‘Our the­atri­cal an­ces­tors led dra­matic lives’

A tan­ta­lis­ing story about an opera singer in­spired Ray and Diane McClure’s re­search, which un­cov­ered a tragic co­me­dian and a world-fa­mous com­poser, says Gail Dixon

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - PAST IN PICTURES -

any ge­neal­o­gists be­gin with few snip­pets of fam­ily gos­sip to work from. Ray and Diane McClure are no ex­cep­tion. Their jour­ney to the dis­cov­ery of the facts be­hind the ru­mours has re­vealed an as­ton­ish­ing cast of char­ac­ters, from an Ital­ian com­poser who en­joyed royal pa­tron­age, to a comic leg­end whose sud­den and vi­o­lent death di­vided a fam­ily.

“We were al­ways fas­ci­nated by the fam­ily story that Diane’s great great grand­mother was a fa­mous opera singer called Emma Corri, who trav­elled to Aus­tralia aboard a clipper to sing,” says Ray. “It was a story well worth in­ves­ti­gat­ing.

“Our search be­gan with Diane’s grand­fa­ther, John Les­lie Os­borne, known to all as Jack. He was born the day be­fore Her Majesty, Queen El­iz­a­beth, the Queen Mother, and lived to the age of 100. He was thrilled to be in­vited to the Queen Mother’s 100th Birth­day Thanks­giv­ing Ser­vice at St Paul’s Cathe­dral in July 2000. On the day, Her Majesty spoke to him and shook his hand.”

Jack’s birth cer­tifi­cate was a great start­ing point and gave them his par­ents’ names, John Henry Os­borne and Ada Os­borne, née Young. They lived in Lough­bor­ough, where Jack was born in 1900.

The 1901 census re­vealed that Ada’s mother was liv­ing with them. Her name was Emma J Gard­ner and she was a 59-year-old widow who was born in Dublin and worked as a mu­sic teacher. This was the first clue to mu­si­cal con­nec­tions in the fam­ily. A quick scan of the 1891 census re­vealed Emma Jane Gard­ner as the head of the fam­ily in Free­hold Street, Lough­bor­ough, aged 50 and mar­ried, al­though liv­ing alone with her daugh­ter Ada Young, who was an as­sis­tant dress­maker.

“Were Emma Jane Gard­ner and Emma Corri the same per­son? We searched for an Emma J Corri, born in Dublin around 1840, and were in luck with just one hit. Emma Jane Corri mar­ried Fred­er­ick Ge­orge Younge in Dublin on 19 De­cem­ber 1852. Some­one had posted a fam­ily tree on Ances­try that in­cluded both Emma and Fred­er­ick. Our smiles were as wide as a Cheshire cat’s.

“We searched the tree only to find that this Emma Jane Corri died in Sun­der­land in 1870, be­fore Ada Young was born. Our hopes were dashed and the smiles van­ished.”

A search for a cru­cial birth record for Ada proved fruit­less. Ray and Diane in­stead took stock and de­cided to look for a mar­riage record be­tween an ‘Emma J’ and a Mr Gard­ner be­tween 1871 and 1881. “Suc­cess! Pri­vate Wil­liam James Gard­ner mar­ried Emma Jane Young on 21 De­cem­ber 1875, in Deal, Kent. She was aged 35, a widow and her father was given as Haydn Corri, Pro­fes­sor of Mu­sic. This was what we call our Who Do You Think You Are? mo­ment – it re­ally had the wow fac­tor, be­cause it es­tab­lished the link to the Corri name.”

Look­ing at the 1852 mar­riage record for Emma Jane Corri and Fred­er­ick Young, Ray and Diane were thrilled to see the same name for the bride’s father – Haydn Corri. They had the right per­son – she didn’t die in 1870. “Don’t as­sume pub­lished fam­ily trees are ac­cu­rate. They are only as good as the re­search used to com­pile them.”

The duo had loose ends to tie up. The ages on Emma’s mar­riage, birth and census records didn’t add up. “It seems that Emma had knocked seven years off her age. Also, if Emma Jane was a widow in 1875, what hap­pened to Fred­er­ick Ge­orge Younge? He must have died be­tween Ada’s birth in 1870 and Emma’s se­cond mar­riage in 1875.”

Don’t sim­ply as­sume pub­lished fam­ily trees are ac­cu­rate. They are only as good as the re­search used to com­pile them

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