Stories from the Muddy

Please feel free to email me anytime with questions or additional story elements.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

John Lewis - Great Grandpa Arthur's Brother

By Naomi Lewis

 In the summer of 2005, I was in England researching the Gates family in Kent in the south of England, when it occurred to me that while I was in London, I had a perfect opportunity to search for Great Grandfather Arthur Lewis' brother John.  I spent many happy hours at the National Archives at Kew Gardens.

Arthur Lewis
            I grew up with the story that the last letter Arthur received from his brother told about John being trained to ride camels in the Sahara.  Arthur never heard from his brother again.  For 100 plus years, our family has thought, John Lewis died in the Boer War. I was in and out of London all summer, it was my project while I was there to search for this long-lost brother.

Brian Thompson
When my friend, Brian Thompson found out I was in England to do family research, he started researching his own family. When I returned nine days later from Kent, he had a blossoming family tree.  He was a magnificently obsessed genealogist, staying up until 2 a.m., searching the internet.  Each time I came back to London, I was amazed how fast his family tree had grown.  During his own research, Brian had come upon the Family Records Centre, had visited and said they were very nice and helpful.  So I decided to find out what resources were available to help me find my great grandfather's brother, John.

            After a train journey and the underground and a long walk, I spoke with a young man who explained to me how to search the newly available 1901 British census index. He said it would cost seven pounds, about fourteen dollars, for a copy of whatever record I wanted to see and there was no guarantee it would be the one I wanted.  I told him I'd like to try.  I searched all the John Lewis' in the index and there were many, but one record caught my eye.  I knew John had been a London police constable, and something about a notation that began with London …, made me curious what those dots represented.

I dug in my pocket for seven pounds, the young man said, "Just a minute." He went to a computer and accessed a program only employees were privy to and pulled up the record. He let me look at it.  It was my John Lewis and the dots in the index stood for "police constable."

The 1901 census listed John, his wife, Sarah and their six children, John, Lilian, Arthur, Caroline, Albert, and Sidney.  What was particularly poignant to me, is that my great grandfather named one of his sons John, and his brother John named one of his sons, Arthur, but they never knew it in their lifetimes.

            John did not die in the Boer war.  Now we have more information about that part of the family than we have known for 100 years.  As a teenager, I was convinced we had living relatives still in England.  Now I'm more convinced than ever.

            And the young man who was going to charge me seven pounds whether it was the correct record or not, a record I would have paid 100 pounds for, he printed for me and gave to me for free.  We have help from seen and unseen hands all along the way when we are involved in this work to find our ancestors.

            I felt so close to them as I pieced together their stories. Their landscapes are real places in our hearts.  They are our own blood.

            The young man at the Family Records Centre went out of his way one more time. I couldn't read the street name on the census record, so he retrieved a book and looked up the spelling--Number 6 Crebor Street in Camberwell, Surrey.  I don't know how to search a family forward, it's a bit tricky, but I believe in miracles.

While I was in London, my generous friends, Brian Thompson and Jean Bilton gave me a home and showed me the sights.  Friday, May 27, 2005, I boarded the train at Strawberry Hill to Waterloo station where I met Jean.  It was a thrill to cruise up the Thames to London Tower Bridge past the London Eye, which must be the largest ferris wheel in the world.  The compartments are enclosed and move very slowly.

            We passed some beautifully decorated bridges along the way.  At the tower, of course, we saw the crown jewels and toured the huge facilities of the Tower where enemies of the crown were once imprisoned. We ate lunch and I took this picture of Jean.


             We traveled by underground to Baker Street, where I saw the sculpture of Sherlock Holmes.  We saw a building that had no middle.  We also toured the Marylebone church where Great Grandpa Arthur Lewis was christened.

            We decided to walk to Abbey Road
which was only one underground stop, but a very long distance.  It really was a pilgrimage to recreate the cover of the Beatles album.
Marylebone Church
            It was funny because there was a French woman there and a British man doing the same thing I was.  The Beatles created something quite potent, evidenced by people still thinking about an album cover 35+ years later.  It was the hottest day of the year, so far, and I walked until I didn't think I could walk anymore.

  In the evening, we took a bus to Covent Garden and had dinner at Fizzi.  It was so hot that evening in Twickenham, I propped my windows open with my tennis shoes.  It was probably only 80, but it feels hot there.  The next day was cool again and that's the way I found weather to be in Europe.  There were no long periods of killing heat, it always cooled off right away.

Building without a middle

Waiting for duck (photo courtesy of Brian Thompson)

<A HREF=" SRC="" ALT="Protected by Copyscape Online Copyright Protection" TITLE="Protected by Copyscape Plagiarism Checker - Do not copy content from this page." WIDTH="88" HEIGHT="31" BORDER="0"></A>

No comments:

Post a Comment

These are the stories as I know them. Please feel free to add to my content in polite language. Any comments with profantiy or aggressive language will be deleted.