Saturday, September 12, 2009

Redux: Finding Family in Hammer and Nails, and a Pint of Beer

William Aylard worked with his hands as a carpenter in the small farming town of Soham in Cambridgeshire, England, where he also tended a pub. Life in the quiet countryside was no doubt typically uneventful, but his life in 1851 was about to be turned upside-down.

He was born in 1814 in a district of greater London known as Stepney (or Stepney Green, as it is recorded in one census document), although both of his parents were apparently native to Cambridgeshire some distance away. He was named William, as were his father and grandfather. Although born in London, William lived in Soham throughout his youth by all indications, and any connections to possible family in London are not yet known.

When in his early twenties, he married Ann Darnell, apparently in the months or years just before civil registration became mandatory in 1837. She gave birth to his first child, Ann, in the Spring of 1839. Before the end of that year, however, his wife died of the wasting disease then known as Consumption, which is now called tuberculosis. His young daughter went to live with his dead wife's parents.

A few years later he married his second wife, Fanny Levet. She gave birth to two sons, both named William (the first died in infancy), and a daughter named Sarah (likely in honor of both of their mothers who shared the name). In 1851, after nearly ten years of marriage, Fanny also contracted Consumption and died.

Whether Fanny's death was an impetus, or whether William fulfilled what had been a mutual intention is not known. But shortly after his second wife's death, he left England with Sarah and young William and immigrated to the United States.

Somewhere in that transaction, he married his third wife — my great-great grandmother — Sophia Barret. Sophia was also from Soham, and had given birth to one son, David, out of wedlock at the age of sixteen. (Family lore indicates that David's father was Sophia's employer in her role as a hired house-keeper. The degree of consensuality involved is simply not known; however, it appears that David bore his mother's surname until he later adopted that of his step-father, William Aylard.)

Family stories indicate that Sophia and David came to America aboard the same ship as William and his two children, and that she even tended to an apparently ill-stricken William during the trans-Atlantic crossing. Almost certainly, William and Sophia must have known each other long before they journeyed to the United States, having lived in the same small town all of their lives. Perhaps being aboard the same ship gave opportunity to renew or deepen an existing acquaintance. Or perhaps they knew each other well and were part of a joint plan to begin a new life in the New World.

Further research may yet show that many left Soham for the United States at that time as some surnames that appear in England census documents for Soham also later appear in United States census documents in proximity to William and Sophia. The couple — apparently married shortly after their arrival in the United States — settled with their blended family in the small community of Palmyra, New York, and there gave birth to several children, including my great-grandfather, John Aylard.

There are some indications that William may have attempted an alcohol wholesale and retail business in Buffalo, New York, for a short time, perhaps relying on experience he had gained by running his pub in England. However, by 1860, on the eve of the United States Civil War, William moved his family from New York to Brunswick, Ohio, where he and Sophia lived for much of the rest of their lives. William died on 17 February 1886 at 72 years of age, and Sophia died on 21 August 1889 at about 64 years of age.

I have republished this post from my previous blog, Aylard Family Research.

1 comment:

  1. I really enjoyed your description of your adventure so far.

    Love Dad