For some years, amongst other Tilsed researches, I have been trying to piece together the lives of a number of different men named John Tilsed. Many of them are not my direct ancestors, but Tilsed is a fairly common name in Poole and my general approach with the Tilsed family is that the more events and attributes I link to the correct people, regardless of whether they are my ancestors or not, the fewer events and attributes are left lying around in danger of being linked to my ancestors when they don't belong there.
In pursuit of this research I have received help and information from several researchers in Canada; foremost amongst these is Ron Feniak, who was already himself working on one particular John Tilsed when we made contact. Ron's knowledge and experience of the Newfoundland end of things dovetailed neatly with my work in the Dorset records and online, and by sharing theories and information we have been able to achieve more than either of us could done independently.
Before Ron contacted me, I had postulated that some of the above-mentioned John Tilseds were in fact various aspects of the same man, the man who very helpfully referred to himself in his Will
as “John Tilsed formerly of Shoe Cove near Cape John in the Island of Newfoundland Planter but now of Wimborne Minster in the County of Dorset Gentleman”. Ron had already made some of these links himself, and we have now done a lot of work to arrange and dovetail these selected “Lives” into a single timeline, in order to ensure that it is actually chronologically possible for them to be all the same person.
Combining those "Lives" into one “Life” has necessitated a certain amount of assumption and guesswork, and in many cases this involves judgements rather closer to "on balance of probabilities" than "beyond reasonable doubt". I hope to make it clear where we are certain and where we are reduced to relying on circumstantial evidence. I have listed below the separate "Lives" I have combined to create the narrative for John Tilsed of Newfoundland and Wimborne (1747 - 1834)
. Please note that this narrative is still a work in progress, and we have a lot more detail than is currently shown in the online version.
One assumption I have NOT made, and never have done, is that two actions each ascribed to "John Tilsed" in the same place at around the same time must necessarily both belong to the same man. It is definite that in every year of this John Tilsed's life, there was at least one other John Tilsed - and sometimes several - active in Poole and the surrounding area.
Documents so far searched include the parish registers of Wimborne and of Hampreston, both in Dorset; the Labrador Journals of Captain George Cartwright; the transcripts and digital images of the Lester Diaries made available online by MUN; Dr Keith Matthews’ “Name File” for Tilsed; and the Slade Ledgers held at MUN, MHA and The Rooms.Life 1 - Son of Anthony Tilsed, christened Wimborne 1747Age at burial.
The Wimborne burial register states the age of "John Tilsey", buried 30th
August 1834, as 86. (See Life 4 below for why we can be practically certain this is the right burial). This gives him a date of birth around 1747-1748. Other factors in favour of this being our man are:Existence of the name Anthony amongst his children.
While Anthony is not a rare name, it is fairly unusual for the time and place, and there are far fewer instances of "Anthony Tilsed" than there are, for example, John, James, Thomas or William Tilsed.His going back to Wimborne on retirement from Newfoundland.
John places himself in Wimborne in his will, and he was buried there. This despite him having - presumably - lived in Hampreston during his marriage to Mary Lambert, and apparently living with his daughter Elizabeth Lambert in Pythouse near Christchurch in the early years after his return from Newfoundland. He would also have been very familiar with Poole, as the major place of employment in the area, the main place locally for taking ship to Newfoundland, and more specifically as the headquarters of both Slade & Co and the brothers Lester. Each of these places have more claim to be the obvious place for him to settle, rather than Wimborne where he had no parents, no children, no property, almost certainly no siblings left alive. Perhaps it was just that, through all the years in Labrador and Newfoundland, Wimborne continued to be the place he considered "home".
None of these reasons are any better than circumstantial, of course, but it all seems perfectly reasonable - which is sometimes the best we can do.Life 2 - Employee of George Cartwright in Newfoundland 1771 and Labrador 1785 (First and Sixth Voyages)
It is impossible to search Google Books for "Tilsed" without coming across George Cartwright's memoir, "A Journal of Transactions and Events during a Residence of nearly sixteen years on the Coast of Labrador"
. From Cartwright's journal we learn that a man named "Tilsed" worked for Cartwright in 1771-1772 and again in 1785-1786, and Cartwright describes his activities most days, telling us variously that "Tilsed ... visited his traps ... worked upon the new mainsail ... shot a brace of spruce-game ... hewed and brought home a set of skiff-oars ... finished the hawks of the deer-pound ... was employed in joiner's work ... carpenter's work ... cooper's work ... ".
Cartwright may have spent his days out on the land and the ice with his workers rather sitting behind a desk, but he was indisputably the man in charge, and a gentleman, and thus practically all the references to "Tilsed" are exactly that. To find the first name of this paragon of hard work and all trades, we have to look more closely. In all, Cartwright's descriptions of Tilsed's work for him in 1771-1772 give him his full name only three times, each of them more concerned with the man himself rather than the work he was engaged in at the time:
Sunday 19th May 1771 : "Two of the people belonging to the sealing crew came here this morning, to engage with me for the summer's fishing. I hired one of them (John Tilsed) for a boatsmaster, but would not engage the other."
Saturday 9th November 1771 : "At eleven o'clock John Tilsed arrived in the Sanson shallop with provisions from Fogo; having brought, five men for a sealing-crew; a cooper; and likewise two letters from Marnham [Cartwright's family home]: all of which I had entirely despaired of."
Wednesday 8th April 1772: "John Tilsed having burnt his toes again, on the twenty-second of January, in returning home from hence, and having thawed them by the fire, they mortified so far that he lost both nails, and bared the ends of the bones. I dressed them today, and found them likely to do well."
The second contract, almost fifteen years later, is similar: most mentions, detailing the work, are for "Tilsed", while the very first mention - on Wednesday 1st June 1785 - states "I hired John Tilsed for two summers and a winter, as boatsmaster, for £37 and his passage home. He was formerly a servant of mine; having lived with me in the same station in the years 1771 and 1772."Life 3 - Husband of Mary Lambert, married in Hampreston 1776
John Tilsed and his wife Mary Lambert first took my eye for three reasons. First, Mary seems to have been one of those women whose ovaries both
produce eggs every month and will thus conceive fraternal twins in every pregnancy. Second, that - unsurprisingly for the time, given that twins are normally premature and smaller than singleton babies - most of Mary's children died very young. And finally, that despite the couple marrying in January 1776, there is no sign of any children until July 1781.
There are a number of possible reasons for the apparent delay in producing children:The christenings aren't online yet?
The parish of Hampreston is on the border of Dorset and Hampshire, and neither FindMyPast nor Ancestry, which are the two sites I have subscriptions to, have any images for Hampshire CofE parish registers. The settlement laws would seem to make it unlikely that John would have moved to Hampshire when he was "of Wimborne" at his marriage, but possibly they lived somewhere where a church in Hampshire was nearer than one in Dorset.Mary was too young?
From her age at burial (37 in 1787), Mary would have been about 25 at marriage - which could reasonably be considered the peak of the childbearing years. However, a twins pregnancy will clearly place more strain on the mother's body and perhaps she just wasn't able to carry any early pregnancies near enough to term for the babies to be born alive. It is unlikely that such miscarriages or even stillbirths would have left records that have survived for us to find.John had syphilis?
This is a possibility that always needs to be considered where there are unexplained gaps in childbearing, or a run of apparently sickly babies. However, the sickly babies are probably explained by their being small and premature, and John himself would appear to have enjoyed a long, healthy and very active life, working in Newfoundland and Labrador until at least 1808 when he was over 60, and eventually living to the great age of 86. So this is possibly one of the less likely explanations.John was away working?
In a town like Poole, it is a given that many of the men would have been away at sea for many months at a time. However, it is surely in men's nature to make the most of the times they are at home, and so I don't rate this very highly as an explanation either!
In summary then, the most likely reason for the dearth of children in the first five years of the marriage is the most frustrating and unsettling one - that as yet I simply haven't looked hard enough or well enough in the right places.
Of the children of John and Mary that we do know about - and finding them required careful use of wildcards while searching the Hampreston registers - I found early burials for all of them except Anthony. Five died before the age of one year; the last child, William, was christened at the age of two days on his mother's burial day, and died himself a few days short of eighteen months old. Given all of this, it didn't seem particularly likely that Anthony had survived when all the others had died, but this was definitely a loose end.Life 4 - Father of Elizabeth, Mrs John Young of Twillingate, NewfoundlandItem 1 :
Some years ago I was sent the following transcript of a document pertaining to a settlement by one John Tilsed on his daughter Elizabeth, wife of John Young. It is perhaps a catalogue entry for the original document, and the header includes the date Nov 25 1836:
"Mr Robert Young & Ux to Mr Robert Slade. Power of Attorney to receive dividends of trustess under settlement of John Tilsed, deceased. Robert Slade of Poole, merchant, appointed attorney for John Young and Elizabeth Young, both of Twillingate, to receive the dividends as they become due in
the sum of 1045 pounds, 8 shillings and 2 pence... To which Elizabeth Young is entitled under the settlement made by her father, the late John TILSED who died July 30 1834. Signed Thomas M Lyte"Item 2 :
More recently, a fellow researcher visited The Rooms at St John’s, Newfoundland, and was able to send me a photo of a document which appears to be not so much a Power of Attorney, but more an office ledger record regarding the execution of such Power of Attorney. This is my own transcription of that document:
"Dated November 25th
Mr John Young & Ux [ie wife] to Mr Robert Slade
Power of Attorney to Receive Dividends of Trustees under Settlement of John Tilsed deceased.
Executed this day Power of Attorney, appointing Mr Robert Slade of Poole Merchant Attorney, for John Young and Elizabeth Young both of Twillingate, to receive the Dividends as they become due, on
the sum of One thousand and fifty five Pounds, Eight Shillings and two Pence ??from & each??
Annuities to which Elizabeth Young is entitled under the XX
Settlement made by her Father the late John Tilsed, who died on the thirtieth July one thousand Eight Hundred & thirty four.
Signed by Thos
M Lyte N.P. "
It may be important to note that there are small but very significant differences between the two versions of the document. The main differences to note are:
(a) In addition to Elizabeth Young, Item 1 has reference to an unspecified Mr Robert Young as well as to John Young, while Item 2 mentions only John Young. It appears to be established fact that John Young's father was called William. There is no evidence, so far as I know, for John having a brother named Robert, leaving the identity of Robert Young a complete mystery. Having now seen the ledger copy of the document, and the fact of the other party being Mr Robert
Slade, I think the most likely explanation is a copying error on the part of either the person creating the catalogue entry or the (unknown) transcriber.
(b) In item 1 it would appear that the total of the dividends due
is £1045 8s 2d, and that this will be paid to Elizabeth in a succession of payments until the total is reached. In item 2 it seems that the capital sum invested
is £1055 8s 2d, and that the dividends accruing from this investment will be paid to Elizabeth until some unspecified point in the future.
Assuming/guessing for now a rate of return of perhaps 5% on investment, Item 1 says that Elizabeth will receive a total of £1045 8s 2d
over an unspecified period, while Item 2 suggests that she will receive roughly £52 5s per annum
, presumably until the Annuities are sold or Elizabeth dies.
This is a difference which would presumably very significantly affect Elizabeth's financial status. I believe that the only way to be sure exactly what is happening here is to see the original Settlement "signed" by John Tilsed. At present I have no knowledge of where this Settlement might be found.
(c) Of less significance is the difference in the sums mentioned: £104
5 8s 2d and £105
5 8s 2d. This is presumably simply a copying error.
In his Will, written 28th February 1831 and proved 30th April 1835, John referred to himself as "John Tilsed, formerly of Shoe Cove near Cape John in the Island of Newfoundland but now of Wimborne Minster in the County of Dorset Gentleman".
According to the documents transcribed above, John Tilsed died 30th July 1834. It therefore seems practically certain that he is the "John Tilsey" aged 86 who was buried in Wimborne Minster on 3rd August 1834.
In my opinion, the document transcribed above proves beyond all reasonable doubt that Elizabeth Young (who died or was buried on 6 Mar 1851) - wife of John Young and known to family tradition in Newfoundland as "Elizabeth Tilsie/Tilsey" or "Betty Telsie of Shoe Cove" - was the daughter of John Tilsed born about 1747-8, of Wimborne in Dorset.
(So far as I know, the identity of Elizabeth's mother is completely unknown. It is also not clear at the moment whether Elizabeth's surname at marriage was even Tilsed, although the family tradition does support that reading.)Life 5 - Employee and associate of the Slade Company of Poole and Newfoundland
There are various brief references online to a man named Tilsed having worked for, or been associated with, the Slade Company. None of these give much detail, and so it was some time before I was able to check whether Slade's man could be someone I already "knew".
A research partner visiting various archives in St John's very kindly sent me images of some of the ledger entries for John Tilsed and we were able to use those to develop our knowledge of this particular "Life". The earliest known appearance of John Tilsed in the Slade ledgers appears to be 1788, and the last, 1808.
Within that period, John was apparently at Battle Harbour from 1792 to 1795, and it is a ledger entry for 14th July 1795 that is the most fascinating of all: a payment of 6d against the name "A. Tilsad".
Combined with an entry in Keith Matthew's Name File* regarding purchases "by your son at Poole" and a reference in the same file to "part of your son's passage per Love & Unity from Poole", this would appear to be conclusive evidence that the man working for and with Slade's between 1788 and 1808 was the husband of Mary Lambert (Life 3 above), and that their son Anthony not only survived infancy, but took ship just before his thirteenth birthday to join his father in Newfoundland.
*Unfortunately the Slade ledgers from which these entries were copied in the 1970s have apparently since gone missing.Life 6 - Testator in the will of "John Tilsed formerly of Shoe Cove near Cape John in the Island of Newfoundland Planter but now of Wimborne Minster in the County of Dorset Gentleman"
In the ages before National Insurance numbers, personal tax codes, date-of-birth-and-mother's-maiden-name, the first sentence of a will, where the Testator describes himself/herself, is intended to make it clear to all comers exactly who this will belongs to.
It seems to have been important to John to lay an audit trail between the "Gentleman of Wimborne" and the "Planter of Shoe Cove in Newfoundland". This certainly suits the researcher's purpose admirably, and was possibly also of importance in the matter of his daughter Elizabeth's financial settlement (see Life 4 above).
Additionally, it would have been important for John to distinguish himself from any other John Tilseds in the area. He would have been aware of various Tilsed families living in Poole, and whether he knew the man personally or not, he probably knew of the existence of the man known to Trinity House as "John Tilsed senior, Pilot". Some ten years younger than the man I call "John the Planter", this John Tilsed was still alive at the time the latter made his will in 1831.
Given that "John the Planter" seems to have retired to Dorset after the end of 1808 at the very earliest, his ship will almost certainly have been brought into the Harbour by a licenced Trinity House pilot. It is not at all outside the bounds of possibility that the pilot was John Tilsed senior himself or his son John Tilsed junior. (John the Planter will have had the advantage over me in that he probably knew exactly in what way he was related to those men!)Life 7 - Grandfather of the children of Aaron Harris
From the Will in Life 6 above, it is certain that the Testator in that will is the grandfather of at least three of the children of Aaron Harris, and thus creation of a separate "Life" for consideration of the grandchildren might be considered unnecessary. However, as identifying the grandchildren was a completely separate exercise from that of identifying the Testator himself, I felt the new "Life" was justified and would enable a clearer view of this additional aspect of John Tilsed's story.
The will names three people specifically as grandchildren:
 my grandson John Harris of Pythouse
in the parish of Christchurch and County of Southampton
 my granddaughter Eliza Harris
 my grandson Anthony Harris son of Aaron Harris
of Pythouse aforesaid
Luckily for us there were, or had been, other Anthony Harrises in the area, and thus it was necessary for the will to state his father's name as well as the location in order to identify the correct Anthony Harris.
The will also mentions "the seven children of the said Aaron Harris". It is of course possible that only Anthony is a son of Aaron; that the acknowledged grandchildren John Harris and Eliza Harris are John Tilsed's grandchildren via some other route; and that the "seven children of Aaron" therefore include Anthony but not John and Eliza. I have tried to bear this possibility in mind at all times during the research.
Finally, the will makes mention of one George Lambert of Longham
, and Caroline Lambert
his daughter, without giving any clue as to who they are. I believe it to be significant that in four separate places in the will, George and Caroline are treated similarly to the acknowledged grandchildren; it therefore seems reasonable to suppose that either George or Caroline might also be a grandchild of John Tilsed.
(a) John Tilsed's "wearing apparel" was to be divided between George Lambert and grandson John Harris.
(b) Grand-daughter Eliza Harris was to have "my best bed", and Caroline Lambert "my other bed"
(c) The bed furniture and bedding was to be equally divided between Eliza Harris and Caroline Lambert
(d) The will specifies that "my plate" should be divided into eight equal lots, one each for the seven children of Aaron Harris and the last for Caroline Lambert
So we have Aaron Harris as the father of three acknowledged grandchildren and four more probable grandchildren, and we have George Lambert as the father of Caroline who is treated in very similar fashion to the acknowledged grandchildren.
It was fairly straightforward to find a christening for Anthony Harris, son of Aaron, and as a bonus, his middle name was "Tillsey". (See note* below). I have not yet seen an image for the christening, but two separate transcripts both state that his parents were Aaron Harris and Elizabeth. Aaron's occupation is not given in the transcripts, but "abode" was given as Woolsbridge, which is about five miles from Pitthouse Farm in Pitthouse Lane, the probable site of Aaron Harris's 1831 residence.
In all, I have found eight christenings to Aaron Harris and Elizabeth, starting with John Harris in 1813 and Eliza Harris in 1815, with the last christening in 1830. Aaron Harris married Elizabeth Lambert - same surname as George - in 1812, and they are confirmed as the correct couple from the fact that the last five christenings were in an Independent chapel which included the mother's maiden name - Lambert - in the record. Six of these children have been identified and followed forward, leaving Eliza's story as yet unknown and her sister Mary as the one who had presumably died by the time John signed his will.
So how did John Tilsed come to be the grandfather of the children of Aaron Harris and Elizabeth Lambert? In an effort to work this one out I followed Anthony forward through the census and found his mother Elizabeth with him in 1871 and 1881, giving her birthplace as Longham in one and Wimborne in the other, while in 1851 she said Hampreston. Elizabeth was more consistent in giving her age in the census - 50, 60, 70, 80 in 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871. This gives her a date of birth around 1791.
Noting the coincidence of surnames for Elizabeth Lambert the wife of Aaron, George Lambert the father of Caroline and John Tilsed's own ex-wife Mary Lambert, and the fact that Mary Lambert married John in Hampreston, I started looking there for candidates for George Lambert and Elizabeth. Neither of these is a particularly unusual name, but one group of christenings in Hampreston was particularly interesting:
1788 - George Lambert, natural son of Jane Lambert
1794 - Elizabeth daughter of Jean Lambert
1801 - Henry son of Jane Lambert, base born.
The next question, clearly, is "Who are Jane and Jean Lambert?" It needs to be noted that at this time the names Jane, Jean and Jenny are often interchangeable; I have an individual on my tree who was christened and buried as Jane, signed the marriage register as Jean, and signed as her sister's marriage witness as Jenny. So these christenings could be all to one mother or to two different ones.
The Jane Lambert who was buried on Henry's christening day in 1801 was 41 years old, giving her a birth date of around 1760. There are two likely candidates in Hampreston for this Jane - Jenny Lambert the daughter of Richard, 1760, and Jane Lambert daughter of Richard, 1763.
John's late wife Mary Lambert, also buried (in 1787) on the christening day of her last child, was 37 at the time, thus born about 1750. This corresponds well with a christening on 22 Apr 1750, Mary Lambert the daughter of Richard.
So my thinking here is - this looks like a Deceased Wife's Sister scenario. At that time, marriage to the deceased wife's sister was not technically illegal in England (it became so in 1835), but it was prohibited by the church which amounted to much the same thing for most people, and there are many instances of couples marrying in distant parishes to get round this difficulty.
As at 20th November 1787, the burial of his wife, John Tilsed had a five-year-old son (Anthony), and a two-day-old baby (William) to look after, all his other children by Mary having died as infants. The baby will have required a wetnurse, and Mary's sister Jane, with an illegitimate child (John Tremen Lambert) aged twenty-two months, may well have been able to fulfil this function. At the very least - and bearing in mind that milk for a toddler is not ideally suited for nurturing a newborn - as Mary's sister she is an obvious candidate for looking after the baby, even if she didn't feed him herself.
This is not something which is ever likely to be proved, but my position at this point is that John Tilsed was the father of Jane's children George and Elizabeth, and that George was the father of Caroline while Elizabeth, as the wife of Aaron Harris, was mother to John, Eliza, Anthony and five more Harris grandchildren. It is less likely that John Tilsed was the father of Henry Lambert, as we have him almost certainly in Newfoundland at the relevant time.
*There are occurrences of "Tylsed" in some early records, but the normal and persistent spelling of the name from 1630 onwards is Tilsed. The double-L in Anthony's middle name is unusual but not unknown at the time, and Tilsey rather than Tilsed is a deviant spelling which is not uncommon to the East of Poole, notably on Portsea Island. Anthony himself is known to have spelt his middle name "Tilsed".
(It should be noted that Tilsey also occurs as an entirely separate name, but within Dorset and Hampshire - apart from one known incomer family in Portsea who really were Tilseys of Somerset - it is a deviant spelling for Tilsed.)
List of John Tilsed's Harris grandchildren:1813 John Harris
Became Superintendent of Police in Wiltshire, married Emily Blundell Shipman, died 1890.1815 Eliza Harris
Died after 28th February 1831, but not yet found apart from that.1817 Anthony Tilsed Harris
Became Head of Stores at HM Dockyard, Deptford, married Margaret Anderson, died 1878.1820 Susan Harris
Married Henry Sayer Rumble, became a Beer Shop Keeper, died 1894.1822 Mary Harris
By process of elimination, she must have died before 28th February 1831. (Eight christenings, only seven in the will).1825 Henry Tilsed Harris
Became a fisherman/planter in Newfoundland, married Olivia Noel there in 1854, died in Newfoundland 1910.1828 Louisa Harris
Married Erastus Beckett, a police sergeant who abandoned her and moved to the USA. Died after 1891.1830 Joseph Harris
Became a Grocer, married Fanny Louisa Green (sister-in-law to Robert Comport Zinzan) in 1860. "Supposed dead" in the will of his brother John, which was signed 27th June 1888.
Presumed grand-daughter Caroline Lambert is a good fit for the Caroline Lambert of Hampreston who married soldier John Vinter in Wimborne on 9th August 1836. She christened children in Wimborne, Maidstone, Bermuda, Dublin and Dover, and is buried in Dover where she died in February 1848 aged 29.
~ ~ ~
Other sources used in the narrative include the Diaries of Isaac Lester and Benjamin Lester, merchants of Poole and Newfoundland, who mention various Tilseds through the years, and the parish registers and Churchwardens' Accounts of Wimborne Minster and of Hampreston.
Some of those "Lives" I have excluded from this narrative:
John Tilsed, Mariner, born 1711, son of William Tilsed and Hannah Pike. Died 1798 aged 88.
John Tilsed, Cordwainer, married Jane Trim in 1759.
John Tilsed, Pilot, born 1758, son of William Tilsed (probably a Pilot), and Aphra Gravener of Rye.
John Tilsed, Pilot, born 1785, son of John Tilsed, Pilot, and Elizabeth Frampton