Monday, 28 January 2013

Mystery Monday - There but not there!

Lillian NewnhamLillian Newnham, the daughter of William Essex Newnham and Margaret Gill, was born in Guisborough, Yorkshire in 1879.  Her parents had only moved to Yorkshire from Woolwich, London a few years before her birth and  the rest of the Newnham and Gill families - apart from her mother's brother Edward who came north with them - remained in London.

Census records show Lillian living in the Guisborough area with her family in 1881 and 1891 but after that no trace can be found of her in census, marriage or death records and she effectively disappears.

Except she doesn't.  For in the belongings inherited from her nieces - my great aunts - she is ever present.

There are photos of a slightly austere but stylish woman in the 1920s, gorgeous Raphael Tuck Oilette post cards sent to her nieces in  the 1930s and beautifully inscribed books given to her nieces and nephews as birthday and Christmas presents.

Unfortunately, the post cards and photos reveal nothing about where she was - the post marks are illegible - and what she was doing.  There are no photos or mentions of a husband or child and so she appears to be single.  Her appearance and the gifts she sent suggest that she was financially comfortable if not affluent.  But beyond this we know nothing of what became of her.

I have a picture of Lillian in Trafalgar Square with her sister Annie, (my great grandmother) in the 1920s and it is possible that she had moved to London.

Her father William - the son of John Newnham and Frances Mezaler Mallery - had certainly kept at least some contact with his family in the capital as in the 1891 census both his niece, Mary Syndercombe, and his sister in law, Ann Eveson, were visiting from Woolwich.

Later in the 1930s, three of Annie's four children would leave home in the north to train in London and so the call of the capital on the Newnham family does seem to have remained strong.  Whether Lillian was also in London I just don't know.

From her photos, letters and gifts Lillian seems a fascinating character and I would love to fill in the gaps and know more about her.  Can you think of a way that I might be able to trace her? I would greatly value your suggestions.

If you enjoyed this piece of my family's history please follow me on Twitter and Pinterest.

If you're researching the Newnham-Mezaler Mallery family you will also find more information at Jacobs of London written by a descendent of Reuben Newnham.


  1. What an interesting mystery. You have the memorabilia (postcards and photos) but no document trail. So the social history part without the hard evidence needed for genealogical research--fascinating. If and when you figure this out, I would love to know!

    Lori Lyn Price

  2. Hello,
    I think I may have found a death for Lilian. Also may have found a passenger list entry for her.
    All the best @geniewiz on Twitter