Sunday, 5 August 2012

The things we do for love

Today is story telling Sunday On the first Sunday in the month we tell a story and then we all go over to Sian's place at FromHighintheSky and leave a link to our story. Then we spend lots of lovely time readinf everyone else's stories. Why not join in?

Bessie Nathan
My Great Grandmother was an actress. I have told stories about her before here but I haven't told this one because it is a recent discovery. I have been researching the life and career of Bessie NATHAN, as she called herself on stage, for the last 16 years. I found relatives in Australia, cousins in America and sad stories of the wartime deaths of two of her grandsons.
One of the family stories we heard from Aunty Muriel was that after my grandmother - Bessie's daughter - died giving birth to twins, Bessie blamed my grandfather. She said he should have "behaved himself" and not allowed his wife to get pregnant again after the doctors had warned her of the consequences. Aunty Mu said there was a terrible row which ended when Grandfather lifted Bessie off her feet and carried her out into the street and then dumped her bags there too. Aunty Mu said that Bessie went across the road and was lodging there so that she could keep an eye on her grand children.
While I was searching the indexes for the marriage of Bessie's youngest daughter, also called Bessie, I found what I thought was the correct reference so I ordered the certificate.
Imagine my surprise when I realised that this was the marriage of Bessie NATHAN to a man called David Walters, who lived in a house on the opposite side of the street to my grandfather!
No one ever knew this except for Bessie and the man she married, at least not until after Bessie had died.
We don't know exactly what she was doing between her marriage to Mr Walters in 1920 and her death in 1930. We know that she died in Lambeth Hospital aged 74 and that her niece Josie registered her death under the name Bessie Elizabeth Seymour in January 1930. We also know that in February 1930 Josie and her uncle Alfred made a Statutory Declaration to correct some of the details on the death certificate. Her name was given as Bessie Elizabeth Walters and where she had been described as the widow of Guilfoyle Seymour (almost the correct name of her first husband) she was now described as the wife or widow of David Walters.
I have spent 16 years chasing this woman. I adore her. Every new little thing I find about her tells me that she was hard and perhaps unforgiving, that she was totally ambitious and her whole life was focussed on acting and the stage. She was an inveterate liar, and from what I remember of my aunt's stories she could tell a good tale. I really don't think she was very nice but by gosh she was a character and I hope that somehow I have passed on some of that strength to my own daughter.

If you have enjoyed my story why not visit Sian's Place and read all the others

12 comments:

Barbara Eads said...

I love genealogy! What a great discovery. I can't wait until you discover something else!

ComfyMom~Stacey said...

She does sound like quite a character.

Sian said...

I keep getting drawn back to that face! What a fine looking woman she was - I can imagine just looking at the photo what kind of a magnetic stage presence she must have had. A wonderful story - your affection for the old rogue (or roguette?) leaps off the page. I love it!

Jane said...

what a character she must have been and still full of surprises!!

heart.hearth.home. said...

Life was tough, I imagine, especially for an actress in those days. No doubt that was what gave her such a strong personality. I do wish you luck in finding out more of her history. She definitely has a colourful past. Can't wait to find out more.

Missus Wookie said...

I like the eyes and her expression - you can see the strength that she obviously needed. Amazing how you can be drawn to someone that you'll never get a chance to meet isn't it? Great stories too.

Sandie said...

Thank you for leaving a comment on my post, it gave me the opportunity to visit and what a wonderful story. Bessie sounds quite a character.
It's great to meet another Bookcrosser too! I'll say hello next time I check in and well done on setting up a zone.

Maria Ontiveros said...

what a treasure of stories you have.
Rinda

Roxanne said...

I wish I had a pic if my grandma Bessie this bessies youngest daughter From your story I now know that in personality they were very similar - characters. I have a feeling they looked very much alike in their younger years. Thank you for a grear story

Ladkyis said...

Roxanne, I am positive that Alice had photographs of young Bessie - she had the original of the photo of Bessie NATHAN AND she had the scrap book that Bessie N kept of her early years together with photographs of Charles Guilfoyle - Someone has to contact Alice's daughter Pat and find that stuff

furrypig said...

What a character how interesting to have discovered so much of your family history

Chipper said...

How exciting that you are still finding out new stories and tidbits about someone who certainly sounds like a character. Hopefully you will meet her one day :-)