16 July 2012

Bernard (not Benigna) Weiss

I recently bought a subscription to findmypast, as I have so many English ancestors it seemed like it could be worth it. So far I've found an awful lot more information. Today I stumbled upon a record alluding to one of Charles Nicholas and Benigna Catharine Weiss' children: the second child, who we've always assumed was a girl called Benigna, born about 1831.

Why have we assumed she was called Benigna? Good question. We know that the second child's name started with "B" because Charles and Benigna followed the alphabet in naming their six children - A through to F. However there is nothing official stating that the second child's name was actually Benigna - perhaps this was an assumption because "her" mother's name was Benigna. And why do we think she was a girl? No idea!

The records in question on findmypast are the Armed Forces BMD Details. Charles Nicholas Weiss went to India with the British Army in 1840, in the 17th Foot Regiment. I have records for the two youngest children, Egmont and Frederick, being baptised in Aden (now in Yemen, then part of British India). I also have a baptism record for the eldest child, Adelaide, in England, before the family left for India. Which leaves three more - children B, C and D.

The Armed Forces BMD records show four baptisms for the surname of Weiss:

Name Place Year Regt.
Weiss, Bernard J. G. Poona 1831 17th
----- Caroline J. Poona 1833 17th
----- Egmont J.T. Aden 1837 17th
----- Frederic A. Aden 1839 17th

Caroline J, Egmont J.T. and Frederic A. are all definitely children of Charles and Benigna Weiss. The years given are the years they were born, not the years they were baptised. Considering the year of birth for Bernard Weiss matches the B child of Charles and Benigna's, and the father of Bernard Weiss was also in the 17th Foot Regiment (and Weiss was an extremely uncommon name at the time in England), the chances of there being a second British Army member with the surname of Weiss stationed in Poona (now known as Pune) and in the same regiment as Charles, is highly unlikely.

So now we have definite details of the B child of Charles and Benigna Weiss - the child was male, his name was Bernard J.G. Weiss, and he was born in 1831. We must assume he was born in England as the family was living in either Liverpool or Manchester in 1831. I wonder if the "J.G." stood for Jean Gaspard, after his paternal grandfather?

We still haven't much on the D child - "Derby" according to the 1841 English Census - which, incidentally, Bernard wasn't recorded in. Considering Derby was still alive in 1841, presumably close to the time the rest of the family followed Charles to India (who arrived there in 1840), he either died before they left for India, or whilst they were in India, but before he was baptised with the others. Still not sure why the kids baptised in British India were done in two lots, one lot in Poona, the other in Aden...

Edited to add: I received an email from the British Library India Office in reply to an enquiry I sent them which confirmed that Bernard James George Weiss was baptised in Poona on 27 December 1840, along with his sister Caroline Judith Weiss. This suggests that the family may well have travelled to India at the same time as Charles, not later after the 1841 Census, as I had originally thought. That Bernard is not in the 1841 Census suggests that he may have died by that stage. I still don't know when or where Derby was baptised, considering he was in the 1841 Census when Bernard wasn't...

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