Head of Department: Professor R.V.Comerford
Supervisor of research: Dr. Frank Sweeney
NA National Archives, Kew, England
GRO General Registry Office, Dublin Branch
GRO.. UK General Registry Office, UK
RMLI Royal Marines Light Infantry
ADM File headings in National Archives, Kew, England
BMD Births, Marriages and Deaths
Chapter One: Ellen Mary Wareham/Reeby 14
Chapter Two: William Thomas Wareham 27
Chapter Three: Frank Rogers Reeby 36
Map 1 Portsea, Havant and Portsmouth 15
Map Proximity of Lymington to Portsmouth 17
Map 3 Lyminton including graveyards 18
Photo 1 Grandmothers grave, close up 19
Photo 2 Grandmothers grave 20
Map 4 Registration and census districts 1852-1946 21
Map 4a Reduced area of Map four showing Hampshire area 22
Map 5 Civil parish map of Hampshire 23
Map 6 Civil parish map of Sussex 24
Map 7 Areas associated with Wareham and Windebank families 25
Picture 1 HMS Hermes 80
Picture 2 HMS Maidstone 81
Picture 3 HMS Forth 82
Photo 3 Chidham parish church 31
Photo 4 Chidham local pub 32
Young people dont care Old people dont remember
I was born the second youngest of nine children. My mother was an English Protestant born in 1908 who came to Ireland when she was eight years of age with her mother and father. Her father was attached to the British navy. My father was a Corkman born in 1903, Catholic and a republican. As I was growing up this was all I knew or cared about, but on a number of occasions in my childhood a few questions occurred to me that I asked about, and in some cases I received answers, and in others received ambiguous replies or did not get an answer to the question at all.
I was born and reared in a corporation house in Dublin. As the youngest boy and with a father who spoke little to his children,
the family motto seemed to be the same as most- children should be seen and not heard. It was with some unease and trepidation that one asked personal questions.
On one occasion, fearing the sneers of my brothers and sisters I asked, Dad, our name is Cummins and Uncle Paddy your brother is also Cummins,
how come then that your other brother, Uncle Gerard is called McAuley? To my surprise no one else in the family had asked that question.
The answer of course, from my dad, was that his father had died when he was young and that my Grandmother had remarried for a second time.
As stated at the beginning, young people dont care. Years pass by and people die. Mothers, Fathers, Sisters and Brothers pass on. You have children of your own and you start to wonder - who were these people who were responsible for me being here? What was their background?
I knew a good deal of my Irish roots but of my English roots practically nothing. A Catholic IRA man marrying an English navy Protestant was not acceptable. My mother married in a Catholic church agreeing that the children would be raised as Catholics . Little contact occurred with the English side.
I knew that my English relatives returned to England but I had no idea what happened to them. What I did know was that my eldest brother Sean left home after an argument with my father and went first to work in England and subsequently went to live with my English grandparents, Reeby, and horror of horrors joined the British Navy. This was during World War II at the same time as my father was still in the IRA (c1942) and was pro-German. Sean later emigrated to Australia and joined the Australian navy. We never met Sean or heard from him until 1971 when we received a Christmas card from him saying hope to see you soon Pat. The family didnt know who Pat was but assumed it was Sean. Unfortunately my mother died in April 1972 just months before Sean came home on a holiday, so they just missed seeing each other after a gap of nearly thirty years
In due course we met Sean (Pat) on a number of occasions, over the years he visited us and I visited him. By this time I was curious about our English relatives but he would never answer questions. His favourite expression was some families have skeletons in the closet but if we opened the closet the amount of skeletons falling out would crush us.
Sean died and my brother Terry decided to start a family tree. Immediately a problem arose. On Terrys birth certificate my mother stated her maiden name to be Reeby but on my birth certificate her name was Wareham. Shortly afterwards I was asked by my Australian nephew to get Seans (Pat) birth certificate. My mothers maiden name on Seans birth certificate was stated to be Wareham.
I decided to check on all my brothers and sisters birth certificates. Confusion arose from the results. In my brothers and sisters birth certificates my mothers maiden name was stated alternatively as, Wareham, for my eldest brother Pat (Sean) born 1927, David born 1931, Austin born 1937, Niall born 1946 and Verna born 1948. But Elizabeth born 1928, John (baby Jack) Francis born 1933, Brian born 1934, and Terence born 1941 were all stated to be Reeby.
The enforcement by the Catholic church of the 1908 Ne Temere decree obliged the Protestant partner
in a mixed marriage to consent in writing to the upbringing of any children of the union as Catholics.
This is what started me on my project, the object of which is to find out and decide, am I and my brothers and sisters, Reeby or Wareham, who were these people, where were they from, what was the connection between them? At the beginning of my investigations a number of points arose that needed clarification/investigation. These points came about from memory recalled after discussions with my brother.
It was rumoured that Reeby and my grandmother never married. Indeed it was also rumoured she hadnt married Wareham either. We knew my mother had two sisters, Clarice and Vera. My mother used to say she was from the south of England from a place called Lymington and Gosport. She said that her father was in the British navy and came to Ireland somewhere between 1915 and 1920. (My mother used to say she arrived in Ireland when she was eight years of age). The first source I used was the births, marriages and deaths records in the General Register Office (GRO) branch in Dublin. This office contains the records of births registered in the island of Ireland between 1st January, 1864 and 31st December, 1921 inclusive, and in Ireland (excluding the six north-eastern counties of Derry, Antrim, Down, Armagh, Fermanagh and Tyrone known as Northern Ireland) from 1922 onwards. Deaths registered in the island of Ireland between 1st January, 1864 and 31st December, 1921 inclusive and in Ireland (excluding Northern Ireland ) from 1922 onwards. Non-Roman Catholic marriages registered in the island of Ireland between 1st April, 1845 and 31st December, 1863 inclusive. Marriages registered in the island of Ireland between 1st January, 1864 and 31st December, 1921 inclusive and in Ireland (excluding Northern Ireland) from 1922 onwards. Legal Domestic Adoptions registered in the Republic of Ireland from 10th July, 1953 onwards.
From the GRO office in Roscommon I was able to obtain copies of the birth certificates from of my brothers and sisters and the marriage certificate of my parents. From this I was able to ascertain which of my brothers and sisters was stated to be Wareham and Reeby. My parents marriage certificate stated my mothers maiden name to be Wareham.
General Registry Office, 3rd Floor, Block 7, Irish Life Centre, Lower Abbey Street, Dublin
General Registry Office, Convent Road, Roscommon, County Roscommon. _______________________________________________________________________________________
My second source was in Findmypast.com. This is an ancestry web site that allows, for a subscription, you to type in a persons name and any other relevant information and will give you the relevant district, volume and page of the legal entry. From this I was able to contact the General Register Office in the UK (GRO UK). Once I had the name, register quarter, year, district, volume and page of my enquiry they were able to send me copies of original births, marriages and death certificates for the UK.
I also needed to know who Reeby was as well as who Wareham was and, as they were both British navy my next source was the Royal Navy, service records. I contacted Royal Navy Fleet Headquarters personnel department . I had to send to them a certificate of kinship that included my birth certificate, my father and mothers birth certificate, my mother and fathers marriage certificate and the birth certificate of William Thomas Wareham. At the end of this, all they could tell me was that the records were now held in the National Archives (NA) in Kew.
For the purposes of this exercise I will continue to use both Wareham and Reeby as my paternal ancestors. Other sources tried included parish records in Chidham, Hampshire. The graveyard in Chidham Church grounds, the Winchester records office, Gosport records office, Lymington graveyards, Portsmouth museum records service, and Ancestry.com UK and Australia. It was also necessary to visit The National Archives in Kew on two occasions. In order to place matters in their logical order the findings I made in Kew are not in sequence.
My knowledge of my English background was my mother Olive and her two sisters named Clarice and Vera. We knew that Clarice had one child, Percy. My grandmother was Ellen Reeby and according to her death certificate her husband was Frank Reeby. There is a photograph of my aunt Vera laying a wreath at the grave of my grandmother and the headstone says Ellen M. Reeby.
www.findmypast.com General Register Office, PO Box 2, Southport, Merseyside PR8 2JD (www.gro.gov.uk)
Royal Navy Fleet headquarters, Director Naval Personnel, Disclosure Cell, West battery, MP G-2, Whale Island, Portsmouth, Hampshire PO2 8DX
National Archives, Ruskin Avenue, Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 4DU
Ellen Mary Wareham/Reeby
My grandparents were married in the parish church in the parish of Portsea, (App I) in the county of Hampshire on 31 January 1903. (Map 1) She was Ellen Mary Windebank 20, a spinster, living in Gladys Avenue. Her fathers name was David Thomas Windebank, a cowman and the witnesses to the marriage were Maria Windebank and David Thomas Windebank. By checking the internet I found that there were a number of churches in the Portsea area one of them being St. Marys. I contacted a Ms Jan Bennett the secretary of the parish church in Portsea to see if there would be any records of my mother. I was informed that all of the parish records were held at the Portsmouth Museums and Records office in Museum Road, Portsmouth. I visited these offices but could find no trace or any information regarding my mother.
My next search took me to Lymington (Map 2) in Southampton to find out about my Grandmother Ellen Mary Reeby (Wareham). In my brothers files there was a photograph of my grandmothers grave showing the date of her death. From this I applied for and received a copy of her death certificate (App. II). The certificate stated that she had died on 10 May 1952 in Lymington Hospital aged 68. The signature of the informant was Frank Reeby, male nurse, widower of the deceased.
Portsea is above Portsmouth and to the East of Gosport.
Havant is to the North East of Portsea
My grandfather could also have been Wareham as that was the name on some of our birth certificates.
The first thing to obtain was to find my mothers birth certificate. I thought she was born in November 1908. By checking through the records in the ancestry research organisation Find MyPast I discovered that my mothers birthday was 17 November 1907. I applied to the General Registry Office in England and received a birth certificate (App I). My mothers certificate stated that her name was Olive Caroline Grace of 63 Joseph Street, Stoke Road, in the district of Alverstoke, Southampton. Her parents were Ellen Mary Wareham formerly Windebank and her father was William Thomas Wareham a private in the RMLI (this I discovered to be the Royal Marines Light Infantry).
This was the first definite indication that my grandfather was William Thomas Wareham. So who was Frank Reeby? By checking through the records again I discovered my grandmothers name on her death cert was Reeby (App II) and Frank Reeby was her widower. The logical conclusion therefore was that my grandmother was divorced from William Wareham and married Frank Reeby or that William Wareham had died perhaps during WW1. I spent many hours on the internet and went through all marriages and deaths in England from 1907 to 1950 to see if either was on record. I could not find a trace of a death certificate for William Thomas Wareham.
Because my mother was the only one to come to Ireland with her parents I worked on the basis that my mothers sisters were older than she. As artificial contraception was not widely used or available I assumed a 3 year gap in their ages and took another year from date of marriage (if any) from the date of the first birth. Again searching through the records I obtained the marriage of William Wareham to Ellen Mary Windebank on 31 January 1903 (App III). William was 27 years of age and Ellen Mary 20.
In July 2008 I went to London and visited NA in Kew. This is an amazing organization. It is in a very modern looking building in lovely landscaped gardens that in the summer could allow visitors to sit and contemplate all the history inside. Inside are shops, cafeterias, cloakrooms and lockers. One is not allowed to bring in fountain pens, ball point pens, knives or scissors. Walking in is intimidating, as one feels out of place and everyone else appears to know exactly what to do. However, at reception, they are very helpful and they advise you on your step by step approach. The first thing to do was to get a readers card. This is done by bringing with you photo identification and two utility bills. You fill out an application form and your photo is taken. A card, the same size as a credit card, is supplied. This card is your readers ticket and has a three year expiry time. On the card is your name and photo and on the reverse is a bar code with a number. This is required for everything you intend to do. Searching the micro fiche, computer records and physical books and records is free of charge. There is a charge for photocopies.
There are information officers available who will assist you in finding what you require. All records are coded will the letters ADM and are subtitled with numbers for the various areas of your search.
As all the characters in this essay are interlocked it is difficult to separate them into individual chapters. By so doing there is a constant interchange between them. I decided to break the contents into chapters of the three main people involved and tell their stories as individually as possible. Therefore my grandmother is chapter one, William Wareham is chapter two and Frank Reeby is chapter three. The summary is chapter four.
Lymington is a coastal town near Southampton and is between sixty and seventy kilometers west from the Portsmouth, Gosport, Portsea area of Hampshire. The address given on the death certificate was Gwentin Villas, Gosport Street, Lymington. My satellite navigation system gave no directions to Gwentin Villas therefore when in Lymington I visited the local estate agent who informed me that Gwentin Villas no longer existed. They informed me however that there were two graveyards in Lymington and where I could find them (Map 3). The first graveyard was in the centre of the town and after a thorough search I could not find my grandmothers grave.
The second graveyard was on the outskirts of the town and after a lot of searching I found my grandmothers grave (Photo 1 and 2). It was a strange moment me, an Irishman living in Northwest rural Ireland, standing in a rural area of southern England beside the grave of a woman who gave birth to my mother, who lived, laughed, cried and died and was now uncared or unknown to the life and people living on around her. Here was part of my history. Not important in the great scheme of things but part of what makes all our lives become part of and be history. The interesting part of visiting this grave was that Frank Reeby was not buried with her. So what happened to him? Was he her husband? Did they subsequently get married after the failed divorce by William Wareham in 1920 and was the possible marriage due to the death of William Wareham or a divorce?
Ellen Mary Reeby Wareham Windebank was born on 25th November 1882 in the registration district of Havant (Map 1) in the county of Southampton. According to her birth certificate (App IV) her father was David Thomas Windebank and her mother was Maria Windebank formerly King. The address given on the birth certificate was Maize Coppice. In the 1891 census (App V) she lived with her parents and siblings in the civil parish of East Meon (Maps 4 and 5) in the ecclesiastical parish of Langrick in the town of Ramsdean, Hampshire. East Meon is in th East of the county. Looking at the map (5) it is surrounded by a yellow and blue border. It is within twenty to twenty five kilometers from Gosport.
Her father David T Windebank was born in Clanfield (the translator of the document made a mistake and copied the T for Thomas into a Y therefore the converted files in the archives has his middle initial as Y instead of T). (App V). Clanfield is approximately six kilometers south from Ramsdean. Her mother Maria was Maria born in Cosham, Hampshire approximately twelve kilometres further south from Clanfield. Her brothers and sisters were, Fred nine, Albert six, Henry T three, David W one and Rhoda one month.
By the 1901 census (App VI) another brother was born by the name of Mark. Her mother and father had moved to the civil parish of Oving Saint Andrew, registration district of Westhampnett in the county of Sussex (Map 7). Other errors appear on the transferred sheet in the archives from the original document. David T (Y) in 1891 became David S and Maria his wife in 1891 became Marid in 1901. I deduced they were the same people as Marids age was correct and the childrens names and ages concurred with what they should have been in 1901. There were two other changes. David S Windebank gave his age as forty-two shaving two years from his age in the 1891 census. As he was a cowman in both census I presume that the lower age was to maintain his ability to obtain agricultural work. The second change was that Fred and my grandmother Ellen had left home.
Their neighbours in 1901 were William T Wareham and Priscilla J Wareham of whom William Thomas Wareham was one (App VIa, VIb). So now I found that Ellen Mary Windebank who was eight years of age in the 1891 census and William Thomas Wareham who was aged fifteen in the 1891 census met each other during the period between the 1891 and 1901 census in Oving.
My Grandmother Ellen Mary left home sometime between the two census as by the 1901 census she appeared with the Graves family as a servant/cook (App VII & VIIa,b). They lived in the civil parish of Chichester, Ecclesiastical parish of Saint Paul part of the municipal borough of Chichester part of West Ward of Chichester in nos. 3 Northgate in what appears to have been a small private school. In the census Mr Fred C Graves gave his occupation as schoolmaster, an employer and working from home. Chichester is around five kilometres from Oving. It is obvious therefore that William Thomas Wareham also of Oving courted her during these years. In the census of 1901 she gave her age as nineteen whereas she was only sixteen. They married on 31 January 1903. Ellen Mary gave her age as twenty although at the time she was eighteen years of age. William Thomas Wareham gave his age as twenty seven.
William Thomas Wareham
In the NA I wanted to find out any records possible for William Thomas Wareham. By checking through the records I discovered that the Royal Marines had their file number under ADM. This contains the records of the admiralty, naval forces, coastguard and related bodies from 1205 to 1998. Within this file are sub files that include the service records of Royal Marines. By checking through these sub files I discovered that ADM 159/14 contained the service record of William Thomas Wareham (App VIII).
The service record showed that William Thomas Wareham joined the Royal Marines on the 14 July 1896 in Gosport, Hampshire. The division was Portsmouth and his register number was 8600. He gave his birthday as 14 May 1878 although his birth certificate showed he was born three years earlier in 1875. According to the records he served on many ships including HMS Vincent at the time of his marriage. He also served on HMS Hermes (Picture 1) at the time when my mother was born and interestingly from an Irish perspective, on HMS Maidstone (Picture 2) that later become a prison ship for the IRA during the recent conflict in the north of Ireland.
I was particularly interested in the fact that he served on the HMS Hermes from 9 January 1906 until the 31 December 1907 (my mother was born on 17 November 1907) and the fact he received a war gratuity of 16.5.0p on 6 April 1919. This of course meant he wasnt killed during WW1. The records show his service continued until October 1921.
The ships log for HMS Hermes (App IX) has been mainly lost but I was lucky enough that some of the logs had survived. I examined the original log from 19 March 1906 until 10 May 1907. HMS Hermes had the following compliment. Forty one Officers, fifty three Petty Officers, 214 seamen, twenty eight boys, forty nine marines and engine establishment 129. The total complement of the ship was 514 sailors. On 19 March 2006 the ship sailed from Karachi to Muscat. On Friday 1 February 1907 it sailed out of Columbo and arrived in Bombay at twelve noon on 4 February. It remained in Bombay until Monday 25 March 1907 and then sailed to Port Victoria, Seychelles arriving on Saturday 30 March 1907 at 10 pm. On Tuesday 2 April 1907 the ship departed from Port Victoria to Kilwdiui arriving on 4 April at twelve noon. It stayed until 6 April and then sailed to Zanzibar arriving 7 April. On 8 April departed Zanzibar to Swious Bay then to Powla Bay until Wednesday 10 April. She sailed from Powla Bay to Swious Bay and arrived on the 18 April. The ship remained at Swious Bay from 18 April until 10 May 1907. This was the end of the ships log.
It is logical to conclude that William Wareham who was attached to the ship must have been one of the forty nine marines aboard the ship. Unfortunately the names of the men aboard was lost during the WWII therefore the muster is not available. While in the NA I decided to see if there were any records outside of the royal marines under the name William Thomas Wareham. When I input his name a record appeared:
Divorce Court File: 2552. Appellant: William Thomas Wareham. Respondent: Ellen Mary Wareham. Co-repondent: Frank Reeby. Type: Husbands petition for divorce Catalogue reference J77/1689/2552 Covering dates 1920.
So now matters become a little clearer. There were two men in my grandmothers life. One was William Wareham and the other was Frank Reeby. She definitely married William Wareham but what about Frank Reeby? Within the NA there is a reading room where one can examine the original papers. This has to be ordered and can take a few hours to obtain. I applied to see these original records and examined them the next day.
The petition for divorce was a follows:
The 12th day of July 1920
The humble petition of William Thomas Wareham Sheweth
On the 21st day of June 1921 before the Right Honerable Lord Mersey sitting in the Royal Courts of Justice, Strand, in the county of Middlesex pronounced that the petitioner had not proved the contents of the said petition and dismissed the said petition.
The result of this discovery is that William Wareham also had a son Percy of whom no one had ever heard. Although my mothers birth certificate of 1907 states William Wareham as her father she is not mentioned as his child in the petition for divorce in 1920. The logical conclusion is that my mother was not, therefore his daughter.
I continued with my visit to Chidham (Map 7) (Photo 3 & 4) in Sussex where according to his birth certificate William Wareham was born. Chidham is a lovely English village in the district of Chichester in west Sussex located 7 kilometers west of Chichester, west of the A27 road, near Bosham. The purpose of the trip was to visit any graveyard and if possible examine any records held in the church that would give me information regarding the family of Wareham and find if William Wareham jnr was buried there. An examination of the Chidham Church graveyard gave showed that no Wareham was buried there. I went to the rectory beside the parish church (Photo 3) and spoke with the local pastor. He was kind enough to show me the parish registers but there was no mention of Wareham. I went to the local pub (Photo 4) and asked if there was a family called Wareham known in the area. Again the local people were very friendly but there was no recollection of any Wareham.
Back in Ireland I continued my investigations into the Wareham family. The main reason for continuing with the Wareham side was to find out if any Warehams were alive and if necessary to obtain a DNA sample to check my lineage. As I knew my two aunts were dead I decided to find out about Percy Wareham, stated to be a child of William Wareham on the divorce petition between my grandmother and William Wareham. I wanted to find out if he had children and where they were. I checked the births section on Ancestry.com and found his birth certificate (App X). He was born on 22 September 1905 in 15 Edwards Place, Alverstoke in the County of Southampton. In the UK files I could not find any trace of a marriage from 1920 until 1960 or a death certificate from 1935 to 1990. I chose these dates working on the assumption that most males get married from their early twenties and die mainly during their sixties in those years. In his case there could have been an exception due to the fact that WW11 started in 1939 when he was thirty four years of age and he could have been killed either in action or by bombing. I could not find any record of him.
I then checked the emigration files in ancestry. I knew that my grandmother came to Ireland sometime between 1915 and 1920 (according to my mother). I never heard her mention that any of her siblings came with her so I presumed they all stayed in England. I checked the records from 1915 to 1930 and found that Mr. F. P Wareham departed on 15 September 1923 from London for Brisbane, Australia (App XI). His birth year was estimated to be 1906 (calculated from age) and his age was seventeen. His occupation was stated to be billiard maker. He sailed on the Orsova official number 128278. The captain was C. G. Matheson.
I next checked the Australian Electoral Rolls 1901 to 1936. He was registered in 1930 (App XIIa) as being in the state of Queensland, District of Darling Downs, sub district Allora. In 1936 (App XIIb) he was still in Queensland but in District of Wide Bay, Subdistrict Caboolture. I checked marriage and death registers and found no further information. He was thirty four years of age at the start of WW11. I checked the Australian military records beginning with the Navy as that was the service his father was in. No records were found in the navy but I discovered his Australian army file (App XIII). His service number was QX28388. He joined on the 7 January 1942 in Warwick, Queensland. The place of enlistment was Toowoomba, Queensland. He was discharged on 17 January 1946 with the rank of Sergeant. His posting at discharge was 2/1 Port Operating Company. His stated birth place was Gesport that I believe is a misspelling of Gosport. The most interesting thing was that he gave his next of kin as Katherine Wareham, so he must have married. In April 2009 I received from the National Archives Australia a copy of Fabian Percy Warehams army record. Besides confirming that he was married to Katherine there is no mention of children. His address was stated to be Fitzroy Street, Warwick, Queensland. The record does state that he died on 10 August 1984. So this was a far forward as I could find about William Thomas Wareham jnr. I now knew when he was born, when he joined the Royal Marines, what ships he served on and the children born to his wife. The information still not known is when and where he died and where he served. But who was he? I knew to find out more definitive information I would have to re-visit the NA but in the meantime I decided to trace his background. This was done in the now familiar way through the English census and the BMD research tools.
From his service record it was stated that William Thomas Wareham had been born on the 14 May 1978. From his marriage certificate it stated that he was born on the same date in 1875. I checked the BMD (births, marriages and deaths) files and obtained his birth certificate. (App XIV). From the birth certificate of William Thomas Wareham it was confirmed he was born on the 14 May 1875 in Chidham, Westbourne, County of Sussex. His father and mother was confirmed as William Thomas Wareham and his mother as Priscilla Jane Wareham formerly Parrott. In the 1891 census (App XV) it showed that William Thomas junior was one six children aged from eighteen years to eleven years of age. They also had a grandson Richard S., aged seven months, living with them. Sometime between 1891 and 1901 the Wareham family moved from the town of Chidham, Sussex to the registration district of Westbourne to the civil Parish of Oving Saint Andrew, in the registration district of Westhampnett. By the time of the 1901 census (App XVI) all of the children had left home. As stated previously William had joined the RMLI on 14 July 1896. At this time my grandmother Ellen Mary Windebank was only thirteen years of age.
Despite searching for William Thomas Wareham through the records of deaths index from 1837 to 1983 I could find no record of his death or emigration on any ship. The last record I could find of William T Wareham jnr outside of his service records was in the 1911 (App XVII) census (and this raised a conundrum). In this census he gave his address as 94 Oxford Street, Landport, Portsmouth and listed Ellen Mary as his wife, Clarice, daughter, eight; Vera, daughter, six; Percy, son, five; and my mother, Olive, daughter, three. By examining his divorce petition and his census form it would appear to be the same signature, so why in 1911 did he state my mother to be his daughter and in 1921 in his divorce petition ignore her. I was aware that only my mother was in Ireland with her mother and Frank Reeby. Perhaps this was the reason for ignoring her?
Frank Reeby Born 18 April 1896 Died 9 March 1962
Working on the assumption that my grandfather was not William Thomas Wareham I researched Frank Reeby. My only knowledge of Frank Reeby was that he considered himself the widower of my grandmother, and he was a male nurse and by extension a medical person in the Royal Navy. He came to Ireland sometime after 1916 as my mother said she came to Ireland when she was eight years of age
Using the search engine Ancestry.com I searched through the deaths section for Frank Reeby. As my grandmother was sixty-eight in 1952 I assumed Frank Reeby was older and obviously lived longer. Again for no particular reason I added three years to my grandmothers death plus three years him being older and searched deaths of the age seventy-four from 1958 onwards. I found his death certificate (App XVIII). Frank Rogers Reeby aged eighty-five years of age died on 12 March in 1962. His address was given as 3 Wesley Avenue, Peverell, Plymouth. His occupation was given as Chief Petty Officer R.N. (retired). The signature of the informant was F. H. Reeby daughter-in law.
This raised another question. Who was F.H. Reeby, daughter-in-law? The obvious conclusion is that Frank Reeby had been married before he met my grandmother and he may have had children. How did this fall into sequence? Did he meet my grandmother and have an affair with her while both of them were still married and my mother was the result?
This question had to be answered. As his death certificate stated he was aged eighty five I searched for his birth certificate around 1877 plus/minus two years. I found his birth certificate (App XIX) and discovered he was born on the 18 April 1876 as Frank Rogers and his mothers name was Mary Jane Rogers Reeby. No name was in the fathers column. The address given was Launceston, County of Cornwall. I then searched for a marriage certificate in the name of Frank Rogers Reeby and found that Francis Reeby aged twenty-four a sick berth attendant of 56 Well Street, Plymouth, married Louisa Alice Higgins aged twenty-two of the same address in the Ebenezer Methodist Church, Saltash Street in the district of Plymouth on 15th April 1900 (App XX). There was no fathers name given in the Reeby column and Richard Higgins was given as the father in the Higgins column (interestingly he gave his occupation as a compositor. This is my trade as well).
I checked the census for 1891 (App XXI) and found that Francis Reeby was living with Charles E. Peake and his family in Church Street, the civil parish of Saint Mary Magdalene in the urban sanitary district of Launceston, Cornwall. The Peakes head of family was a tailor and Francis Reeby was his apprentice. I could not find a record for him or his wife in the 1901 census but in NA Kew in the census of 1911 (App XXII) I found that his wife Louisa Reeby, was living in 32 Wesley Avenue, Plymouth and stated she was head of the family and had two children, Edward aged five and Herbert aged two months. This means that Frank Reeby was living in the area of Plymouth during the years 1905 to 1910. My mother was born in 1907.
According to the AA route planner Plymouth is over 275 kilometres from Gosport/Portsmouth in Hampshire where my Grandmother Ellen Mary Wareham was living. Given the state of transport at the time it is unlikely that they were having an affair from that distance. However it was possible that he was stationed in Gosport and going to Plymouth on leave. In the NA I searched for and found Frank Reebys service record (App XXIII). He joined the Royal Navy on 16 October 1896 for a twelve year period and re-signed on the same date in 1908 to completion. During the years from November 1899 to 1905 he was attached to Plymouth Hospital. He was also attached to various ships. Most importantly from my point of view is that from 11 May 1905 until 22 September 1908 he was attached to the Royal navy hospital in Yokohama, Japan.
This obviously is as conclusive a proof as one can get that he was not my Grandfather as my mother was born on 17 November 1907. Simply subtraction of months proves he could not have conceived my mother.
But how did he meet my grandmother? I studied his service record and it showed that after serving in Yokohama hospital he was attached to the ships, the Crescent, the Vivid 1, Europa and Andromeda. He then went to South Africa and was attached to the Cape Hospital. After the Cape hospital he was attached to the Hyacinth, Vivid 1 again, the Forth and then most interestingly on the HMS Maidstone (Picture 2). He was attached to this ship from 7 July 1916 until 31 December 1918. William Wareham also served on the same ship from the 15 October 1912 until the 12 March 1919.
The obvious conclusion is that around this time the affair between my grandmother and Frank Reeby commenced. When William Wareham found out about the affair is not known but the sequence of events are logical. The Maidstone ships log for this period is lost but one could assume that at some stage up until 12 March 1919 William Wareham was at sea. Frank Reeby, although attached at this stage to HMS Forth (Picture 3) was probably shore based and attached to a medical facility in the Gosport area. HMS Forth was a submarine depot ship and as WWI was over it is logical that this type of ship would be in base. When William Wareham returned he was faced with the situation. On the 13 May 1919 Frank Reeby was attached to Haulbowline Hospital in Cork. This must have been the time my grandmother left William Wareham to come and live in Ireland with Frank Reeby and brought my mother with her. His service record showed that he served in Ireland until 7 March 1920 although according to the divorce petition he was still in Ireland on 12 July 1920.
Frank Reeby and my grandmother lived together from this time until her death in 1952 and he died on 19 March 1962 at eighty-five years of age. He was buried by his daughter in law F. H. Reeby of 3 Wesley Avenue in Plymouth. This is only a few doors away from where he lived with his wife sometime between the 1901 and the 1911 census. The fact that he was not on the 1911 census is explained by him being in the Cape hospital, South Africa from 27 November 1910 until 31 March 1913.
At the beginning of this essay I set out to find out who I was. I knew there was a Frank Reeby and a William Wareham and that my grandmother called herself Ellen Mary Reeby. The name Windebank only resurfaced in my memory when I found my mothers birth certificate.
I found a life story of the times. It is said that a sailor has a woman in every port. What is not said is that in some cases women can have sailors from every port. In those days sailors could spend months and even years away from home. They were mostly young men but so were their wives. While searching through records of pensions in the NA I was struck by the large amount of pensions that was being received by divorced women of sailors.
Perhaps the situation of my family life was not uncommon. I am particularly struck by the fact that Frank Reeby after forty years of separation from his legal wife died in a house occupied by his daughter-in-law and only a few metres away from where he had lived with his wife. There must therefore have been a reconciliation with at least one of his sons.
There is still the unknown of who was my actual grandfather. This obviously will remain a secret.
I find the fact that William Wareham allowed his name to be attached to my mothers birth certificate and indeed that he personally claimed her as his child in the 1911 census a matter of lingering doubt about my mothers parentage. There is a chance, although a very small one that he was not on the HMS Hermes at the appropriate time. The National Archives in Australia has confirmed that Fabian Percy Wareham was married but gave no information regarding children. I will attempt to find if he had any children and if so I will approach them and if they agree, have a DNA search to conclude at last my English parentage.
Finally, after spending many months researching my ancestry I am reminded very forcefully what my brother Sean said
there are so many skeletons in our family closet
that if you open the door they will fall out and crush you. How right he was.
Niall at Grandmas Grave
Aunt Vera laying a wreath at Grandmas Grave