I have long been accused of this peccadillo. And why not? I’m sure neither of them would mind…
I recently received an email out of the blue from an umpty umpth cousin descended via the Mapley branch of my family tree. Needless to say, I‘d never heard of him! Mapley is quite an obscure and rare surname; it’s not even listed in my copy of the Oxford Dictionary of English Surnames although Mabberely, Mabley and variations are. In 1891, according to Ancestry.co.uk, 84 families with this surname lived in Buckinghamshire and made up 57% of UK Mapleys – including my mob.
My newly-acquired cousin is directly descended from my great grandma’s sister, Nell. Nell married Andrew Frederick Mapley (known as Fred) who owned a baker’s in Newport Pagnell High Street a few doors down from his father-in-law’s rival bakery.
Now I know about this family because my grandfather grew up at the Mapley bakery following his father’s untimely death aged 28 (TB). My granddad wasn’t particularly fond of Auntie Nell but his cousins were like brothers and sisters, and I met some with my grandfather.
I’ve written about Fred before (Family Tree Magazine, Christmas 2017). He mysteriously disappeared in late 1912; just didn’t arrive home one evening. The following April, his body, virtually unidentifiable except for his clothing, washed up in the River Ouse. Was he pushed, did he slip, did he jump? No option is palatable. The first thing my new cousin told me was that the family believed Fred had committed suicide because his business was in debt. I’ve seen the death certificate and the coroner, as befitted attitudes then, was diffident about apportioning such a damning verdict. The entry concluded, ‘No evidence as to how body got into water.’
Back to selling grandma…. or should it be grandpa?
A photo of the bakery belonging to both my and my new cousin’s great-something-grandfather, is on the front cover of one of my books. It was at this bakery that my granddad’s Auntie Nell grew up, presumably over the shop. Also on the front cover is Harry Mapley, one of her sons who died aged 27.
And now, thanks to my cousin Dean, I have a photo of Auntie Nell and Uncle Fred. Curiously, my granddad never mentioned him. I put it down to the Victorian sense of shame tainting even a hint of suicide. I shan’t be selling this photo. It’s not mine to sell….
But I have put some family on the front cover of my next book . Naughty me….