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26 Feb 2018

Heirloom: the Tucker family Bible

"Heirloom" is the theme for Week 8 of the #52ancestors blogging challenge.  I'll introduce my favourite later, but first I had to find some cousins.

Leslie Tucker mid-1930s in Chichester
It was a tiny, yellowed newspaper clipping which set me on the search for Tucker relatives in England, my father Robert Sydney Tucker’s birthplace.  The clipping described the wedding of Leslie Albert Tucker and his wife Joan Burke in 1943 in Brentford, Middlesex.

Leslie Tucker was my father’s only first cousin on his paternal side – the only relative with the name Tucker apart from his immediate family.  The two cousins had kept in touch over the years, my father having migrated to Sydney from Southampton in 1925 when he was just 10.  The clipping was amongst his possessions when we cleaned out the family home. They’d certainly lost touch by the time my father married in 1946.

I had not heard of any remaining Tuckers in England, but one never knew….

Whilst I couldn’t find Leslie Tucker’s death certificate, fortuitously I found his wife’s, 30 years after his death.  Unlike death certificates in New South Wales, or indeed other Australian states, anyone appeared to be able to procure English death certificates.  I wondered what it would tell me?  The witness to the death was a daughter, Linda.  What a lovely surprise!  I had a relative on my father’s paternal side, a second cousin.

I spent the next six months looking for Linda.  I wrote to the address on the death certificate, but eventually the letter was returned: “Moved, address unknown”.  I Googled her and searched online under her married name but found nothing. Nothing conclusive in the electoral rolls or the telephone directories. Linda hadn’t left much of a footprint online.  I knew she had married young, and the name of her husband, that’s all.

At last, I found a likely entry in Genes Reunited.  I messaged the owner of the tree, and a few minutes later I received a message: “I’m ringing my mother now!”  It was her son.  It turned out that Linda had divorced and remarried, so no wonder I couldn’t find her.  This was 12 years ago.

Meeting Linda and Peter in London 2008
She was as excited as I was to find each other.  Linda was an only child and her father had died when she was just 17. A fireman, he had survived the London Blitz no problem but died tragically in an accident at the Ealing Fire Station in 1966. We caught up on 60 years of Tucker family history and exchanged many photos before I met her in 2008.  Here we are meeting for the first time, at Hammersmith in London in April 2008, two years after I found her.  

Margaret & Linda at the same site, 2012
Since then, I have returned to England for holidays in 2009, 2012 and 2014.  In 2016, when the Sea Princess stopped overnight in Dover, she and Peter spent the weekend there and we had another wonderful day together before we set off to New York.  Each time, it has been wonderful to meet again.  Linda and her husband Peter have become such good friends with my husband John and me. 

I’ve delved into the family history back to 1642 and written up stories and she has shown me family memorabilia and welcomed me into their home for meals and when I’m travelling without John (who requires wheelchair access), she’s had me to stay and has driven me lots of places.

Our great-grandfather George W. Tucker
Linda and I share great-grandparents, George William Tucker (1856-1924) and Agnes Mary Hardy (1858-1912).  He was an ambitious music dealer and she had been a school-teacher prior to marriage.  As the only daughter of the one remaining Tucker in England, Linda had inherited the Tucker family Bible.  I was so surprised.  The Bible belonged to George Tucker (1832-1914), a former agricultural labourer who had moved to the busy port and railway terminus town of Southampton in 1850 to seek work.  I had not expected such a poor family to possess such a thing.  I wrote about George Tucker a few years ago in an earlier blog, The Tuckers of Southampton, Bramshaw and Downton.

My excitement at touching the Bible in 2008





Linda had sent me photos of the Bible with its inscription on the flyleaf.  It had been given to George Tucker, our 2x great grandfather on his 47th birthday on 1st February 1879 by “his beloved wife Sophia”.  By then, the couple had borne three children, although sadly, they were to lose their middle child Kate Louisa just four weeks later, aged 16.

Flyleaf of George Tucker's Bible
The Bible, like many in its day, recorded the births and deaths of all members of this very ordinary Southampton family.  Later, someone wrote the dates of their deaths in pencil – ever so faintly but still legible.  I have photos of two of these family members – mother Sophia and George William Tucker.

Whilst my Tucker grandfather was the older son, he died as a result of war injuries in 1919 and my father migrated less than six years later.  So the Bible passed down through the younger son, Linda's grandfather Albert Tucker (1884-1963).

The Australian branch of the Tucker family has a few bits and pieces from England but these are not quite so old or informative.  I've inherited a travel chest with my mother's birth mother's initials KEP engraved (1911), a few postcards from Sydney Tucker (1917) from France and an 80-year-old footstool embroidered by my mother, some letters written by my father during World War 2 in New Guinea and Bougainville (1942-45) and some old photographs from England.

Bob Tucker's medals - WW2
My brother has my father's World War 2 medals and his army photograph.  My younger sister has some old furniture.

With my sister's children being the only descendants, I'm urging that we pass all these items down to them, rather than have someone throw them out after finding them in a back shed.

Most family historians suggest writing this into a will.  Which brings us to next week's theme.

3 comments:

  1. Enjoyed hearing about the Tucker Bible - must have been wonderful for you to go through it. It is special when we can track down relatives we didn't know existed and then to make such good friends is a bonus. Well done.

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  2. How lovely it is to see the family Bible as it shows the handwriting of the people who over time added to the information. And to think some of their DNA is also left on the pages as well. I think that finding a cousin after a long search must have been the best find of all.

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