The Curious Case of John Pereira

Back in the British Library I had made an interesting discovery. Well, possibly.

A number of discoveries had stood out to me, and the discovery of John Pereira was one of the most intriguing yet. First and foremost I was (positively) surprised to discover the name ‘Pereira’. A quick search revealed the Portuguese origin of the name. A note here that i’m not an advocate of basing all knowledge on Wikipedia, however, it has its merits in certain cases. In this one, I shouldn’t have been so surprised to discover a Portuguese name in my family heritage due to the foundations upon which the the Anglo-Indian community was built. Namely that of the Portuguese and the British.

Nonetheless, the initial excitement of this discovery pulled the blinkers over my eyes a little.

After reflecting later that evening, I made a potential link that would change the picture of this ‘family tree’ I had created thus far. This links right into the life of David Vincent Hassett and Edith Wharton / Hassett / Smith. The family tree looked like this:

WP_20150127_003

Let’s start with Regina Pereira. My first discovery of Regina was her burial record:

Regina Pereira_bur_c

This revealed:

  1. Regina died: 23 December 1865
  2. Cause of death: diarrhea
  3. Age: 20 years old
  4. ‘Profession’: Wife of John Pereira, Clerk Secretariate
  5. Burial date: 24th December 1865

I couldn’t be certain this was the same ‘John Pereira’ I had discovered, albeit the ‘profession’ matched. I had found the baptism record though of Martha Pereira:

Martha Pereira_bap_c

This further revealed:

  1. Baptism date: 1 January 1866
  2. Birth date: 27 April 1865
  3. Parents names: John and the late Regina Pereira
  4. Abode: Byculla
  5. Profession: Assistant in the Judicial Dept. Secretariate

A somewhat sad confirmation that John and Regina Pereira were her parents. A quick scan of the dates shows that Regina died when her daughter was less than eight months old. The cause of Regina’s death, diarrhea, also sounds tragic. In 2015, this is something we take for granted as an easily curable condition (we probably wouldn’t even associate it with the word ‘disease’ in the developed world nowadays).

At the point of uncovering such information, it did set in on me that ‘these are my ancestors’, people without whom I may not, and most likely would not, exist. It sent a strange feeling of eeriness and some sadness to think of how previous relatives have lived, the suffering they have lived through and how we (may) take so much for granted in 2015.

In addition, this triggered the question: did John Pereira re-marry after the death of Regina? It seemed to be a common feature of life in 19th century (British) India, that most people married at a young age, most people also died at a young age, and widow(er)s would re-marry rather quickly after a bereavement.

In line with this question, I had discovered another interesting record that day in the British Library, a marriage record which had John Pereira as the father of Sophia Charlotte Pereira. How could I figure out if this was the same John Pereira as above?

I found the baptism record of Sophia Charlotte Pereira:

Sophia Charlotte Pereira_bap_c

Confirmation of:

  1. Baptism date: 18 April 1882
  2. Birth date: 29 September 1881
  3. Parents names: John Pereira and Mary Anne* Pereira
  4. Abode: Bombay
  5. Profession: Secretariat

There were too many similarities with the previous record of John Pereira for it not to match, surely? Abode in Bombay (Byculla, previously stated, is in Bombay) and his profession was a ‘Secretariat’.

To find further sources, I located the marriage record of John Pereira and Mary Anne Pereira:

John Pereira and Mary Ann Lee_mar_c

Further information:

  1. Marriage date: 13 January 1868
  2. Ages: John: 28, Mary-Ann: 16
  3. Condition: John: widower, Mary-Ann: spinster
  4. Profession: Assistant Judicial Department Secretariat
  5. Residence: Bombay
  6. Father’s names: John Pereira and John Lee
  7. Banns or licence: Banns (public announcement in a Christian parish church of an impending marriage)

N.B. You will notice at this point I discovered ‘generation 7’ (my great, great, great, great grandfathers: John Pereira and John Lee). More on that later.

Was there more than one John Pereira, living in Bombay, working as an ‘Assistant Judicial Department Secretariat’, who was a widower? His birth date, from the marriage to Mary-Ann, (although I have yet to find any official transcription of John Pereira’s baptism) would have been around 1840 (Married date – his age: 1868 – 28 = 1840).

Sophia Charlotte Pereira was born in 1881, so John would have been 41 when Sophia was born (1881 – 1840 = 41).

Regina, Sophia’s mother, died aged 20 in 1865 (again, no official transcription of Regina’s baptism, but her year of birth would have been 1845 – or possibly the very last week of 1844 – as she died 23 December 1865).

Stay with me.

There are far too many similarities in the records for there have been more than one John Pereira matching these records. I have searched, a lot, to seek out other John Pereira’s, of which there are a few, and I conclude that the records presented here are all the same John Pereira.

So what?

John Pereira’s daughter with Regina, Martha Pereira, went on to marry James Hassett (we’ll call these couple A). John Pereira’s daughter with Mary-Ann, Sophia Charlotte Pereira, went on to marry William Bernard Wharton (we’ll call these couple B).

Couple A went on to have a son, David Vincent Hassett.

Couple B went on to have a daughter, Edith Aileen Wharton.

A+B=?

If you’ve been following correctly, David and Edith went on to marry each other.

This changed the family tree to look like this:

WP_20150201_001

John Pereira, now Grandfather to David Vincent Hassett and Edith Aileen Hassett, albeit they had different grandmothers. This marriage between the two step-cousins is interesting. In the contemporary world there is evidence which suggests the increase in genetic disorders due to ‘cousin marriages’, however, up until the Hindu Marriage Act 1955, this practice was legal in India. Although there may be certain conditions which make the situation more complex than the act states. Of course, David and Edith were step-cousins, which may not have been subject to any laws in any case as they were not full-cousins. In addition, Anglo-Indians may not necessarily be covered under the Hindu Marriage Act 1955.

This does raise intriguing questions about the culture, lifestyle and community of Anglo-Indians and the broader society and context in which they lived.

This marriage raises further questions of interest:

  1. How did David and Edith meet?
  2. Did they know they were (step-)related?
  3. How did the family view this?
  4. Was there a link between the apparent early years of bereavement Edith encountered and the joining of the two grandchildren?

There are many possible explanations for this part of the story. But one, in particular, stands out to me.

*You will notice Mary Ann spelled Mary Ann and Mary Anne. This is spelled as it appears in the records. It is common for names to be misspelled in the British India Baptism, Marriage and Burial records.

** Update, 21 March 2015: David and Edith were half cousins not step cousins.

Cover picture credit: Wiki


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28 thoughts on “The Curious Case of John Pereira

  1. Hi there,

    Greetings from Malaysia!

    I have been working on my family tree for few years now. My great grandfather was a Victor Stanley Pereira. Born in 1883 (as stated on his grave stone). We have no record of anyone from the Pereira side. My mum does not know who were his parents, siblings, cousins etc. it’s like almost a mystery. I can’t find anything about him. All I have is his death records. Mum tells me he is Anglo-Indian from Bangalore. Why Bangalore? Mum heard her mother (my grandmother) mentioned this. I tried most churches in Malaysia, no records of his birth/baptism. So I’m almost certain he was born in India and left for Malaysia. Did he travel alone? Looks like it because no one knows or seen any gravestone from his side. If his parents came with him, my grandmother would have known. Since you mentioned a John Pereira, I’m hoping if you have unearth more info on the Pereira, and I’m hoping there’s a Victor Stanley Pereira. Please write to me and we can share more details. Best wishes, Shawn

    Like

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