Monday 3 October 2011

Family Mystery: William Nash

My 2x great grandfather William NASH has proved to be one of the most elusive of my 19th century ancestors. I knew he existed because he was recorded on my great grandmother Annie Mary Harrison NASH's marriage certificate in 1887 but as deceased.  His occupation was listed as being a Steward with P and O so I knew he was working at sea. For this reason I was unable to find him with the rest of the family in any of the censuses as he must have been away from home every time!

The only other evidence of his existence was at on his marriage certificate to Mary Ann HARRISON in 1862 in Southampton. This also listed his father as John NASH. He must have spent some time back in the UK as he and Mary Ann had four children in total:

  • Annie Mary Harrison Nash, F, b. 13 Jul 1863
  • Lilian Nash, F, b. abt 1865
  • Ada Jane Nash, F, b. abt 1870
  • George Harrison Nash, M, b. 1871
The first piece in the puzzle was a search of the Index of Deaths at Sea held by the national archives. Having the earliest possible year from the birth of his son George in 1871 to the last possible date of Annie's marriage in 1887 made this search a bit shorter. This gave me his date and place of death as Bombay (Mumbai) in India on the 26th June 1877. The cause of death was given as cholera which must have been a horrible way to die. I then came across a record of his burial in the Sawri Christian Cemetery in Bombay:

Sacred to the memory of WILLIAM NASH Chief Steward P and O Co's SS Lombardy" who died 26th June 1877, aged 39 years. "This stone is erected as a mark of respect and esteem by his shipmates and friends"

Knowing the name of this vessel he was serving on (SS Lombardy) gave me a chance to contact the Southampton City Archives to see what they could tell me about William or the ship. Luckily for me they had the crew list for the ship's voyage from which William never returned and I was given the following information:

  • the voyage started on 13/7/1876
  • it ended in Bombay on 31/8/1877
  • The Company shipping master at Bombay writes 'I Certify that the death of W Nash Chief Steward has been duly reported to me and his effects and wages due have been taken charge of by the P and O Company for ultimate disposal in the United Kingdom' on 1st Aug 1877 at Bombay.
  • There is a further entry that William Nash's effects were delivered to the Superintendent of the Mercantile Marine Office at Southampton (net amount of wages looks to be £171 10s 2d.)
  • His entry on the crew list itself gives his age as 39, place of birth Surrey, previous vessel Lombardy, joined vessel 9 Aug in London as Steward in Charge.
  • The date of his death is given as 16/6/1877, Bombay. 
  • An entry earlier in the crew list reads 'It appears that the entry in the O. Log relating to the death of William Nash (Purser) who died at Bombay June 26th 1877 of Cholera is correct and is signed by the Master, 1st Mate and Surgeon'
So now I know a lot more about William but I still haven't traced him in any census or other records. Hopefully one day I may be actually able to find out the missing information and take this line back to his father John and beyond....

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