The cries of tiny Alice Boyd were first heard by her parents John and Eliza on May 9th, 1880. Constable John Boyd held his newborn daughter never knowing 93 years later to the day, her existence could lead to connecting his direct line to the family of one of the richest and most powerful men in Britain at the time and the man who made his ‘Bobby’ career possible.
Bobby’s or Peelers are members of the Metropolitan Police force, which was formed on September 29, 1829, by Home Secretary Sir Robert Peel who became Prime Minister of Britain twice in his lifetime. His father was Sir Robert Peel 1st Baronet and one of the 10 richest men in the UK in 1799, thanks to the 23 cotton mills he owned around the country. When Alice was born, the 3rd Baronet of Peel was a Member of Parliament, though less impressive than his predecessors.
When I was a teenager, an aunt told me our family was descended from a member of Sir Robert Peel’s family. Curiosity sprouted while watching a Netflix series starring Sean Bean, called the Frankenstein Chronicles, about a Thames River Cop set in 1928/9 when the Metropolitan police force was a new idea being passed into existence by Home Secretary, Sir Robert Peel.
The predecessors of the Scotland Yard, The Thames River Police, were kind of like a private pay for cop organization put in place to stop thievery along the Thames river. The series character Sir Robert is the Sir Robert Peel who created the ‘Bobbies’ and became Prime Minister of the world’s most power country in the 1800s.
As I watched the show, I wondered if my aunt had been correct and if so, which brother or cousin were we descended from?
With today’s technology connecting my computer with the archives, libraries, family trees, and nothing but time on my hands during social distancing, I set out to discover if there truly is a family connection to the man characterized in the series.
Found: John Boyd
Ancestry.com enables you to plug your branch into a family tree already built by someone else. In a couple of days, I had 500 years of names all coming together to create little ol’ me.
I discovered John and Eliza Boyd who were one of the few city dwellers in my tree. He was a ‘Bobby’ in London and she was a Buckingham Palace cook.
For those born mid 19th century to the start of the 20th century there is lots to find and I learned things which changed my idea of what was socially acceptable at that time. What I learned about the people who came before me:
1. I share a birthday with my great-grandmother Alice Boyd
2. My brother shares a birthday with our great-great-great grandmother Jane Ann Peel
3. John Boyd was a ‘Bobby’ #139 in district T - Hammersmith
4. John Boyd’s mom was 31 and his dad was 23 when he was born.
5. Eliza was 8 yrs older than John and they married the year after her father died when John was 21
6. In 1871, 14 yr old John lived next door to Eliza’s father and older brothers in Rowde
7. In 1871, Eliza was living in London working as a cook in Buckingham Palace
9. Poor married women worked and there were career women in 1800s
10. Peels use their middle name
11. Thomas Peel magically appeared in Canada in 1834
By knowing where we come from we can better understand who we are and why we behave the way we do.
Whether we do it intentionally or not, we teach the values of our parents to our children. Many of our behaviours and hot buttons come from our relationship with our parents and their behaviours are based on their relationship with their parents.
What connects me to my grandparents and my great-grandparents are the stories they left their children. The stories written in the annals of BC historical societies. The homes they built. The lessons and values they passed down.
Even the values we choose not to instill in our own children are a connection to our past. By looking back, I can see how the last four generations defined my personal values.
I know my entrepreneurial spirit comes from Robert Peel who was a businessman and merchant. His father-in-law, David Nevin, was a blacksmith, mill owner, and merchant. George Rands owned a garage / gas station, and at one time sold Fords. My dad’s parents owned a grocery store. My mother’s parents and both sets of grandparents owned farms and worked hard to build something they could call their own.
In western Canadian, family culture focuses on the individual of each member more than the family as one unit. We are a highly independent and self obsessed culture compared to other countries who place more value on the family.
The cultural value of the independent individual is rooted in the migration of people willing to leave their homes and strike out on their own. These independent pioneers populated North America and passed the values of independence and self reliance onto their children.
Consequences of Father’s Fathers
The decisions we make in our lives today will affect those whom we create and their children for generations.
Before 1900, my great-grandfather John Lapadat was working on a farm somewhere in Transylvania, Romania when he decided he wanted to go to America. He asked the eldest farmer’s daughter, if she would marry him and go with him to America. She declined to stay close to her parents.
Her younger sister told John she’d marry him and go to America. Their journey to find a better life took them to their own farm outside of Smithers, BC. They had children. Their children had children and their stories were told to their great-great-grandchildren.
When the Iron Curtain descended in 1945, Romania was shut off from the Western World. For over 40 years John and Anna Lapadat’s family knew nothing about their cousins or the hardships they were enduring under communist rule.
When the wall fell in 1989, communication was re-established.
In a letter, the children of the oldest farmer’s daughter told the children of John and Anna to go to their graves and thank them for leaving Romania because life for us was far easier than it was for our Romanian cousins.
Who was Thomas Peel
I can with 100% confidence trace the Peel branch of my family back to Thomas Peel from Paris, Ontario Canada and his wife Jane Ann Peel. Both showed up in Canadian records on the birth certificate of their oldest son, James Peel in 1834.
I did find an 1811 baptismal certificate for Jane Ann Normansell in England. Her parents were James Normansell and Margaret Smith. I can’t tell if her parents were married or if her mother survived childbirth.
According to ancestry.ca, no baby boy Peel was born on March 20, 1806 in Gloucestershire, UK, which is where he told the Canadian census people he was born.
Any connection beyond Thomas to England is lost. Proof is important and due to the nature of documents prior to mid 1800s, details are too few to be definitive.
I do not know if a connection to Sir Robert Peel’s family ever existed or if there ever was proof of my aunt’s claim.
Connection & Independence
The people who came to Western Canada had to become independent, self reliant, and resourceful to survive. They had to build new relationships, which did not have the backing of family obligation.
When I mapped out the Havill branch of my tree, I discovered for 300 years they lived close to Exeter and every generation married people from the same small neighbouring towns.
It is more than likely they had an intricate social network which facilitated introductions and opportunities because they were probably related to most of the area’s population.
When James and Mary Ann Havill left Exeter to move to Paris, Ontario before 1830, they no longer had a network of connections to rely upon for support or help.
They went out into the unknown world, with no real understanding of what awaited them. They destroyed their comfort zones and took on uncomfortable challenges they could not imagine possible.
North America was where the ‘extra’ sons from the well to do of British society came to find their own fortunes or were sent to avoid ruining the family name because of their shameful antics.
Their children married the children of those who came here to escape a life of poverty and build a better life for their future children. It was a place of possibility, hardships, and the great equalizer of men.
It is a place where the descendent of a cousin of the richest and most powerful man in Victorian Britain, can also be a descendant of a girl born to a ‘Bobby’ and a former cook in the kitchens of Buckingham palace.
Am I the one connecting them? I don’t know. However, it does make for an interesting story.
Shannon Peel is the owner of MarketAPeel Agency and publishes the APeeling magazine where these stories are first published. Visit her personal site to discover more about her.