June 9, 2015 by auntkatefirmin
Thomas remains the family mystery. To start with he’s not clearly a named after a family member or known business associate. He was with the family for the 1871 census – it’s the last time there is a record for him.
Family lore says that he travelled with his father and brother John to North America. It could be true, and would explain his choice of destination once he had decided to leave England. Depending on the years of his father’s two trips Thomas could have been as young as twelve at the time, which leads me to ask why Thomas was included rather than Osborne or Frederick who would have been older. Whether or not he had been to America or just heard the stories, it seems reasonable to conclude Thomas did leave England for Canada or the US some time after 1871 but before his sisters married in the early 1880’s. While not all those present at a wedding signed as witnesses, there are often more than the usual two signatures on his sister’s marriage certificates, leading to the guess that his signature was missing because he was not present.
What happened to Thomas? Many passenger lists from this era remain to be indexed or did not survive, so when he left and where he went first are still unknown. He is not recognizable in the index of any census for Canada or the US, or any online border crossing list checked so far. His nephew George believed that Thomas had lived in Jacksonville, Florida, and Denver, Colorado, so my guess is that he wrote to his brother George, at least in his first years away. His brother John lived in Indianapolis but there is no family memory that Thomas ever visited him there or even corresponded – John himself was living in Indianapolis by 1871 or earlier. If Thomas was not a frequent correspondent, it’s possible that he fell out of touch once none of the addresses he had were current. It’s also probable that if he met an accidental death there was not enough information for anyone to be able to contact his family.
In 1939 when his niece Fanny (Firmin) Hall advertised in various international papers for the whereabouts of Thomas, she received no response. Either he had died without leaving a family, or the notice never came to the attention of Thomas, his friends, or any family he might have had. While it’s always possible a new clue will come to light, I think it’s more probable that the life of Thomas will remain a mystery.