Prince Edward Island

From Pitminster to PEI – a very long journey

When I started investigating my Pursey family history, the letters PEI held an allure; the more so when I discovered they referred to Prince Edward Island, Canada.

For many a long year, that’s what they remained, despite a page on the Island Register website, listing the children of Annie Houston and one Thomas Pursey, including Howard, John Franklin, Bessie Maud, William Allan, Melinda, George, Maria and Wallace Charles. It noted that “She married THOMAS T. PURSEY July 04, 1860 in PEI. He was born July 16, 1838 in England.” Needless to say, no such Thomas made himself known.

One day, on the Family Search site, I came across a death certificate for a Thomas G Pursey, which noted he died of pneumonia in Boston, Massachusetts on 29 January, 1908, aged 69 years and 6 months. The specific age no doubt providing the evidence for the birth date given above. More interesting was the fact that Thomas’s parents names were also listed: Thomas Pursey and Sarah Shillick. But which Thomas?

A trawl of the London records shows that a Thomas married Sarah Sellick on 4 June, 1826 in Marylebone. If you’ve searched the London records for Thomas Purseys, living about that time, you’ll know there are more than a good number! So there the search stalled once again.

On a parralel track, I’d been long looking into the families of Thomas and Eleanor Studley. Among their children a pattern in their professions began to emerge – they worked with coaches and horses. The only one that was ‘untraceable was son Thomas, born August 1802 in Pitminster, Somerset. Newspaper reports of a insolvent debtor – journeyman coachsmith Thomas Pursey – appeared in 1837 and 1846. One of these placed him at Fredrick Street.

A further search of the London burial records indicates a Thomas Pursey, of 6 Woodfield Road, Ormer Green, Paddington as having been buried 4 March 1849, aged 45. Subsequent census searches show widowed Sarah living with her mother (1851), and sister Betsy, b 1800, son Isaac, George Thomas, 11 – visitor, and John 4, nephew (1861).

More trawling showed Sarah and Thomas had a number of children, among them – and very confusingly – a Thomas G Pursey and a George Thomas Pursey. The latter having his own son (with another Sarah – Collins) George Thomas. It is this George Thomas who I believe is the visitor above.

In the end, it was Betsy who led me to Thomas, son of Thomas and Eleanor Studley. And whilst the evidence is still inconclusive, Thomas and Eleanor’s son is, I believe, the father of Thomas G Pursey who died in Boston in 1908, and is the link between Pitminster and PEI.

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