The Search for Anthony Jacques Cheeper/Clarke

This is written from my own perspective. Others would of course tell the story differently.

Phase 1 – 1970s and 1980s

I'm one of Anthony Jacques Cheeper/Clarke's great-grandsons, in the name-line. (His 23rd child and 6th by Kate Davidge, Willie Tony, had 5 children, and his 2nd son, Edward Anthony (Tony) had 2 children, including me).

In my late 20s, visiting the U.K., I began wondering about my ancestors. I soon realised that all I knew about the name-line at great-grandfather level was that:

In conversations (verging on cross-examinations) in 1977-78 and again in the late 1980s, I extracted from various members of the family the following information:

Phase 2 – 1994

In June 1994, I accessed the 1891 Census record for the Lewisham address. (The relevant collector's area was Superintendent Registrar's District 28, Sub-District 4D, Enumeration District 18, and the document was Film Ref 522 Dist 19 Page 14). This showed a considerable amount of information about the family which was not previously known to my father's generation. For example, it showed the head as Robert, commission agent, with his wife Kate, 5 elder siblings to Willie Tony (3 known, 2 previously unknown), and a servant.

Particularly important clues were:

Also in June 1994, I went to the Lewisham address. I had in mind to ask the occupants whether they knew any of the history. There was no house. Looking at the vicinity, it was apparent that the adjacent corner had had a visitation by a land-mine in the early 1940s. Across an area of a couple of acres, there were (ugly, mostly 'temporary') 1950s buildings. The adjacent house to where 282 Ivydale Road would have been was still there, but number 282 was a vacant space, still containing heavy timber props for the last house in the row that survived the explosion. (50 years on, and still interim! As they say, Britain lost the War).

The estate was built in about 1890, and was fairly well-to-do, and the Clarkes were presumably its first occupants. So the preceding 1881 census would presumably not even show the address, let alone a family living in it.

Phase 3 – Mid-2001

In June 2001, I did a name-search in the 1881 census, for Robert and/or Anthony Clarke, aged 43, in North London. Only one close match was found. This showed Anthony Clarke, Head, age 43, born Middlesex London, profession publisher, at Grosvenor House, Ealing, married to Mary, age 34, with 3 children (Harold 7, Ethel M. 3, Stanley 1), all born Middlesex, and two servants, including Emma F. Terry of Gravesend Kent, age 26.

The two census entries provided a strong indication that Anthony's birth fell between 5 April 1837 and 4 April 1838. Unfortunately, the consolidated Births Register for England and Wales commenced on 1 July 1837. So, when I found no entry, I assumed that his birth was between 5 April and 30 June 1837, and was in a parish register in North London who-knows-where, and possibly destroyed in the Blitz anyway. (In fact, Anthony was born after the consolidation of birth registers, on 27 Sep 1837, and his birth was registered 5 months later on 23 Feb 1838. But of course it was in a different name from what I was looking for).

Despite the gaps, I'd gathered enough information to suggest that Anthony may well have run off with a maid, but that Kate Davidge (Willie Tony's mother and my great-grandmother) was that maid.

Only later did it become apparent that he was rather in the habit of running off with the maid ...

Phase 4 – 2001-2003

My first cousin, Anne Kratzmann (nee Clarke) picked up where I left off. (Her father, Fred, was the eldest son of Willie Tony, i.e. my father's elder brother).

Anne acquired the 1881 census data about the same time that I did. She proved to be an infinitely better family researcher, and far more dedicated to the task, than I ever was. Raw materials for genealogical research were increasingly becoming available on the Web by that time, and Anne also plugged into the emergent networks of researchers. Apart from what's outlined above, most of the details on this web-site derive from Anne's work, with me sometimes as sounding board for theories, but mostly as scribe.

Anne focussed initially on Anthony's children. But by mid-2001, while searching for a marriage registry entry for Anthony and his previous wife, Mary Wanless, she discovered another marriage in 1882, to Emma Terry, Mary's governess in 1881. From there, she pursued Mary's death certificate, and more children.

On 30 April 2002, Anne's investigation of the Wanless children identified the father of the first child, Harold, as being Anthony Jacques Cheeper, whereas the father of the second and third was Anthony Clarke.

It seemed likely that a man who sired many children from the age of 40 onwards, with three women overlapped, probably had a prior marriage. Anne then spent several years researching the Cheeper line, and seeking evidence to support the proposition that the two Anthony's were the same person.

As Anne put it, she has "trawled the total [U.K.] Births, Deaths and Marriages Registries from 1837 to 1940 and [has] extracted all references to Cheeper surname. I also checked all LDS sources and other UK available resources for Pre-1837 entries. There are only 3 Anthony Cheepers found". Anne holds vast numbers of birth, marriage and death certificates (many relevant, some not). She's sent copies of some of them to me. (They're expensive, and you wouldn't want to lose them all and have to start again). Anne also has a copy of Anthony Jacques Cheeper Snr’s will, and copies of various census entries.

During 2002-03, Pat Tuffin in Dorset (a 4th cousin) provided information on the Kate Davidge line (Anthony's 4th wife, and Anne's and my great-grandmother).

Phase 5 – 2003-08

Anne's emails on family lists, and her genealogy sites for Anthony at WanlessWeb and Rootsweb, plus this site, have resulted in a lot of assistance being offered, and connections being achieved. This section lists some of them, but may have missed some as well.

In September 2003, Patrick Hanson-Lowe in London (a 4th cousin on the Bokenham line, Anthony's mother) contacted Anne after seeing the Cheeper entry she had put up on Rootsweb. He provided information on the Bokenham line (Anthony Jacques Cheeper/Clarke's mother).

Contact with the Wanless Line (Family 2)

At Christmas-time 2003, Geoff Clarke was with his son Roger, in Newcastle-on-Tyne. Geoff asked his daughter-in-law, Rachel, to do an Internet search for Cheeper. Anne's request for information was found. Rachel emailed Anne. Contact was thereby achieved between the lines of Kate Davidge (wife 4) and Mary Wanless (wife 2), very probably for the first time ever.

This Roger and Geoff have subsequently met several times at Geoff's place in Walton-on-Thames. Geoff provided a great deal of information on the Wanless line. Geoff had discovered a considerable amount of information, a few years ahead of us, and had published in 1985 the (brilliantly-titled) 'The Hunting of the Clarke'. I've drawn heavily on this in extending the site up the Cheeper lines (including the Bokenham, Jacques and Royal lines).

Contact with the Terry Line (Family 3)

The Wanless line and the Emma Terry (wife 3) line had known of one another, and in the 1940s lived near one another in South London. Geoff Clarke put me in contact with Will Wakeham (then in his 90s). Will was in the habit of holidaying with his son near Rome each June, but I met him in Geoff's company in 2007. Although Kate Davidge was presumably a servant in the Terry household in about 1882, and the Terry and Davidge households may have been briefly in close proximity in Lewisham in 1890, it appears unlikely that any of the children in the two lines ever knew any more about one another than that they existed. So that meeting in 2007 may have been the first between the two lines. I subsequently met Will's daughter Carol Owen in 2009. Carol is a half-second-cousin to Anne and me.

Contact with the UK Cheeper Line (Family 1)

Also in early 2005, Anne achieved contact with the last of the UK Cheepers, Ruth Phillips in Cornwall. I visited Ruth in mid-2005 and mid-2006, and she provided information about the Albert Jacques line (child 3, b. 1862).

Progressively from 2005 to 2009, Anne assembled a series of records that track the sea-borne career of Charles Spilsbury Cheeper (child 4, b. 1863). He rose from able seaman to first mate, but died at 47, without any children to speak of.

Contact with the Davidge Lines (Family 4)

Willie Tony appears to have progressively lost contact with many of his 9 surviving full-siblings. As a result, Willie Tony's children knew (and even knew of) only a few of what we believe to have been 15 full first-cousins. To the best of our knowledge, the 4 Portsmouth children were aware of only 3 of those 15 – Dorothy Clarke/Docwra (from 7. Lawrence), and Donald and David Clarke (from 11. Rue), and even in these cases the last contact was during WWII.

During 2005-08, we gradually found and established contact with all of the six remaining lines – in three cases with the first cousins, and in the other three with Anne's and my full second-cousins.

In early 2005, Anne tracked down and called Dorothy Docwra. She provided a lot of information about the Lawrence line – Kate Davidge's child 7 (Willie Tony was child 6), and about Kate Davidge herself. In mid-2005, I visited Dorothy's son (Anne's and my second cousin) John Docwra near Bradford. In mid-2006, Anne dropped in to see Dorothy in Norwich.

In mid-2006, Anne also visited the Kays in Cleethorpes, who provided information and photos about the Violet Maud line – Kate Davidge's child 1.

Also in mid-2006, Anne tracked down the widow of Oliver Bedford, who passed Anne's letter on to Gordon Bedford in Wales, who replied, and provided some additional information about the Vera Doris line – Kate Davidge's child 9.

During 2005, Barry Wilson contacted Anne through, and subsequently Anne contacted Barry's mother, Helen Wilson, whose mother was a daughter of Kate Antoinette. Anne and Paul visited and stayed with Helen and family in mid-2006. During that visit, Helen and family took Paul and Anne to Hemel Hempsted to meet Vivian Watson and his family. Vivian provided some photos and information on the Kate Antoinette line – Kate Davidge's child 3, and early photos of Anthony and Kate. Anne had contacted Barbara Sidebotham through the same site. Barbara sent Anne a series of photos which her mother had provided. Anne and Paul then visited Barbara in mid-2006. I subsequently stayed with Vivian and Barbara in mid-2007.

Vivian provided the contact-point for Glyn Abbott in South London. I contacted Glyn, met and stayed with him in mid-2007, and subsequently met all of the five siblings, in South London and Bath, in mid-2007 and mid-2009. Glyn provided information about the Victoria (Queenie) line – Kate Davidge's child 8.

In January 2008, Peter Clarke contacted Anne after he turned up an email exchange that mentioned his father and grandfather. Peter lives in Australia, is the son of David Clarke and grandson of Rudolph (Rue) – Kate Davidge's child 11, and hence a full second cousin. Anne and I have yet to meet Peter, but I met and stayed with David in Sidmouth in mid-2008. David provided information about the line. David was able to name all of Rue's siblings (although he felt there may have been one or two more).

Between them, these sources also provided an amount of information about the three Kate Davidge children who had no descendants.

Phase 6 – 2009

Two further surges of effort by Anne have brought us reasonably close to a complete reconstruction of this complex family.

The count of descendants at present appears to be over 50 in Family 1, over 30 in Family 2, over 30 in Family 3, over 150 in Family 4 and c. 20 in Family 5, or approaching 300 in all.

Discovery of the Canadian Cheeper Line (Family 1)

Anne had long suspected that Anthony Sidney Cheeper (Catherine Spilsbury's 6th child, b. 1867) may have migrated to Canada. This was originally based on a younger Cheeper having enlisted in the Canadian forces in WWI, and Sidney having disappeared from public records in the UK.

In mid-2009, a correspondent drew Anne's attention to a record showing his arrival in Montreal. Working with other correspondents in Canada, Anne discovered a series of entries in public records that enabled the reconstruction of much of the family.

The data quality of the records is at best moderate, and the family structure appears to have been complex, so the reconstruction contains a moderate amount of speculation. Considerable efforts invested in making contact with the current generation have been largely fruitless. In September 2009, I managed to achieve a brief conversation with Frank Conrick, who lives in Brantford, SW of Toronto (as do two of his sisters). Frank is a half-second cousin to Anne and me, but of course c. 25 years older and in his 80s.

Discovery of, and Contact with, the Amy Clark Line (Family 5)

Anne had discovered this line in 2005, through Donald Cheeper's birth and death certificate, which led to Amy's birth certificate; but because Clarke is such a common name, she could find nothing more.

In February 2009, the 1911 census data was released. Anne quickly found an entry for Anthony Cheeper, which uncovered a family of six children that started in South London in 1900, while Anthony (Clarke) was still co-habiting with Kate Davidge. Using these names, Anne conducted searches of births, marriages and deaths.

Her research showed that the fifth family (data provisional at this stage!) was almost always known as Clarke. The exceptions were the 1910-11 entries for Donald's birth and death, and the 1911 census.It seems that Anthony (aged 73) may have slipped up when he registered Donald's birth, and then felt he needed to carry on with it for the next year or so. Or perhaps he decided he'd like to resume the surname he'd abandoned 33 years earlier. (Pity about the wife and 4-6 children who were likely to find such a change very awkward).

Using Google, I found recent death notices in the Brighton area for two of the children, both aged c. 100. One of them listed Pamela Kendall as the informant. Searches of the Web and the white pages (including a call to a very similarly-named Mrs P.M.A. Kendall in Brighton) failed to locate Pamela (P.A.M.) Kendall. I switched tacks, and used Google to search for Julia Clarke, and her husband, Dudley Dean. The prime candidate was a recently retired solicitor. I wrote to his successor as managing partner at the firm, who passed the email on. We met when I was passing through the UK on 23 October 2009.

We're missing a lot of information; and we'd love to know more!

This a page within Roger Clarke's Family Web-Site

Contact: Roger Clarke and/or Anne Kratzmann

Created: 21 October 2005; Last Amended: 9 November 2009