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What's in a Name?

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

Entrance to the harbour

Entrance to the Harbour

"From Old Books" website


As mentioned before on this blog, your library card allows you in-branch access to Ancestry Library Edition. While this is a wonderful database for genealogy, Ancestry LE isn't just useful for family research. This database can also be used for researching the origins of items or documents. Do you have a signed painting or a cross-stitched sampler with a name on it? Or have you inherited an autograph book, or a photograph or postcard with writing on the back? With a little digging, you may be able to find out more about the item, and about its original owner. Ancestry LE can also be used for researching notable individuals if you are writing a book or a paper, or if you are just nosy like me. (Or "inquisitive", if you prefer). Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain), Charles Dickens, The Bronte’s, Emily Dickinson, Oscar Wilde, and Charlie Chaplin all appear on census records available through the database. On the 1861 census for England, Queen Victoria appears as "Victoria R", and her household includes three and a half census pages of servants, including a "coffee room maid"!

But back to researching objects. We have a small book in our Local History collection; Solitary Hunter or Sporting Adventures on the Prairies by John Palliser, published in London in 1859. I picked up this book one day to see what it was about, and inside the book, in elegant handwriting, is the inscription:

Hubert Heath Sabben

with Papa's and Mama's Love,

April 25th, 1862

And at the top of the page, written in pencil by a child, it says Hart, 1895.

I came across this inscription purely by accident, but this small scrap of information in this little book piqued my interest.

Just who was Hubert Heath Sabben? Was he an early pioneer to Canada? Did he live in England, where the book was published? Did he come to Canada at a later date, bringing his book with him? We aren't sure when this book joined our collection, and there is no indication of how we came to have it, so I thought I'd have a look for him in the Ancestry.com Library Edition database. I entered Hubert Heath Sabben's full name, and got several matches for him. According to birth records, Hubert Heath Sabben was born in the June quarter of 1853, at Portsea Island in Hampshire, England. (Some British records are organized in "quarters", or three month periods, so Hubert was born in April, May, or June of 1853.) The inscription April 25, 1862, indicates that the book could have been a gift for Hubert's ninth birthday. It is possible that the elegant handwriting in the book belonged to one of his parents, John or Elizabeth Sabben.

I then checked the census records for Hubert Heath Sabben, and found him in 1861 with his parents and brother, Frederick, in Portsmouth, Hampshire, a naval city on England's south coast.

On the 1871 census, Hubert was 18 years old, and was a navigating midshipman on the ship "Basilisk".

On the 1881 census, Hubert was a navigating lieutenant a ship called the "Crocodile". He is one of a crew of 95 men on that ship.

On the 1891 census, Hubert was a navigating lieutenant on a ship called the "Wye". It was very interesting to note the different ranks and sheer number of men on this ship!

I found a marriage record for Hubert Heath Sabben to Mary Rebecca Hart in the December quarter of 1884, and a record for their son, Hubert Hart Sabben, born in 1885. This is likely the "Hart" whose name is written in the book. Perhaps the book was given to him in 1895 for his tenth birthday.

In the database I was also able to find other records of Hubert Hart Sabben's life, including his name on naval medal rolls and the index for his will in 1904. Ancestry LE also has records for son Hubert Hart Sabben's service in World War I.

Both Sabben men died in England, so I still don't know how this book made its way to the library's collection, but from the information that I was able to find, it appears that Hubert Heath Sabben and his son H. Hart Sabben followed James Palliser's lead, and became adventurers!

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