IN SEARCH OF MY ROOTS-
I grew up in the knowledge that my maternal great-
The internet has provided us with an array of search tools to discover our ancestry and I made full use of those available at the Local Studies Centre at Valence House, Becontree Avenue, Dagenham where the efficient and friendly staff and volunteers provide much help and encouragement.
Jessie’s father, also named Willem Johannes (William John) and born in 1832, had married Elizabeth Whinham, daughter of an attorney’s clerk, in 1855. At the time of the 1861 census Jessie was staying with her grandparents in Lewisham -
Quite by chance I was flicking through a hard copy of the 1861 Barking census at Valence and found that they were living at 93, Church Road, Barking! My whoops of joy that day startled all those working around me for never in a million years did I imagine that my quest for information on my ancestors would lead me to my own doorstep. They had a live-
The knowledge that Jessie grew up in homes with servants made her later life even more poignant; my grandmother Minnie Blake, who lived in Dagenham for the most of her life, revealed to me shortly before she died that, as a child, she had been in the workhouse with her mother. She talked about the shame she felt at having her long hair shorn and, as a result, all the other kids knowing that she was a workhouse dweller; she was also expected to do her share of the cleaning before attending school. That shame stayed with her until the end.
At some point Willem junior left the family home in Barking for in Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper dated 1 st January 1888 was the following advertisement:
William John Bruggemeyer, who left Barking about 22 years ago, is asked for by his daughter. He is supposed to have sailed for the Cape of Good Hope.
What happened to him is a mystery. However, his wife Eliza, later surfaces in Bromley St. Leonard, Bow and is now married to Joseph Honey who, according to the 1861 census, had been a boat builder formerly living in Fisher Street, Barking. They had nine children living with them; three belonging to Joseph and six to Eliza, including my great-
Alida died in 1864 and Willem senior later married Irish Ellen May Riorden. On Willem senior’s death in 1872 Ellen left England for a new life with her children Mancha, Ellen, Charles and Elizabeth where they settled in Chicago. Mancha became an eminent judge in America. In 1892 he married his first wife Roberta and, on her death, founded the Bruggemeyer Memorial Library in Redlands, California in her memory; the library still stands. He later befriended librarian Helen (Nell) Thomas and married her in 1929 (another great surprise as I thought I was the first librarian in the family!).
Incidentally, Mancha’s brother-
At the age of 71 Mancha was elected Mayor of Redlands, California. He died in 1949 aged 83.
Jessie Bruggemeyer married Edward Oakman, whose family can be traced back to 1577 in Hertford and Cambridgeshire, at St. James the Great, Bethnal Green on 20th June 1875; my grandmother Minnie Louisa was born at Stratford in 1899. Jessie, mother of ten children, was widowed early on and brought them up alone.
Most of the current descendants of Willem Johannes Bruggemeyer live in America, but there are many descendants of my great-
After three years researching just one particular branch of the family I realise that the task of completing my family tree is a long way off!
My grandmother Minnie Blake is "tallest" in photograph -
My grandfather Fred Blake is seated and facing the camera.
Photograph taken in garden of 129 Arnold Road, Dagenham pre-
Acknowledgement: I would like to thank Christine Osborne for supplying information on various members of the Bruggemeyer family.