|John Robert (Pop) Durkin 1915 - 1990|
John Robert Durkin's background lay in seclusion. To gain access to that background was like peering through a keyhole that only he had a key for. Of course, as so often is the case, he died before family could dig deep and ask all the questions that inevitably came later. John Robert was affectionately known as 'Pop' so I shall refer to him by that name as I attempt to tell his story.
Official records of birth and marriage were easy to come by and his birth certificate gave the name of his parents as John Durkin and Mary Ann formerly Brown. Their address was given as Kelloe, Co. Durham. Family thought that he was born in Trimdon because Trimdon was the only place he mentioned. In actual fact research has discovered that Trimdon was where his Brown maternal line lived. His father John Durkin was killed in WW1, leaving his mother Mary Ann widowed with three children. But not everything is so black and white and more discoveries were made later as will be revealed.
Census searches for previous generations in Co. Durham were inconclusive, surprisingly there were lots of Durkins with a few possibilities but nothing conclusive. The 1911 census heralded a breakthrough in research and Mary Ann was found living with her father Robert Henry Brown, mother Margaret Brown and siblings in Wingate. Surprisingly, a granddaughter was listed in the household but as Robert and Margaret were the only ones shown to be married it was a mystery as to who parented the child called Mary Simpson Brown. The Brown family had moved about and births were given as Boldon, South Shields, Cumbria and Walker.
Pop's marriage certificate gave his father's name as John Durkin and from census returns I was able to identify his paternal family. He had two brothers who survived childhood. Thomas also died in WW1 with no issue and Patrick never married and had no issue either. As a result the name Durkin for this branch of the Durkin name is now located in South Tyneside and Hampshire.
|Pop's Uncle Patrick|
After his mother died in 1927, Pop and his two sisters lived with their grandfather in Hebburn but we know hardly anything about his sisters or their whereabouts except for a letter from one of them (Margaret) who in the sixties had written a letter to Pop telling him she had divorced and gave the names of her children but it seems that a family disagreement prevented him from answering. As far as I'm aware the letter no longer exists so cannot be used for research...such a shame. The other sister Ellen is thought to have married and lived in London. No search of civil registration indices can positively identify the sisters' marriages.
I often wondered how Mary Ann Durkin managed to look after her children until her death when her father Robert Henry Brown took over the responsibility. I thought it so sad. I decided to check out her death certificate for cause of death and to my surprise found that her brother Robert Henry Brown jnr had given the information. Another surprise was a listing of two births (twins) shortly before her death. They were Edward and Alexander Durkin sons of Mary Ann Durkin, formerly Brown. This was nine years after the death of her husband. And so the family tree exploded with suspicions, questions, ideas and no obvious answers. Further research provided more tantalising information but as always, answers to research give way to more questions and so the research goes on.
Luckily, a response from a genealogy board to an appeal for information, resulted in finding Pop's first cousin Joyce who at 90 years of age is such a charming lady. Ellen and second cousins reunited with John my husband and me for lunch at The Poachers public house at Metal Bridge, near Spennymoor. We had a wonderful time and it was so good to link up finally with the descendants of John's lost ancestors. It was especially fitting to meet up at The Poachers as it was once run by Pop's Aunt Ellen. We are indebted to Lesley and Colin for organising this meeting for us.
|Joyce formerly Scott, daughter of Bridget, formerly Durkin|
Now I have untangled some of the web I feel more confident in fitting pieces together, expanding my research and putting flesh on the bones. Hopefully a fuller picture will evolve and I will be able to record it here.
|Durkin descendants at The Poacher|
If anyone recognises their families from the above. Please get in touch. You can leave a comment below.