Monday, September 20, 2010

our Thomas

It’s been a while …….. hard to believe that I have not written anything in more than a month!

One of the most interesting characters in our family saga is Thomas Stockwood, our gg-grandfather. There were several Thomas’ , starting with the earliest we have been able to find to date, Thomas (1) born in Monmouth ca 1735, our 5th g-grandfather who had two sons, Thomas (2) ca 1752 Monmouth, husband to Margaret David and John ca 1755 husband of Ann Thomas. Thomas (2) & Margaret had several children, one of whom was yet another Thomas (3) baptized in 1790 at St. Woolas in Newport. This Thomas(3) and his wife Maria May born ca 1798 in Newport, were married at St. James in Bristol on 28 December 1813 – they had sixteen children of record and moved the family from Monmouth to Cardiff in the early 1820s, in between the baptism of Joseph at St. Woolas in 1822 and that of Maria in Cowbridge in 1824.

Thomas (3) and Maria May did have a son called Thomas in 1814, but we are descended from his younger brother William who was baptized in 1821 at St. Woolas. William moved with the family to Cardiff when he was extremely young. He married Louisa Fulli(n)love at St. John, Cardiff on 15 April 1839. In 1841 the census records them as living at Harris Buildings, Cardiff with their infant daughter Mary. William’s profession is ostler, not altogether unexpected given that his father Thomas (3) was a coachman.

Through the census records and the birth records of his children William is seen as progressing to “railway labourer” – 1848, “clerk Taff Vale” – 1851 and “stationmaster” – 1856. The family, in accordance with William’s new profession, left Cardiff for Pentyrch where William was stationmaster, then on to Walnut Tree Junction. They were most certainly somewhat elevated in prosperity along with William’s job at the Taff Vale.

“Our” Thomas, if you will, was William & Louisa’s third child and eldest son, baptized in 1843 in Cardiff. It was in researching our Thomas that I began to get a hint of the incredible amount of records available at the National Archives in Britain and associated repositories ~ and it absolutely amazes me to this day.

Knowing from Annie Gertrude’s file that Thomas had drowned at sea I set out to find whatever I could. Once again, folks on the list came through and let me know that given his date of death & the name of the ship upon which he was serving, I might be able to find his registration papers. And I did – with lots of help! A friend went to Kew then mailed me a copy of Thomas’ Certification as Second Engineer, which he earned in Bristol on May 28th 1865. Speaking as a researcher, opening the proverbial can of worms is not necessarily a bad thing … on the registry record were listed all the ships he upon which he served and all the voyages he took from registration until his death …. perhaps this illustrates why we are always looking for the ‘one more thing’ – you never know what may be attached! The friend who had procured the registration, an expert in records maritime, enclosed the ‘how to’ instructions for interpretation of the ships’ information – quite an exercise – they are in ‘code’ so as to minimize the use of space I imagine.

For instance, the 1868 column contains the following notations:


Lord Bute

21.10 62 Galveston

21.2. 69 Galveston



Lord Bute

11.3 62 Galaty

16.6 72 Galaty

Which translates into : The Lord Bute, Ships’ Registry # 60255 sailed on October 21, 1868 from Liverpool (port#62) to Galveston. (British ports are assigned a #, foreign ports are not) – February 21 1869, she sailed from Galveston to Liverpool. March 11 1869 the voyage to Galaty (Mediterranean) started in Liverpool (#62) and ended on 16 June in Newport (#72)….. I am not sure of everything written there, but have been able to extract a fairly comprehensive, albeit short, history of his career.

To summarize:

Thomas Stockwood was born 15 October 1842 in Cardiff

. baptized 19 November 1843 in Cardiff

. as far as we have been able to determine he began his seafaring career aboard the Isabella Croll (#17769) in late 1863

. received his Certificate of Competency as 2nd Engineer 23 May 1865 at Bristol based on his experience aboard the Isabella Croll

. married Angelina Collins aka Annie at St. John, Cardiff 31 May 1866

. first son Thomas William baptized 19 May 1867 at Cardiff

. daughter Annie Gertrude baptized 25 June 1869 Tonwynglais

. drowned at sea 15 April 1874 off the coast of Cadiz at the Sancti Petri shoals – he was 32 years old

. son Alfred John, our g-grandfather was born 7 June 1874 at Cardiff

After Thomas’ death and the birth of Alfred John, Angelina sold their possessions and moved close to her in-laws William & Louisa. I have not been able to determine whether they actually lived together or just nearby. In August of 1876, Angelina died of a “ramolissement” of the brain; she was followed by William in December of the same year. In 1877 we see the application for placement in the Muller Homes wherein Louisa is deemed unable to care for her grandchildren. The original request was for all three children, but in the end it was only Annie who went. In 1881 Thomas William resided with his maternal great-aunt Urina Hicks Davies in Eglwysilan and Alfred John with his Uncle John Collins in Morganstown, Radyr. We have been able to trace Thomas William – his marriage & child – and of course Alfred, but Annie Gertrude, after her release from Muller into the care of an aunt, continues to elude us.

For about ten years, this was all I had been able to find ~ then earlier this year, on a whim as is so often the case, I ‘googled’ “Cornubia shipwreck Cadiz” & WOW – up popped several auction house entries from two years previously, advertising this:

NINETEENTH CENTURY SHIPWRECK: notarial copy of an official shipwreck protest
issued by the British Consul Cadiz, dated April 16th, 1874 describing in
detail the fate of the steamship Cornubia out of Cardiff and wrecked off the
Spanish coast. Written in neat scribal hand on 11pp folio with official
stamps. £30-£40.

My heart stopped – or at least did a really good lurch! Each of the houses concerned very kindly volunteered to contact their buyers to see if anyone still had the papers ~ to no avail …….. but yet again, listers are the best! Two people sent newspaper accounts of the Official Board of Trade Enquiry, one from the Western Mail dated 20May 1874 & the other from the Bristol Mercury edition 23 May 1874.

I shivered when reading the account from the Western Mail in particular – this is an excerpt:

“Two or three minutes afterwards he telegraphed that the engines must be stopped, and when he required them to be in action again, in order to get the ship from off the shoals, he learnt that they were disabled. With regard to Stockwood, the second engineer, who still remained on the vessel, he (the captain) gave him a life-buoy and said “Here is the ship sinking, and very likely I shall go down with it. Why don’t you try to save your life?” There was a ladder lying at his feet, and he begged Stockwood to pick it up and jump into the sea with it. Stockwood took the ladder in hand, looked at it, dropped it down again, and turned away. “

It is difficult to reach the conclusion that I did unless one reads both articles and the Board of Trade summary I later found at the Archives – but I feel that Thomas died needlessly, that the Master was negligent, and I do not believe for one second that a man with two small children and a third on the way would be so cavalier. I instead believe that Thomas was ordered below to restart the engines & died as a consequence – just my opinion, but there it is. The fact that the Master constantly attempts to shift blame to the Mate ……

Since the acquisition of the newspaper accounts, I have obtained a very abbreviated official inquiry summary from the Archives as mentioned above, as well as Thomas’ actual Certificate of Competency – as opposed to the copy of the Register. Along with the Certificate is his application for same, in his own handwriting .. so wonderful to have this from over 100 years ago.

I shall not give upon the search for the Consular Protest – it is out there somewhere …

As a result of my delving into Thomas’ life as a mariner I have gained a new efriend in the person of a retired Merchant Mariner as well as his wife and family – they have become of invaluable help in trying to determine exactly what happened on April 15th 1874.

Isla Sancti Petri and the Castillo, showing a hint of what it could be with a storm ....