Desperately Seeking Clarice!

“Find a place forgotten and make it feel that it is remembered! Find someone forgotten and make him feel that he is remembered!”

Mehmet Murat ildan

As well as a passion for creating ‘Small Worlds’ in 12th scale and occasionally scribbling about them for publication, I am also a family history sleuth who loves to go in search of elusive ancestors throughout the vale and dale of the county of Yorkshire.

Many years ago as my Grandmother would regale me with the tales of the elegant Dalby family from York and the Tibbett clan living, loving and squabbling within their adoptive land of Scarborough in North Yorkshire; I recall that it was at the first mention of the story about ‘Poor Clarice’ that my interest was really piqued.

For as every family history sleuth knows, there is usually always at least one ancestor that ignites curiosity and which leads to an irresistible urge to discover more about a life that somehow holds a peculiar affinity for you and it was hearing of the story of ‘Poor Clarice’ that ‘did it’ for me so to speak and I’ve been desperately seeking her through the mists of time ever since.

I began this journey armed only with lots of enthusiasm, a love of history and a little rudimentary knowledge about genealogy and I admit that the former was to prove the most essential tool as I would ‘dip in and out’ of my search for Clarice over the intervening years and usually after colliding head first into the proverbial ‘brick wall’ familiar to every family history sleuth!

And then I would hear some new nugget of information, stumble across an exciting genealogical discovery or would read an magazine article that would remind me of Clarice and I’d be off on my investigative journey again!

So who was ‘Poor Clarice’?

I would love to be able to share with you the complete back story of Clarice that I have uncovered over the preceding years, alas, ‘tis not possible as there still remains HUGE tracts of her life unexplained and I believe, undiscovered for it’s all just a question of finding the correct piece of the jigsaw puzzle!

As a genealogical researcher and a wanderer of cemeteries, I also spend a lot of my time grappling with the mystery of death for if I’m not in search of a missing ancestor, I can be poring over the details on a newly discovered (and often indecipherable!) certificate of death or else trawling through parish records in search of a burial entry or firing off email inquiries to the Registrar of a crematorium.

And being able to locate the final resting place of the individual associated with my research endeavours has always been important to me and when my search is unsuccessful, I usually feel a sense of disappointment as if the final piece of the jigsaw is missing.

AND the elusive Clarice is a case in point as I still do not know what has happened to her cremated remains!

The Grounds of Woodlands Crematorium in Scarborough. The Remains of Clarice Tibbett Left Here in June 1962 to Where… Who Knows?

For having discovered the burial entries for her parents last year in the City of Hull, I managed to convince myself that her ashes had been interred with them, but alas, after ploughing through more records in the Hull History Centre, my theory was dashed along with what remained of my clear vision and a sense of hope!

However, what I can tell you about Clarice is she was very much a woman of her times for she was born a ‘war baby’ in September 1913, married as a ‘war bride’ in August 1944 and died a ‘1960’s pill popper’ in the summer of 1962 by her own hand after several years of a consistent diet of prescribed sleeping tablets along with the controversial ECT treatment for the symptoms of clinical depression BUT also that she was very much remembered with affection from those she left behind.

When upon my return to my hometown of York a few years ago and reunited with my boxes of research files and in the celebrated words of Shakespeare’s Henry V; I found myself “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.”

And so without further ado, welcome to the continuing story of Tuesday’s Child along with the tears, trials and triumphs of my search for Clarice!

 AND if you should discover that YOU have ancestors in common with Clarice; please drop me a comment as I’d love to to hear from you!

Those Gnarled Branches and Fallen Leaves…

“You may choose to look the other way, but you can never say again that you did not know.”

So said William Wilberforce, a Yorkshire lad and THE leader of the movement to abolish the slave trade.

If you are like me and love to go in search of elusive ancestors throughout the vale and dale of the County of Yorkshire; this blog could be just what you are looking for as I follow in the footsteps of my North Riding family, and as there are plenty of them, I have many miles to travel!

Taking a Stroll Along Filey Beach in North Yorkshire…

Although I have been properly researching the history of my family since 2004, my interest in the gnarled twigs and broken branches of my family tree began in the early teenage years and having always been a diligent hoarder of the scraps of family keepsakes that have come my way; the process of moving abode as I did some years ago to return to my hometown of York was undoubtedly made all the more arduous by those numerous large boxes of papers, books, photographs and other assorted genealogical matter that I had to shift down and up several sets of stairs.

King George VI once stated that “the history of York is the history of England’ and this ancient city is not only the place of my birth but also for many of those Dalby and Benson ancestors to whom I have since laid claim – although some of whom certainly add more than a little colour to those gnarled twigs and broken branches.

And even though there’s plenty to occupy this history sleuth within the walls of this chocolate box city – I have also been very busy elsewhere!

For during the course of last year and having discovered the identity of another ancestor William Lamb of Whitby who having perished in WW1 never lived to see his 21st birthday – I have also been adding to my research into the life of Tuesday’s Child, the elusive Clarice Tibbett from Hull and as my interest has been piqued as of late by the other female ‘greats’ within my clan that I have now discovered, several Yorkshire lasses who have now made a welcome reappearance.

For now with the death of both my maternal grandmother and paternal grandmother, a father and with my mother’s ailing health, my feelings of nostalgia have been triggered once more and the floors of my den are now littered with the fruits of my genealogical findings.

And having decided that I would also go in search of this female line of my family; it would be rather nice to share my musings, mishaps and occasional mastery on this blog under the aptly titled category of The Female of the Species!

Not that I believe that my female ancestors were actually deadlier than their male counterparts…

Earlier this week I watched Who Do You Think You Are featuring the fabulous actress Amanda Redman who I adored in the BBC drama of New Tricks and I listened with interest as she talked about her need to understand why she had always reacted in a particular way and of the ‘inherited behavioural patterns’ she believes that we all possess to some degree or other.

And yes, this resonated with me for as the eldest child of five siblings; my mother having flouted the National Average UK Birth Rate; I have always pondered the reasons for my love of the sea and feeling ‘at home’ in the coastal town of Scarborough; my pleasure in reading, the urge to create my ‘Small Worlds’, a knack for floral design and a passion for history and as the Graveyard Squirrel; I love nothing more than a wander among the tombstones here in York!

An Autumn Wander Among the Tombstones in York Cemetery…

As I have always been quite unlike anyone else within my family, as a child I often mischievously wondered if I had been switched at birth and a distant family member once described me as a ‘throwback’, albeit in a kindly manner!

I admit that it used to bother me as I was growing up but now I glory in being different from the rest of my clan and if in these times of difficulty I can find solace in the company of my ancestors from generations past; who’s to judge?

Welcome along…

AND if you should discover that we have ancestors in common – please drop me a comment as I’d love to to hear from you!

In Hearts at Peace and Under an Scarboro’ Heaven….

Clarice Tibbett,

Born on a Tuesday,

Baptised on a Tuesday,

Married on a Tuesday,

Took ill one Saturday,

Died that Tuesday,

Inquest held on the Thursday,

Cremated on the Friday,

That was the end,

Of Clarice Tibbett.

In case you haven’t recognised it, I have corrupted the ballad of poor old Solomon Grundy written by James Orchard Halliwell in 1842 and even though ‘Tuesday’ would be the most prophetic day during Clarice’s short life; I have been musing on the fact that in less than a week after she died on June 19 1962, her inquest had been opened with a verdict rendered and on a cloudy afternoon the day following, her funeral had taken place.

It seems incredible that in less than 156 hours since that fateful Saturday lunchtime in which she had appeared ‘normal and cheerful’ to her husband John that her loved ones would gather the Friday following at Woodlands Crematorium in Scarboro to bid her ‘adieu’

Maybe I’m over-thinking this but the events of that week appear to have happened rather quickly and with Clarice there are always more questions than answers, however, as her funeral was held 56 years ago on this very day in 1962, I have taken a look through my archives and in the absence of any Memorial Card, a Letter of Sympathy or an Order of Service; I have discovered some images from my last June visit to Woodlands Crematorium.

The journey to the crematorium is along the leafy Woodlands Drive and having travelled this road on more than one occasion, I have often imagined that the tranquil view as one approaches the long sweeping drive to the entrance must be a reassuring sight to those on their own voyage of sadness.

As Woodlands opened in 1961, Clarice was among one of the first to be cremated here and since 1962, many of the Tibbett family have now joined her and I should add that as many more from the Tibbett clan are buried a stone’s throw away in Woodlands Cemetery; my family history research here has kept me very busy over the years!

As Clarice’s remains were ‘removed’ by the funeral director, I still have no idea of the place where she finally ended up!

Even after I discovered the burial entries for her parents last year in the City of Hull and managed to convince myself that her ashes had been interred with them, but alas, after trawling through more records in the Hull History Centre, that theory has been dashed although I still live in hope.

And, yes, I have asked (or nagged depending on who you ask!) if they have any idea where Clarice is and despite some wild and crazy ideas, I remain determined for being able to locate the final resting place of the individual associated with my research endeavours has always been important to me and when my search is unsuccessful, I usually feel a sense of disappointment as if the final piece of the jigsaw is missing.

I revealed in an earlier post that I knew nothing of Clarice for many years other than her name and that she had taken her own life and it would take several more to discover the actual year that she died and with my clan reluctant to tell or feigning poor memory; it took hours of scrawling through the on-line records of one of the first BMD websites (before the discovery of user friendly name searches) before my persistence was rewarded.

I can still remember the arrival of that large brown envelope with her death certificate inside and my thoughts when I read the words:

 Deceased killed herself whilst the balance of her mind was disturbed…

However, that story is for another post!

And despite the absence of knowing her final resting place, there is a memorial to her in the Book of Remembrance at Woodlands Crematorium with a two line tribute which reads:

Tibbett, Clarice

Aged 48. Peace perfect peace – 1962

There is no other information available as to the identity of the loved one who commissioned this inscription for Clarice but I for one am delighted that they did and that every year on June 19, her name endures for posterity.

On this visit before it was time for me to leave, I took a stroll through the Garden of Remembrance which is vast space and with the sun shining as I enjoyed an idyllic hour pottering among the tributes, flowers and keepsakes that had been left with affection; the second verse from the magnificent 1914 Rupert Brooke poem The Soldier came to mind…

And think, this heart, all evil shed away,

A pulse in the eternal mind, no less

Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;

Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;

And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,

In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

For despite my frustration over the whereabouts of Clarice’s remains, here at least in the grounds of Woodlands Crematorium, there really is ‘some corner of a foreign field’ that will be forever associated with her memory and that’s fine with me.

Note to the Reader:

If you have had the melancholy task of arranging the scattering of a loved one’s cremated remains in a place other than the crematorium; please be sure to let them know of this and this information can be given to those who come in search of their loved ones.

However You Want To M*a*s*h It Up, Suicide Is NOT Painless!

The sword of time will pierce our skins

It doesn’t hurt when it begins

But as it works it’s way on in

The pain grows stronger… watch it grin, but…

‘Cause suicide Is painless.

It brings on many changes.

And I can take or leave it if I please…

Who among us has never sung, wailed, hummed or screamed at some time or another to a song written by a fifteen year old hormonal teenager and which would become the soundtrack to the film M*A*S*H?

For it was on Tuesday June 19, a cloudy day in 1962 that the loved ones of Clarice Tibbett would experience the heartbreak of knowing that suicide is not painless with the awful news of her death and by her own doing at the age of 48.

Her suicide would bring on many changes for our family, not least those harrowing feelings of sadness, bewilderment and regret which can weave their way inside the narrative of every death leaving no surviving loved one immune; but with Clarice, there would always be a touch of disquiet, a subtle tone of pity, shame tinging every fond recollection when she was brought to mind and always a stubborn reluctance to talk about the reasons for her death.

For I knew almost nothing of Clarice, other than her name, until my early 20’s when I began my history sleuthing and discovered that it was she who was this unexplored branch rooted to my family tree!

However, I quickly realised that not every member of my family shared my excitement for this genealogical gem and I began to annotate my research notes with those interviewees with whom I must ‘proceed with caution’ at the mention of Clarice.

And although I eventually managed to ‘win over’ several tight-lipped members of my clan, who I might add, were never known for their recalcitrance on many other topics; others have died taking all that they know along with their personal feelings about Clarice with them and who, I like to imagine are now taking it up with the lady herself!

Jeremy Garvon in an interview for the Daily Mail prior to the publication of his poignant 2015 memoir A Woman On the Edge of Time about the suicide of his mother had written that:

All suicides leave some degree of confusion. Suicide is the hardest human act to understand because it challenges the fundamental assumption by which we lead our lives – that life has meaning, value – but also because it leaves no one to explain…

Even though Clarice breathed her last on Tuesday June 19, her final journey to death began some three days previously on a cloudy but warm Saturday afternoon when after enjoying a final lunch with her spouse in which she chattered about what she would cook for their tea and of their plans for that evening and after he left for work; she made the decision to go to an upstairs bedroom and swallow the entire contents from a bottle of prescribed sleeping tablets.

At the time of her death, Clarice and John were living in a pleasant terraced house in a residential area of Scarboro in North Yorkshire and as the house still stands, I have made the journey there to stand in the shadow of the large trees which dominate the secluded garden in an effort to understand and try to imagine what happened on that fateful day.

After John had returned to work, did she clear away the remains from that final lunch they had shared together? Did she wash the dishes, wipe the kitchen table of crumbs and rearrange the dining chairs or did she simply make her way upstairs and leave a poignant Marie Celeste scene for John to discover upon his return home.

What we do know is that her bottle of sleeping tablets was in the bedroom and she had to have gone upstairs to take them. But why?

For when she did finally make it upstairs, did she take a look out of that bedroom window and see children playing or one her neighbors tending to their neat garden on that typical Saturday afternoon?

Was the house warmer upstairs? Did she open the window for some air or to listen to the sounds of the rustling trees, the occasional car driving past or some welcome laughter?

And did she look at those trees in her garden and watch the branches swaying in the wind or was she just so tired and desperate for a decent afternoon nap that she pulled the curtains shut and took one tablet, then another and then one more until she had no recollection of anything.

Did she mean to go to sleep forever or just for an hour or two until it was time to get up, put on her glad rags and hit the town later that evening?

We do know that when John returned home from work later that day, she was found unconscious in a bedroom and with the doctor having been called for, she was carried through her front door for the final time and taken by ambulance at speed across the long stretch of Seamer Road, past the home of her mother-in-law and down and up Scalby Road across the sprawling Manor Road Cemetery and finally on to Scarborough Hospital.

And although her final earthly journey was one of less than 5 miles which lasted only minutes; in the hours, days, weeks and years following, her loved ones would travel millions of miles on their own journeys of ‘What if?’ or ‘If only!’.

A brave man once requested me

To answer questions that are key

Is it to be or not to be

And I replied ‘oh why ask me?’

‘Cause suicide Is painless.

It brings on many changes.

And I can take or leave it if I please…

Sources Used:

Oh My Brilliant, Beautiful Mother… WHY? Jeremy Gavron Femail Magazine for the Daily Mail (Thursday November 19 2015)

Clarice, You ARE Late, Late for a VERY Important Date!

Although I don’t usually enjoy receiving brown envelopes through the post, I will make an exception when one arrives from the General Records Office or the GRO as it known here in the UK.

And when a civil registration certificate with the details about a newly discovered ancestor is enclosed within this brown envelope, I always feel a frisson of excitement as I pour over the information that is detailed (or sometimes not!) within the columns.

However, nothing quite compares to the sight of an original certificate and when you discover that the said certificate was once the faithfully kept property of the ancestor who has long captured your interest, well, let’s just say that my delight knows no bounds!

Many years ago when my research about Clarice was just beginning, one of my favourite memories is of a visit to that I made to Scarborough, a coastal town in North Yorkshire and the former stomping ground of so many of my ancestors that I could create my own Family History Trail featuring the abodes, businesses, chapels, courts of justice, graveyards and the like.

I might add that my thoughts about the creation of a Family History Trail weaving its way throughout the social and political history of Scarborough has been inspired by another trail of someone, who like me had a huge family and who also enjoyed a rich history by the sea.

Whereas the Kennedy Legacy Trail appeals to many with an interest in the personal life of a former US President and his family; my History Trail could only be of importance to anyone who happens to find themselves perched upon the same genealogical tree branch as me.

However, back to my visit to Scarborough and the raison d’être for this post today!

As the purpose of my visit has been to chat with Betty and Arthur who as members of my family had known Clarice well; I was more than a little thrilled when Arthur handed me a brown envelope that contained some original birth, death and baptism records and I finally discovered Clarice’s surname at birth!

And not only that but that it had been her personal copy of her birth in September 1913 that she had faithfully kept throughout two world wars, a brief marriage and the tragic hospitalisations until her death in June 1962.

Although Arthur kindly allowed me to copy the originals; it wasn’t until much later that as I pored over the details of another gem, her Certificate of Baptism, that I discovered something of interest.

For at a mere 14 days old, she had been baptised at a Primitive Methodist Chapel in Perth Street, Hull within walking distance of her family home in Irene Avenue and yet her parents were to wait a further 41 days in which to register her birth and if I can do my sums properly, I calculate that Clarice had been on this earth for over 7 weeks before she was officially recognised on Monday November 10 in 1913.

Given the superstition that has long remained over the nature of infant baptism, particularly if the infant in question is sickly; an explanation for the rush to baptise Clarice is that she was struggling with life almost as soon as she appeared in it and the delay exercised by her parents to register her existence officially is that she was not expected to survive.

Having shared my hypothesis with another family member, who I might add was to favour a very different scenario for as Clarice’s parents were both young and struggling financially, the fee of Three-pence due to the Registrar was simply beyond their means until much later than expected.

However in 1913, the Registrar of Births and Deaths should have been notified of Clarice’s arrival at the very latest by Tuesday October 28 1913 as the law was very clear and an informant could expect a financial penalty for a late registration beyond the 6 week deadline.

And if Clarice’s parents were as financially strapped as Everil believed that they were, I can’t imagine that a fine for late registration would have helped the family coffers!

Colin D. Rogers in his fabulous book The Family Tree Detective argues that there are provisions for late registration and it would be interesting to discover if in this case that there were mitigating circumstances.

One circumstance of mitigation that they could not rely on would be an ignorance of the law for Clarice had an older sister who having been born on September 19 1911 was duly registered and by the same informant, their father before the 6 week deadline.

Although Rogers makes the point that genealogists tend to forget that civil registration is not run for their benefit; but how much more enticing our work would be if an explanation for a late registration were duly recorded in a column titled ‘Miscellanea’.

Sources Used:

The Family Tree Detective (A Manual for Tracing Your Ancestors in England and Wales) Colin D. Rogers (UK: Manchester University Press 2008)