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Saturday, 28 July 2012


I wrote here a couple of years ago about an ancestral puzzle created by my 3x great grandfather William Brodie Gurney’s attempts to write someone out of the family history. The Gurney family so disliked the second wife of their beloved grandfather Thomas Gurney of Blackfriars(1705-1770) that they referred to her only by her initial. They did the same with her son in law and with the town in which her grandchildren lived, making it impossible, or at least very difficult to identify and trace them.

All that W.B. Gurney allowed us to know was that Thomas Gurney had married a Miss R., sometime after the death of his first wife on 29th May 1756 and (obviously) before his death in 1770. Thomas and Miss R. had one child, Rebecca, who married a Mr F of Hertfordshire; and Rebecca and Mr F. had two children: Thomas who had 5 children, and Martha, the latter still living, in W., when WBG’s history was published in c1850.

Thomas Gurney (1705-1770)
Rebeccah Wick’s husband

R., F. and W. – not much to go on. Someone suggested that the R. might be a first name not a surname. Given their daughter’s name, could it stand for Rebecca? Sure enough, Thomas Gurney widower married Rebeccah Wicks in Southwark on 8th October 1756. The location is right too, because Southwark is where the Gurneys worshipped – another Thomas Gurney marriage, to Rebecca Austen, took place in 1766 in Kent, a county with which Thomas had no previous association.

I can find no other definite trace of Rebeccah, either as Wicks or Gurney. But in the search for her daughter I found Rebecca Gurney marrying John Flindall widower in London on 18th October 1798. The date fits for a woman born around 1757, especially if she had remained a spinster for a while as many daughters did, to care for her widowed mother. And her husband is a Mr F.

So, armed with a potential surname at last, I started looking for Rebecca (Gurney) Flindall’s children Thomas and Martha. There were too many Martha Flindalls to tell; but there was also a Thomas Flindall born in Hertfordshire in around 1800, soon after Rebecca and John Flidall got married.

I cross-checked, and found him elsewhere on, where a contributor had added his middle name – which as far as I’m concerned pretty much confirmed that I had followed the trail of initials correctly. The grandson of Rebeccah Wicks and Thomas Gurney, son of their daughter Rebecca and her husband John Flindall, was Thomas Gurney Flindall, named by Rebecca after her father. 

Rebecca must have been aware of the hostility to her mother and perhaps to her from the rest of the Gurney family, and she was defiantly confirming the connection which they would like to have erased from history.

William Brodie Gurney (1777-1855)
whose family history dismissed his grandfather’s second marriage

Miss R. may have “dissipated Thomas’s property to gratify her habits of intemperance,” as W.B. Gurney alleged, or she may not. And I can understand the family’s hostility to a marriage which took place only five months after the death of their beloved matriarch. But blood is thicker than water, or gin. I’m pleased to have uncovered her identity, and for that matter Mr F.’s.

Oh, and what about the W.? Thomas Gurney Flindall was, at the time of the 1841 census, a blacksmith in the Hertfordshire town of … Welwyn.

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