Sunday, 11 August 2013

From Surrey, England, to Texas and the battlefields of France

Two soldiers of the 75th Battalion Canadian Infantry with a German prisoner, northern France, 1918. (Courtesy of Les Fowler and the Canadian Expeditionary Force Study Group)

Next year is the centenary of the start of World War I (the Great War), and I shall mark the occasion with a series of blogs about CONDR*Ns who gave their lives in that war. But this blog is about the family of a man who bore the name "Condron" only as a middle name, who served in the 75th Battalion Canadian Infanty and who died in the fighting in northern France.

William Condron BRAY was born on September 19th, 1883, probably in Newington, Surrey, England, son of Joseph Sidney BRAY and Sophia Martha BRAY (nee CONDRON). His grandfather was William CONDRON, a bookseller in south London, who was born in about 1814 in Christchurch, Surrey. William (senior) married Sophia Martha HEATON in 1838. Sophia died in 1845 and was buried on January 23rd of that year at St. John's, Waterloo, Surrey, by which time the couple had already had two children: William CONDRON (born about 1839) and Sophia Martha CONDRON (born 1841).

At the time of the 1851 UK census, William CONDRON (senior) had apparently married a woman called Ann, but they still only had the two children William and Sophia Martha. Subsequently, a daughter Rebecca was born in 1851 and a son Henry Joseph was born in 1853. Daughter Sophia Martha married Joseph Sidney BRAY at St. Mary's, Newington, Surrey, in November 1869. I'm not sure what happened to William senior's wife Ann, but in 1860 he married Lydia PALLETT (nee PAINTER) at St. Peter's, Newington, Surrey. At the time of this marriage, William declared that his father was "William CONDRON, Gentleman". Possibly his father was the William CONDRON born in Blackfriars, in about 1787, who with his wife Frances had at least four other children, including Thomas (1810) and Sarah (1812) baptised at St. Ann's, Blackfriars, in the City of London, and also likely Elizabeth (1821) and John (1824). This William was an upholsterer (according to the 1861 census) and died in 1863.

Henry Joseph CONDRON, who was noted as a clerk in the 1871 UK census, emigrated to the USA in 1874, arriving into New York aboard the ship "Denmark" on May 9th of that year. In 1880, Henry was recorded in the US census of that year as a timekeeper and living in Galveston County, Texas. A year later, the 1881 UK census shows Lydia CONDRON (widow) and Rebecca CONDRON (unmarried) living in Newington, Surrey, in the household of Joseph and Sophia BRAY. Lydia died in Lambeth, Surrey, in 1892.

Sophia Martha BRAY (nee CONDRON) emigrated to the USA in 1889 with her husband Joseph Sidney BRAY, six children, and her sister Rebecca CONDRON, arriving into New York aboard the "Buffalo" on August 12th of that year. Her children and their given ages were Harry BRAY (19 years), Mabel (17), Esther (16), Sophia (12), Margaret (11) and William (5). The 1900 US Census for Galveston County, Texas, shows Sophia as widowed and living with three of her children and with her sister Rebecca in the household of brother Henry Joseph CONDRON and his wife Corrine. William C[ondron] BRAY is living with his married sister Esther HUGHES not far away.

The World War started in 1914, and somewhere William Condron BRAY joined the 75th Battalion Canadian Infantry. It is recorded that his parents were Joseph Sidney and Sophia Martha BRAY, and that he had a wife, Clara BRAY , of Houston, Texas. William travelled with his comrades to northern France and there, in the closing days of the war, he was killed in action by enemy shell fire on November 6th, 1918, during the attack and capture of town of Marchipont, just east of Valenciennes. The armistice that ended the war was declared five days later.

If anyone knows more about the families mentioned in this post, I would be grateful to hear from them. Also I am keen to hear from anyone the stories of their CONDR*N ancestors who died in the Great War. Please email me at condran[AT] .