strike lasted, solidarity and holding their nerve was the only option, and the support was massive, 100,000 people marching from the east End to Hyde Park for a rally showing support for the striking Dockers, the Government was jittery, there was the whiff of Revolution from the unwashed masses of the East End a nightmare in the making.  However, the strikers had to tread a careful line, as working class protests had been physically broken up by Police and the Army with great violence by both protestors and the authorities a few years before.

The strikers walked a careful line, undoubtedly there was a degree of violence and intimidation, but overall the protests were treated as “Cockney Knees-ups” boisterous and physical but overlaid with a degree of hard working class humour and banter.  This approach, along with the obvious reasonableness of the strikers’ demands, plus the backing of the greater working class community, the Unions, and the overt backing of a number of authority figures including the Catholic Church, swayed the balance in the Dockers favour.  The popular rising of the Unions worked, and within a month, the Dock owners capitulated and the Dockers got their Tanner.

Life got a bit better in the Docks after this, and Levi and Ann’s family grew with five sons born between 1889 and 1909.  But times were still hard, with the last two boys born in 1900 and 1909 both died young at four and two respectively, followed by Levi himself in 1910.

With the death of Levi, his eldest son William (Harry Redknapp’s Grandfather who started spelling Redknapp with two “P”s at this time) followed his father into the Docks, and his younger brother George started work as a Milkman.  The First World War interrupted the precarious existence of the family, and William enrolled in the 3rd Battalion of the Rifle Brigade.

If you would like your own Family Tree researched, and your Family Story written up, please contact:

paulmcneil@timedetectives.co.uk

for more details.

Published in: on April 27, 2014 at 7:29 pm  Comments (4)  
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The Redknapp Family History Part 1; Origins, Redheaded Merchants on the Thames


Origins of the Redknapp Name

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The name Redknapp, (also spelled Redknap, Rednap and Rednup) is derived from the colour Red and the old English “cnaep” or “knap” meaning a hillock or brow of a hill, but also a 15th century slang word for “head” as in “the knap of the case” for the head of the house. So “Red Knap” could either mean someone who lived on the “red hill” or much more likely, the person with the “red head”, and given the colouring of a number of bearers of this name the likely derivation is fairly obvious.

Although there had been one instance of the name being spelled with two “p”s in the late 1700s, and various spellings with one and two “p”s and an “e” on the end in mediaeval  times, this Redknapp family’s original name was spelled Redknap with one “p” for the whole of the 19th century, and only acquired the extra “p” as a standard spelling at the beginning of the 20th century when many names in working class families became fixed in their spellings.  This was because from 1870 an act of parliament brought in compulsory schooling for children, and so all children (who actually went to school) were taught to read and write in Great Britain from that point on, and so would spell their name the way they first saw it written by an adult, their school teacher, that school teacher would spell the name however they felt like spelling it unless they were aware of how the local vicar would spell it in the Parish Registers, and that particular way of spelling the name would stick going forward, more of less unchanged to the present day.

Origins of the Family

Harry Redknapp’s branch of the family are most likely descended from Redknaps who were Mercers in late Mediaeval London.  Mercers were high status traders, the word being derived in English from the Old French Mercier (ultimately derived from the Latin Merx – trade goods, the same root as Merchandise).  There were a number law disputes naming London Redknaps in various court cases over trading and trade goods, a long tradition that would carry on down through the generations, this and indeed the origins of the nickname Red-Head (Red-Cnaep) was undoubtedly a notable identifier of the Red Headed English RedKnaps  amongst the dark headed French Mercers they competed with.

It’s not hard to see where a link with trade in London turned into a link with the transportation of trade along London’s River, and Harry’s branch of the family were part of an extended family of Thames Watermen and Lightermen (Watermen rowed boats to carry people on the Thames, and Lightermen specifically rowed “Lighters” which were large flat bottomed barges) living on both banks of the Thames both on its western reaches of the “Surrey Side” and London, and on the central and Eastern regions of the “Middlesex Side” depending on the availability of work.  their work was essential to the maintenance of the passage of goods and people through London before bridges and roads of the Victorian era started to devalue them.

King’s Watermen

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The Redknaps were not just any Rivermen, they were The King’s Watermen, chosen to row the Kings barge to transport him and the Royal Family along the River on State and more mundane occasions.  It is likely that this connection runs back to their days as Mercers, perhaps they were tradesmen to the nobility, and the Riverbourne line of the family that formed Harry’s line profited from the association.  They received uniforms every two years, and, as members of the Royal Household, were exempt from tax (that would surely strike a chord with Harry Redknap?).  Despite this the Thames watermen were known for the foul language and irreverence, even to the Royal Family, so much so that it was said that one of the reasons that Handel was commissioned to compose his “Water Music” for the coronation and procession on the Thames of George I was to drown out the abuse and foul language heaped on the Royals by the Watermen.  To the extent that comments that would have been treated as treasonous on land, were treated with humour on the Thames, as the watermen were incorrigible and beyond redemption.  Their language was labelled “Water Language” and was infamous in London.

The Redknaps rightly used this prestige to run a good business building boats on the Thames, transporting people as Watermen, and goods as Lightermen.  They fought hard for their rights, some times more than metaphorically, and ended up in court on one occasion for having a brawl with some land owners who took exception to them taking up passengers from their land, the cockney boatmen rolling on the bank and falling into some of the boats whilst grappling with their wealthy opponents.

Their appointment to King’s Watermen was no doubt to some extent due to them being very active professional scullers as well as professional river workers.  They raced for purses of sovereigns and silver trophies, in front of Royalty, the gentry and the common mob, and were successful,  In 1831 winning a race held by Sir Wathen Waller the King’s Surgeon, and Baroness Howe at Pope House on the Thames receiving a silver cup in the presence of the whole of the Royal Family, including King William IV.  The family raced for money from at least the 1820s till the 1860s,  several generations of Redknaps representing the watermen on Twickenham at the Thames regattas.  this would have made them local celebrities and they would have hobnobbed much as top sportsmen would in the modern age with Royalty and the well to do.  Fortunes would have ben won and lost on the strength of their backs, and the speed and length of the pull of their oars.  This was in the days before the Oxford and Cambridge boat race, when the heroes of the Thames were men who sported Cockney accents and plied the river for a living,

Watermen were a litigious lot, given the opportunities for theft of cargoes, and cheating in boat races, and for scores to be settled.  The Redknaps were variously called as witnesses for disputed boat races, attacks on them in pubs (as in one Waterman saying to a Redknap “I here you are saying that you are going to give me a good hiding?” before punching him in the face), as character witnesses against false allegations of theft from non-licensed watermen settling scores with the Redknaps licensed men.  But the Redknaps also had their more serious run-ins with the law, Enos (aka Enoch) Redknap was indicted for employing men who were not licensed Lightermen to transport Coals on The River, although he was not found guilty, but in 1815 he and an associate, along with a another Lighterman were prosecuted for stealing coal from a delivery on The Thames, The Lighterman was found not guilty, Isaac Moore, Enos’s Associate was found guilty and transported for 7 years, whilst Enos absconded and was never captured, although it looks like he continued to live in London and the environs.

The Story continues here :

The Redknapp Family History Part 2; Blackwall Taverns, Smugglers, and Jewish Ancestry?

If you would like your own Family Tree researched, and your Family Story written up, please contact paulmcneil@timedetectives.co.uk for more details.

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