The Brazilian Connection

No I am not talking about ladies hair removal techniques, I am talking about my family connection with Brazil.

I have previously hinted at this in my post about my great grand uncle Phillip Marshall, (as well as a photograph of my great grandmother and my grandfather in the jungle in my Mother’s Day post.) I had talked about how Phillip had worked his way up through the ranks in the cotton mill industry, from being a Little Piecer to being the Managing Director of a large mill in Hyde, Cheshire – Slack Mills. His brother – my great grandfather was an employee of Slack Mills and it was his job that took him to Brazil.


A rather tattered copy of Harry’s birth certificate. This was probably done for proof of his age for him going to work. He would have been almost 10, so old enough to be starting to work part time in the cotton mill.

Harry Marshall was born in Hyde, Cheshire in 1876, son of John Marshall and Mary Fielding who had married in 1869 in Ashton under Lyne, Lancashire. He was with his parents in 1881 at 121 Hyde Lane, Hyde and by 1891 was with his widowed mother at 195 Market Street, Hyde and was still there in 1901. He had gone from being a Piecer to a Cotton Ring Spinner Overlooker over that ten year period.

Sometime around 1905 Harry had gone on a couple of holidays, one around Wales and another in Europe. He sent his mother postcards from these trips.



Harry must have been doing OK for himself to be able to travel to Zurich. It is nice to be able to see his handwriting on the postcards and interesting that other than his mother’s address, the backs were often not used by him – preferring to write his comments on the front.

I was really blessed to be given a mini album full of postcards by my uncle a couple of years ago. The majority were just standard postcards from random places my grandparents had visited with nothing of note on the back, but there were several like these. Some of the postcards were from or to Harry’s brother Phillip amongst others. In with these were a couple of postcards that Harry sent to his wife to be, arranging when to meet up. Back in the days when you could get a visit from the postman a couple of times a day, I suppose it was like the 1900s version of sending a text message.


This card reads “Coming on Friday night, walking if fine, train if wet. Harry”


In similar fashion this one reads “Coming on Thursday night. Walk if fine, train if bad or wet. Hy.”


And finally another meeting arrangement – “Coming tonight – Friday. Woodley Station if fine, 8:15 train if wet. Hy.”

He must have picked up the postcards as a job lot, possibly from a visit to Scotland as they all seem slightly Scottish in theme. The stamps were peeled off the cards by my grandmother I think, so the post dates are no longer readable which is a shame, however Harry married Mary Swann in Chadkirk, Romiley in 1908. I am lucky enough to have the original certificate.


In 1911 Harry and Mary were living at 10 Woodbrooke Avenue in Hyde. Harry was described as a Spinner Overlooker and that they had been married for two years – when in actual fact it was more like three. I like to try and find the houses that my ancestors lived in, and not being close to Cheshire I tend to rely on using Google StreetView or if I am lucky I might find the house details on estate agent websites – and in this case I was very lucky. The house is rented out and so is fairly regularly featured on websites and I found a plethora of internal photos of this rather nice house, which has retained a lot of its original features. I will share a few of the photos.



Then in the October of 1911 my grandfather Phillip Fielding Marshall was born. Just five months later on the 20th March 1912 Harry boarded the ship Vandyck and sailed to Rio de Janeiro from Liverpool and gave his occupation as Spinner. I’ve always understood that Slack Mills sent Harry over there to oversee workers in Rio. Then on the 7th August that year Mary and their son followed aboard the Oriana from Liverpool. I don’t know vast amounts – in fact next to nothing – about their time over there. I do have some photographs relating to their time there though.


I find this photo slightly disturbing, it is so dark and almost morbid. My grandfather looks miserable!


The first of those three photos is of Mary and Phil with another family who were there at the same time, possibly the father worked for Slack Mills too. They appear in many of the photos. The second is of Harry, Phil and Mary from Christmas 1916 and the third is just Harry. The photos below are of them and their friends and colleagues and the last one seeming to include the cotton workers. I like the fact that even in the 1910s children liked to pick their noses in photographs.




A map of Rio from 1913 – the area my grandfather and his parents lived is circled.

Then in December 1919, Mary became a widow. My family say that Harry caught ‘The Fever’ – meaning Malaria. There was some talk of him having recovered but then catching it back off a doctor, although Malaria is not something you catch off other people. I have been trying to locate his death certificate as we do not have a copy. His death was not registered in the GRO Consular Overseas Death Registers and I have tried in vain to search the images of the Rio civil registration certificates on FamilySearch but not been lucky as yet – plus it is all in Portuguese so that is another challenge!

I have Harry’s will which gives their address in Rio as Mariano Procopio e de Minas as well as their previous address in Hyde.

He left £647 3 Shillings and 8 pence including an amount of £4 18 shillings and 8 pence which was paid to the Inland Revenue on account of estate duty. His estate went to his wife and it states that in the event of her death, his estate should go to his son Phillip to ensure a first class education. Using the old currency converter tool from the National Archives his estate would be worth £13,726.76 in 2005’s money. His will was stamped on the back by the Slack Mills Company to show his probate had been registered by them on 29th March 1920. It was also stamped by the Manchester Ship Canal Company on 26th September 1928 and by the British Cotton Growing Association on 30th October 1928.


So there the tale of Harry Marshall ends, I hope to one day be able to locate a copy of his death certificate and know where he is buried. I know there is a British Cemetery in Gamboa, and I have tried sending emails to the the British Cemetery Fund in Brazil for some help and advice but they have never responded to me.

Harry’s widow and son soon returned to England and I will continue their story another day.


11 thoughts on “The Brazilian Connection

  1. In the dark and morbid photo where you say your grandfather looks miserable, I don’t think the other two look at all happy either. It would be really interesting to know what was going on that day, or during the photo shoot.

  2. I loved your nose picking comment! So true. I recently traced a German family through Brazil and the records were tricky to find. The names were changed to their Latin counterparts, Heinrich was Enrique and so on. Have you considered that possibility? I’m not sure why I’m asking you that because you are a brilliant researcher so you probably have but I thought I’d through it out there just in case.

    The post cards are so fabulous, what a great treasure.

    • Ha yeah, i love looking at the small detail in photographs! I was so amazed to find the postcards, I never thought we had anything like that on my Mum’s side. I’ve looked mainly in the registration distinct they lived in and looked at all names for that period, nothing. It is of course possible his death is registered in another district so I may just have to wait until they have been indexed to make the search easier. I had previously posted on genforum’s Brazil board for some help, which did help narrow down the district to look in but not much else!

  3. I’ve also noticed that many old postcards have mundane logistical information about when someone is coming to visit or where to meet, etc. Today we’d make similar arrangements by texting or sending an email.

    • I think that due to there being a regular post throughout the day that you could get letters and cards at least a couple of times a day, making it easier to reply if you got one in the morning to respond. (Mainly obviously for local post rather than if you lived miles away.) So not like these days when you get your post once a day (and where I live it usually comes around midday rather than the mornings anymore.)
      I think we forget about how people organised things like that in the days before we all had telephones and computers. I always like to think about how my ancestors met and got together and it is nice to see a piece of that story in the cards arranging to meet up before they were married.

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