Newsletter 6 from Jennifer Topham, of Malmesbury, England

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The Risdons of Somerset
Newsletter No 6 ("Illegitimate" children)
February 2005

Happy New Year to you all. Have you had a good Christmas with all you wished for?

I hope our American and Canadian cousins havenít had too many problems with all the snow they have been having recently. Here in the UK we are having a very mild winter. The snowdrops are coming into flower, the daffodils are showing flower buds, and even my rosebushes are coming into leaf.

There are new addresses for:
Jan Willis
Joanna Hanes-Lahr
Richard Risdon

Last July, Anne Louise nee Risdon and her husband Michael KING welcomed their fourth child, Archie William George. Congratulations to you both, and many thanks to proud grandfather Philip RISDON for letting me know!

The Second Risdon Descendants Day (RDD2) will definitely be held in May 2006 on either the 13th or 20th, and again in west Somerset. I will confirm the definite date and venue in the next newsletter - hopefully the end of May 2005.

Illigitamacy. I had hoped to have unravelled one definite case of this by now, but Iím having some difficulties, so the hoped-for main story in this newsletter will, once again, have to wait, for which I apologise. I had hoped the couple concerned would have left wills which might confirm my suspicions, but this, so far, does not appear to be so. Locally I can only access the wills index until the end of 1943, and there is a possibility one or both of the couple concerned might have survived until circa 1960, so there is still a slight hope. I am hoping to be able to get to London in the next few months for several days, when I will be able to search the indexes further. If there is definitely no will, or wills, then I will have to rely on death certificates. Annie RISDON (born 1869 and daughter of John Risdon and Harriet nee Risdon) is known to have ďadoptedĒ the surname SYKES. I believe she was still alive in early 1933 with a daughter, Dorothy, of marriageable age. So far, I have searched the death indexes for the period 1933 to 1953 and have found 47 Annie Sykes dying in England and Wales of about the right age - now you know why I am hoping for a will. Those of you have undertaken any family history research will understand my dilemma!

However, I can tell you that I have found relatively little in the way of illigitimate children, amongst all the Risdon descendants, until this case circa 1900. However, there have been several ďnear-missesĒ where the marriage took place only shortly before the birth of the first child. Since the second World War, illigitimacy becomes a different story, with moral attitudes softening, but which, for future family historians, will become a nightmare when trying to track down such children.

Instead, I thought I would look at average ages at the time of death. So, I took 146 persons born with the surname RISDON. Over the full period of my research ie circa 1700 to 2004, the average is 59 years, but we need to bear in mind that this includes 22 children who died under 10 years of age and several who died in their teens. This average age is much higher than the norm for persons in the 1700ís and 1800ís. Using the same formula for 28 persons born Risdon during the period 1900 to 2004 the average comes to 72 years of age, with three people dying under the age of 50. I feel sure that this average of 72 years will rise sharply if we do the same exercise in ten or fifteen years time, as there are several cousins fast approaching their century.

Did you know that if you add together the ages of your parents and your four grandparents at the time of their deaths, and then divide the total by six and add on two, you will have a good idea of your longevity? This only works though if death is through natural causes. In my own immediate family this formular seems to be pretty accurate.

Now for an update on the Risdon Family Tree. In May 2003 (Risdon Descendants Day) the tree covered 182 pages but has now grown to 405, whilst the number of persons, being blood line Risdon descendants, together with their spouses, now totals 1622 (+/- 1300 at RDD). Iíll definitely have to try and find a venue with more wall space for RDD2, wonít I?

Please donít forget to let me have any family updates, plus change of address / e-mail. Also copies of family photos, newspaper articles, etc, as they will help to enlarge the family history. Remember this is your family as well as mine!

Best wishes until next time

Jennifer Topham, 2 Orchard Court, Arches Lane, Malmesbury, Wiltshire SN16 0ED
Prior to 2008: jennifer.topham5@virgin.net
Email after 2008 : jen.top@btinternet.com