Newsletter 8 from Jennifer Topham, of Malmesbury, England

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The Risdons of Somerset
Newsletter No. 8
September 2005

Hello, once again!

Firstly, welcome to all the newly found cousins, who are receiving the newsletters for the first time - more about this later.

There is one new e-mail address to tell you about, namely Daniel Risdon at For the benefit of new readers, at the Risdon Descendant’s Day (RDD) in May 2003, everyone attending was given a “Risdon Adress Book”. This will be updated in time for RDD2.

On behalf of all the Risdon cousins, many congratulations to Norman Risdon who will be celebrating his 100th birthday on 1 November. Also congratulations to Emily Ethel Wide, widow of William Stanley Wide, who will be 100 on 18 December. Emily’s mother-in-law was Emma Louise Wide nee Berry, a sister of Annie Isabel Risdon nee Berry who was responsible for our present-day Canadian cousins some of whom are hoping to come to RDD2.

On Monday 26 September, I sent out 122 letters to cousins that I have found and located since RDD. Within 24 hours I had had 11 replies which was terrific. Since then I have heard from many more cousins, by post, e-mail or phone - the latter including one man in Australia! Unfortunately there have been a couple of people who are not interested, but many people have sent a wealth of information, and nearly 150 new names have been added to the family tree - hence the delay in sending out this newsletter. I have even been offered some family photos - wonderful!

Talking about photos, someone at RDD - I think an overseas cousin - offered me a copy of a photo taken at Escott, Stogumber of Walter Risdon and his family, with everyone identified. Please, please could you send me a copy of this for the files? Unfortunately, my computer printer does not make good photo copies, so snail mail would be far better, if possible.

At midday on Tuesday 4 October 2005 there were 1999 names on the Risdon tree which now covers 468 A4 pages and is spread over 12 generations, including spouses. The 11 A4 files from the first RDD will have increased to about 25 by RDD2, so even more for you to look at!! I have been trying to find out the largest number of people on a “one family tree” like ours, as I suspect we are rapidly heading for a record!

One very interesting thing in the family that I am noticing, is that families are tending to get larger again in size. Between the end of the second World War and about 1990 there were alot of one child families, whereas during the last 15 years or so, we have several family’s with four children. This is fantastic for the future of the Risdon family!

Several of the new cousins have asked about my line of descent from Philip Risdon (? - 1769) and his wife Rebecca (? - 1967). I come down through Edward (1724-1773), John (1754-1828), John (1799-1854), Edward (1838-1927), May STOATE nee RISDON (1883-1972), Dorothy May SMYTH nee STOATE (1911-1988), Jennifer TOPHAM nee SMYTH (1940- ). In 1962 I married Ian Michael Topham, who was studying in England and we returned to his home country of South Africa, where we had two daughters, Veronica and Adele. In 1978 Ian and I divorced, and subsequently the girls and I came to England in 1985. Ian remarried but in 1993 he died of a heart attack. Both my daughters are married and I have two lovely grand-daughters, Zoe and Amy. That’s what you call family history in a nutshell!!

Plans for RDD2 are going well. I will give you full details next time (January) together with booking forms, but on provisional bookings we are well over half full. Unfortunately Shirley who did the excellent catering last time has retired, but I have found someone else and am awaiting sample menus and prices. Don’t forget the date - Saturday 13 May 2006 at Old Cleeve, near Minehead, Somerset.

Now to tie up some loose ends from previous newsletters. I am still searching for the deaths of Charles and Sarah Ann VEYSEY - the schoolteachers, and for Arthur Edwin SYKES together with Annie RISDON. The marriage of the latter’s illegitimate daughter Dorothy is also still eluding me. I am a firm believer that if someone does not want to be found, they will not be, and that’s what is happening in these three cases, but I’ll beat them in the end - watch this space! As a family though, the Risdon descendants have all been more than happy to be found, so my research has been fairly easy - just a few “blips” along the way!

Again, several people have asked how I find the family members. For those living prior to 1900, I search in the conventional way of parish registers, civil registration (post 1837), census returns, wills and even tombstones, whilst for those post 1900, I have to rely much more heavily on civil registration (births, marriages and deaths) plus wills, electoral registers and telephone directories plus computer search engines. It all takes alot of time, but I thoroughly enjoy it and that is what matters, don’t you agree?

Best wishes to you all for a very Happy Christmas and New Year


Jennifer Topham 2 Orchard Court, Arches Lane, Malmesbury, Wiltshire SN16 0ED
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