14 August, 2014

From Wadhurst to Hamilton - Baker Mystery Solved

We'll get back to the Reid saga later. For today I have an exciting development to write about! A few posts ago I wrote about Arthur Baker, my only great-grandparent who remained a mystery. I had developed a theory of who his parents were and was working with that. Unfortunately, I did come across a death date for the Arthur Baker who I thought he was... in England.
Wadhurst, East Sussex, where Arthur was born
So, it was back to square one in the search for Arthur's origins in England. I began searching on Friday evening and spent hours on Saturday and Sunday chasing down every clue I could think of on ancestry as well as the web. Several possible families surfaced, but none panned out. I did find his grave on findagrave which confirmed his birth year as 1866 and gave me a death year of 1943.

Then I decided to take a careful look at the information that I DID have about Arthur and see if there was perhaps a clue that I had overlooked before. I noticed that, in each census report, Arthur reported his occupation as "farmer" or "dairy farmer"... except for one! In one instance he reported it as "gardener". I thought this rather strange and wondered if it could be a clue.

So I went back to ancestry search form and plugged in Arthur's name and birth year and "gardener" as a keyword. Bazzzoooom! Up comes an Arthur Baker in Salehurst, East Sussex as a 15 year old in the 1881 census and his occupation was listed as "under-gardener/ dom." I assume the dom means that he was a "domestic" or laborer for a wealthy household. In fact, his father, Jacob Baker, was listed as "gardener".  This Arthur's mother's name was Sarah Paine and he had a sister Emma. Arthur would name two of his daughters Sarah and Emma. My hopes were raised! 

I was further encouraged when this Arthur didn't appear in the following census, though his parents and siblings did. Then I discovered his paternal grandparents, John Baker and Mary Hubbard. When I searched for census reports on this couple, don't they turn up in the 1870 United States census in.... Hamilton New York!! The same city Arthur would reside in from 1925 to his death, after spending several years in nearby Lebanon. EUREKA!! These must be his grandparents!! 
Hamilton, New York - home of the Bakers in USA

I still do not know when Arthur came to the U.S. but he had to have come after that 1881 census and before his marriage in 1892. His year of immigration is different on every census report, as is his year of naturalization, so it's very hard to know. However, I now think that the Arthur Baker who arrived in August of 1888 is probably NOT my Arthur, since it seems to indicate that his occupation in England was "miner".

So, maybe the story about Arthur getting stuck in the great blizzard of Feb. 1888 is true! There is still so much to discover about Arthur and his family, but I am 96% sure that I have found his family of origin in England, at long last! So sweet is victory.

Addendum: I have since figured out that Mary Hubbard is not the wife that John came with to America. Evidently Mary Hubbard died and John married a woman by the name of Mary Ann, in England, whose surname I have not been able to verify as of yet. There seem to be no children of this marriage.

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