Those Darned Actors!
“See if you can find those darned actors” was one of the things my Dad said when he handed me the files with his research. So I did. First you must remember that this happened before there were such things as FreeBMD or Findmypast. In fact the 1881 census was still in the final stages of being checked and transferred to microfiche before being released. We did have the IGI on fiche – so nothing is easy at this time.
I started by reading everything he had and then talking to Muriel’s daughter, Pat, the eldest of all the cousins. She had heard the stories more often than any of us so she could repeat them word for word. Then I made a list of what we knew.
My grandmother was Margaret Annie GUILFOYLE
Her father was Charles GUILFOYLE
He mother was Bessie NATHAN
Charles and Bessie were Actors
Amongst the papers Dad gave me were several photocopies of newspaper cuttings and some very bad photocopies of photographs. When I read them I realised that these were copies of the pages of a scrap book started in 1876 by Bessie NATHAN to record her career in the theatre. I learnt that Dad had been given them when he visited a cousin who lived in San Diego, the daughter of Bessie NATHAN and Charles GUILFOYLE’s youngest daughter. One of the copies was of a letterhead and on it was the permanent address of Bessie. 126 London Road SE.
Now, this is where having membership of a family history society or a forum like this is important. I was a very new researcher and what I knew about London could be written on the head of a pin. I happened to mention this letterhead to a group of members of Gwent FHS when we were packing the quarterly journal and one of them, Monica Collins, said “London Road SE, that’s Southwark. I am going to the SoG next week. I’ll have a look at the street directories and find out who lived there around 1876 onwards.” I thought this was very kind but quietly resolved not to get too excited because she might forget and I would not ask her about it just in case she did forget.
I should have known better. The following week I saw Monica at a committee meeting and she gave me some papers. She had found that John NATHAN was the general dealer at 126 London Road in 1877. She then found him on the 1881 Census with his wife and six children. Not only that, she had looked at the 1871 Census and found them at 231 Blackfriars Road this time there were 11 children and Bessie was there amongst them! As the icing on the cake she had looked at the 1861 census where they were living at 24 & 25 London Road where there were 7 children but Bessie was not there.
This was such a huge gift to me, so huge that I knew I could never repay it to Monica so I told her that I would do my best to help other people the way she had helped me – because that’s what we do in this hobby of ours.
So now I had my grandparents, my great grandparents and my great,great, grandparents. Time to get some more certificates and make sure of them.