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A research project like this needs carful planning. Firstly I transcribed the letter, then made a number of lists so that I had a clear idea of individual areas of research
- Genealogy – Family, all the individuals mentioned in the letter and noted any relationships e.g. Aunt, Nephew etc.
- Genealogy – Fellow officers and acquaintances e.g. Major Campbell our Fort Major, Cooch, the Dunnings
- Travel, places and dates – e.g. duration of passage, landfall, St Johns town, arrived 2nd inst. etc
- Economic indicators – e.g. ration allowance granted to troops, cost of provisions, exchange rate for sovereigns and cost of passage
- Geographical information – e.g. the map and descriptions of terrain and weather conditions.
- Security – e.g. fortifications, troop movements and signalling
- Social – e.g. recreational activities, dining out
- Architectural – e.g. comparison of churches, modification of accommodation
- Horticulture – vegetable growing/cultivation
- The 1820’s postal system – postal history, mail coach’s etc
Using the first of these lists I started the process of establishing who S Wyatt and Henry Wyatt were. As they both appeared to be military personnel the place to start researching was at The National Archives in Kew, London.
The search begins
A search for the service record for Capt Henry [Benjamin] Wyatt found him as a Lieutenant 3 July 1809, Commander 18 September 1815 and Captain 8 November 1855
and a list of the ships he had served on, along with dates and time served on each. (ADM/196/6)
However a fuller version of his navel career is found in O’Byrne’s Naval Biographical Dictionary (published 1849) which gives a detailed service record of all commissioned officers alive in 1846.
Here we find:-
“Henry Benjamin Wyatt born 15 Nov. 1786, at Blackbrook, in the parish of Weeford, in the co. Stafford, is fourth son of the late Benj Wyatt Esq., of Lime Grove, near Bangor, Carnarvonshire [sic] and brother of Capt S Wyatt, Royal Artillery.”
After describing his full service history to that point (1846) it helpfully states as the last paragraph:
“Commander Wyatt married, 25 Aug. 1836, Miss Bennett of Appley, near Ryde, in the Isle of Wight; and has issue two daughters.”
With this information S Wyatt, the letter writer himself, could be more easily traced. From the published List of Officers of the Royal Regiment of Artillery and published Army lists the service record of Samuel Wyatt RA was found.
From this we find that he was born in Bangor Carnarvonshire [sic] 28 April 1789. His age on entering the Army was 17 years 306 days. He served from 25 December 1810 to 17 September 1822 in the Mediterranean and from 27 August 1829 to 15 August 1835 in Newfoundland. The correct S Wyatt had definately been found.
Again helpfully his service record states he married Anne Banks (widow) 23 December 1841 at St George Hanover Square Middlesex.