Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Charlotte Ball and the birth of her child, William Spickett Ball, 1892

Well, this is my 100th post to the Ball Bureau and, although not consciously planned, it is about breaking through a brickwall and exposing a few family secrets. As I mentioned at the end of my post yesterday, there always were stories about Charlotte having had a child out of wedlock. My great aunt Gwen had mentioned it in her family history note that got me going on this journey, but gave few details as to the child's identity or story. Other family members (my grandmother and my father's cousin) knew about the child, but they could not offer any more information. It always seemed as if this child was never really part of our family's story.

When the 1901 UK census was first released around 2002, I learned that Charlotte (now married) was living with her husband William Down, father William Huxtable Ball, and a child identified as William Ball, age 8. grandson at 18 Railway Terrace, Penarth, Wales. This was the first clue that William could have been the child out of wedlock, but the 1891 census kept throwing me off, with the misplaced Robert John Edwards, the mystery nephew living with Charlotte and her brothers John and Thomas. As time went on, I learned that older brother, Henry, also had a son named William, about the same age. So was this William in Penarth in 1901 - the child of Charlotte or Henry?

When I tracked down Henry, I found him in the 1901 census with his children, including young William Henry Ball, in Penarth. Luckily (or should I say, expensively...) for me, there were more than a few babies named William Ball who were born in Glamorgan between 1891 and 1895. After ordering a couple of wrong certificates, I finally received the birth certificate for William Henry, dated 1893 and was able to confirm the child as Henry's. But Charlotte's William still remained a mystery. A newly-found third cousin provided some more information - that 'Billy Ball' as he was known to his branch of the family was a longtime resident of Penarth and had worked as the caretaker of the Penarth Library.

I went back over the indexes and ordered the certificate that I had excluded previously - with the middle name of Spickett - as it seemed to have no family connection to the Ball family. When it arrived, I was delighted to learn that I had found Charlotte's out of wedlock child, William Spickett Ball.

Charlotte gave birth to a boy, named William Spickett Ball, on 3 Apr 1892, in the village of Wig Fach, near Porthcawl (Brigend), Glamorgan. This is map of the location of William's birth:

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And this is a Google street view of Wig Fach, inside the Happy Valley Campground, outside of Porthcawl:

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Baby William's birth certificate names no father. Charlotte's occupation is given as "housekeeper" and the informant was shown as "C. Ball" mother, Wig Fach, Merthyr Mawr. I have made the assumption that this was her mother Charlotte Ball. The birth was registered on 16 Apr 1892 and Thomas Jenkins was the Registrar. Charlotte's move to Wig Fach may have been related to her pregnancy and the birth of her child. Her mother may have come along to assist her. The year prior, Charlotte had been living with brothers John and Thomas on John's farm in Little Hill, St. Andrews.

Who was William's father? Could it have been Charlotte's husband William Down? I am not entirely sure. I think that the name Spickett is a clue to William's paternity, but I have been unable to make any definite conclusions. On the same page of the 1891 census for Little Hill, St. Andrews, there appears a family named Spickett. The members of the Spickett household are elderly, aged 70-76 - head of the household is Elizabeth, age 70, sister Mary, age 72 and brother-in-law, Robert, age 76 - all living on their own means. Could William's father been related to this family? Another mystery to solve...

Cheers, K.

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