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A brief exploration of the "Lives" included in the Narrative of John Tilsed 1747 - 1834

February 11th, 2017 (04:52 pm)

For some years, amongst other Tilsed researches, I have been trying to piece together the lives of a number of different men named John Tilsed. Many of them are not my direct ancestors, but Tilsed is a fairly common name in Poole and my general approach with the Tilsed family is that the more events and attributes I link to the correct people, regardless of whether they are my ancestors or not, the fewer events and attributes are left lying around in danger of being linked to my ancestors when they don't belong there.

In pursuit of this research I have received help and information from several researchers in Canada; foremost amongst these is Ron Feniak, who was already himself working on one particular John Tilsed when we made contact. Ron's knowledge and experience of the Newfoundland end of things dovetailed neatly with my work in the Dorset records and online, and by sharing theories and information we have been able to achieve more than either of us could done independently.

Before Ron contacted me, I had postulated that some of the above-mentioned John Tilseds were in fact various aspects of the same man, the man who very helpfully referred to himself in his Will as “John Tilsed formerly of Shoe Cove near Cape John in the Island of Newfoundland Planter but now of Wimborne Minster in the County of Dorset Gentleman”. Ron had already made some of these links himself, and we have now done a lot of work to arrange and dovetail these selected “Lives” into a single timeline, in order to ensure that it is actually chronologically possible for them to be all the same person.

Combining those "Lives" into one “Life” has necessitated a certain amount of assumption and guesswork, and in many cases this involves judgements rather closer to "on balance of probabilities" than "beyond reasonable doubt". I hope to make it clear where we are certain and where we are reduced to relying on circumstantial evidence. I have listed below the separate "Lives" I have combined to create the narrative for John Tilsed of Newfoundland and Wimborne (1747 - 1834). Please note that this narrative is still a work in progress, and we have a lot more detail than is currently shown in the online version.

One assumption I have NOT made, and never have done, is that two actions each ascribed to "John Tilsed" in the same place at around the same time must necessarily both belong to the same man. It is definite that in every year of this John Tilsed's life, there was at least one other John Tilsed - and sometimes several - active in Poole and the surrounding area.

Documents so far searched include the parish registers of Wimborne and of Hampreston, both in Dorset; the Labrador Journals of Captain George Cartwright; the transcripts and digital images of the Lester Diaries made available online by MUN; Dr Keith Matthews’ “Name File” for Tilsed; and the Slade Ledgers held at MUN, MHA and The Rooms.

Life 1 - Son of Anthony Tilsed, christened Wimborne 1747

Age at burial. The Wimborne burial register states the age of "John Tilsey", buried 30th August 1834, as 86. (See Life 4 below for why we can be practically certain this is the right burial). This gives him a date of birth around 1747-1748. Other factors in favour of this being our man are:

Existence of the name Anthony amongst his children. While Anthony is not a rare name, it is fairly unusual for the time and place, and there are far fewer instances of "Anthony Tilsed" than there are, for example, John, James, Thomas or William Tilsed.

His going back to Wimborne on retirement from Newfoundland. John places himself in Wimborne in his will, and he was buried there. This despite him having - presumably - lived in Hampreston during his marriage to Mary Lambert, and apparently living with his daughter Elizabeth Lambert in Pythouse near Christchurch in the early years after his return from Newfoundland. He would also have been very familiar with Poole, as the major place of employment in the area, the main place locally for taking ship to Newfoundland, and more specifically as the headquarters of both Slade & Co and the brothers Lester. Each of these places have more claim to be the obvious place for him to settle, rather than Wimborne where he had no parents, no children, no property, almost certainly no siblings left alive. Perhaps it was just that, through all the years in Labrador and Newfoundland, Wimborne continued to be the place he considered "home".

None of these reasons are any better than circumstantial, of course, but it all seems perfectly reasonable - which is sometimes the best we can do.

Life 2 - Employee of George Cartwright in Newfoundland 1771 and Labrador 1785 (First and Sixth Voyages)

It is impossible to search Google Books for "Tilsed" without coming across George Cartwright's memoir, "A Journal of Transactions and Events during a Residence of nearly sixteen years on the Coast of Labrador". From Cartwright's journal we learn that a man named "Tilsed" worked for Cartwright in 1771-1772 and again in 1785-1786, and Cartwright describes his activities most days, telling us variously that "Tilsed ... visited his traps ... worked upon the new mainsail ... shot a brace of spruce-game ... hewed and brought home a set of skiff-oars ... finished the hawks of the deer-pound ... was employed in joiner's work ... carpenter's work ... cooper's work ... ".

Cartwright may have spent his days out on the land and the ice with his workers rather sitting behind a desk, but he was indisputably the man in charge, and a gentleman, and thus practically all the references to "Tilsed" are exactly that. To find the first name of this paragon of hard work and all trades, we have to look more closely. In all, Cartwright's descriptions of Tilsed's work for him in 1771-1772 give him his full name only three times, each of them more concerned with the man himself rather than the work he was engaged in at the time:

Sunday 19th May 1771 : "Two of the people belonging to the sealing crew came here this morning, to engage with me for the summer's fishing. I hired one of them (John Tilsed) for a boatsmaster, but would not engage the other."

Saturday 9th November 1771 : "At eleven o'clock John Tilsed arrived in the Sanson shallop with provisions from Fogo; having brought, five men for a sealing-crew; a cooper; and likewise two letters from Marnham [Cartwright's family home]: all of which I had entirely despaired of."

Wednesday 8th April 1772: "John Tilsed having burnt his toes again, on the twenty-second of January, in returning home from hence, and having thawed them by the fire, they mortified so far that he lost both nails, and bared the ends of the bones. I dressed them today, and found them likely to do well."

The second contract, almost fifteen years later, is similar: most mentions, detailing the work, are for "Tilsed", while the very first mention - on Wednesday 1st June 1785 - states "I hired John Tilsed for two summers and a winter, as boatsmaster, for £37 and his passage home. He was formerly a servant of mine; having lived with me in the same station in the years 1771 and 1772."

Life 3 - Husband of Mary Lambert, married in Hampreston 1776

John Tilsed and his wife Mary Lambert first took my eye for three reasons. First, Mary seems to have been one of those women whose ovaries both produce eggs every month and will thus conceive fraternal twins in every pregnancy. Second, that - unsurprisingly for the time, given that twins are normally premature and smaller than singleton babies - most of Mary's children died very young. And finally, that despite the couple marrying in January 1776, there is no sign of any children until July 1781.

There are a number of possible reasons for the apparent delay in producing children:

The christenings aren't online yet? The parish of Hampreston is on the border of Dorset and Hampshire, and neither FindMyPast nor Ancestry, which are the two sites I have subscriptions to, have any images for Hampshire CofE parish registers. The settlement laws would seem to make it unlikely that John would have moved to Hampshire when he was "of Wimborne" at his marriage, but possibly they lived somewhere where a church in Hampshire was nearer than one in Dorset.

Mary was too young? From her age at burial (37 in 1787), Mary would have been about 25 at marriage - which could reasonably be considered the peak of the childbearing years. However, a twins pregnancy will clearly place more strain on the mother's body and perhaps she just wasn't able to carry any early pregnancies near enough to term for the babies to be born alive. It is unlikely that such miscarriages or even stillbirths would have left records that have survived for us to find.

John had syphilis? This is a possibility that always needs to be considered where there are unexplained gaps in childbearing, or a run of apparently sickly babies. However, the sickly babies are probably explained by their being small and premature, and John himself would appear to have enjoyed a long, healthy and very active life, working in Newfoundland and Labrador until at least 1808 when he was over 60, and eventually living to the great age of 86. So this is possibly one of the less likely explanations.

John was away working? In a town like Poole, it is a given that many of the men would have been away at sea for many months at a time. However, it is surely in men's nature to make the most of the times they are at home, and so I don't rate this very highly as an explanation either!

In summary then, the most likely reason for the dearth of children in the first five years of the marriage is the most frustrating and unsettling one - that as yet I simply haven't looked hard enough or well enough in the right places.

Of the children of John and Mary that we do know about - and finding them required careful use of wildcards while searching the Hampreston registers - I found early burials for all of them except Anthony. Five died before the age of one year; the last child, William, was christened at the age of two days on his mother's burial day, and died himself a few days short of eighteen months old. Given all of this, it didn't seem particularly likely that Anthony had survived when all the others had died, but this was definitely a loose end.

Life 4 - Father of Elizabeth, Mrs John Young of Twillingate, Newfoundland

Item 1 : Some years ago I was sent the following transcript of a document pertaining to a settlement by one John Tilsed on his daughter Elizabeth, wife of John Young. It is perhaps a catalogue entry for the original document, and the header includes the date Nov 25 1836:

"Mr Robert Young & Ux to Mr Robert Slade. Power of Attorney to receive dividends of trustess under settlement of John Tilsed, deceased. Robert Slade of Poole, merchant, appointed attorney for John Young and Elizabeth Young, both of Twillingate, to receive the dividends as they become due in the sum of 1045 pounds, 8 shillings and 2 pence... To which Elizabeth Young is entitled under the settlement made by her father, the late John TILSED who died July 30 1834. Signed Thomas M Lyte"

Item 2 : More recently, a fellow researcher visited The Rooms at St John’s, Newfoundland, and was able to send me a photo of a document which appears to be not so much a Power of Attorney, but more an office ledger record regarding the execution of such Power of Attorney. This is my own transcription of that document:

"Dated November 25th 1836

Mr John Young & Ux [ie wife] to Mr Robert Slade

Power of Attorney to Receive Dividends of Trustees under Settlement of John Tilsed deceased.

Executed this day Power of Attorney, appointing Mr Robert Slade of Poole Merchant Attorney, for John Young and Elizabeth Young both of Twillingate, to receive the Dividends as they become due, on the sum of One thousand and fifty five Pounds, Eight Shillings and two Pence ??from & each?? Annuities to which Elizabeth Young is entitled under the XX Settlement made by her Father the late John Tilsed, who died on the thirtieth July one thousand Eight Hundred & thirty four.

Signed by Thos M Lyte N.P. "

It may be important to note that there are small but very significant differences between the two versions of the document. The main differences to note are:

(a) In addition to Elizabeth Young, Item 1 has reference to an unspecified Mr Robert Young as well as to John Young, while Item 2 mentions only John Young. It appears to be established fact that John Young's father was called William. There is no evidence, so far as I know, for John having a brother named Robert, leaving the identity of Robert Young a complete mystery. Having now seen the ledger copy of the document, and the fact of the other party being Mr Robert Slade, I think the most likely explanation is a copying error on the part of either the person creating the catalogue entry or the (unknown) transcriber.

(b) In item 1 it would appear that the total of the dividends due is £1045 8s 2d, and that this will be paid to Elizabeth in a succession of payments until the total is reached. In item 2 it seems that the capital sum invested is £1055 8s 2d, and that the dividends accruing from this investment will be paid to Elizabeth until some unspecified point in the future.

Assuming/guessing for now a rate of return of perhaps 5% on investment, Item 1 says that Elizabeth will receive a total of £1045 8s 2d over an unspecified period, while Item 2 suggests that she will receive roughly £52 5s per annum, presumably until the Annuities are sold or Elizabeth dies.

This is a difference which would presumably very significantly affect Elizabeth's financial status. I believe that the only way to be sure exactly what is happening here is to see the original Settlement "signed" by John Tilsed. At present I have no knowledge of where this Settlement might be found.

(c) Of less significance is the difference in the sums mentioned: £1045 8s 2d and £1055 8s 2d. This is presumably simply a copying error.

In his Will, written 28th February 1831 and proved 30th April 1835, John referred to himself as "John Tilsed, formerly of Shoe Cove near Cape John in the Island of Newfoundland but now of Wimborne Minster in the County of Dorset Gentleman".

According to the documents transcribed above, John Tilsed died 30th July 1834. It therefore seems practically certain that he is the "John Tilsey" aged 86 who was buried in Wimborne Minster on 3rd August 1834.

In my opinion, the document transcribed above proves beyond all reasonable doubt that Elizabeth Young (who died or was buried on 6 Mar 1851) - wife of John Young and known to family tradition in Newfoundland as "Elizabeth Tilsie/Tilsey" or "Betty Telsie of Shoe Cove" - was the daughter of John Tilsed born about 1747, of Wimborne in Dorset.

~ ~ ~

Regarding the identity of Elizabeth's mother, at the present time (ie January 2018) nothing is known. There are three trees at Ancestry.com which claim her name was Sarah Annie (no surname given), but I have contacted all three tree owners and none has any idea where this information has come from. It must therefore, in my opinion, be treated as having very low credibility.

The generally accepted, and perfectly reasonable, theory is that, like many other men working in Newfoundland at the time, John Tilsed had a relationship with a local woman - either a native or a European worker - and had a child by her. However, the evidence cited in support of this theory is mainly the fact that there is no evidence to the contrary. This is not a compelling argument.

It is my personal view that there is in fact an excellent candidate who has been ignored or dismissed by other researchers, and this is Mary Lambert, wife of John Tilsed and mother of his seven known legitimate children, born between 1781 and 1787. (I need to point out here that I have not yet found any other researchers who agree with this theory - in particular Ron Feniak and I have had to “agree to disagree” on this one.)

We need to consider what we know about Elizabeth that may support or undermine the theory of Mary Lambert as her mother:

(a) First, as stated above, we know that John Tilsed went to some lengths - creating a legal settlement and arranging trustees - to ensure Elizabeth got the benefit of his financial success after his death. It is not possible to compare her legacy with that of her acknowledged (illegitimate) half-siblings and their children back in Hampreston, as we have no idea of the value of John’s “plate” which he ordered divided into eight lots for his grandchildren, but it is certain that Elizabeth received far more hard cash than was allocated in the will to John’s descendants by Jane Lambert.

(b) We know that in 1804 John Tilsed was in Shoe Cove running a salmon fishery, and family tradition states that when John Young came courting in about 1805 Elizabeth was also in Shoe Cove. It is irrefutable that John acknowledged Elizabeth as his daughter, and her presence in the same small settlement as she came to adulthood suggests she was an accepted member of his household.

(c) Oral tradition tells us that Elizabeth was known as Betty Telsie, almost certainly a corruption of Tilsed. Lacking a marriage record for John Young and Elizabeth, it is not clear at the moment whether Elizabeth's surname was in fact legally Tilsed, although the family story does support that reading. I cannot speak for Newfoundland traditions, but John Tilsed was English, and in England at the time and indeed until very recently, it was very unusual for an illegitimate child to be given the father’s surname. Most illegitimate children were given the surname the mother was using at the time of the birth, and this is what we see in the case of John’s acknowledged children by Mary’s sister Jane Lambert.

(d) We know from Elizabeth’s stated age at death (her headstone states that she was 65 at her death in March 1851) that she was probably born in 1785 or 1786, and this fits well with the fact that Newfoundland researchers have placed the births of her children from 1805 to 1829, ie aged 19 to 43. Twenty-four years is a slightly longer than average span of childbearing, but still comfortably within normal measure, especially as she apparently started relatively young.

We therefore have Elizabeth born at a time when we know for certain that John was in Newfoundland, but we have no evidence that Mary was ever there.

However, we do have evidence that Elizabeth was acknowledged by her father, was given her father’s surname, probably lived with her father until her marriage, and was provided for by her father after his death. Any one of these occurrences is fairly rare for an illegitimate child, and having all four at once seems to me to point strongly at Elizabeth being legitimate. But this is only possible if we can place Mary in Newfoundland in 1785-86.

We don’t yet know where John spent the two years between summer 1783 - the estimated date of conception of his third-known set of twins, William[2] and Jane - and June 1785 when we can definitely place him at Trinity in Newfoundland signing up with Cartwright. However, it seems reasonable to assume that Mary, at least, had been in Hampreston through most of this period. William[2] and Jane were born in March 1784 and christened in Hampreston on 14th March; they were buried in Hampreston in October 1784 and January 1785 respectively. It is difficult to imagine that Mary would have had reason to travel very far without them during their short lives. However, by the end of January, of the six children of John and Mary that we know of by that date, only one was still alive - Anthony aged two-and-a-half. It is possible that at this point John and Mary decided that she and Anthony should accompany John to Newfoundland to try to start a new life there, or at least get Mary away from the scene of the past years' tragedies.

Such a decision may have been prompted or confirmed by news of Cartwright’s arrival in Poole on 9th April. Judging by Cartwright’s description of John in his journal entries for the First Voyage, it appears that John could have been reasonably confident that Cartwright would be willing to employ him again; further, it is possible that Cartwright was willing to vouch for Mary and find her a position, perhaps even in his own household.

I do not believe the lack of any mention of Mary in Cartwright’s journal is proof that she was not there - Cartwright does not typically go into that level of detail in his journal. In general, the journal gives little information regarding other people’s lives except as directly concerns Cartwright, so we do not know whether John, and possibly Mary, travelled to Trinity on the same ship as Cartwright and his convicts - the Susan, leaving Poole at the end of April - but there were a number of ships making the journey for the start of the season. At Trinity, John signed up with Cartwright for a standard two summers and a winter, and his last mention in Cartwright’s journal is on 18th August 1786, taking the shallop back to Cartwright’s base, while Cartwright sailed for St John’s.

If the age on Elizabeth’s headstone is correct, she was born between March 1785 and March 1786. John’s return to Hampreston, whether travelling alone or en famille, is marked by the birth in November 1787 of William[3]. William would have been conceived around February or March that year, making it definite that, whether Mary had accompanied him to Newfoundland or not, John and Mary were together during the winter of 1786-87.

Given that John had agreed terms with Cartwright which included his passage home at the end of the contract, it seems reasonable to suppose that John did in fact sail home in the Autumn of 1786, his family possibly augmented by a new baby - Elizabeth, the future Mrs John Young, born and christened in Newfoundland, the daughter of John Tilsed by his lawfully wedded wife.

At present we have no information on Elizabeth or her location until the Slade Ledger entry for “Fall 1795”, to the effect that John had paid Susanna Thomes £5 “for maintenance of your daughter”. It has to be considered a possibility that Elizabeth had only just arived in Newfoundland, travelling from England in the summer of 1795 with her elder brother, Anthony. At this point she would have been 9 years old, still a little young for being sent out to work so long as her father could afford to keep her.

~ ~ ~

Finally, what of Anthony? If Elizabeth was treated as a legitimate heir to John Tilsed, would we not expect the same for Anthony, who was indisputably legitimate? We would, of course, but the Slade Ledger entries of 1795 are the last documentation we have of Anthony’s existence: there are no known marriage or burial records for him, no children christened; he does not open an account with Slades or appear in the 1836 census and - like his sister - he does not appear in his father’s will, made in 1831.

There would seem to be three possible scenarios for what happened to Anthony after 1795:

[1] Perhaps Anthony had his own separate settlement that we haven’t yet found? It took me many years of asking Newfoundland researchers exactly how they knew Elizabeth Young was John Tilsed’s daughter before someone finally sent me the transcript of her settlement. It seems entirely possible, then, that a settlement for Anthony exists which has not yet been published, or even found. However, unless Elizabeth’s settlement was made at the time of her marriage, I would expect Anthony’s settlement to have been made at the same time as hers, and the related Power of Attorney executed by Thomas Lyte at the same time as hers. I have not seen Lyte’s ledger book for myself but I hope someone would have noticed and published a settlement on the next page for the same surname if it existed.

[2] Possibly Anthony simply inherited all of his father’s Newfoundland assets automatically as the eldest (and only) legitimate son? In England this would be accompanied by a number of legal papers transferring ownership after the death, but would not necessarily be mentioned in the will. At present I have no idea whether such papers exist for Newfoundland property, and if they do, I have no information as to whether anyone has catalogued or transcribed them, or searched them for property belonging to John Tilsed. However, if Anthony inherited business or property in Newfoundland we would surely hope to have found some trace of his later existence there, even if only a burial.

[3] Finally, perhaps Anthony died before his father wrote his will in 1831? We may speculate that Anthony and his father’s 1804 partner William Sheppard both perished when the Placentia was lost between Labrador and Fogo in November of 1815, but William’s headstone (10th November 1815 “My time has come, my glass is run...”) reads more like a natural death than a tragic accident. However, there is one piece of possibly corroborative evidence: Anthony’s half-sister Elizabeth Harris née Lambert named her second son “Anthony Tilsed Harris” in 1817. We often see this when children are named after recently deceased close relatives, and unlike many people at the time, whose middle name is never seen again after the christening, the younger Anthony continued to call himself “Anthony Tilsed Harris” throughout his life, suggesting it had a significance beyond simply perpetuating a family name.

In summary then, my position at present on Elizabeth's parentage is that, whilst it is certainly true that there is no proof Mary Lambert ever travelled to Newfoundland, or Elizabeth was ever in England, we must recognise that neither is there any evidence to the contrary. Various facts about Elizabeth’s treatment by her father suggest that she was his legitimate daughter, and given her estimated date of birth, that makes her the daughter of Mary Lambert. Her only known legitimate sibling, Anthony, died before 1817, leaving Elizabeth the sole legitimate heir to the Newfoundland property and business interests of her father, John Tilsed.

Life 5 - Employee and associate of the Slade Company of Poole and Newfoundland

There are various brief references online to a man named Tilsed having worked for, or been associated with, the Slade Company. None of these give much detail, and so it was some time before I was able to check whether Slade's man could be someone I already "knew".

A research partner visiting various archives in St John's very kindly sent me images of some of the ledger entries for John Tilsed and we were able to use those to develop our knowledge of this particular "Life". The earliest known appearance of John Tilsed in the Slade ledgers appears to be 1788, and the last, 1808.

Within that period, John was apparently at Battle Harbour from 1792 to 1795, and it is a ledger entry for 14th July 1795 that is the most fascinating of all: a payment of 6d against the name "A. Tilsad".

Combined with an entry in Keith Matthew's Name File* regarding purchases "by your son at Poole" and a reference in the same file to "part of your son's passage per Love & Unity from Poole", this would appear to be conclusive evidence that the man working for and with Slade's between 1788 and 1808 was the husband of Mary Lambert (Life 3 above), and that their son Anthony not only survived infancy, but took ship just before his thirteenth birthday to join his father in Newfoundland.

*Unfortunately the Slade ledgers from which these entries were copied in the 1970s have apparently since gone missing.

Life 6 - origin of the Labrador place-names Tilcey Island and Tilcey Point

It may seem something of a stretch to suggest that the place-name “Tilcey” has its origin in the surname “Tilsed”. But I believe that the link is fairly clear, and fully supported by what little evidence we have.

Off the northern coast of Cape Charles lies a group of three small islands. Tilcey Island is the middle one of the three, with Fox Island to the West and Wall Island to the East, nearest to the mainland. In Cartwright’s day Tilcey Island was called White-Fox Island, and it is thought that Wall Island is the island referred to by Cartwright as Seal Island. The conformation of modern-day Tilcey Island and Wall Island meet Cartwright’s description of the area where his 1770 sealing crew fixed their stopper nets. (This summary is based on the work of Marianne Stopp in The New Labrador Papers of Captain George Cartwright.)

Location of Tilcey Island: http://www4.rncan.gc.ca/search-place-names/unique/ABILH

Tilcey Point lies on the northern coast of Great Caribou Island in St Lewis Sound, and is the last point passed before approaching the entrance to Battle Harbour, a key fishing and trading area in Cartwright’s day and right up to modern times.

Location of Tilcey Point: http://www4.rncan.gc.ca/search-place-names/unique/ABILI

We know that both these places were previously spelt Tilsey rather than Tilcey:

Tilsey Island: Charles Wendell Townsend’s 1907 memoir Along the Labrador Coast, accessed via Google Books, mentions passing Tilsey Island on a journey from Cape Charles to Caribou Island.

“Our return [from Cape Charles] to Battle Harbour is worth telling … Out in the tickle we ran into a thick fog and passed by Tilsey Island. The skipper steered by compass for Black Rock, on the point of Great Caribou Island.”

Tilsey Point: The April 1954 issue of a magazine called Motor Boating is also available online via Google Books, and it is clear from the description that the Tilsey Point mentioned is today’s Tilcey Point.

"Off Tilsey Point, Uncle Alf stopped his engine and brought us alongside. The tortuous entrance to Battle Harbor with its narrow Tickle would be much easier to navigate tied abeam. Soon we entered the Tickle..."

Before concluding the argument, it is necessary to make the link between “Tilsey” and “Tilsed”. As mentioned in Life 4 above, the name of John Tilsed’s Newfoundland daughter Elizabeth has been passed down in oral tradition as “Betty Tilsie”. Also, as explained in Life 8 below, Tilsey is a fairly common deviant spelling for Tilsed outside of its East Dorset homeland.

Finally, we need to place John Tilsed in these locations.

In the Winter of 1770-1771, Cartwright was responsible for supervising a sealing crew working in the area of Cape Charles. Cartwright visited the crew many times during the Winter and states that they placed stopper nets between the islands he called Seal Island and White-Fox Island.

In May of 1771, Cartwright names John Tilsed explicitly as “belonging to the sealing crew”. It is clear from context that he means the sealing crew he has been visiting all Winter.

John Tilsed’s link with Tilcey Point is not so obvious. However, as noted in Life 5 above, records kept by the Slade Company show that between 1792 and 1795 he was based at Battle Harbour, and that in 1793 he was the leader of a sealing crew at a location named as "Tilsed’s Post". None of the other crews that year were in locations named after them, and this establishes the possibility that Tilcey Point was named after John Tilsed from his being posted there in charge of a sealing crew.

In conclusion, I believe that we have enough evidence to state with a reasonable amount of confidence that the Labrador locations Tilcey Island and Tilcey Point are named for John Tilsed, 1747 - 1834, Planter of Newfoundland and Gentleman of Wimborne.

Life 7 - Testator in the will of "John Tilsed formerly of Shoe Cove near Cape John in the Island of Newfoundland Planter but now of Wimborne Minster in the County of Dorset Gentleman"

In the ages before National Insurance numbers, personal tax codes, date-of-birth-and-mother's-maiden-name, the first sentence of a will, where the Testator describes himself/herself, is intended to make it clear to all comers exactly who this will belongs to.

It seems to have been important to John to lay an audit trail between the "Gentleman of Wimborne" and the "Planter of Shoe Cove in Newfoundland". This certainly suits the researcher's purpose admirably, and was possibly also of importance in the matter of his daughter Elizabeth's financial settlement (see Life 4 above).

Additionally, it would have been important for John to distinguish himself from any other John Tilseds in the area. He would have been aware of various Tilsed families living in Poole, and whether he knew the man personally or not, he probably knew of the existence of the man known to Trinity House as "John Tilsed senior, Pilot". Some ten years younger than the man I call "John the Planter", this John Tilsed was still alive at the time the latter made his will in 1831.

Given that "John the Planter" seems to have retired to Dorset after the end of 1808 at the very earliest, his ship will almost certainly have been brought into the Harbour by a licenced Trinity House pilot. It is not at all outside the bounds of possibility that the pilot was John Tilsed senior himself or his son John Tilsed junior. (John the Planter will have had the advantage over me in that he probably knew exactly in what way he was related to those men!)

Life 8 - Grandfather of the children of Aaron Harris

From the Will in Life 7 above, it is certain that the Testator in that will is the grandfather of at least three of the children of Aaron Harris, and thus creation of a separate "Life" for consideration of the grandchildren might be considered unnecessary. However, as identifying the grandchildren was a completely separate exercise from that of identifying the Testator himself, I felt the new "Life" was justified and would enable a clearer view of this additional aspect of John Tilsed's story.

The will names three people specifically as grandchildren:

[1] my grandson John Harris of Pythouse in the parish of Christchurch and County of Southampton

[2] my granddaughter Eliza Harris

[3] my grandson Anthony Harris son of Aaron Harris of Pythouse aforesaid

Luckily for us there were, or had been, other Anthony Harrises in the area, and thus it was necessary for the will to state his father's name as well as the location in order to identify the correct Anthony Harris.

The will also mentions "the seven children of the said Aaron Harris". It is of course possible that only Anthony is a son of Aaron; that the acknowledged grandchildren John Harris and Eliza Harris are John Tilsed's grandchildren via some other route; and that the "seven children of Aaron" therefore include Anthony but not John and Eliza. I have tried to bear this possibility in mind at all times during the research.

Finally, the will makes mention of one George Lambert of Longham, and Caroline Lambert his daughter, without giving any clue as to who they are. I believe it to be significant that in four separate places in the will, George and Caroline are treated similarly to the acknowledged grandchildren; it therefore seems reasonable to suppose that either George or Caroline might also be a grandchild of John Tilsed.

(a) John Tilsed's "wearing apparel" was to be divided between George Lambert and grandson John Harris.

(b) Grand-daughter Eliza Harris was to have "my best bed", and Caroline Lambert "my other bed"

(c) The bed furniture and bedding was to be equally divided between Eliza Harris and Caroline Lambert

(d) The will specifies that "my plate" should be divided into eight equal lots, one each for the seven children of Aaron Harris and the last for Caroline Lambert

So we have Aaron Harris as the father of three acknowledged grandchildren and four more probable grandchildren, and we have George Lambert as the father of Caroline who is treated in very similar fashion to the acknowledged grandchildren.

It was fairly straightforward to find a christening for Anthony Harris, son of Aaron, and as a bonus, his middle name was "Tillsey". (See note* below). I have not yet seen an image for the christening, but two separate transcripts both state that his parents were Aaron Harris and Elizabeth. Aaron's occupation is not given in the transcripts, but "abode" was given as Woolsbridge, which is about five miles from Pitthouse Farm in Pitthouse Lane, the probable site of Aaron Harris's 1831 residence.

In all, I have found eight christenings to Aaron Harris and Elizabeth, starting with John Harris in 1813 and Eliza Harris in 1815, with the last christening in 1830. Aaron Harris married Elizabeth Lambert - same surname as George - in 1812, and they are confirmed as the correct couple from the fact that the last five christenings were in an Independent chapel which included the mother's maiden name - Lambert - in the record. Six of these children have been identified and followed forward, leaving Eliza's story as yet unknown and her sister Mary as the one who had presumably died by the time John signed his will.

So how did John Tilsed come to be the grandfather of the children of Aaron Harris and Elizabeth Lambert? In an effort to work this one out I followed Anthony forward through the census and found his mother Elizabeth with him in 1871 and 1881, giving her birthplace as Longham in one and Wimborne in the other, while in 1851 she said Hampreston. Elizabeth was more consistent in giving her age in the census - 50, 60, 70, 80 in 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871. This gives her a date of birth around 1791.

Noting the coincidence of surnames for Elizabeth Lambert the wife of Aaron, George Lambert the father of Caroline and John Tilsed's own ex-wife Mary Lambert, and the fact that Mary Lambert married John in Hampreston, I started looking there for candidates for George Lambert and Elizabeth. Neither of these is a particularly unusual name, but one group of christenings in Hampreston was particularly interesting:

1788 - George Lambert, natural son of Jane Lambert
1794 - Elizabeth daughter of Jean Lambert
1801 - Henry son of Jane Lambert, base born.

The next question, clearly, is "Who are Jane and Jean Lambert?" It needs to be noted that at this time the names Jane, Jean and Jenny are often interchangeable; I have an individual on my tree who was christened and buried as Jane, signed the marriage register as Jean, and signed as her sister's marriage witness as Jenny. So these christenings could be all to one mother or to two different ones.

The Jane Lambert who was buried on Henry's christening day in 1801 was 41 years old, giving her a birth date of around 1760. There are two likely candidates in Hampreston for this Jane - Jenny Lambert the daughter of Richard, 1760, and Jane Lambert daughter of Richard, 1763.

John's late wife Mary Lambert, also buried (in 1787) on the christening day of her last child, was 37 at the time, thus born about 1750. This corresponds well with a christening on 22 Apr 1750, Mary Lambert the daughter of Richard.

So my thinking here is - this looks like a Deceased Wife's Sister scenario. At that time, marriage to the deceased wife's sister was not technically illegal in England (it became so in 1835), but it was prohibited by the church which amounted to much the same thing for most people, and there are many instances of couples marrying in distant parishes to get round this difficulty.

As at 20th November 1787, the burial of his wife, John Tilsed had a five-year-old son (Anthony), and a two-day-old baby (William) to look after, all his other children by Mary having died as infants. The baby will have required a wetnurse, and Mary's sister Jane, with an illegitimate child (John Tremen Lambert) aged twenty-two months, may well have been able to fulfil this function. At the very least - and bearing in mind that milk for a toddler is not ideally suited for nurturing a newborn - as Mary's sister she is an obvious candidate for looking after the baby, even if she didn't feed him herself.

This is not something which is ever likely to be proved, but my position at this point is that John Tilsed was the father of Jane's children George and Elizabeth, and that George was the father of Caroline while Elizabeth, as the wife of Aaron Harris, was mother to John, Eliza, Anthony and five more Harris grandchildren. It is also possible that John Tilsed was the father of Henry Lambert born October 1801, as we currently have no evidence placing him in Newfoundland during the Winter of 1800-1801. In possible support of this theory is the fact that the first child of Aaron Harris and Elizabeth born after John Tilsed had definitely retired to Dorset was also named Henry.

*There are occurrences of "Tylsed" in some early records, but the normal and persistent spelling of the name from 1581 onwards is Tilsed. The double-L in Anthony's middle name is unusual but not unknown at the time, and Tilsey rather than Tilsed is a deviant spelling which is not uncommon to the East of Poole, notably on Portsea Island. Anthony himself is known to have spelt his middle name "Tilsed".

(It should be noted that Tilsey also occurs as an entirely separate name, but within Dorset and Hampshire - apart from one known incomer family in Portsea who really were Tilseys of Somerset - it is a deviant spelling for Tilsed.)

List of John Tilsed's Harris grandchildren:

1813 John Harris Became Superintendent of Police in Wiltshire, married Emily Blundell Shipman, died 1890.
1815 Eliza Harris Died after 28th February 1831, but not yet found apart from that.
1817 Anthony Tilsed Harris Became Head of Stores at HM Dockyard, Deptford, married Margaret Anderson, died 1878.
1820 Susan Harris Married Henry Sayer Rumble, became a Beer Shop Keeper, died 1894.
1822 Mary Harris By process of elimination, she must have died before 28th February 1831. (Eight christenings, only seven in the will).
1825 Henry Tilsed Harris Became a fisherman/planter in Newfoundland, married Olivia Noel there in 1854, died in Newfoundland 1910. Henry T Harris and Olivia are buried at Humber Road Cemetery, Corner Brook.
1828 Louisa Harris Married Erastus Beckett, a police sergeant who abandoned her and moved to the USA. Died after 1891.
1830 Joseph Harris Became a Grocer, married Fanny Louisa Green (sister-in-law to Robert Comport Zinzan) in 1860. "Supposed dead" in the will of his brother John, which was signed 27th June 1888.

Presumed grand-daughter Caroline Lambert is a good fit for the Caroline Lambert of Hampreston who married soldier John Vinter in Wimborne on 9th August 1836. She christened children in Wimborne, Maidstone, Bermuda, Dublin and Dover, and is buried in Dover where she died in February 1848 aged 29.

~ ~ ~

Other sources used in the narrative include the Diaries of Isaac Lester and Benjamin Lester, merchants of Poole and Newfoundland, who mention various Tilseds through the years, and the parish registers and Churchwardens' Accounts of Wimborne Minster and of Hampreston.

Some of those "Lives" I have excluded from this narrative:

John Tilsed, Mariner, born 1711, son of William Tilsed and Hannah Pike. Died 1798 aged 88.

John Tilsed, Cordwainer, married Jane Trim in 1759.

John Tilsed, Pilot, born 1758, son of William Tilsed (probably a Pilot), and Aphra Gravener of Rye.

John Tilsed, Pilot, born 1785, son of John Tilsed, Pilot, and Elizabeth Frampton