Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Charlie, the black sheep of the family...

I think every family has a *black sheep* among it’s ancestors, and this particular family is no exception…

I would not have liked this man….….
Born in 1878 Charlie was the eldest of eleven children.  Even as a young boy he proved quite a handful, always getting into some kind of scrape.

He left school aged fourteen and went to work alongside his father, uncle and two cousins in the local Pottery works…His initial job was as a general labourer, but after a couple of years he was given the task of driving the small factory engine around the plant.
This was still his occupation at the time he married Sarah in 1899 -  she was five years his senior and already mother to a two year old son.
...After three years of marriage they had increased their family by producing two daughters…Sadly almost two years after the birth of the youngest child, Sarah died from a viral infection.
Charlie knew he wouldn’t be able to cope looking after three young children on his own and decided it would be best for the children if they went and lived with their maternal grandparents in Birmingham…whether he ever visited them is open to speculation, as I understand he was not the most attentive of fathers.

 Now that he was free from all family responsibilities he decided an Army life might suit him – He enlisted in one of the Guards regiments – one report says it was the Grenadier Guards, but I’m not sure if this  information is correct.
I’m afraid Charlie didn’t take to military life at all – maybe he didn’t appreciate why there had to be such strong discipline in the Military…Whatever the reason, he went AWOL (Absent without Leave) and made his way back home to begin a long drinking session at the local public house!
According to family talk passed down through the years, it appears two Military Policemen were sent to locate and return him to barracks – this they did, but not before joining him for two days in his drinking episode. (this extra anecdote seems unlikely)…I don’t know what punishment the Army imposed on Charlie, but the upshot was he persuaded his parents to buy him out of the Guards.

For a couple of years he went from casual job to casual job, finally settling as a farm labourer. It was during this period, at the age of twenty nine that he met a young fifteen year girl named Annie and within a short space of time it seems her father and brothers *encouraged* Charlie to marry Annie on her sixteenth birthday – just one week prior to her giving birth to a baby son!...Of course this marriage was just to legitimise their baby and although they produced a further three children, their union was not a happy one.
            One day shortly after the youngest child was born Charlie walked out of the house, and that was the last Annie ever saw of him. He’d left her to bring up their four young children without any support whatsoever…. Thankfully Annie’s sister was living close by and able to look after the children while Annie found whatever work she could to put food in her children’s mouths.

 I’m led to understand that Charlie’s name was never mentioned in the family again.....although one family member is reported as having seen him in a seaside town in the NW of England a few years later, where apparently he’d set up home with a lady who owned a guest house.

Whether he and this other lady ever went through any form of marriage ceremony I don’t know, but no divorce record has ever been found for Annie and Charlie.  Oddly on his death certificate the person who registered his death is written down as his *grandson*!... It’s quite possible this last family of Charlie’s had no idea of his  previous life….

What an irresponsible man he must have been. He flouted convention and apart from leaving his second wife penniless, he also deserted the children from both of his legitimate families! …not the nicest of men to know.


  1. Nice article, thanks for the information.

    Anna @ sewa mobil jakarta

    1. Thank you for your kind comment..

  2. This is a sensitive subject for me personally, probably because I like to give people the benefit of the doubt. I'm not excusing this man's abominable behaviour though, so many innocent people hurt in the fallout of his deceitful choices. Great post, Ann. Thanks for sharing. xx

  3. Thank you Debra,..if only we could change how some of our ancestors behaved, it would make our family research so much easier.

  4. I have a similar ancestor in my family. My great-great-grandmother married my great-great-grandfather and had four children with him, the youngest being born in 1901 (my great-grandmother). Not long after the youngest was born, my gg-grandmother left her husband and children, eventually having two more illegitimate children with two different men. Her four eldest children never saw her again. It's not often you see a mother leave her children...

  5. I agree, it's very rare for a mother to leave the family. Thank you for your comments.

  6. Charlie was irresponsible, but he is a colourful character to feature in your ancestry anyway :-) Jo