Moreover, my ancestors' souls are sustained by the atmosphere of the house, since I answer for them the questions that their lives once left behind. I carve out rough answers as best I can. I have even drawn them on the walls. It is as if a silent, greater family, stretching down the centuries, were peopling the house.

Carl Jung (1875 - 1961)

Friday, 13 March 2015

Its all in the name: "Not my family - The Jonathan Jarvis Mystery"

It’s not just the true stories of family that are interesting – the tales that are not my family are just as intriguing. We all have family stories that attempt to answer mysteries or make sense of the past. Some are just impossible, but most are based on a little bit of fact that has been embroidered, or miss-remembered and handed down through a few generations. I’ve got a few of these tales and here is Number One.

The Jonathan Jarvis Mystery

Quite a few family trees accessible online of my Jarvis side have my 2 x great grand Uncle Jonathan Jarvis dying at sea in Indonesia in 1900. Others don’t – they have him married and living in New South Wales, Australia. At least since 1977 the real story from the Pearl Jarvis Augustus research
indicating that Jonathan made his way to Australia – has been known, along with the first of his Australian marriages but all too many of the family trees have not caught up with the correct version. Because my 2 x Great Uncle Edwin Jarvis was instrumental in perpetuating the wrong story, here is a chance to get it right. Uncle Edwin had lived in South Africa for some time, and about 1939, visited his New Zealand relatives in Dunedin. The family there had the impression he was rather grand, and may have ‘money’. They entertained him with some family parties and there is a reunion photo very handy for family historians. This one is a bit less formal – it’s my grandparents Mabel and John Thomas Jarvis and their three children including my mother (her brother, the youngest child was not yet born) at a family cottage ‘down the kaike’ with Uncle Edwin.

Uncle Edwin was later in correspondence with the relatives of George Jarvis, a brother of his father Mark Jarvis. George and his wife Ann were early Mormon pioneers and are beautifully remembered on a number of websites.George Jarvis and Ann Prior Jarvis Edwin was also keenly interested in the Jarvis family history.
 This is a letter from Edwin Jarvis to Erastus Leon Jarvis published in the Book ‘George Jarvis and Joseph George DeFriez Genealogy’ by Margaret Overson 1957.

In order to find out how Florence Bamford may have become part of this story, I sent for her marriage certificate.
This gave me her fathers’ name.
Florence Bamford was born Florence Jarvis in 1889. Florence was a photographer, and so was her father before her. Her father’s name was John Edward Jarvis, and he was born in Kingsbridge, Devon. They both appear living in the same household with Ann - Florence’s mother and John’s wife -  in the 1911 census; John as a ‘Photographic Artist’ and running the business, and Florence as his assistant.
The 1871 census shows young John Edward Jarvis living with his parents, John Jarvis, who is a Carpenter, and Ann, his mother, who is an ‘upholsteress’. John Jarvis Snr states consistently in censuses  that he was born in Malborough, Devon and the 1841 census shows him there with his parents, Thomas and Jane. John Jarvis died in Kingsbridge, Devon in 1888, the year that John Edward Jarvis married his wife Florence Hatton in Wiltshire. So Edwin seems to have been keen to make connections, but definitely mistaken, and the memory of Florence’s father was faulty, as his father John Jarvis was never ‘lost at sea’, let alone born in Harlow, Essex in 1826 with the name Jonathon. 


But in all fairness, there are other 'Jonathan Jarvises'  in Kingsbridge, Devon. A couple are pilots and sail-makers, although the two I have found lived long lives and don’t seem to have been lost at sea as given available records and including a search in the British Newspaper Archive. I have not been able to connect these with John Edward Jarvis, who was originally a shoemaker like his father but changed his profession to become a photographer. John Edward Jarvis may have connected something his father said – a lost cousin, or young uncle perhaps. While I have not found a baptism for a Jonathan Jarvis contemporary with John Jarvis Snr who was born in the 1820’s, this does not mean there was no such person in Kingsbridge, Devon.

John Edward Jarvis was elderly when Edwin Jarvis was writing to him in the early 1940’s, and may have replied politely and Edwin took this as definite confirmation. Edwin, from all accounts, seems to be clutching at straws and marrying up random Jarvis families in his eagerness for connection. Considering how common the ‘Jarvis’ surname is, his thoughts expressed in that letter that any Jarvis family in South Africa could be related to him is strange indeed. It is no wonder that the people he approached were not interested!

It’s a little sad that Jonathan’s brother George was worried about him, and the family was relieved to at least find out what happened, although they would have been better pleased if they knew the real story…..
So where did Jonathan Jarvis get to?

Jonathan Jarvis, son of Thomas Jarvis (1789 – 1867) and Elizabeth Billings (1788 – 1875) married Sarah Hill on the 6th January 1850, with brother Mark Jarvis and his wife Ruth as witnesses. Jonathan could well be a boilermaker, with wife Sarah in the 1851 census in Surrey, but there is no additional evidence for it. No-one has been able to find a death for Sarah Jarvis although there are a few women deceased of that name who could be her in the London area in the early 1850’s.  There is a marriage of a possible Sarah to a certain Archibald Richard Buxton Rice in St Pancras, London 1858 which looks promising, and will bear further investigation. Intriguingly, there are a number of people with this slightly unusual name.

The travels of Jonathan Jarvis
A possibility is that Jonathan Jarvis joined on as crew on a merchant shipping vessel. Before 1853, it is very hard to find crew lists and mariner’s certificates for individuals who were merchant seamen. As yet, no information on how Jonathan got to Sydney, Australia has been discovered. More records, possibly relating to Jonathan in the 1880’s, suggest that he could have worked his passage out as a ships’ cook.
Jonathan disappears until a birth registration for a ‘Jonathan Jarvis’ with parents Jonathan and Janet 28 May 1856 in Richmond, NSW Australia. Counting back nine months, they must have met and been a couple by August 1855. Janet Bain, born in Scotland, was an assisted immigrant arriving in Sydney 20th December 1854. Jonathan probably arrived in Australia some time between April 1851 and August 1855, and must have been in the Sydney or Richmond area by August 1855.
Jonathan settled down with Janet in the Richmond and Windsor area and they had at least five children. They lived as a couple before getting married in a civil ceremony in 1861, and incorrectly stated their marriage date on the birth registration of their second child, Elizabeth Emma as 1855. 
So far, their children have been identified as Jonathan Jarvis (1858 – 1924); Elizabeth Emma (1858 – 1946); Thomas (1861 – 1949); William (1866 -1866) and Janet (1868 – 1943). Janet Snr died in Windsor, 1882 and Jonathan married again in 1883 to Ann Woodfield (maiden surname Carnell) who had been married twice before.

Jonathan died on the 1st October 1909 at Smith Street, Parramatta, the home of his eldest son, Thomas. His death certificate gives his age as 84, and his date of arrival in the colonies as approximately 1854. His son Thomas, as informant on the death certificate, was a little hazy about his father’s marriages, only recalling his own mother’s name and not Jonathan’s subsequent marriage to Ann. 

This is a little unusual – could it indicate that Jonathan and Ann separated, and were not living together by the time Jonathan died (a few years before Ann) in 1909? Perhaps Jonathan or Ann were unwell, and needed care from their families and could not remain together.

However Thomas was clear about his grandparents, whom he named as John Thomas Jarvis (known elsewhere as just Thomas Jarvis) and Eliza Billings. Jonathan was buried in the Presbyterian Cemetery, Parramatta on the 2nd of October 1909.
There’s more about Jonathan, his family, and a connection with Gundaroo, NSW that I will explore later, plus a tale of heroism to boot! It’s good to lay Jonathan to rest, but as always, this story leaves more questions.  

Where did the death in ‘Sulawesi Indonesia Circa 1900’ for a Jonathan Jarvis come from? What happened to Sarah, his first wife?
And one day, please let me find photos of Jonathan and his children…..