Here I hope to share my adventures in family history with family, friends and interested parties! Hopefully you'll find something here of interest, I would love to hear your views.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Frank White 1881 - 1909

This case study is about Steve's great grandfather Frank White and how the family name became Kerry and not White.

Case Study

Tragic Death on the Tilford Road

When I first started researching my husband’s family history, I spoke to my father-in-law about his parents and their ancestry.  I was surprised to discover than when he was born he was registered under the name Frank White not Frank Kerry his name now; he said that his father had always been known by the surname Kerry which was the name of his grandmother’s second husband.  He also told me that they didn’t really know what had happened to his grandfather, only that he had died when his father’s sister Nellie was a couple of years old and that he thought it had been in an accident with a horse and cart.

Next time I visited the family history section of our local library, I checked the microfiche of the GRO index for a death of a Frank White sometime between 1907 and 1910; I found the entry I wanted in the March quarter of 1909 and sent for the death certificate. This told me that on the 25 February 1909, at the Cottage Hospital Farnham, Frank White had died from “Internal injuries produced by having been accidently run over by a Furniture van” and that an inquest had been held on the 27 February and the 2 March 1909.  His occupation was given as a Carman of 6 Yeovil Road, Farnborough.

Intrigued, I set out to find out more about Frank White and his family.  I knew from his death certificate that he was 28 at the time of his death making him born about 1881 and I knew that in 1909 he’d been living in Farnborough, however, I didn’t know where he had been born.  Fortunately the 1901 census was available on www.ancestry.co.uk; at first I was unable to find Frank in the census, but I did find his wife, Susan Ellen Gaines with her family at 5 Yeovil Road, two entries above her at 6 Yeovil Road was a Frank White a 20 year old coal carter, Frank had married the girl next door.  The census also gave me his birth place of Odiham in Hampshire, not that far away from Farnborough and that he was visiting his sister Elizabeth, who was married to Susan’s cousin John.

With this information and a visit to the Society of Genealogist’s library in London where I was able to examine the parish registers for Odiham, I was able to put together a family tree for Frank and the White, Watts and Gaines families who were linked by marriage in several generations.  Frank was the 8th child (of 12) of James
White and his wife Louisa Watts, he was born in Odiham in 1881 and moved to Farnborough, presumably for work, where he met and married Susan Ellen Gaines on the 26 December 1903, they had two children Frank born 1904 and Nellie born in 1907.  In February 1909 he was sent on a job by his employers with two other men to drive furniture vans from Rowledge to Wisley Green, by way of Tilford; a journey that was to end in tragedy.

His death certificate had told me that an inquest had been held and given the dates, but on enquiring I learned that the papers for the coroner’s inquests were no longer available for that date.  I would have to go the route of checking the local newspaper.  Not being in a position to visit Farnborough I put a request on the Rootschat forum page for lookups in Hampshire that if anyone was visiting the local library, could they check the newspapers for me.  Fortunately some kind soul did just that and within a few days I had transcribed copy of the newspaper entry, which was an almost verbatim report of the inquest held within a couple of days from that of Frank’s accident, from the Farnham Haselmere and Hindhead Herald for the 6 March 1909 (page 5).

Frank and two colleagues had been on the journey and Frank’s father-in-law Charles Gaines gave evidence that he had seen Frank the previous Tuesday and knew he was going on this journey, and that he had worked for Mr Ward for the last five years and had been accustomed to the work.  The men had been on the road opposite the entrance to Tilford Reeds, Arthur Marks one of the other carmen told the inquest that they had had trouble with the skid pan on Frank’s van and that the chain had broken.  Chas Mosdell the other carman on the journey said that he was first on to the hill where the accident had happened and that when he got to the bottom of the hill he noticed from the light on Frank’s van that he was coming down the hill pretty quickly, and when he got to the van at the bottom of the hill, he saw that only two horses were attached – the other horse had been the one Frank had been walking in the traces.

Neither of the other two carmen actually witnessed the accident happening, but it appears that the horses bolted due to the excess demand on them (the furniture van weighed between four and five tons); Frank was walking beside the horses and not riding on the dickey as he had no skid pan, the chain having broken and was likely run over by the van on its descent of the hill.  He was taken to Trimmers Cottage Hospital in Farnham, admitted at 11.30 pm on the Wednesday evening and died the next day at 10.15 am from internal injuries. The jury returned a verdict of accidental death but added a rider that had the van had a foot brake Frank would probably been riding not walking beside the horses and would have got down the hill successfully.

Frank’s death left his wife Susan Ellen a widow at the age of 23 with two young children, Frank junior was only 4 and his sister Nellie was two.  On looking them up on the 1911 census at www.findmypast.co.uk, I found the family living with Susan Ellen’s parents at Yeovil Road Farnborough. It wasn’t until 1912 that she married William Kerry, a Lance Corporal in the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, he was based at the Tourney Barracks in Farnborough.  William and Susan Ellen went on to have six further children as well as Frank and Nellie. From this time onwards, Frank junior became known as Frank Kerry and used the name for all purposes except that of on his marriage certificate.  Frank had married Victoria Annie Lilian Tonks in 1927 and had two sons, Frank Edward born 1930 and Brian in 1937.

Frank junior changed his name by deed poll by swearing a declaration that he had been known by the name Frank Kerry since the marriage of his mother to William Kerry and that he had “always been known as Frank Kerry and I have for fifty years and upwards used the name of Frank Kerry for all purposes including official documents other than my said certificate of Marriage.”  Frank had changed his name to be officially that of his step father William.

The tragedy that ended young Frank White’s life also changed the lives of that of his wife and two children; and led to the family name being changed.  I was struck not only by the horrific accident that ended his life, but by the minutiae of details that the coroner’s inquest had covered.  From the details provided by the various witnesses called to the inquest a full detail of Frank’s last moments was unveiled, including the fact that his was an abstainer and that he had had a penny on him when his father-in-law last saw him and that it was found on his person when he died.  From the statement of one of the witnesses, George William Lonsdale the Headmaster at Tilford Nation School (who was called to help at the accident) I have been able to pinpoint, using maps and Google’s streetview software, almost exactly where the accident took place.  From the testimony of Miss Potter the Matron at Trimmer’s Cottage hospital I know that Frank was conscious when he was admitted to the hospital though he was in a state of collapse; and that Frank had told her that one of the horses had broken its leg, but had said nothing as to how he met with his own injuries.

Even though the inquest report has not survived, from the details reported in the newspaper, I almost feel as though I attended that inquest myself.  The work he carried out was hard and his death must have left a lasting impression on that of his widow and young children, it is hardly surprising then, that my father-in-law said that his father never spoke of the tragedy.


In the days of horse drawn transport there were plenty of jobs for men like Frank who were generally known as carters or carriers and occasionally carmen.  Their job entailed not just driving the cart, but loading and unloading the goods, as well as looking after the horses. Many carriers transported goods and people between towns and villages, and details of these services are often found in old directories such as Pigots or Whites. Others worked for the railways, collecting goods at the rail yard and then taking them to their final destination. Being a carter was a physically demanding job and would have necessitated a good knowledge of the local area. The type of carts used would vary from job to job, from a two wheeled vehicle probably pulled by one horse, delivering goods in a town, to larger four wheeled vehicles pulled by teams of horses.

Change of Name

Finding out if an ancestor changed their name is not easy, as by English Common Law, you can call yourself whatever you wish.  However, if you need to prove that you have changed your name, to apply for a passport etc., then some documentary evidence of that change will be required.  Deed polls are legal documents involving only one party and are sworn in front of a solicitor.  The deed is the property of the person who changed their name, and there is no obligation to have a copy lodged anywhere central for safe keeping. Some were enrolled and indexes of those that were are held at the National Archives; from 1914 the enrolled deeds had to be advertised in the London Gazette.  If your ancestor changed their name during 1939-1945, names could only be changed 21 days after details of the proposed name were advertised in the Gazette.

Skid Pan

A skid pan was a chain like device used for attaching to the back wheel of a vehicle before going down steep hills. It operated as a brake, by applying friction to the wheel and locking it in place.  See diagram....

From the Dictionary of Daily Wants 1859

No comments:

Post a Comment