Journal Article

August 2009

Finding the Mixed up Family of Darlow (the Sins of the Fathers!)

Brian Mitchell

For reasons best known to herself my mother, sometime in the late 1930s to early 40s, made the decision to "cut off" her brothers, Albert Edward, 1911-1968 and Frederick George (known as George) 1913-1978.

This resulted in our uncles being completely unknown to my brother and I, for I can only remember seeing either of them once during their lifetimes. From time to time young heads with "big" ears would become aware of conversations which could be related to these errant brothers, but as we were never included, developing minds were left to build up their own theories.

All very well and good, until one started to become interested in the family's history by which time all immediate sources of information had long since passed away, leaving only the long haul of searching through the archives to rediscover lost uncles. As he was the eldest, Albert became the first subject of my research. The initial step of establishing his birth was easy, for, using my mother's birth date and going forward quickly established the relevant information. The next step was his marriage and the name of his wife. This is where it became a little complicated as, from childhood listenings, it had been gleaned that Albert's marriage had not been a happy one and that a wife had been left behind in the Bedford area while he made a living travelling round the Midlands as an entertainer. I remember once hearing that he was using the name of "The Amazing Mr E." There was also the idea that he was living with another woman and that his wife refused him a divorce. This led to my first error, for, having found an index ref of marriage in the Nottingham area I also traced a reference for the birth of a child. Two useless certificates later I had to return to the drawing board. This error arose as I had not appreciated that Albert, despite his age, had married before my mother, and it was only by going back that I established this in finding a marriage in December 1929, thus giving me the name of his wife, Margaret Jenkins 1911-1962. I was then, very quickly, able to find reference to the birth of their first child, Evelyn, in August 1930, leading me to suspect that this had not been the most auspicious of starts, with Margaret probably having been pregnant at the time of the marriage.

My next step was finding the birth of their second child, Albert Edward in September 1932. Following this the scent went cold until I found a photo of Albert and a woman called Winnie dated in the 1960s referring to a wedding at that time. From this information I was able to easily find a Nottingham area marriage ref. in the March quarter of 1965 which revealed the name of Albert's second wife as Winifred Whitehead 1920-1982.Unfortunately this quickly brought me to his early death in March 1968 and at that point I thought the search was over. In fact, discovery of the second marriage opened a "Pandora's Box" for having entered this new information into the Genes website I soon had two contacts, one in the name of Linda Whitehead and the other, Amanda Darlow. I learned that Linda had married into the Whitehead family and Amanda is Albert snr's grand daughter through his son Albert. For half a minute I was excitedly anticipating making contact with a cousin I had never known. It was not to be for Albert jnr. had died young in 1973 at the age of 41. However from here it got rather interesting. Both Linda and Amanda confirmed that Albert snr. had left Bedford, to their knowledge, in 1933/4 taking his son with him in order to live with Winifred Whitehead, as their understanding was that his wife Margaret had died from a brain haemorrhage, probably after Albert jnr's birth. They knew nothing at all of the daughter Evelyn. I was in a position to counter this story for I have a photo of Albert and Margaret dated 1936, and asked the question, why if Margaret had died had they waited until 1965 to marry? I also told them of my childhood memories of him being denied a divorce and that would be a better understanding of the situation. However I promised to undertake more research in order to resolve these doubts. In the meantime I learned that Albert and Winifred had had two children, Frances in 1942 and Donald in 1943. for reasons known only to themselves both children were registered with the family name of Whitehead and the mother's name is given as "Smith"! I haven't got round to having a sight of the birth certificates but, they should be interesting. Back to researching Margaret's death and I eventually found it registered in Bedford in 1962, and yes, she did die from a "thrombosis of the brain". More interesting still, the informant's name on the death certificate is D. Darlow! (son), who gave as his residence an address in Bedford. Nobody has yet come up with an explanation for this anomaly. With this new lead I reverted back to the birth indexes and surprise, surprise, I came up with another birth for Albert and Margaret, not a son, but a daughter, Christina, born in November 1939. Again my contacts have no knowledge of this daughter and what became of her remains a mystery. This of course begs the question, at what point did Albert finally leave Margaret

After 40 years I have recently re-established contact with a Darlow cousin who was a bridesmaid at our wedding, and on speaking to her, she has memories of visiting Granddad Darlow in Bedford in the late 1940's until his death in 1953 and she has clear memories of Albert snr. as he had a ventriloquist's doll called Henry, which she says, mesmerised her. there are still gaps to fill but I have learned that Albert, in his wanderings, earned a living as an entertainer, travelling round the fairgrounds and markets of the Midlands in a converted bus, being a magician, escapologist, mind reader, tattooist and ventriloquist. He and his boys were also involved at times in Boxing Booths, market stalls and shops and also as a General Dealer (for which read rag and bone man).

In the meantime I am starting on Uncle George. From the death certificates I have already learned that he was a brick layer, professional boxer and general dealer (see above!) More to the point, his wife's death was registered by a son, again of whom I had no knowledge, but if this link is confirmed, in 1997 we were living ten minutes walk across the park in Southgate from the address given and my Aunt was in a home in Palmers Green. One small point is that my Aunt's maiden name is given as Wright and that throws another spanner in the works as I have it as Miles from their marriage certificate!



Royston and District Family History Society