I was online last night looking for some information (for a future blog post) on West Dean church in the archives of The Times newspaper, when I stumbled across the following news item on page seven of the newspaper for Wednesday the 15th April 1936:
Mr. and Mrs. J. Boxall, of Scout Cottage, West Dean, near Chichester, who celebrate their golden wedding to-day, are 83 and 79, and have had 27 children, and have 42 grandchildren and 38 great-grandchildren. Mrs. Boxall had triplets once and twins thrice.
Without doubt "Mr. and Mrs. J. Boxall" are my 2x great-grandparents, James and Caroline BOXALL, but not everything in the story is true. Their ages are correct and the 15th April was the date of their wedding anniversary, but they were married in 1876, so it would have been their 60th wedding anniversary, not their 50th.
I believe the number of children is also wrong. I have only confirmed twelve so far, although the 1911 census says they had thirteen, and I don’t believe there were any more after 1911. It is possible that some were stillborn because the census does specify "Total Children Born Alive", and they were probably not registered or baptised. It is not the first time that I have heard this story, although I think the highest I had previously heard was 23 children, but even that seemed unlikely at the time.
I am not sure where this story originates, I can’t imagine that The Times had a correspondent in West Dean, so presumably this came from a local newspaper. I obviously need to check the local newspapers to see what they reported and if the wires have become crossed at some stage. I would really like to find out the truth behind this story.
As I scrolled up the page there was another story that caught my eye:
James Horace Dunford, 28, Malling Street, Lewes, a permanent way employee attached to Lewes Station, was killed when crossing the railway line yesterday by a train from Eastbourne, which he apparently failed to notice.
Could this be one of my relations as well? I have a Horace James DUNFORD, from Lewes, Sussex who would have been 28 years old in 1936. I don’t know much about the DUNFORDs, Horace James was the son of Horace DUNFORD and his wife Margaret GASSON (my 2x great-aunt).
The coincidence seems too great, the death is registered under the name James Horace DUNFORD, and I can’t find a death record for a Horace James DUNFORD. Of course there are lots of other scenarios that could lead to Horace James not being in the GRO Death Indexes, such as immigration or death whilst on military service. Again I probably need to look at some local newspapers, perhaps a coroners report and maybe employment records from the railway. I really need to find some mention of his parent’s names or those of his siblings.
Finding one of these stories was quite a surprise, but to find two in the same newspaper (and so close to each other on the same) was really unexpected, especially as neither story is really of national interest. I would never have dreamt of searching in The Times for either of these events, but I certainly will be in the future.