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Researching Jeanne's Memories
Investigating the stories of Jeanne's childhood
Jeanne's childhood memories are something that all researchers into Anne Hughes' Diary have looked at. Only fairly recently however, with the development of Internet family history services, has it been possible to research them in depth without a huge financial outlay. It has still been difficult, but research into one story does seem to have produced some very interesting discoveries. This story concerns Jeanne's account of spending time in the small hamlet of Ballingham, in Herefordshire. While there is still no firm evidence to support a direct connection between Jeanne, Ballingham and Anne Hughes' Diary, it has long been thought there was one. That now seems more likely.
Memories passed down
In short, Jeanne told her family that, as a child, she had spent time with a family at Ballingham Manor, in Herefordshire, possibly to provide company for a lonely cousin. This may be supported by her school record which shows her having to repeat one year of her schooling at Cutsdean in Gloucestershire. She referred to the Ballingham people as "Auntie and Uncle". Another story said that she attended a school in Ross-on-Wye, a town not far from Ballingham. Yet another story has Jeanne attending a wedding in Herefordshire, possibly as a young adult. There is also the reported disapproval, of Jeanne's own wedding, of some wealthy friends in Herefordshire. They wanted Jeanne to marry a young man, of their choice, called Harry. The idea of the wealthy Herefordshire family is to some extent supported by the retort about this by Jeanne's sister, Elizabeth, in later life. When asked about them by Molly, she would only say, "Oh, her and her fine friends." Perhaps, significantly, the Ballingham family we've identified were definitely well off, as is shown by the value of their estates at death. The account of Jeanne skating on the frozen River Wye is also quite plausible. Ballingham sits in one of the meanders of the Wye and is surrounded by it on three sides.
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To begin with, there is nowhere called Ballingham Manor in Ballingham today. However there is a Ballingham Court Farm and a Ballingham Hall Farm. Of the two, we found that a manorial court was once held in Ballingham Hall. So we started with that location, and looked in the censuses around the dates that Jeanne might have stayed there. We discovered the brother and sister who lived there (Auntie and Uncle perhaps?) with their invalid mother and their housekeeper, and traced their movements forward through time. We also traced the family back in time. Nothing obviously suggestive emerged, except that, in one census, the mother was described as a 'lunatic', and thus might have required the services of a nurse. And, of course, a nurse was said to have either read or passed the original diary to Jeanne when she was a child. Curiously, the mother's name was Mary Ann. Was this another instance of the mixing and muddling of names we've seen before? Was it really this Mary Ann who was mentioned by Molly to Michael Croucher, perhaps erroneously, as Mary Ann Hughes? The family were only in Ballingham for a short time and their only lasting connection with it is the gravestone in the churchyard opposite the farmhouse.
And this is as much as we learned until we later investigated the uncle of this Ballingham family. He lived in Churcham near Gloucester, and following his family line back proved to be most interesting.
Churcham and earlier
From the outset, we have to say that we've found no evidence connecting Jeanne with either of these families. But our findings do point to there being some kind of connection with Anne Hughes' Diary. Looking at the uncle's family, and following not his but his wife's line backwards in time, and then expanding the tree to cover all the interconnected branches, some fascinating and recognisable names began to emerge. We were surprised to see how many of the family surnames match those in the Diary. Many of them go back to the 18th Century, so it would be difficult to argue that Jeanne could simply have used them in a fabricated Diary, at least not without some reference to an original document of some kind.
Some names to reckon with
Some of this family even emigrated to the USA, but those of them with Diary surnames all lived in Herefordshire. These names include, Wells, Graves, Thompson and, in the same vicinity, Perry. There is even a Prudence Wells, reminiscent of Mistress Pru. But perhaps the most remarkable coincidence, if such it is, is that the name Prudence not only occurs in the direct line of descent of the Ballingham family's aunt, but that this Prudence was married to a John Hughes! This much is indisputable. Proving who John Hughes' parents were is harder, but it appears quite likely that they were John and Hannah Hughes who probably married around 1768. Since Hannah is often interchangeable with Ann, does this mean we've finally found the John and Anne Hughes of the Diary?
Unfortunately, without evidence from parish registers, wills, or other documents confirming parentage, we can't say so. And, so far, such evidence has not been forthcoming. It may simply not exist.
Of course, differing interpretations may be placed on the facts, and all this may be just coincidence. But, if so, it is an unlikely one. And while at best it is only circumstantial evidence for the existence of an original Diary, the amount of this kind of evidence does seem to be increasing. Another piece of circumstantial evidence, like this, is that one of Jeanne's mother's cousins lived and worked close to Clehonger, near Hereford. He quite probably worked for the man who previously farmed at Ballingham Court Farm, next to Ballingham Hall Farm. This cousin may well have known or even worked for the family Jeanne stayed with. Perhaps this is how Jeanne came to know the Ballingham family. But again, this is only conjecture.
So where does this leave us? Unfortunately, we're in the same kind of situation seeking the Diary's origins, as we are in trying to discover what eventually became of it. As my friend Mel in the States would have put it, "Close, but no cigar".