Thursday, April 12, 2012

Part 7: The Golden Ticket At Last!

St Ive Parish Church: Mary Ann's Home in 1861

Entry 7: The Golden Ticket At Last!

A bit of detective work revealed a Mary Ann Hill’s marriage to James Davey in the first quarter of 1852. But was this my Mary Ann? If I had been more experienced, I would have immediately checked the 1861 census for near-by families. But my inexperience reigned. I believed I had no way of confirming if this was the Mary Ann I sought.
I returned to the Parish Clerk who noticed that a Thomas Symonds was one of three people listed on the England & Wales Free BMD Marriage Index for the fourth quarter of 1957. She noted that the first two people were likely a couple and Thomas’ bride might be listed on another page. Taking her advice, because it seemed my last hope, I reached for my credit card and purchased Thomas Symonds’ marriage license. The waiting began.
Almost 153 years to the date after Thomas and Mary Ann’s marriage ceremony, my cell phone signaled an email. Glancing at it, I saw the license was ready for me. I recall my hands were shaking as I opened the file. Had my money been wasted or would this be the golden ticket? I struggled to enlarge the green-tinted paper and gasped. It was my Mary Ann!  She was listed as Mary Ann Davy, a widow whose father was named Christopher Hill.

                                    Mary Ann Hill

Here she was, the family paper wrong about her marriage date; however, being slightly math-challenged myself, I understood the numeral exchanges that likely took place. Every detail on that license became a treasure. Her story began to unfurl in front of my eyes. But the richness of her life is for Mary Ann’s story, a tale which I will eventually share. It should not be a part of this chronicle that details my personal stumbles and the eventual triumph.  Her biography is still experiencing the labor pains of birth as I attempt to bring it to life, in a manner that will honor her.
 Closer than ever to the person that was Mary Ann, I eagerly raced to my computer to take another look at that 1861 census. I had overlooked a key detail which was plainly evident now: Her parents had lived next door to her. Information lit up my computer screen. I easily went back two more generations; but by this time, I was awash in the details of her life, no longer focused on the race backwards. Now it was the richness of Mary Ann Hill Symons I wanted to understand. Occupations, literacy, witnesses of marriage ceremonies formed her story.  I felt my great great great grandmother. Now, in that moment, I knew I needed to understand her more fully. Yet, before I could completely do that, more difficult lessons awaited me.

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