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Is “The Old Druggist” my 6x great-grandmother (Part 2: What Thomas Geering wrote about the druggist)

26 Feb

Having previously described my knowledge of Mary GEERING the druggist of Hailsham, Sussex, who I believe to be my 6x great-grandmother, I now turn my attention to what Thomas Geering wrote about “the old druggist” in his book Our Sussex Parish.

The story mainly focuses on the famous Captain Barclay, but does include a few snippets of information about the druggist and her family, none of which conclusive, it is sadly very short on hard facts, but makes up for it with some wonderful descriptions of the people and the shop (more about that in another post).

Firstly we begin with the lodger:

CAPTAIN BARCLAY, the celebrated pedestrian, with the 23rd Foot, in which regiment he held his commission, was, about the year 1804-5, stationed, if not in our barracks, in the neighbourhood, he having apartments in the house of Mrs. Gearing, druggist.

Then we have mention of the druggist’s son:

The druggist’s son, James, who had been barrack-sergeant, in after-life delighted to gossip away an hour detailing many of the doughty Captain’s habits while in quarters here…

We then return to the druggist again and her daughter:

Let me give a parting word or two to our old-fashioned maiden druggist, Miss Nancy Gearing. I remember her mother, a little dark-eyed, precise, shrivelled-up old dame. Her fame rested chiefly upon salves and ointments, and to the daughter, Nancy, devolved the honour of continuing to our town and neighbourhood these two blessings.

Then we hear more about the druggist who like her son enjoyed gossiping about their famous lodger:

She, her shop and the contents had all grown old together. Where she drew her first breath, there in the same chamber she breathed her last, and like her creaking old door, she hung on for many a year, always attending to her business duties, and glad to the last to take a shilling over the counter. This was her great delight, and if ever gratification and satisfaction could be seen dominant in one’s features, then these were in hers when a customer had entered the shop and she had fingered the money. But the joy could be intensified by a gossip about her celebrated lodger; it was then her dark eyes sparkled as she recounted her recollections of his manly presence, and his kind, gentlemanly demeanour.

Finally Thomas Geering leaves us with a clue, the age of death of the old druggist:

Our old druggist lived on to be eighty-one, and a very short period of her long life became subject to decrepitude and mortal decay.

So pulling out the hard facts from this selection of quotes we have:

  • Mrs Gearing was a druggist, but as well as running a shop, also let  out an apartment or room, but we don’t know whether this was just a one off for the celebrated pedestrian or whether she had other paying guests.
  • Mrs Gearing had a son, James, who had been a barrack sergeant.
  • Mrs Gearing had a daughter, Nancy, who took over the shop.
  • Mrs Gearing lived to be eighty one years old.

There are some similarities between these ‘facts’ and the GEERING family I have previously described.

  • Mary GEERING was listed as a chymist and druggist in 1832-4 and 1839 in Hailsham.
  • Richard and Mary GEERING had a son named James (my 5x great-grandfather).
  • Richard and Mary GEERING probably had a daughter called Ann, who may have been Nancy in Thomas Gearing’s story.
  • According to the census Ann/Nancy appears to have run the shop after Mary’s death.

There is a discrepancy in the age of Mrs Gearing when she died, or maybe my confusion in the interpretation of the story. I think Mary GEERING was 78 when she died, and it was Ann who died aged 81 years.

Allowing for some artistic licence or failing memory on the part of Thomas Geering, these two families (the one in the book and the other revealed by census returns and parish registers) are a pretty good match. I have no doubt they are one and the same.

My challenge is to prove that this family is my family, that Mary GEERING/Mrs Gearing was my 6x great-grandmother.

Is “The Old Druggist” my 6x great-grandmother (Part 1: What I know about the old druggist)

25 Feb

In his book Our Sussex Parish, Thomas Geering has a story entitled “The Old Druggist: Her Shop And Her Lodger”. In the story he describes Mrs Gearing (who was the druggist) and Captain Barclay (who was the lodger).

I had never heard of Captain Barclay before, but I have since discovered (through the story and online research) that he was a celebrated pedestrian, who carried out various walking feats, mostly it seems for money, such as walking a 1000 miles in a 1000 hours for a wager of 1000 guineas.

Of course the real interest for me is whether Mrs Gearing the druggist, is my 6x great-grandmother. My gut instinct is that she is, but there is just not enough evidence yet for me to be 100% certain.

My own research has taken my GEERING ancestors back to Hailsham, Sussex. My 4x great-grandfather Richard GEERING was born in Hailsham in 1805 and appears to be the son of James and Ann GEERING. This is really as far back as I can confidently go so far.

I haven’t found a marriage for James and Ann, but it looks like James was the son of Richard and Mary GEERING, baptised in Hailsham on the 26th December 1776. Richard GEERING and Mary JARVIS were married in Hailsham on the 29th August 1776.

The 1841 census shows a household in Hailsham, which appears to relate to my ancestors, but the relationship is a bit confusing, because they are not included in the 1841 census. The first person in the household is Ann GEERING (aged 55), then we have John GEERING (aged 60) and Jane GEERING (aged 35).

Normally if John and Ann were married I would expect John to be listed first, so these are probably not husband and wife (maybe brother and sister). Both Ann and John GEERING have given their occupation as druggist.

John died before the 1851 census, but Ann and Jane are still living together in Hailsham. Ann (aged 67) is shown as unmarried, with the occupation of chemist and druggist. Jane (aged 53) has no occupation and her relationship to Ann is given as niece. My guess is that Jane was the daughter of James, and James was the brother of Ann.

Pigot’s Directory of Sussex for both 1832-4 and 1839 list a Mary GEERING as a “chymist and druggist” in Hailsham. This information may be out of date because I suspect that Mary actually died in 1825.

My hypothesis is that both Ann and James were the children of Richard and Mary GEERING, my 6x great-grandparents, and that the druggist business passed down from Richard and Mary, to just Mary, then to Ann and James, and then just Ann (probably assisted by Jane).

My problem is going to be finding the evidence to support this. The only child that I can find for Richard and Mary GEERING is James, no sign of Ann. I have found three children for James and Ann GEERING, but no sign of Jane.

As you will see in my next post, Thomas Geering’s story about the old druggist does provide a few clues which may fill in some details on the family.

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