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Our ex­perts un­ravel your rid­dles

QMy great grand­fa­ther Wil­liam Wis­dom was born in Pre­ston, Lan­cashire, in 1848. Wil­liam mar­ried my great grand­mother, El­iz­a­beth Ann Jane South­worth, in 1874. The 1911 census shows him liv­ing in Burn­ley, a “mu­si­cian and labourer”. Find­my­past also gives his mem­ber­ship of the Bank Hall Reed Band.

On 19 April 1871, the Hamp­shire Tele­graph re­ported that Wil­liam Wis­dom and Bernard McCor­mack, bands­men of the 7th Fusiliers, were charged with as­sault­ing a po­lice of­fi­cer in Portsmouth. The 1871 census for An­gle­sea Bar­racks, Port­sea, Portsmouth, shows a Wil­liam Wis­dom, born in about 1850 in Lan­cashire and a Bernard McCor­mack born about 1845 in Manch­ester. Ser­vice records on Ances­try show two Wil­liam Wis­doms, one with the 1st Bat­tal­ion Ri­fle Brigade, reg­i­men­tal num­ber 4297, and the other un­der 7th Field Com­pany Royal En­gi­neers, num­ber 8199. Could ei­ther of th­ese be my great grand­fa­ther? Jan­ice Scott, by email

ANei­ther of the mil­i­tary records found be­longs to your great grand­fa­ther. Born in 1848, he would be too young to be in the 1st Bat­tal­ion Field Brigade (reg­i­men­tal num­ber 4297). This Wil­liam Wis­dom en­listed dur­ing the Crimean War in 1854. The se­cond record you men­tion refers to the later Boer War (1899-1902) but de­tails on his 1901 at­tes­ta­tion pa­pers re­veal the Sap­per in the Royal En­gi­neers (8199) to be Wil­liam Wis­dom, aged 20, a car­pen­ter who lived in Pim­lico, Lon­don.

How­ever, there is an­other record on­line that may be of in­ter­est. On find­my­past.co.uk, an en­try in the mil­i­tary sec­tion un­der the 1871 A news­pa­per re­port from the Hamp­shire Tele­graph of 19 April 1871 de­tail­ing Wil­liam Wis­dom’s as­sault on a po­lice­man World­wide Bri­tish Army In­dex shows a Wil­liam Wis­dom (ser­vice num­ber 1507) who was a pri­vate in the 1st Bat­tal­ion 7th (Royal Fusiliers) Reg­i­ment of Foot. He was at the reg­i­ment’s head­quar­ters in Portsmouth from 1 April 1871 to 30 June 1871. Wil­liam’s dis­charge date of 16 Fe­bru­ary 1874 (from his Chelsea Pen­sioner’s dis­charge doc­u­ment also on Find­my­past) would fit his mar­riage to El­iz­a­beth Ann on 11 July of that year.

The 7th Foot was an in­fantry reg­i­ment of the Bri­tish Army. With lim­ited in­for­ma­tion avail­able about this pe­riod of its his­tory it would be worth con­tact­ing the Royal Fusiliers Ar­chive at the Tower of Lon­don ( hrp.org.uk/Tow­erOfLon­don/sto­ries/ Roy­alFusilier­sArchive), which holds rel­e­vant ma­te­rial re­lat­ing to the reg­i­ment be­fore 1881.

Al­though there’s no men­tion of Wil­liam’s bad char­ac­ter at the time of his dis­charge, the above de­tails would tie in with those found in the news­pa­per ar­ti­cle. Wil­liam, as you know, was liv­ing in the An­gle­sea Bar­racks, Port­sea, at the time of the census on Sun­day 2 April 1871. Bands­men Wil­liam Wis­dom and Bernard McCor­mack were sen­tenced on 17 April 1871. Records held at the Portsmouth City Record Of­fice may re­veal more de­tails. Ju­dith Moore

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