Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The tale of The Royal Marine, the Civil Servants and the School Mistresses !!

via email from Betty Barbara:

Hello My fellow Bettys--

When Betty Ross and Betty Magdalen posted their finding of Our Betty’s birth registration I just KNEW that I had to dig deeper into Our Betty’s Family back ground.
Thanks to a subscription to Ancestry.com, I was able to quickly pull up the following bits of Our Betty’s family tree:

Follow along for the tale of
The Royal Marine, the Civil Servants and the School Mistresses !!

Royal Marine 1815

We join our tale in 1815 with the birth of William Neels(Our Betty’s great-grandfather) in Ottery St Mary, Devon. I don’t know much about dear William, except that he married the charming Rachel (or Rachael) Randell, and proceeded to have a number of children. At some point William joined the Navy and became a member of the Royal Marines. In the 1861 Census , William is assigned to the vessel Brilliant, at the City Canal West India Docks in Kent.

Among those children of William and Rachel were William Valentine (b 1843), Frederick(alas, did not survive his birth in 1849), Samuel James(b 1854), Jessy (b around 1859) and Mary Rachel (b around 1863).

We jump ahead to the 1871 Census, where we find:

1--In Standon Herfortshire, William Neels is now a) Royal Marine pensioner and b) publican and grocer at The Nags Head Inn. Rachel, manages the store, Jessy and Mary Rachel are girls at home.

2--William Valentine (our Betty’s grand father) is at 37 Peacock Street in Milton, Graves End, Kent. By this time he has married (1866) Sarah Lewis. He works for HM Customs; she is, of course, housekeeper. At this point in time they have two daughters: Alice 2 and Rachel, 1 month old.

By 1881 that family has expanded-- William Valentine is now Head Bill Box Officer, HM Customs. They are now at 60 Knapp Road, St Leonard Bromley, London. Alice and Rachel have now been joined by William Lewis and Annie.
Also in 1881, the senior Neels(William and Rachel )are still with us--they are still running the pub. But Jessy has embarked on her schoolmistress career .

By the time we hit the 1891 Census there’s been another shift--William the Royal Marine has died (1888) and his widow is living with Jessy the school mistress in Widford, Hertfordshire.
William Valentine is recently widowed, he’s at home at 3 Westbourne Terrace, Leyton, Essex. He’s still with the Customs Service,; oldest daughter Rachel is a teacher and son William Lewis is at the local school. Younger daughter Annie and son Ernest Randle(Our Betty’s Dad) are off visiting their Aunt Jessy in Widford.

Ahh, 1901--the new century brings some new things to out Neels clan--
William Valentine is now at 123 Grange Park Rd , Leyton. The only kids at home with him are Rachel, Annie and Ernest Randle. William Lewis is out on his own by now.
Jessy Neels, The school marm, is now Head Mistress at Archbishop Tenison Girls School in Lambeth, London. Her younger sister Mary Rachel is now a widow and living with her.

Ernest Randle (Our Betty’s dad) has achieved the rank of Boy Copyist at the Post Office! He’s a mere lad of 16. Dad (William Valentine, widower) is still with the Customs office, sister Rachel has started her career as Head of the Infants’ school department at the local school).

In 1901 we also meet Henry and Sarah Ann Baker and their daughter Isabel Alice, age 14. They are also in Leyton.

Somewhere along the way those babies Ernest Randle Neels and Isabel Alice Baker managed to meet, fall in love and set a wedding date. Check it out fellow Bettys!
ER is 23, Isabel Alice is 21 when they married on 10 Aug 1907!! By today’s standards they were babies--at their point in time they may have been oldies!

As we know from the Official Document, Evelyn Jessy came along in 1909.

By the 1911 census, the budding Neels family has moved to 56 Lea Hall Rd, Leyton.
WWI gunners
Of course the Neels’ did not escape WWI service. Ernest Randle was enlisted 12 Mar 1917 and discharged 14 Feb 1919. He served in India and South Africa with the Royal Garrison Artillery as a Gunner. Somewhere along the way he was injured such that he applied for a disability pension. I couldn’t easily find if he was granted the disability or (if so) how much he was awarded. Anywhooo--when he enlisted he was listed as an accountant! (the same as on Evelyn Jessy’s birth record). His address at enlistment was 77 Brightwell Ave, West Cliff (on Sea), South End.

The 1922 Kelly’s Directory lists Ernest still at 77 Brightwell Ave.

The 9 May 1933 London Gazette lists that Ernest was appointed to the Ministry of Pensions.
The 7 Sept 1934 London Gazette lists his transfer from that ministry to the British Postal Service. Both the jobs were white collar/clerical.

Ernest Randall and Isobel Alice both died in Devon in late 1969. RIP

A few interesting little side bits:

Ernest’s sister Rachel was Infant Mistress at the Newport Road School-That school was built in 1883 and served (in 1906) 654 boys, 617 girls and (hold your hats!) 511 infants (which I interpret as pre-schoolers, not babes in arms). She held that position for a number of years. At some point she left the family home and lived at 13 Lyndhurst Drive, Leyton.

William Valentine had a younger brother named Samuel James, who lived a short but eventful life. In 1873 we find him (age 21) enlisting in the US Army for 5 years! He did not re-up as we find him in 1879, back in England, working for British Rail at a porter. He was still with the railroad in the 1881 census, in London. He married in 1881, but alas, died in 1882.

William Valentine Neels died 14 Nov 1930. He left his 629 pounds to his oldest daughter Rachel, spinster.

Our Betty would have known her grandfather. I wonder is she subconsciously named several of her heroes in his honor. I don’t know where the Evelyn part of her name came from; Jessy is probably in honor of Ernest’s Aunt Jessy.

For any Bettys who are interested, I have another file with most of the details--exact birthdates (if known), marriage dates and such. I will gladly share. I make no claim that it is complete. It is correct, to the best of my knowledge and ability to double-check.


  1. Wow, Betty Barbara! This stuff is absolutely fascinating. I wonder how many of her boarding school stories were influenced by Schoolmistress's stories told over holiday dinners!

    Thanks for doing so much research on it. I love family histories and it was a blast to read through!

    -Betty Beth

  2. Ditto what Beth said. Great work Betty Barbara.
    When I found the Luther History book on the BYU library a few years ago, I'd spend hours reading family stories. It helped that one of them mentioned by father's grandfather. ;-)
    Hey Betty's founders! Have you found out if we are related through Grandma Ida Mae yet?

  3. So amazing, Betty Barbara! You're fantastic! Isn't it crazy to think that with the miracle of modern technology we probably know more about the family history (names and dates-wise) then Betty herself!

    I haven't been swotting up on the family history of late. I rely deeply on my MIL for navigating the difficult waters of long-buried census records.

  4. Betty van den BetsyJanuary 10, 2012 at 2:50 PM

    Thank you, Betty Barbara. What a lot of working women in Betty's background. Hmm. Also, a few military men, whom we never encounter in her novels, bar the odd peppery retired Colonel.

  5. Brava! Betty Barbara! Another Betty of the Month award is handed out.
    Perhaps the name Evelyn came from her mother's side. Quite a few Valentines (Valentijn) and Henrys in Neelsdom. Then again, maybe Henry is common British name.
    I wonder if there's any significance to Betty retiring from nursing and starting the writing career around the same time her parents died. I've read "Betty's Story in her words," which did say she and her husband did live with her parents for some time.

  6. Wow, that was so fun and interesting!! Thank you!

    Betty Laurel

  7. Great work, Betty Barbara!
    Betty of the Month Award for you, too!!!
    Family histories are sooo interesting to read! One of my grandfather's, b.1899, was injured during WWI and never quite recovered. He must have been very young when he was drafted. He "brought home" rheumatism, had to use a walking stick and died of heart failure in 1935. So I never got to meet him. I only know him through the little snippets of information my mother gave us - and she only knew him through the stories she was told as a child because he died before her birth. I never met my grandmother, his wife, either. She died of typhoid fever in 1945. She ran an inn-cum-store and caught the desease while helping refugees who came through her village.

    Some time ago I found my mother's side of our family on a family tree on the internet. It was published by an American from Baltimore, Maryland, whose name, interestingly enough, was Ernst (without the second "e"). The family had been traced back to 1550, 1350 with two missing links. I found it all very exciting. But... Our branch was stuck on twice. ??? "2. wife of". So I asked my mother, "Was your grandfather married twice?" - "No." Turned out that man was not her grandfather, at all!!! My mother has her family tree on her mother's side on a large rolled up sheet of paper. Which is very difficult to read with branches here there and everywhere.

    Alas, I never got to read "Betty's Story in her words" - "The page or file you requested does not exist.
    It has either been renamed, moved or deleted.
    Please verify the address and try again."

    Does anybetty have a copy of it?

    Betty Anonymous

  8. Betty Barbara here--
    This just in--Mijnheer just came back from the local Family history center with detailed info from the 1911 Census.
    We have Ernest Randall, 27, Accountant's clerk
    Isabel Alice 24 his wife
    Lilian Isabel, 2 daughter and
    Evelyn Jessy, 1
    They lived in a 6 room house* named 'Tramore' on Brightwell Ave, Westcliff-on-Sea.
    *those 6 rooms included the kitchen, but not the scullery, laundry, bathroom etc--as per census form instructions.

    Do we know what happened to Betty's older sister? or do I need to dig some more??

  9. Betty Barbara here--
    So that means I glommed onto the wrong Neels in the 1911 summary. The Neels family I noted in 1911 is probably William Lewis. So sorry--but that's the way the research often goes--2 steps forward and one step back.

    1. That's so true, Betty Barbara. Many times, genealogical databases are filled with errors and can send people down the wrong trail.

    2. Hello, I'm a Neels descendent living in New Zealand. I descend from William Neels & Rachel Randle. Your missing Samuel James (Chummy) Neels, Birth MAR 1854 • White Chapel, London, England. Died 17 JUN 1931 • Auckland, New Zealand.
      Samuel James Neels emmigrated to NZ with his brother, my grandfather John Robert Neels in 1875.
      Happy to share any information I have on the family. Susanmlean@gmail.com