Our Latest Project - Finding the Booty

In 2018, a chance conversation with Marian Roberts of Withycombe, Exmouth led to her mentioning more than 20 letters that had been sent to her ancestors in Bristol.  They had been written in the1850s by John

Parkinson to his wife, Mary Ann’s parents, James and Elizabeth Cole, telling them of the family’s experiences in Australia at the time of the Gold Rush, after his initial success in the Californian Gold Rush.  Other family members had discarded the letters but Marian was intrigued by them as they tell a fascinating story of hardship and toil so she saved them.  For the researcher, though, they have proved a nightmare as, in order to save on paper, they were written as usual across the page, which was then turned through 90 degrees and the letter continued on top of the original script.  An example of one of these letters is shown here:

In addition to the letters, there is a Boot and Shoe Order Book belonging to George Oxley, who had married Mary Ann’s youngest sister, Clara.  That book contains details of

orders for footwear from such clientele as Queen Victoria’s eldest son, Albert Edward (who became King Edward VII on her death in 1901 but was then Prince of Wales); his sons – the Princes Albert Victor and George of Wales; his brother, Arthur, the Duke of Connaught and members of other European Royal families such as the King of Hanover; Princess Saline (daughter of the ruler of Oman and Zanzibar); Prince Henry of Prussia; Prince Louis of Hess; Crown Prince of Austria; Baroness Versera and nobility such as Lords Baring and Carrington and Baron Arthur Rothschild; also British Army Officers, such as Major John Ffolliott Crofton.

“Finding the Booty” combines the contrasting life stories of the two sisters, Mary Ann Parkinson and Clara Oxley, whose husbands were searching for treasure in very different ways, half the world apart.  It is hoped that Daphne will complete this book during 2020.