Theophilus Farrall shipping agent and electrical inventor


One family connection I hadn’t previously pursued very far was that of my cousin Geoffrey and aunt Irene (Watkins). Their father/husband was Charles O’Brien, revealed to have a middle name of Theophilus on his wife’s death certificate – I have a feeling he hated this name.

I had only got a little info on place of birth and parents for Charles. It was likely that a birth registered in 1912, mother Farrell, was his but that was not enough data to go on in amongst a large number of O’Briens. Having been prompted by a brother that it was rather unfair of me not to dig further, I ordered the wedding certificate (1948) to confirm the birth year and get a name for his dad. Thumbs up to to GRO (General Records Office) – ordered Monday evening online, arrived Saturday post.

So with the additional piece of information that his father was Charles Frederick O’Brien, printer, plus an address in Enfield, hey presto – I can discover loads about his mother’s family. And sod all on the O’Briens, although perhaps the 1911 census will help,  once I have a sub for it.

The first step was to find the elder Charles’ wedding, eventually found as 1910 Edmonton to Mary Aseneth L Farrall (not Farrell, note). Oh joy, a distinctive middle name. Easily found in the 1901 census in St Pancras district {2}: parents Theophilus D Farrall (born Audley, Staffs 1843) and Mary E S – who proved to be Mary Ellen Sophia Chapman (born 1859 St Pancras district). That’s a cheat as in 1901 Theophilus (do I recognise that name?) claimed to be 5 years younger, which was repeated on his death registration in 1908. Possibly not the only cheat from him, but I mustn’t jump ahead.

Theophilus gave his occupation in 1901 as Electrical Engineer Inventor, and  a quick Google was in order. The result was provided by Google too – aThe Electrical engineer - Google Books_1298115913486page from Electrical Engineer publication for 1890 mentioning a provisional patent dated 18th March “Improvements in method and mechanism for generating heat, steam, and light by electricity. Theophilus Davies Farrall 52 Chancery Lane.” The address would be for his patent agent. At the time Theo is highly likely to have been in America – his children were born 1885 Indiana (Theo junior), 1889/90 in Chattanooga (Mary and Amy), 1892/93/95 New York (Florence, Victoria, Rowena/Rosina). Then 1898/1900 in St Pancras, London (Ruby, Dorothy). No English 1891 census located {1}.

Briefly going back to the O’Brien line, the only census entry found for a Charles Frederick O’Brien in 1901 also states that he was born in America. No more precise than that – if this is the right person he was an attendant in the lunatic asylum in Banstead at the time of the census.

Theophilus was born in Staffordshire to a colliery clerk, and other occupations shown for him on census returns are shipping and commission agent (1871, Staffs), glass manufacturer (1881, London St Pancras {2}). On his marriage certificate in 1879 it says ‘railway clerk’, living at Leighton Road, Kentish Town. So  the most interesting leap is between 1879 and 1881 – no obvious connection between making glass and paperwork springs to mind.

One of Theo’s sisters was Asenath Farrall, the likely source of that distinctive middle name for Mary. The middle D for all of Theo’s children is probably for Davis (or Davies), his mother being Mary Davis (maiden name as shown by a number of Ancestry.co.uk family trees).See Footnote {3} for more.

There’s also a possible criminal register entry for 5 April 1872 (found not guilty of embezzlement and fraud) in Somerset. The entry is for Theophilus Davis McDermot Farrall. As a Staffordshire shipping agent in 1871 I would guess it was possible he’d have business in Somerset, but where would the McDermot name have come from?

Footnotes

{1} Little of the 1890 US census has survived.

{2} St Pancras district includes Kentish Town.

{3} Tree so far:

Richard Farrall b 1814 Bunbury, Cheshire, m Mary Davis (b 1816 Shropshire). Offspring all born Staffordshire – Theophilus Davis b 1843, Asenath b 1845, Louisa D b 1846, Augustus D b 1850.

Theophilus (R A) Davis Farrall (died 1908 Edmonton) m Mary Ellen Sophia Chapman 18 June 1879 Kentish Town, St Luke parish church. Offspring as above.

Mary Aseneth L Farrall b 22 July 1889 Chattanooga, Tennessee, died 1976 Redbridge district, London. Married Charles Frederick O’Brien 1910 Edmonton district.

Charles’ maternal grandfather was Theophilus Davies Farrall (although the precise name varied somewhat) – in 1901 has gives his occupation at Electrical Engineer Inventor. So I thought I’d Google him and the attached is the result. Odd that his address is given as London – as Charles’ mother was born in America 1889 and looks like a sister of hers was born there 1892 – so must be patents agent address. Theophilus was born in Staffordshire to a colliery clerk, and other occupations he shows on census returns are shipping and commission agent, and glass manufacturer, and looks like he was a railway clerk when he moved to London/married. There’s also a possible criminal register entry (not guilty of embezzlement) but seems odd that he would be in Somerset.

Charles’ maternal grandfather was Theophilus Davies Farrall (although the precise name varied somewhat) – in 1901 has gives his occupation at Electrical Engineer Inventor. So I thought I’d Google him and the attached is the result. Odd that his address is given as London – as Charles’ mother was born in America 1889 and looks like a sister of hers was born there 1892 – so must be patents agent address. Theophilus was born in Staffordshire to a colliery clerk, and other occupations he shows on census returns are shipping and commission agent, and glass manufacturer, and looks like he was a railway clerk when he moved to London/married. There’s also a possible criminal register entry (not guilty of embezzlement) but seems odd that he would be in Somerset.

2 thoughts on “Theophilus Farrall shipping agent and electrical inventor

  1. This man is my great grandfather. I am sitting next to his grandaughter, daughter of Florence who was born in New York. We have her birth certificate. Please contact re further information

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