17 October 2012

Is this Thomas Bonsall & Frances Collins Skeats in 1898?

bonsall bonsall-back

Subject: L Bonsall & wife
Date: late 19th century
Photographer: Arthur Robert Perry, 13 Wellington Place, Hastings
Found: eBay

First off I had to find out just which Hastings it was referring to as there is one in New Zealand as well as in Sussex in the UK. I thought most probably it was the UK seeing as I had found the photo on eBay and it was posted to me from England, but you never surmise anything in genealogy, right?

I found this nice little article on Arthur Robert Perry on the SussexPostCards.info website:-

Perry was born on January 19, 1866 at Holdenhurst near Throop on the northern edge of present day Bournemouth. His father was Robert Perry, a farmer, and his mother was Emily Perry, formerly Emily Wareham. He was the fifth of six children.
Robert Perry died aged 39 in 1873, leaving Emily to bring up the children at Holdenhurst on her own. The 1881 census describes 15-year-old Arthur as a photographer, but gives no indication as to where he worked.
On July 24 in 1890 Arthur married Elizabeth Emily Fisher at Lydney Parish Church in Gloucestershire. Elizabeth was the daughter of a tin plate worker, William Fisher. She worked as a national schoolteacher at Lydney, which was where she had been born, and was eight years older than Arthur. By this date, Arthur was already settled in Hastings, and continuing his career as a photographer. The 1891 census gives his address as 64 Mount Pleasant Road in Hastings and describes him as a photographer's assistant.
By 1893 Arthur Perry set up in business on his own account at 13 Wellington Place, taking over the studio and shop of Frederick Mann, who perhaps had previously been his employer. The 1901 census records that he and Elizabeth lived at 82 Mount Pleasant in Hastings, but by 1911 they moved to 3 Baldslow Road to a house called "The Brambles". They had no children.
Arthur Perry was still in business in 1924, but retired by 1927. He died at Christchurch in Hampshire in 1948, aged 82.

I’ve now established it was the UK and that Arthur Perry was in business from about 1893 to 1924, which is a rather large time frame in which the above photograph might have been taken. I would say before the turn of the century but I’m no expert!

So now I have to work out what the initial of Mr Bonsall is, is it an L or an S or maybe a T? After a few hours searching through the various census and not finding anyone in Hastings or anywhere in Sussex who would fit I tried FreeBMD, still nothing that jumped out at me! Luckily Bonsall is not that common a name but there were still a few named Isaac, Thomas & Samuel to choose from. In the end I think it was just fate that I found Thomas Bonsall in the 1911 census living in Croydon, Surrey aged 78. He said he had been married for 12 years which seemed like a short time for a man of his age which suggested a second marriage. He was a retired timber merchant but unfortunately his wife was not at home. Another few hours research brought me to this conclusion, as to whether it is correct is another matter!

Thomas Bonsall was born on 1 Mar 1833 and baptised 12 May in the St George the Martyr Church in Southwark, Surrey. His father was Thomas a shop-keeper in Union St, mother Ann.

I can find no sign of him or his parents & siblings in the 1841 or 1851 census. On the 11 Aug 1851 he married Elizabeth Harriet Dalton in Newington, Surrey. Over the next four census they were living mainly in London or Camberwell where they had at least four sons before Elizabeth died in the last quarter of1897. A year later in Dec 1898 Thomas married Frances Collins Kynaston nee Skeats in the St Luke’s Church, Camberwell. Frances had been previously married to Frank Kynaston in 1877 in Dorset.

In the 1901 census they are still living at the same address, 9 Elizabeth Tce, Camberwell along with ‘adopted son’ Robert Henry Kynaston aged 9 (his birth was registered in the 3qtr quarter of 1898).

On their marriage certificate they are both listed as widowed but wait, Frank Kynaston I found was still alive in 1901! Was Frances a bigamist? You wouldn’t say you were a widow if you were divorced would you?

By 1911 Thomas & Frances were living at different addresses, Thomas boarding in Croydon, aged 78, been married 12 years, a retired timber merchant. Frances was still in Camberwell with her son who is now ‘Robert Bonsall’, married 13 yrs had one child still living, she was living on ‘her own means’.

Thomas passed away later the same year and in the probate of his will he mentions only one son from his first marriage and the man he was boarding with in the census, no mention of Frances or Robert. I’ve found no death or remarriage for Frances although I did find that Robert died in France in WWI in 1917.

Frank Kynaston died in 1929 and the probate of his will mentions only two schoolteachers.

Thanks to Linda, whose husband is connected to the Skeats line, for all her help in sorting this out. Unfortunately none of it actually proves I have the right people for the photograph but it seems to me they make a very good match.

The man in the photo looks like he’s quite well to do and it could be that it was taken in Hastings while they were on their honeymoon in 1898, to me personally the woman in the photo looks to be a lot younger than him because she has no wrinkles yet! And he obviously had some descendants from the children with his first wife as the person who wrote on the back said ‘grandfather’.

The reason they were no longer living together could be that Thomas found out about Frances’ first husband still being alive, my own personal opinion though. Whatever the reason, it seems their marriage just didn’t work out, it might have been the rather large age difference.

References: sussexpostcards; ancestry.com; FreeBMD; familysearch.org; Commonwealth War Graves


If anyone knows anything about or is connected to the BONSALL or SKEATS families please do contact me, I would love to pass this photo onto a family member. Contact by email is preferable but if you are going to leave a comment please don’t forget to include your email address.

Dawn Scotting

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