Daisy [aka Margaret Mary] Partleton (1905-1965)

Part I

In late 2006, we were contacted by David Partleton in New Zealand requesting any information about his grandmother Margaret Mary Partleton.

Margaret passed away on 21 January 1965 in Highgate, London:

But Margaret Mary Partleton is a puzzle. We looked for her but did not find her. There's no birth certificate for her in the British General Register Office. This is very unusual. From her death certificate we can see that she must have been born in 1905 / 1906.

So what's the story? ... two years of digging in the UK and in NZ revealed nothing. The place where Margaret lived and worked for a long time, and where she died - 34 Highgate West Hill - turns out to be a convent which 'helped' unmarried mothers, but enquiries with the Catholic Church about Margaret yielded a blank. Or a stone wall if you prefer.

Then, in late 2008, the genealogy website ancestry.co.uk added a ship's passenger list to the records in their database.

Examination of the names on these lists for 1909 yielded an enigmatic record; a little girl, aged "between 1 and 12" years old, sailing, 2nd class - apparently all on her own - on an ocean liner from Barbados to England; Daisy Partleton:

Could Daisy be our missing Margaret? Why is she on a boat? Who bought her ticket? With whom is she travelling?


Then, in 2009, the UK census for the 1911 was released - 2 years early - into the public domain and it was now possible for us to search for young Margaret. Much was revealed:



What we see above is the census return for 1911 for a children's home; St Mary's Industrial School, Eastleigh, Southampton. In it is the revelation that Margaret, resident in the home, had been born in Barbados.


A bit of further research unearthed that the records for St Mary's Industrial Home are held at Eastleigh library, and the helpful librarians were able to identify the exact date that Margaret entered the institution: 12 July 1909. So let's go back to that ship's passenger list...



So, Margaret entered the children's home on the exact same day that Daisy arrived in Southampton from Barbados. I think that's sufficient proof that Margaret and Daisy are the same person.


Little Daisy was only 3 years old when she sailed on the good ship RMS Atrato. And we know from our research that the Partleton family in Barbados were utterly destitute, so there's no way that they bought her a ticket on the luxury liner. So who brought her over? There are only four other passengers in second class embarking at Barbados; A single man - Joseph Knight; a single woman - Clara Brand; and a young couple - Isaac and Nora Truman:



Actually we now know who brought Daisy across the Atlantic, because it's in her records at St Mary's, and it wasn't any of the above. Linda Glasspool of Eastleigh Library transcribed a little of St Mary's records for us, and here's what it says about Daisy:


"General Remark: Sent by Mrs Dalton. No correspondence. Mrs D brought her to England from Barbados. Some correspondence later. Sent to laundry at Westbury-on-Trym."


Of course this set me thinking...  Mrs D brought her to England from Barbados  ... was Mrs Dalton on board the Atrato ?


So, let's have a look at page 3 of the passenger list...



Above we see Mrs Dalton travelling first class on the same ship as Daisy! She is "unaccompanied by husband or wife". What this admirable woman was doing in Barbados, we may never know, but I've got to say that she seems to have a heart of gold and did not shrink from the major responsibility of taking custody of our Daisy.


No doubt little Daisy, despite her second-class ticket, shared Mrs Dalton's first class cabin for the voyage. Goodness knows what Daisy would have made of the 1st-class luxury after her life of poverty.


Here's a picture of the Atrato. Liners such as these received funding from the Post Office for carrying mail. Hence they are called RMS (Royal Mail Ship) rather than the customary SS.



What on earth had Mrs Dalton - travelling on her own - been doing in Barbados? How on earth did she end up with baby Daisy in her custody? I think it's time we left Daisy in the comfort of her 1st class cabin and tried to figure out exactly who she is...


We now know quite a bit a about the Partletons in Barbados. 22-year-old Henry Partleton had set off from England in about 1860 on an adventure to the Caribbean. He got a young local girl - Selina Matthews - pregnant, married her in haste in Barbados, and had three daughters. Little did Henry know that he had set his young family on a course for disaster.




Let's try to decode these three birth records. The first two girls have both parents named in the birth register. We know for certain that Henry and Selina were wed in 1861. However, for the birth of Rosina in 1867, Henry is not named as the father, and I'm coming round to the view that this is significant. Henry has either died or run off, and Rosina may not be his child.


Barbados in the second half of the 19th century suffered severe unrelenting chronic poverty, and Selina Partleton would certainly have struggled to feed her little girls. She is a member of a sub-class on Barbados; poor whites; scorned by both the wealthy white upper classes and equally by the emancipated blacks whom the poor whites refused to work alongside. Consequently the poor whites eked out a subsistence living in the 19th century. A poor white community still exists on Barbados today.


We also know a lot about Henry and Selina's daughter Lilian [not Julian as incorrectly recorded on the record above], because Lilian's son Douglas, who was born in 1894, in his old age in 1980 was to leave a stunning historical audio record of the difficulties of their lives at the turn of the century. Lilian had to make her living as a prostitute; it was the only way to bring in some money. Below we see Lilian, highlighted in pink:



So let's get back to Daisy, whom this page is all about. Lilian had eight or nine babies, many of whom did not survive. Daisy was born in 1905. Is she another daughter of Lilian?


The answer to this question was obtained by Lilian's descendant David Partleton in New Zealand who - now that he knew his grandmother's birth place and birth name of Daisy Partleton - sent off to Barbados records office for her birth certificate:



This fact came as a surprise to us all. Daisy is not Lilian's daughter. She's her granddaughter. Daisy, shaded yellow in the family tree below, is the daughter of Katie Partleton, as we see below:



In fact we would not even know who Katie is - we had no formal records of her at all - except that she is mentioned very, very briefly by Douglas Partleton in his sound recording, an interview which starts with Douglas talking about his two older sisters - Katie and Elise Partleton. Douglas describes Katie as a "very lovely person".



Armed with this knowledge, in the present day, David Partleton was able to get a researcher to find Katie's baptism. Katie was born in Bridgetown on 04 October 1886 when her mother Lilian was 22.


You may by now have spotted a pattern in Daisy's bloodline. Her mother Katie Partleton in 1905 was barely 19, a young unmarried mum, as was her grandmother Lilian Partleton in the 1880's. Her great-grandmother Selina Matthews became pregnant, unmarried, at age 16, in Barbados in 1861, and her great-great grandmother Eliza Cooper was very young and may have been unmarried when she became pregnant c1837 in London.


We know that baby Daisy was born into a world of abject poverty in Bridgetown, the capital of Barbados. If you want to hear the terrible details, you need to go to the page for her uncle Douglas Partleton who begged on the streets, relying on the charity of his black neighbours. So let's have a little look at Bridgetown at the turn of the century:



What we see above is Roebuck Street on the posher north side of Bridgetown. Daisy is born on the wrong side of the tracks; Pondside, the poor quarter on the south side of the river - it's very difficult to find photos of the area where she was born.


Here's a semi-comical illustration from The Graphic newspaper of March 1898, which is of Roebuck Street or Broad Street, Bridgetown; a wagon carrying giant molasses barrels called puncheons chaotically obstructs the passage of a horse-drawn tram. It's a great picture!:



These ladies are selling vegetables in the market in the centre of Bridgetown in 1909:



And these are residences on the edge of Bridgetown in the early 1900's:




Daisy was born in Nicolls Alley near to St Ambrose Church which is on Cypress Street in Bridgetown. Frustratingly, I can't find the exact location of any of these places, though St Ambrose church and school still exist, but I've seen suggestions that this is located east of Nelson Street [circled red below], which is not surprising because this is the red light district of Bridgetown where Daisy's grandmother Lilian Partleton earned her living.



The informant on Daisy's birth certificate, which was registered on 01 November 1905, is her grandmother Lilian.


Lilian lived until 16 May 1909, just a few weeks before Daisy departed Barbados on the RMS Atrato. Is there a connection here? We don't know when Daisy's mum Katie Partleton passed away, but we need to think about that. Was she still alive when Daisy was taken to England?


This page is getting a little too big, and now that Daisy is leaving the sunny shores of Barbados behind her, it's a good point for a break, so lets continue with Daisy's adventures in Great Britain on a new page. Click here to proceed with the story.

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