Back at the beginning of September I was pottering around in the church when an American lady and her daughter approached me. The mother, Judyenn, told me that her grandmother had been baptised in St Mary’s in 1879. Could I give her anymore information? Well, not really, but I was intrigued, so I told her that I would go to Bristol Record Office (where all of St Mary’s ancient records are kept) and see what showed up.

Genealogy fascinates me but I had no knowledge of how to uncover people’s family history. Fortunately the staff were very helpful and a picture started to emerge.

Rosina Bailey, Judyenn’s grandmother, lived in Old Down. Her father Jesse was a labourer who had married Mary Ann Jenkins in St Paul’s (the Wedding Cake church) in Portland Square in 1871. Mary Ann had been born in Redwick. Each one signed with a cross, indicating a lack of education – not uncommon in those days when working class people lived in abject poverty.

Somehow they found their way to Old Down where the family was recorded in the census’ of 1891. By 1901 they were in Tockington, but by the time of the 1911 census, although the Bailey family was living in Tockington, probably just off The Green, Rosina had vanished – in fact she emigrated to America in   1908.

Judyenn wondered where Rosina’s parents were buried. At the time I couldn’t tell her, however with a lot of help from Nick Fear, we tracked the grave of Jesse and Mary Ann to an unmarked grave in our churchyard. Many thanks to the team led by Dr Richard Newley for mapping the graveyard.

Nick has discovered many more fascinating facts about the family which, together with a number of photographs of Tockington at the turn of the 20th century, have been sent to Judyenn.

How sad that when she visited St Mary’s, she was unable to see her great grandparents’ grave, but nevertheless she had the joy of actually touching the baptismal font in which her grandmother had been christened.

Martin