I once asked my father what his grandfather's name was. He thought for a moment and told me:

"Grandpa. We always called him Grandpa!"

He simply couldn't remember his Grandfather's name. What he could recall was that the old gentleman was a Cabinet maker in Paignton Devon, that he would put on a wing collar and go to "The Constitutional Club" on the front near Paignton Harbour.

On a visit to Paignton, in the pouring rain, Dad showed me the building and a spark of interest in family history took hold in my mind.

I knew that my grandfather's name was Hubert, that both he and Dad were born in Paignton. If I wanted to find out more, however, I was on my own.

Thank heaven for the internet!
Nicholas Thorne's Family History Pages.
Home page. Thorne Stephens Hay

Click to enlarge: Earliest picture of Henry and Ellen Thorn.

Earliest picture of Henry and Ellen Thorn

Click to enlarge: Henry & Ellen Thorne photo.

Henry & Ellen Thorne photo.

Click to enlarge: Jane Thorne nee Jarvis b:1870 d:1958.

Jane Thorne nee Jarvis b:1870 d:1958

Click to enlarge: Kingsbridge Wedding 190(?) of Jane 's sister.

Kingsbridge Wedding 190(?) Jarvis family.

Click to enlarge: Sydney Thorne, Great-grandfather. b 1865.

Sydney Thorne, Great-grandfather. b 1865

Click to enlarge: Grandmama and Grandfather Thorne wedding, Paignton 1919

Grandmama and Grandfather Thorne wedding, Paignton 1919

Click to enlarge: "The Admiral" on the bridge of the S.S. Dolphin.

"The Admiral" on the bridge.

Click to enlarge: George (Henry's first son) and his wife Mary Thorne.

George (Henry's first son) and Mary Thorne.

Starting with the name of my father's father, Hubert Thorne , I began my on-line search of the 1901 census.

One of the hits was for Hillside Terrace, Paignton. At the bottom of the page was
20 Hillside Terrace.

Name and Surname of each person

to Head
of Family

as to

Age last

Own account

(1)Deaf and Dumb
(2) Blind
(4) Imbecile, feeble- minded
Sydney J Thorne.   Head.   M.   36.   Carpenter.   Worker.     Dartmouth Devon
  Jane               do   Wife   M 31         Galmpton        do
nr Kingsbridge
  Eveline W     do
    8         Dartmouth    do  
  Hubert    L    do       6         Paignton      do  
  Clifford R     do       1             do             do  
From this I had now found my grandparents names;  they were Sydney. J. Thorne and Jane! Sydney was listed as a Carpenter, but I was to find on earlier and latter census that he was actually a Cabinet Maker.

I wasted no time and did a search of the 1891 census for Devonshire and found
Sydney. J. Thorne, Cabinet Maker aged 26 living in South Ford Road, Dathmouth in which the head of the household was his father, Henry Thomas Thorne, Master Mariner aged 61.

I had now traced Great-great-grandfather Thorne and so I went back to the 1901 census to see if he was still alive at the turn of that century.

He was!

At 71 he was living in Dartmouth and still working. His occupation was now given as Captain of the GWR paddle steamer.

The Railway line came into Kingswear. On the other side of the river, Dartmouth had its own station (without a train track) and so a Railway Ferry ran between the two. Henry was, first, steersman on the Perseverance and went on to become skipper of the Dolphin. In 1902, he was on the bridge to bring  King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra accross the river on the occassion of their Royal visit to lay the foundation stone of the Britannia Royal Naval College.

By going back twenty years and searching the 1881 census I could find at least seven children that he and great-great-grandma Ellen  from Portsmouth, had brought into the world.

Thanks to my cousin Mike, in Canada, who could provide me with a photcopy of the family bible, I have since found out that there were ten children, some of whom died as infants. I have also found that Ellen's maiden name was Masler or perhaps Malzer.
Click to enlarge: Henry & Ellen's Family Bible

Henry & Ellen's Family Bible

I have gone back over the census to find Henry and Ellen as newly weds in Portsmouth in 1861 where Henry had a job as a Ropemaker in the H.M. Dockyards.

Their marriage is recorded on another family history website as 5th February 1859 at St.Mary's, Portsea.

In this era the family name was recorded as Thorn with no 'e' . This has amused me no end as I have spent 40+ years insisting that my surname is spelt with an 'e' only to find that it was sometime in the late 1800s that Henry adopted the extra letter. I have since found his father and mother John Thorn , a shoemaker and Elizabeth without the 'e' in the 1841 Dartmouth census.

It would seem that John and Elizabeth married about 1819. They had Henry in 1830, a daughter, Ann Elizabeth was born in 1835 and two more sons, George in 1836 and John in 1845. Whether there were more children, I do not know.

Ten Minutes chat No:22 from the Datmouth Chronicle
November 25th 1904

With 'Admiral' Thorne.
Changing Skippers on the "Dolphin" - Forty Years at the Wheel.
Click to enlarge: Ten Minute chat with Captain Thorne 1904

Ten Minute Chat 1

Click to enlarge: Ten Minute chat with Captain Thorne 1904

Ten Minute Chat 2

Click to enlarge: Ten Minute chat with Captain Thorne 1904

Ten Minute Chat 3

Click to enlarge: Ten Minute chat with Captain Thorne 1904

Ten Minute Chat 4

On his retirement in 1904 Captain Thorne, nicknamed "The Admiral" gave an interview to the local newspaper.

The transcript here is provided courtesy of Mr Barry Morris, who is also a descendant of Henry Thorne.
Click to enlarge: Thorne Family Tree.

Thorne Family Tree

Click to Enlarge: The Club in Paignton. The Station in Dartmouth

The Club in Paignton. The Station in Dartmouth.

My thanks go to Mike Thorne, Mr and Mrs Pillar and Gail Bellerby for the use of their photographs.
Some are photocopies of photographs, with a resulting loss in clarity.