A UK resident's dive into his family history has uncovered details about the life of a woman whose urn was found in an old wardrobe on a St. Lawrence farm two years ago.
Dave Davis-Evans has been digging into his family history for the past 10 years and recently found he was related to Hilda Graham, whose name and that of Harry Graham featured on an urn discovered by Tim Le Cornu and Marianne Shaw in a grade 4 listed farm built in 1797 in St. Lawrence almost two years ago.
His interest into the research grew from wanting to know who his family was as he knew very little about his relatives beyond his mother’s parents and his father’s mum.
Pictured: The urn bearing the names of Hilda and Harry Graham.
After “dabbling for a bit”, Dave soon realised he didn’t have enough time to spend on proper research and decided to “park” it until he retired six years ago.
“It’s a winter hobby, when it’s preferable to sit at a keyboard than venture out in the cold and rain,” he explained. “I am very much an armchair genealogist, using on-line services and resorting to Google, to either complement what I find, or in desperation.
“There are several subscription services and some free to access, but you have to be wary of what’s posted unless there is evidence to back it up. Checking something is often easier than finding something, so fact checking what has been posted can be very helpful. “
Initially, Dave was focusing his research on the Dexter family. After one of his cousins gave him a photo of his great, great, great aunt Jane Dexter’s 100 birthday party, he however decided to track down all her relatives in the picture.
“Her birthday made the local papers as she was the only centenarian in Nottingham in 1915,” he explained. “Accompanying the photo was a guide to who was who listing 49 names to go with the faces. That was a challenge I couldn’t resist so I set about tracking down all those listed and incorporating them into my tree. I managed to definitely identify all bar four of the people, and in doing this also discovered much about their families.”
Among the people in the photograph was Constance Maria Beatrice Radford née Dexter with her husband Harry and daughter Florence Grace Radford, later Florence Grace Roberts. Constance was only four years old when her mother died in 1882 and her father married Clara Redmill in 1884 in Nottingham.
Pictured: Hilda's entry in the 1911 Census.
They had four children, the first of which was their only girl Hilda Clarissa Gertrude Dexter, who was born on 28 August 1885 in Nottingham.
Dave said the “marvellously unique” name was easy to follow through the records at the beginning. He managed to track her across birth records, several census and schools records.
“The Victorians were notoriously unadventurous in their choice of children’s names and it’s often difficult to determine which William, John, Mary or Elizabeth is which, so I thought that finding a child named Hilda Clarissa Gertrude, who was the grandniece of the centenarian Jane Dexter, was a godsend from a research point of view, but there were surprising few records on the usual genealogy sites,” he said.
Dave eventually tracked Hilda to Jersey after finding her will, which showed she had become Hilda Graham and lived at Montrose on Quennevais Road, on the Jersey Heritage website. him her married name. With this he then stumbled upon Express’ article about the urn bearing the names of Harry and Hilda Graham.
When Dave found out about Hilda’s Jersey connection in early 2021, he was already planning to visit the island with his wife. He is now hoping to make it to the island soon and says he will make sure to visit Hilda and Harry to pay his respects, “and thank those who have treated them with care and respect”.
Following further research, Dave found the list of Hilda’s will beneficiaries, which included the daughter of her step-sister who was at Jane Dexter’s birthday party in 1915.
“The Grahams listed in the will are all siblings of Hilda’s husband Harry Graham and can easily be tracked through the census records,” he said. “Harry Graham was born in Keighley, Yorkshire in 1873, and can be seen in the census up to 1901 after which he disappears. There is a Harry Graham from England in the 1911 census in Glengarry, Ontario, Canada, but I can’t be certain it’s him. His local papers in Yorkshire in the early years of the 20th century were carrying adverts to entice people to go to work in Canada. We know from the inscription on the urn that he died in Toronto, Canada in 1956, but I can find nothing else about Harry or Hilda in the intervening years.”
Dave’s research has put him in contact with distant cousins in the UK and around the world, who are usually happy to compare notes. He has however so far refrained from publishing his family tree on-line. “Although small by some researcher’s standards I now have just over 12,500 people attached to my tree which includes my wife’s family,” he said.
Discussing the pleasure, he finds in researching his family history, which he admits can be difficult at times, he added:
“It’s the extra information that really brings the history to life,” Dave said. “Initially all you have is names, dates, and sometimes occupations, but if anyone did anything, good or bad, to warrant an entry in the papers then you can start to get a much better picture of them as people.
“If they’re famous, or infamous, enough they may be the subjects of books or articles that can add a great deal to who they were. Finding those small gems on the internet, like the story of Hilda & Harry’s urn, can be very rewarding, but the sheer volume of information can be difficult to sort through.”
Comments on this story express the views of the commentator only, not Bailiwick Publishing. We are unable to guarantee the accuracy of any of those comments.
Once your comment has been submitted, it won’t appear immediately. There is no need to submit it more than once. Comments are published at the discretion of Bailiwick Publishing, and will include your username.
There are no comments for this article.