Searching for Charlotte Wright
by Henry Vern Hall
I don't remember when I first heard of great-grandmother Charlotte Wright Hall, my father's paternal grandmother. She came to me in small bites with my bread and milk. I mean the knowledge of her came gradual. There was nothing dainty about the bread and milk. There was just no room for the ancestors away back then.
There was always a note of sadness connected with Grandma Charlotte. She'd had a lot of trouble. Beginning with a rather prosperous childhood in London, she'd hit it rocky soon after her marriage. The way I got the story, it all began when great grandfather Thomas Johnston Hall, her husband, gambled away the family fortunes then ran away leaving her to care for the little ones by herself on what she could earn.
Again it was told that when her eldest son, John Charles, my grandfather, was age 17 she sent him to Canada ins earch of his father, but instead of finding the object of his quest, he added insult to injury by returning in 1853 as a Mormon Missionary.
She had spent her last days working as a maid in her girlhood home.
So much for traditions: now for some facts. Uncle Charley Hall, my father's oldest brother, (Selina's son) lived in Nephi, Utah, which was conveniently located on the route between Wyoming and Northern Utah where I was working, and Dixie where Eleanor and I both had parents and a host of relatives. We always stopped there for a lively chat and some choice stories of the past. At the same time, Eleanor began to pick up the names of ancestors. Among other things, she saw grandfather John C. Hall's old temple record and learned that Charlotte was a daughter of Thomas & Martha Wright of London.
It was along about this time that we heard about Aunt "Rye" Taylor who lived in Provo and had been to England in search of family records. At the same time we learned that Grandpa Hall had left a journal which was in the keeping of my father's sister, Aunt Charlotte Foulger in Salt Lake City. Later through our acquaintance with Aunt Charlotte's son, Earnest, we were able to secure a copy of that and have it duplicated into 100 copies. The journal covered in detail the time that Grandfather was in the mission field in addition to a few notes that he remembered of his earlier life. It contained information that we could use in doing genealogy.
John C. Hall Journal entries
p. 31 - 1 Feb. 1853 - Went to Heath Street and had my first interview with my relatives, Uncle Wright, Maria and Eliza and also little Mary whom I had almost forgotten.
4 Feb. 1853 - Went through the Thames Tunnel, went to Maria's and from there to Martha's meeting with Mother and aunts where we spent the evening.
p. 1 - My mother's name before she was married was Charlotte Wright. Her mother's name was Martha.
1825 - This was the year of the great panic in money affairs. My grandfather Hall became much embarrassed in his business and meeting with heavy losses he could not bear up under it, put an end to his existence with a pistol.
1829 - In London till the close of the year when father went to Warshall, Dorsetshire, to take a school.
1831 - In the month of January we returned to London. Lived a season at my Uncle Wright's. There my father went to keep a school in Hackney Road.
1833 - Lived in various places till August when my father left to go to Americda. (His second and final trip to America.)
Through these comments, the names of relatives that Grandpa met in 1853 are important and will be referred to later. As for his father's gambling, it appears that business failure was mistaken for gambling and from investigations I have made, I'm not at all sure that the death of John Henstridge Hall was self-inflicted. That's another story.
In the Spring of 1936 when Eleanor and I moved back out of Wyoming, I began to warm up to genealogy and Grandma Charlotte was among those who crashed my defenses. An embittered old lady, broken by a cruel world and her one means of escape, the Church, was the blow that completed the ruin. She held out her hand to me, and I wanted to do something for her.
Another thing that happened at that time, was my brothers and sisters began sending me money to finance genealogy, to use as I saw fit. That's a mean thing to do to a person who wants to be stubborn. Those guys always did give me a rough time.
Also, that's when Mom (Eleanor) got in touch with Mr. Cotton, one of England's finest researchers. We got together all we knew of the Wrights and went to work. My correspondence dates along in the 1940's and 50's. We searched city directories, census records and church registers by the shelf. Every thing we could dream up - with blank results. Then one day up in Kamas, (where I was living at this time) our Stake was having a genealogy display and David Gardner looking at my book noted that I needed the marriage of Thomas Wright to Martha of London. He suggested a search of Palot's London marriages which he said was complete back to 1800 and pretty good before that. We searched and we found this entry: "28 Mar, 1785, Thomas Wright and Martha Hodson, both of this parish, at St. Martin-in-the-Field, London." Both wrote their signatures. There was no other Thomas Wright married to a Martha within the time period. So we got Mr. Cotton onto the registers of that church for the families of Thomas and Martha, but without success. Mr. Cotton explained that a couple could establish residence with two or three times attendance at a church, so it really meant nothing.
Well, my goodness, we needed the marriage of Thomas Johnston Hall to Charlotte Wright so we tried that with this result. "Married at St. Andrew Holborn, London, 24 March 1819, Thomas Hall of Faversham, Kent, and Charlotte Wright of this parish." Both signed. Witnesses: Edwin Quafe and Mary Wright. This Mary would be the Mary that showed up in the temple record as Grandpa's aunt.
The search of St. Andrew Holborn drew a blank. Lots of Wrights and Hodsons there all the way back through the years but none that fit. Mr. Cotton objected to making an extended search there partly because of the time involved - all his time for weeks! I couldn't understand that until I tried it myself later. It took me a whole day to extract the Wrights and Hodsons for a 20 year period. Nothing that even smelled like us. Funny thing about that church. Mr. Cotton and I were riding along in the top deck of the bus when he pointed to a gutted-out shell of a church and said that was St. Andrew Holborn. It had been burned during the blitz of World War II. I got a shiver. Soon, however, we were at the Guild Hall and I was working St. Andrew Holborn records. They'd been safe here during the war. Guild Hall had only one corner damaged. Ouch!
That was the summer I met a Sister Hawkes in North London branch who had been searching for years on her London Wrights without a glimmer of light.
The next year, Mr. Cotton died and I was left alone to it. We'd done most everything we knew to do, but "Dickens", there's no problem without an answer! There's still the wills and we have them here in the Church library in Salt Lake City on microfilm. Oh yes, it was about this time that we got from Somerset House, the death certificate of Grandma Charlotte - "28 July 1857, in a work house across the river in Surrey." That could account John Charles's journal entry of crossing the river to see his mother. Sort of blasts the "maid in the old home" story. She must have sensed that with the leaving of her son back to America, her last hope was gone for he was enroute to Utah when she died.
O.K., there's the London Wills. Thomas Wright may have been among the 20% who made one. He did write his name. I read all the Thomas Wrights of London proper, Lambeth, Middlesex to a blank stop. Then there were those of Prerogative Court of Canterbury kept in London but covering all of England, and the colonies where a testator had property in more than one jurisdiction. I've estimated that there are more than a million of these. I knew that Charlotte was born in 1800 so anything before that could not have her. And Thomas was not among those that Grandpa visited in 1853 so I figured there were 53 years to search.
I spend two solid weeks, all day with my head in a reading machine, every hour that the library was open, then "My Goodness! That looks lke it!!!" PCC pt. 1779 (that many rolls of film with 500 wills to the roll) pg. 521: Thomas Wright of Sheldwich, Kent, a tiny parish three miles south of Faversham. It named, "Loving wife, Martha, daughters Ann, Maria, Mary, Charlotte, and Sarah." Probated 16 Sept. 1815 at London.
Ann, Maria, Mary and Charlotte had all been named in the Temple Record. Sarah was likely still living in 1871. She was n ot among those visited in 1853 but likely living elsewhere. It took us back to Kent near the home of the Halls.
We still needed the christening records of Thomas and Martha's children, likely to be found in the area of St. Andrew, Holborn, London. That's a big place to go looking for a grandma with no street address, but if we must have them, there's only one answer.
Down in Sheldwich, Kent, it was different. There was the christening of Thomas (see chart at the end of this article) and the marriage of his parents and so on back to John, John, and James who came from neighboring Chilham in the late 1600's. Nothing more on the Wright's except the will of James that tied up our finds.
And we have a little problem with Jane Coppen, mother of Thomas. We've hunted for her all over the place, but we'll eventually find her. Back of that, Mary Nash, wife of the older John came up with a string of ancestors, the Humphrey Philpotts. I was afraid we'd run into that name. O.K. they're ours. We still haven't run into the Philchers. They need us and vice versa. There's a couple of wives here, Elizabeth Christian and Ann Marsh who need help next year. The wives of the two Humphreys are hanging by their eyebrows. John made his will to tie things up.
In the ancestry of Jane Ellman, wife of James Wright, is a really fortunate situation. James and Jane had a son Hammond Wright. Jane had a brother Hamon Ellman. Her mother, Susan Watson, had a brother Hamon Watson as did her father, William, whose father was Hamon and back of that the grandfather, Thomas, had a brother Hamon. SIX Hamons covering three surnames over six generations and 200 years tying the family all together. For good measure, Thomas Watson made a will to give life to the body and proof to the pudding. I suspect we've got a family of Hamons back there some place screaming for salvation. Here again, we have some neglected mothers to find.
1967 was a pretty good year. We have 10 families ready for the temple to fill the 1967 Priesthood Assignments as far as they reach. We had extra help. Our grandson, Joe, went along to England with us - a good boy at 14. Keith's daughter, Tauna, went mostly at her own expense and also gave some superb help. Then we took Cindy Shumway as a companion for Tauna and she did a fine job of work. The four of us spent more than three weeks on Hall research.
If you look on your chart you'll see that we've still got work to do on this line. Besides that, there's the Dadd problem that even after an extensive search this past year is still right where it was last year. We know the records are there some place and there's no substitute for the right answers.
I seem to see good old misguided Grandma Charlotte with a smile on one side of her face and a worry on the other. She's happy over the harvest but itchy about all her still absent grandmothers. I can think of no better Christmas present for any one this year than a contribution to those who gave us life. If I wanted to really honor someone, I'd help him with his work, like helping our Savior with the Salvation of mankind.
Bless your hearts, kids, the Gospel's true.