Tracing Living Relatives

By Richard Jones

This article was published in the December 2016 edition of Soul Search, the Journal of The Sole Society

Ed: An article by Richard Jones appeared in the last edition of Soul Search entitled Seven Sewell Children: Their orphanage years which detailed his mother’s and her sibling’s time in a seaman’s orphanage in Hull. Richard has also written about the considerable time he has spent tracking down the children of his mother’s siblings, an edited version of which is reproduced below. It is interesting in terms of the tools he used for example Facebook, Genes Reunited and
I am the youngest son of Rita Mary (born May) Sewell and Wallace William (Bill) Jones. This article is a story about how I tracked down the families of my mother’s seven sisters and one brother. their parents were William Frank Sewell and Grace Lillian Marriott who were married in 1919, in Leicester. Grace was also from a large family with 8 children. She was born on the 20th of May 1900 in Leicester to Henry and Mary Jane Marriott.
(William) Frank Sewell was one of six children of Frank and Martha Sewell and was born in Norwich on the 6th Oct 1897 according to his service record.

The author’s grandfather, William Frank Sewell taken sometime in the late 30s or 40s
The author’s mother, Rita Sewell’s wedding photo from 1951

Frank was a veteran of WW1 and a sailor enabling him to put his children in the Seaman’s orphanage.
He served from 12 May 1916 to 31st March 1918 and was stationed near London initially on the President II as documented in the Royal Navy Registers of Seamen’s Services, 1900-1928. The President II was at the time the home of the Royal Naval Reserve and a training vessel.
I know nothing about my grandmother other than she was perhaps of Irish or Spanish descent. Unfortunately, she died on July 5th, 1937 of TB, being survived by her husband and nine children. My grandfather remarried in autumn 1941 and died in 1959.

Doreen Grace1920 1939George GoughBrian, Beverley and Lindsey
Marjorie Lillian 192219991942George Cecil Guymer 
1947John FratorolliJohn and Allen (Dominic)
(Veronica) Joyce192520131945Ivor Leonard DeereTerrence, Rita, Phillip, Linda and Brian
Mavis Elsie  1926 1994 1945 Frederick William ParkerKeith and Veronica
1953Alfred E ClareBrenda
1967Donald Leslie James
Iris Kathleen192719881951Ivan Brandon NealLeslie Anne (Annie) and Julie (Jools)
Rita Mary (May)192919731951Wallace William JonesDavid and Richard
Berenice Evelyn193020151955Desmond PattersonGlen and Tracey
Pauline Gertrude 193220001951Leonard E. ValentineTimothy, Paul and Berenice (Berry)
1971Geoffrey L Weston
Kelvin William193319931975Dianne DunbarIris, Kelly and Donna
The Nine Sewell Children

Using I determined that the origin of my immediate Sewell family tree seems to be the marriage of John Sewell and Laura Cooper in 1808 in Norwich, Norfolk. John was part of the branch of the Sewells that initially settled in and around Norwich and the north-east corner of Norfolk in the late 1700s.
However, the fun really started for me personally when I started to track down my cousins. In 2008 I had had no contact with any of them for over 30 years.
At the time I started working on my family tree, the only thing I really knew well were the names of two of my mother’s sisters (Iris and Marjorie) and of her brother (Kelvin). The rest of the names were there in my memory but distantly. After some research, mostly in and using internet searches, using my mother as a starting point and her birth in Leicester on January 20, 1929, I have determined that my mother was the sixth oldest of the nine children born to William and Grace Sewell. This was immediately odd, as for some reason I have always thought that my mother was one of eleven children but that remains a mystery I will need to solve later.
I also recalled, my mother talking about Pately Bridge and Harrogate. I knew my mother had been placed in an orphanage in Hull after her mother, Grace Lillian, had died (See article in Soul Search, August 2016). I knew that her father, my grandfather William Sewell, was the one who placed them in the orphanage. I never knew my grandfather although I knew my step grandmother, Nana.
Then, in August of 2012 I saw on that a Donna Sewell had a partial tree that included my Mom and my Uncle Kelvin. Several emails later we both happily concluded we were first cousins, she was the daughter of Kelvin Sewell, and we had never known each other existed. Donna had two siblings so I now had enlarged my Sewell connections by three cousins and their children.
Fortunately Donna had some information about Leslie Ann Neal and Julie Neal the two cousins I had spent most time with growing up in Leicester. These were the children of Iris Sewell and Ivan Neal. I had met them and my Uncle Ivan after my Auntie Iris died in 1988. Leslie Ann is now known as Annie and Julie as Jools. I contacted Annie on Genes Reunited and then subsequently Jools through Facebook.
Donna still lives in Hull and has been the source of a lot of information about the Sewell children’s orphanage years. Her father, Kelvin, apparently talked more openly about his history than his sisters, and Donna was the one that provided the actual name of the orphanage – Newland Homes that led me to the Hull History Center.
In December of 2012 my wife and I visited the UK and met with both Donna and Jools, and visited the Hull History Center.
In 2015 Donna found out about the very recent passing in 2015 of Mom’s sister Berenice Patterson from Berenice’s son Glen Patterson. This was truly a surprise, and to me personally somewhat of wakeup call. I had been to England both in January of 2015, and in December of 2012 and I had no idea that any of my mother’s siblings were still alive then. In November of 2015 I spent an hour on the phone with Glen, a cousin I most likely knew at some point but certainly did not remember.
In 2016 my journey accelerated beyond my wildest dreams. First, Leicester City Football Club (the Foxes or the City depending on your generation) were crowned Premier League Champions for the very first time in over 130 years of existence. As a lifelong supporter, I spent much of my early life within a few miles of the Filbert Street ground, indeed living on Filbert Street for a short period. This was a great thrill but nothing like finding the families of Pauline, Joyce and then finally Mavis.
The search for Pauline’s family started with her married name, Valentine. I found that there were a number of Valentines on Genes Reunited who were looking at Pauline’s records. I used the Genes Reunited mail system to try to contact them but nothing positive resulted. There was also one person with the last name of Weston looking at the records. I did another search on and found out that Pauline had married for a second time to a Geoffrey Weston. So I took to Facebook, first I found Pauline’s son Timothy’s daughter (Jess Weston) who I had earlier contacted via, but didn’t get a response. And then I typed in Tim Weston in Facebook and one name appeared with a Leicester City logo. This had to be fate. So I used Facebook messenger to send him a note saying “Hi – I might be your cousin”. It was the middle of the night in Leicester but apparently Tim has insomnia quite a bit, and after a few minutes he responded with “are you for real” – and I was. Although I’ve yet to be in contact with his other family members. This was another major step forwards.
Earlier this year the quest got more intense. I received the redacted history of Kelvin from the Hull History Center. Although there is a lot of major information in Kelvin’s packet, as there is with my mother’s packet, much of the interactions had multiple names in it and the names were crossed out. I clearly needed to get a complete copy of this information to finish that part of the story. For that I needed to find enough information about Joyce (registered Veronica Joyce) and Mavis to request all the data from the Hull History Center at once.
I was not really getting anywhere with this till I came across a reference on to a Brian Deere (Joyce married Leonard Deere). So I paid the monthly fee and got an address but no email or phone number. He had been at the same address in Birmingham for over 20 years. He appeared to be one of Joyce’s children. I wrote him a short letter with a piece of the article I was writing in it, and some proofs of who I was. Just a few short weeks later he responded by email, he was my cousin and gave me some phone numbers to call. We spent a great hour on the phone just catching up, trying to get a feel for who each of us was and what we have done and are doing. Another great moment for me personally. He mentioned that he knew one of Mavis’ children. But we talked more about our families and siblings.
At this point, Mavis and Doreen were the only families I had yet to locate. And Brian came to the rescue with regard to Mavis. He called a number he had long thought he had lost and got in touch with Brenda Lynch. Interestingly enough she was one of the people I had tried to contact through Genes Reunited record but she had not replied. She is the only daughter of Mavis’s second marriage to Alfred E. Clarke in the winter of 1953. She has now offered to help fill in the blanks.
I now think there is some potential by the end of this year, we will have found at least one of each of the Sewell Children’s offspring, and obtained the full set of information from the Hull History Centre.