My trans-Atlantic Cousin Jacks, Part 1

Soon after I began delving into my Cornish connections – created by the marriage of Welsh cousin Charles Edwin Nicholas to Landewednack lass Sidonia Jose – I realised I had entered a genealogical maze.

That cliched phrase ‘a tight-knit community’ hardly did justice to this Lizard Peninsula clan. This was so tight-knit, and the Jose name so prolific, as to be akin to a skein of wool attacked by a basket of playful kittens. Unravelling it with any certainty would be a challenge like that faced by someone researching the surnames Smith, Brown or Jones.

Ahead lay a path strewn with doubts and uncertainties where obtaining conclusive proof the correct ancestor had been found would be almost impossible for many of them.

Like others of earlier times, the Joses bred large families and stayed close to home. Most of them stayed deeply entrenched within the sea-washed confines of the Lizard Peninsula which, even today, presents as a singular attachment to the rest of Cornwall, remote, cloistered and self-contained.

However, among the many stay-at homes. there were a few who broke loose and ventured far afield. Most went of their own accord but one or two were dispatched at the order of the courts. The majority remained in their new homelands and founded Jose dynasties, although a couple did make it back to English shores.

One of the youngest to quit the Lizard was cousin John Jose, determined to start a new life after some turbulent years at home. His father had died when John was only four-years-old and his sister, Elizabeth, had followed their father six months later after living only three months.

John’s mother, Elizabeth (nee Harry) had since formed a liaison with a Mr Secombe (or Seccombe, the most likely candidate being Thomas Seccombe, a married cordwainer from nearby Mawgan-in-Meneage) and given birth to an illegitimate daughter, Isabella, who lived for a mere six months.

But the biggest setback came in 1838 when his older brother, Richard, died at sea while aboard the Royal Navy brigantine Skylark. The ship, built in Pembroke (another Cornwall-Wales link) and commissioned in 1831, was stationed at Falmouth.

When John arrived in Quebec, Canada, at the end of the 1830s, he was barely out of his teens. At some stage of his journey – was this a shipboard romance? – he met Scottish lass Jane Vance, from Glen Luche, a place so far not found on any map but reliably mentioned in the family’s folklore.


 The record of Jane Jose’s birth in Quebec

On 7 May 1840, when Jane was still only sixteen years old, they were married at St John’s Presbyterian Church in Quebec City.

The newlyweds soon moved to Toronto where they lived to the end of their days with Jane’s death, at the age of ninety-two in July 1915, being reported in the local newspapers as that of ‘one of Toronto’s oldest residents’ who had settled in the city ‘before the coming of the railroads’.

In memory of John’s brother they named their first son Richard, who fittingly was a lone survivor among the couple’s early days of parenting.

Their first born, Elizabeth in 1844, lived less than three months but was remembered first in another Elizabeth, who lived barely two years from 1853 to 1855 and yet again on 25 August 1856 with Elizabeth Jane, who bucked the trend and lived to the age of eighty-seven.

Another early death was that of John, who survived for only six weeks from birth in January 1849 and was remembered a year later when another boy was born and given the name of John.

The family’s fortunes vastly improved from the birth of the third Elizabeth with most of the surviving seven children marrying, having children, and living to a ripe old age. The one setback was Sarah, born in 1866 and who married late at the age of thirty-nine but lived for only another four years.

And so, to the best of my knowledge, at least one twiglet on the Jose family tree has put down deep roots and continues to grow and thrive in Canada.

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