Hancock, Robert - portrait of John Williams

This unsigned miniature is a good example of how research can be undertaken, based upon a few brief comments on the rear of a miniature, and with the research process being enormously satisfying.

This sitter is named as John Williams and despite that being a relatively common name, with some effort it has been possible to backtrack to his family. It has also been possible to attribute an artist to the miniature.

The process is outlined at some length below as an example of the similar methods used to identify other artists and sitters in this collection. In this case it has been possible to go back nearly 200 years.

Although the miniature is not signed and the backing is missing, it has been attributed to Robert Hancock of Bristol who was active around 1820-1833.

As John Williams came from Bristol that is a major clue, but the attribution also being from by a comparison of the pose of the sitter, even though it is more full front, and the style of painting the heads in the pair of miniatures shown here. Both are signed R Hancock, one being inscribed on the rear "Painted by R Hancock - John Street Bristol - January 1825".

The frame for the John Williams miniature dates from around 1960 and hence the inscriptions on that portrait date from then, or even more recently. In such circumstances, there can often be slight errors in the verbal record of a family when it is transcribed or recorded at a later date. However, as shown with comments on the TV programmes "Who Do You Think You Are?" and "The Antiques Roadshow", there is often more than a grain of truth in a verbal family history.

There are two groups of inscriptions on the rear of the frame. One reads "John Williams, Lord Mayor, Melbourne, Australia 1881, uncle of Alice Shattuck Tonk." The second reads "Alice Shattuck Tonk, born in Bristol, England 1814. Mother of Clara Tonk Rich. For John". There are also several other words under the cellotape, which are hard to read, but include the word "brother". It is probable some of this information was transcribed from the rear of an earlier discarded frame, thus introducing risk of transcription errors.

Before bidding on this miniature, which came from an estate in Kansas City, Missouri, a preliminary search was made to determine whether a John Williams was Lord Mayor of Melbourne in 1881, or indeed if there had ever been a Lord Mayor named John Williams. The answer in both cases was no, and also the term Lord Mayor was not used until 1902, prior to that they were only Mayors. Additionally, as the facial hair on the sitter shown dates from around 1820, a date of 1881 does not fit.

Thus the Lord Mayor comment was discounted at this point and a blank drawn with that line of research. Nevertheless, it did seem an unlikely comment to record, unless there was some element of truth in it.

Without a firm date or location, a name like John Williams is almost impossible to trace. Thus, the search proper began with the other names, complicated by various issues, such as some records referring to Shattock and some to Shattuck.

Initially, this research was also unsuccessful, but then a marriage record was found for Clara Alice Tonk and Hampton Rich in Chicago, IL on 3 Sep 1902. This was the first peg in the ground. From this point it was possible to come forward to the 1910 census and find Hampton aged 31, and Clara A Rich aged 30, living in Ionia, Michigan with their daughter Clara aged 6, and where Hampton Rich was a merchandise buyer.

From this it was possible to calculate Clara's birth year of 1880. Then go to the 1900 census and find Clara before she married. There she was living with her widowed father Max Tonk aged 48, who was a piano stool manufacturer, born in Germany in Nov 1851 and who had arrived in the United States in 1853. Clara stated her birth date as Jan 1880, her birthplace as Illinois, and her mother's birthplace as England.

From here it was possible to go back to the 1880 census and find Max Tonk aged 28, his wife Alice aged 27 and their daughter Clara aged five months. Max gave his occupation as furniture making and they had one servant so he was moderately successful. At this point, without a marriage record for Max and Alice, it would have been difficult to find her maiden name.

However, the back of the miniature gave the next clue as it refers to Alice Shattuck Tonk. Given her age of 28 in the 1880 census, it indicated she was born around 1852 in England. This did not agree with the date of 1814 shown on the rear of the miniature, but did explain why earlier attempts to research Alice Shattuck using an 1814 birth date had been unsuccessful.

The next stage was to go to the 1870 census. Here the Shattuck family was obvious and living in Ward 16 Chicago IL. John Shattock, a clerk in a store was aged 60, his wife Emily 50 and there were six children, including Alice Shattuck then aged 16, and so born around 1854.

The Shattock family still lived in Chicago in the 1880 census, but Emily is now a widow, living with her are several of her sons and daughters.

With a bit more research, the family was next found in the 1861 English census, living at 73 Spencer Street, Everton, Liverpool. John Shattock was absent from home, but Emily described herself as "Cotton Brokers' Clerk's wife", her age as 41 (i.e. born in 1819) and her birthplace as Bristol, Somerset. Alice Maud Mary Shattock was aged 8, giving a birth year of 1853 and her birthplace was London.

The reason for the Shattock family moving to the United States is uncertain, although probable they were seeking a new life. From the various census records below, it is seen John Shattock, was a solicitor in 1841 and 1851, a cotton broker's clerk in 1861, and a clerk in store in 1870. Thus one gains the impression he gradually slid down the employment tree.

There is support for this view at The Jurist - Google Books Result where in the "Jurist" for 1855 there is a reference under the heading Insolvent Debtors, which records "the following prisoners are ordered to be brought up before a Judge of the County Court to be examined and dealt with according to the Statute...At the County Court of Lancashire, Lancaster on Jan 19 at 11.00am....John Shattock, Tranmere, near Liverpool, attorney-at-law....".

As mentioned below, John Shattock was living in London in 1851 as a solicitor, but in 1861 his family was in Liverpool and he was no longer a solicitor, hence it seems likely this prisoner was him. In 1861 he was not at his home and could well have been in prison at the time, although he has not yet been located in the 1861 census. In 1861 Emily described herself as the wife of a clerk, so John had lost his ability to practice law. That would explain why his job in 1861 as a clerk and suggests the family moved to the United States to avoid the stigma that could have otherwise attached to their children.

As Emily's father was quite prosperous, perhaps her father, who appears in the 1851 census, but not in the 1861 census, supported the family while John was in jail for a period, and then Emily's inheritance cleared their debts and paid for their passage to the United States.

At this point it could be seen that the information on the rear of the miniature was coming together, although the generations were a little jumbled. It was not Alice Shattuck Tonk, who was born in Bristol in 1814, but her mother Emily Williams Shattock who was born there in 1819. This is exactly the kind of mistake that arises in verbal family histories.

The family appears in the 1851 English census at 11 Remmington St, Finsbury Circus, London. Here John Shattock is a solicitor aged 40 and Emily aged 31 describes herself as solicitor's wife. From the various birthplaces of the children, it is obvious the family was almost continuously on the move, with the eldest, Emily aged 11 born at Bishop's Lydeard, Somerset, and others at Bristol in Somerset, at Kensington in Surrey, and at Islington in Middlesex and with later children born in London. This supports the view of a man moving around the country one step ahead of his creditors until he was caught.

Interestingly, with the family at the time of the 1851 census, there is a visitor named William Williams, aged 26, a merchant's clerk, born in Bedminster, Somerset.

This is getting closer to John Williams and the link is strengthened by finding a marriage record for John Shattock and Emily Williams for AMJ 1839 in Bedminster. Thus it seems highly likely the William Williams visiting in the 1851 census, was a younger brother of Emily, being born in 1825.

The 1841 census was the next place to search for the John Williams of the miniature, but with trepidation, as it had to be via a search for Emily's brother William Williams and his birth date of 1825, as Emily was married in 1841. Additionally, the 1841 census is less detailed than later census records.

Thus it was very daunting to look at the first page of 50 William Williams in the 1841 census, all born in Somerset around 1825, and think how long it would take to try and check just the first page!

Then, the second name leapt out, William Williams, born about 1824 in Bedminister, Somerset.

It may sound odd, but on looking at this record, there was almost a sense that the people being researched were guiding my hand. For there was William Williams, aged 17 a coachbuilder, living with his father John Williams aged 50, and his elder brother John Williams aged 18, both also coachbuilders, all at their home in Wellington St, Bedminster, Bristol.

Not content with this, also living in the house was Emily Shattock, aged 22 and her two children, Emily 15 mths and Ann two weeks. There could not be more conclusive proof it was the right Williams family. Emily must have been staying there while her baby was born. Her mother is absent and has perhaps died, but the two female servants aged 60 and 50, would have been able to look after her.

In 1841 her husband John Shattock is recorded as a solicitor, living at their home in Bishop's Lydeard, four miles from Taunton, some 50 miles from Bristol, with one servant. As there are a number of Shattock families in this small village in 1841, it seems it is near the ancestral home of John Shattock, who gave his place of birth in 1851 as Ford Norton, Somerset.

As Norton Fitzwarren is between Taunton and Bishop's Lydgeard, this is likely to be the Ford farm, Norton Fitzwarren mentioned at SOMERSET ARCHIVE AND RECORD SERVICE SOMERSET RECORD OFFICE ... where there is possible reference to this John Shattock, "release of reversion by Sam. Kebby Shattock of Ford Farm, Norton Fitzwarren, gent., to his mother Hannah Shattock of 3 cotts., gardens and an orchard in Norton Street, 1833; mortgage by John Shattock of Norton Fitzwarren, gent. to James Turner of Staplegrove of 4 cotts., gardens and orchard cont. 2 ac. called Three Mens Ground 1836 and further mortgage by Shattock and Turner to William Hewett of Norton Fitzwarren, brewer, 1839, assignment of property by Hewett to James Slape Shattock of Bristol, grocer, 1842". However, there is also a christening of John Shattock on 14 Oct 1810 in Bristol. For other local Shattocks, see also Bishops Lydeard Parish "Blessed Virgin Mary" Bishops Transcripts and Bishops Lydeard Parish "Blessed Virgin Mary" Bishops Transcripts

The residential area for the Williams' home in Bristol seems to be good, with the Williams having two servants and their neighbours also having servants and occupations such as Merchant, Accountant, Mason, of Independent Means, and another Coachbuilder. In the early 19C, top coachbuilders would have been highly regarded master craftsmen, similar to the famous furniture makers of the time and with clients from the more wealthy areas of society.

So who do I think the sitter is in the miniature. I think it is John Williams senior, who from the 1851 census was born in 1789 in Derham (probably Dyrham, nr Hinton, Gloucs). At the time of the miniature being say, 1820, he would have been aged about 30 and that fits with the apparent age of the sitter. I am not familiar with uniforms, but the uniform the sitter is wearing looks to be a Hussar type cavalry, than than infantry. However, John Williams, now a coachbuilder, may even have had a former occupation requiring him to wear livery as a coachman for a grand house, or had perhaps had some civic duty that required him to wear a dress uniform. Later descendants probably thought it was his portrait wearing the robes of the Lord Mayor of Melbourne.

In the course of this research, one feels quite some sympathy for his daughter, Emily Williams Shattock. She appears to have been an educated woman from a fairly prosperous family. When she married solicitor John Shattock, she would have been expecting a comfortable life with servants, a nice house and good prospects for her children. Instead, her husband was prosecuted for insolvency, she emigrated away from her family, and none of her children appear to have followed professional careers.

And what about the Lord Mayor of Melbourne?

Well, in 1866/67 the Mayor of Melbourne was a William Williams. I have not yet proved a link, but I have a strong feeling that the Mayor was actually Emily Williams Shattock's brother, the merchant's clerk, William Williams, who was visiting Emily at the time of the 1851 census. He would have been the son of the sitter in the miniature and also the uncle of Alice Shattuck Tonk, as recorded on the reverse of the miniature.

On 9 Nov of that year, 1851, the first news of the gold discoveries was published in the Melbourne Argus. Melbourne grew rapidly as a result and many merchants became very wealthy. William may have emigrated after the news broke. In 1866, he would have been aged 41 and possibly had become a successful merchant in Melbourne, where the population grew from 29,000 in 1851 to 123,000 in 1854. 1271

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