Saturday, April 20, 2019


I will update this blog in the near future!  There have been a few more contacts with descendants, along with quite a few pictures received of Thomas Bickerstaff and family on Nantucket, courtesy of Bob Bickerstaff.  [Thanks Bob!]

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Bickerstaff Descendants - U.S. ?

My mother's grandfather, Thomas Bernard Bickerstaff, had 11 children, 8 of whom lived to adulthood.  All are deceased.  Where are their descendants?  They would be of my mother's generation, my first cousins once removed; their children would be my second cousins. 

Richard C. Bickerstaff - had 2 children, my mother and my aunt, both still living
Charles B. Bickerstaff - had a son and a daughter [deceased]
Agnes B. Bickerstaff Coffin - had 3 children, 2 boys [1 deceased] and a girl
Barbara P. Bickerstaff Gifford - had 2 sons, both deceased, and a daughter
Alger F. Bickerstaff - had 1 son [that I know of], now deceased
Robert P. Bickerstaff - had a son* and a daughter
Erla M. Bickerstaff Russell Chase had no children that I know of
Myrtle L. Bickerstaff Gifford - do not know if she had children

*Robert's son Bob Jr. is the Bickerstaff who corresponded with John Eric Wolfe in England regarding the family in England and the "20,000 pounds going to Chancery" [see prior posts re: Agnes and Thomas Bickerstaff's mystery father and probate court]

*Corrections 7/2012 per Bob Bickerstaff [not a "Jr."]:  

Agnes Bickerstaff Coffin only had one child - a son. 
Alger F. Bickerstaff had three children. One daughter is deceased. 
    The other daughter and the son are both still living.
Erla Bickerstaff Russell Chase had four children from her first marriage.
Myrtle Bickerstaff Gifford did not have any children. 

Another correction - sadly, both of Richard Bickerstaff's daughters, my mother and my aunt, have now passed away.  

Would love to hear from any Bickerstaff cousins.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Thomas Bickerstaff's Bakery in Nantucket, Massachusetts

Copy of an article from "The Solicitor", Nantucket, Massachusetts, circa 1908. Includes a photo of Richard Bickerstaff [my grandfather], son of Thomas, standing next to the bakery's horse-drawn delivery carriage.

According to the article, this was the oldest bakery in Massachusetts [at the time], being 60 years old.  It was built in 1848 by Charles Newcook, and had 2 proprietors before Thomas Bickerstaff., who had worked for both the previous owners.    Daily delivery trips were made to the summer cottages, as "city folks" flocked to "the cool shores" of Nantucket every summer.  Nantucket had only 1 railroad, and cars had been recently forbidden on the island, thus the horse-drawn carriage.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


Hannah Bickerstaff and her young children lived with her sister's family [the Batemans] in 1861. Most likely when Hannah became ill and unable to support herself, she was forced to move into the Thames Workhouse with  Agnes and Thomas, where she died  in 1863; the children  then ages 5 and 3. Agnes was sent out to school by the age of 13, boarding in Towersey Cottages with other girls from the Workhouse.  When she was 14, she arranged with the Workhouse and the emigration group of Maria Rye's to emigrate to Canada.  When she turned 18, she moved from Canada to the U.S.  Her brother Thomas lived at the Thames Workhouse until he was 18 or 19, when he left to join his sister in the U.S.

Per her journals, Hannah's adult daughter Agnes Bickerstaff corresponded with the Batemans through at least 1928; and per the Merchant Marine journals of Hannah's grandson Richard Bickerstaff [my grandfather], he was able to visit the Batemans in England during his tour of service [about 1917].  None of these journals, unfortunately, give much more than names and dates.   I had no idea Agnes and Thomas even knew their mother's family until I learned of the journals.  Did Elizabeth Bateman perhaps visit her niece and nephew at the Workhouse? 

Family history has it that Agnes Bickerstaff returned to England in the early 1900s for the probate of a Will, of a man she believed to be the natural father of herself and Thomas.  I found her in the 1913 passenger list of a ship on her return voyage from England; family history says she was unable to prevail with the court and so "20,000 pounds went to Chancery".  From inquiries and general correspondence over the years, it is my understanding that (a) since Agnes and Thomas Bickerstaff were illegitimate, they were not legally able to make a claim against the man's estate; and (2) it is assumed that the man's estate went to the Chancery court for distribution to the Crown as he either had no heirs or had no Will.  Also according to family history, this man's name was Thomas Bernard or Burnard; Hannah's son [my great-great grandfather] Thomas Bernard Bickerstaff was supposedly named after him.  [Note:  later, add the names of other illegitimate children in the family, also supposedly having as middle names the surnames of their father...]

I thought it might be easy to pinpoint the probate documents of a man named Bernard/ Burnard, based on the date of Agnes' return voyage from England ... but I am told this is not so.  Either the records are not indexed by name, or they are so vast as to be impossible to search without an exact date.  Since the probate case appears to be the only clue to the identity of Agnes' and Thomas's father, I was very disappointed to hear this.  If anyone has any other suggestions of avenues I might pursue in this vein...please let me know!

The story of "20,000 pounds going to Chancery" came from the family in England. Eric Wolfe, a descendant of Eliza Bickerstaff's in England, corresponded for a time with  Bob Bickerstaff, a grandson of Thomas Bickerstaff's here in the U.S.  [Eric and Bob would have been  third cousins.; Eric was in his 80's when he tracked down the Bickerstaffs in the U.S.]   It was he who passed this information  to Bob.

As far as I know, the only info passed down directly from Agnes or Thomas was the "little black book" Agnes compiled on the family history.  Although my mother believes she saw it as a child as her father Richard had a copy, no-one knows what became of  this book  And which version of the Bernard/Burnard story did it contain?  Supposedly, at first Agnes believed their father was an Henri Bernard, from France, and Hannah was a dancer who would not give up dancing to accompany him back to France.  [The only occupation I've seen in England censuses showed her to be a lace maker.]

In the 1900 U.S. Federal Census, both Thomas and Agnes stated their father was born in France; in 1910 Thomas said the same [Agnes has not been found in that census.]  In 1920 both stated their father was born in England.  Agnes' death certificate [1934] showed father's place of birth as "Tames", England, name unknown.  Thomas's death certificate [1940] showed father's place of birth as England, name unknown.  Agnes's return voyage from England and probate court was April 1913; evidently she learned the name of their father between 1910-1913.  Hannah's sisters Eliza [Kirtland] and Elizabeth [Bateman] both died before 1900 so it was not they who imparted the information to Agnes.  Although Agnes' correspondence was with the Batemans [grandchildren of Elizabeth], it was Eliza's great-grandson, John Eric Wolfe, who conducted the U.S. correspondence and reported on the probate matter to Bob Bickerstaff.  It seems the whole family contained clues to the father of Thomas and Agnes; I wonder why they waited until after 1910 to pass it on?!