John and Rusty Keilch had the winning bid and were the new owners of the Victorian-era sewing box made of ebony inlaid with mother-of-pearl and the mysterious newspaper clipping tucked inside. Like any good genealogist, John got to work right away on trying to solve the mystery. John's report:
English records show some Creightons in London censuses and two Richard Creightons who died in London in the early 1900s. However, when I looked on Google Maps to see where their deaths had been registered, the locations were in central London. This was inconsistent with the address at Ferme Park Road in London North reported in the death notice, which was located quite some distance away, about 10 miles. To find other possibilities, I tried variant surname spellings in census and death records, and found three more Richards in London – a Crayden, a Cretten, and a Critton – but again they had lived quite distant from Ferme Park Road. The margins of the news clipping show a glimpse of the death notices that had been printed above and below, so I tried to search those fragments. The preceding notice ended with the words "...rick Cornish, of the Lewisham, High-road, S.E." and the next notice began "GERRANS – At..." I tried searching for Cornish and Gerrans deaths, but again, no luck.
I then tried using Google to find out something about Ferme Park Road, hoping to find some clue. The street is still there, located in Stroud Green, a residential district near Hornsey and Crouch End. The street-level view available on Google Maps shows Ferme Park Road to be a quiet street lined with townhouses.
Google did not produce any hits for a Creighton family on this street. However, in the process of looking, I found an interesting historical tidbit about another resident of Ferme Park Road. He was Nguyen Tat Thanh, a young schoolteacher from Indochina, who in 1912 left home, earning his way abroad by working as a galley cook on a French freighter. He worked for a time in New York City and Boston, but then decided to settle in London to continue his studies. He found a place to live – on Ferme Park Road – and while in London he worked as a hotel dishwasher and waiter, enrolled in Regent Street Polytechnic, and found a position as an electrical apprentice. After a few years, he moved to France, and eventually he returned to Indochina, where he adopted the name by which he would be known: Ho Chi Minh.
In browsing through Wikipedia to find out about Ferme Park Road, the Stroud Green neighborhood, and the Hornsey district, I learned an important fact. It turns out that Hornsey used to be part of Middlesex County, even though the area long ago had become part of the expanding London metropolis. Until 1965, London County encompassed only the central city. To anybody familiar with London, the "London, North" reference in Richard Creighton's death notice would have been a tip-off, but I had not recognized its significance.
Once I stopped looking for Richard Creightons in London County, the search became more successful.
The 1901 census index shows a Richard Creighton in Hornsey, Middlesex. When I looked up the census image I found a page labeled Stroud Green. The second family on the page consisted of Richard and Emma J. Creighton, three adult children, and Richard's sister – they were living at 28 Ferme Park Road. Richard was 58 years old and worked in a lace warehouse. He had been born about 1843 in Carlisle, Cumberland. Emma was the same age, but she had been born in London City. They must have been in the vicinity for quite some time, because their children, all three in their twenties, had been born in the Hornsey district.
According to the death notice, Richard died in his 67th year. Since he was 58 in 1901, his death would have occurred sometime around 1909. Indeed, in the 1911 census there is a record in Edmonton, Middlesex, for Emma Jemima Creighton, born 1843, but Richard was no longer in the household. A look in the English Death Index reveals a death recorded in the Apr-May-Jun 1909 book for Richard Creighton, Edmonton, age 66, born about 1843. This corresponds to the death notice.
Actually, Richard Creighton was born in 1842, as he was christened December 11, 1842, at Saint Mary, Carlisle, Cumberland, according to the FamilySearch International Genealogical Index. The FamilySearch site also shows an 1881 census transcript for Richard Creighton; he was already a lace warehouseman, living with Emma and four children in Hornsey at 63 Woodstock Road.
John Keilch suspects that the death notice about Richard Creighton was cut from the newspaper, perhaps with sewing scissors, and tucked into the sewing box for safe-keeping in 1909 by his wife Emma or another family member. It seems likely that the clipping stayed there forgotten and unnoticed for 101 years until Nancy Servin discovered it.
John sent along these ideas for further research:
1. Family tree – A Donahue family tree at Ancestry.com includes this Richard Creighton b. 1843 with some additional information about his birth family. It lists Richard's parents as Thomas Creighton and Mary Hetherington, married in 1836 in Carlisle, Cumberland.
2. Marriage record – It is likely that a record of Richard and Emma's marriage can be found that would provide Emma's surname and thereby a link to her family background. Update: Richard Creighton married Emma Jemima Adams in 1872 in the Kensington district of London.
3. Earlier censuses – A look at the 1841, 1851 and 1861 censuses would give snapshots of Richard Creighton's birth family. It would be interesting to look at subsequent censuses to trace the history of Richard and Emma's family and their occupations. Emma's birth family probably can be found in the censuses also. Update: Richard Creighton was a draper in 1871 at the age of 18. After his marriage, Richard Creighton was a lace warehouseman in 1881, 1891 and 1901.
4. Descendants – Since Creighton is a relatively rare name, it may be possible to trace some of Richard and Emma Creighton's descendants, and perhaps even identify descendants who are living now, using birth, marriage and death records which are available online all the way up to 2005.
5. Neighborhood history – There is some historical information about the Stroud Green district and vicinity online. See British History Online or the website of the Hornsey Historical Society.
6. Work history – It might be possible to learn something about the warehouse where Richard Creighton worked. There may be clues in histories of lace manufactures that are available online.
7. Origin of the sewing box – The sewing box is most likely older than the newspaper clipping that it concealed.
The Antique Sewing Box Mystery - Part 1
Photograph and scanned images courtesy of John Keilch, 11/25/2010.
Copyright © 2010 by Kathryn M. Doyle, California Genealogical Society and Library