Who are you Charles Sherlock Maffitt?

My family and I have a secret…

We have no idea where we come from. It has been a question we have discussed more times than I can remember, at family get togethers, parties and catch ups.

My mum (Karen), my brother (Craig) and I (Sarah) are searching for my grandmother’s great granddad. There are members of my family past and present who have been searching for this man for nearly 150 years. We have researched ancestry sites, contacted genealogists, all to no avail. The common statement we receive is “he doesn’t sound like he’s from this country”.

I am hoping in starting this blog, that we will possibly connect with people around the world, who may have the information we need. I will give you a quick gist to start us off……

Charles Sherlock Maffitt married a lady called Mary Anna Parry on the 9th April 1866 at Walton on the Hill in Liverpool. He had two children, that we know of, Charles James Patterson Maffitt born 1867 and Elisabeth Maffitt born 1869.

Family legend has it that when Charles James Patterson was approximately 3 years of age, his father Charles Sherlock, was said to have stormed out of the house during a heated argument with his wife never to be seen or heard of again. Charles said that he remembered his father being in uniform, which could possibly be true as he is listed, as shown on his marriage certificate above, as a Mariner and then later a Master Mariner. His father is also listed on the marriage certificate as John Sherlock Maffitt, Master Mariner. 

To date, we have never been able to find either Master Mariner certificates, birth certificates or death certificates for either Charles Sherlock Maffitt or his father John Sherlock Maffitt.

So as you can see, this is our mystery, yet to be solved…who were these people? Anyone out there have a clue? Any amateur sleuths think they can crack this old family secret?


The “big secret”

For years the family have been told there was a secret. Something so intriguing that it was kept in a box. Never to be divulged or shared. This box was in the possession of Charles James Patterson Maffitt. Our missing grandfather’s son.

After CJPM (Charles James Patterson Maffitt) died, the box apparently went missing. No one in the entire family knows where it is or what mysterious piece of information was within it.

What could it have been that warranted such secrecy? What could have possibly been so important that it had to be kept in a box and hidden? Could this secret be the answer to this entire mystery?

Whatever this was, whoever protected it, did not want it divulging that’s for sure. We can only assume that it was something of substance. In the 1800’s things were done a lot differently. People married younger, had children a lot younger and had A LOT of children. Bigamy was also on the menu for some. It seems to have factored into a lot of family histories and this was one subject we wanted to delve into.

Did Charles Sherlock Maffitt leave because he had another family somewhere? I’m not sure. We have come to the conclusion that Mary Anna may have been pregnant when they got married and this may have been the reason for the request to have the marriage licence given to her immediately. Although, the marriage application is originally stamped in January 1866 which may indicate that she wasn’t pregnant when they applied to marry. So that doesn’t really shed anymore light on it does it!

If Charles did marry her out of duty because she was pregnant, why did he do it if he had something to hide? There is no record of his or even his father’s birth or death. They are not on any land census, they didn’t appear on any travel or immigration documents, they are listed as Master Mariners but we can’t find their certificates. We can only assume he married under a false name. Why would he create a false name? Where did this name originate from? Was it someone he worked with? A relative?

Charles and Mary Anna then went on to have another child, Elisabeth and then he left. On an 1871 census, the only one Charles is mentioned on, Mary Anna is listed as the Head of the household and in the section which describes the profession, it states “Husband at sea”.

The strange thing about this whole scenario is that Charles Sherlock Maffitt had disappeared by 1871. But so did Mary Anna’s brother Charles along with Francis Patten who was a witness to Charles and Mary’s wedding.

CSM (Charles Sherlock Maffitt) we know about so we don’t need to go there, Charles Parry (Mary Anna’s brother) disappeared in 1870 and wasn’t heard from again for 21 years. This is shown with an entry in the Liverpool Weekly Mercury as below:

Liverpool Weekly Mercury 4th April 1891

*** Many thanks for your kindness in inserting in the “Missing Friends column” the notice asking for information concerning Charles Parry who left Bootle 21 years ago. I am happy to say I have heard from him –
His sister Mary Anna Seddon, 3 Bennett Place, Derby Road, Bootle.

  • Mary Anna Seddon formerly Maffitt – she re-married George Seddon after Charles Sherlock Maffitt’s disappearance

Where did he go? The family were told that he went to Peru. What for, we don’t know. There was also a photograph in the family of a man, wife and two children in full Spanish dress. We again were all led to believe this was “our little Spanish grandmother” The man in the photo was known as Carlos. This photo also subsequently disappeared. Could Carlos have been Charles Parry, Mary’s brother?

So that’s Charles Sherlock Maffitt, Francis Patten and Charles Parry all disappearing at around the same time and absolutely no record of John Sherlock Maffitt.

Did they all disappear together? Was it just a coincidence?  What was in that box!

The Sea Captain

Throughout our years chasing our ancestry, we have followed certain paths and quashed some myths that were quite frankly holding us back. There was a time when we were led to believe, by family stories, that our missing grandfather was an American sea captain named John Newland Maffitt or even possibly his son Eugene. Now, there were several reasons why we were led down this path…

a) Charles Sherlock Maffitt had supposedly left his family home dressed in full naval uniform

b)  he was listed as being a Master Mariner

c) “Charles Sherlock Maffitt’s” marriage certificate showed his father’s name as John (John Newland Maffitt’s father was named John)

and probably the biggest clue was that our missing grandfather had a grandson named John Newland Maffitt!


Brian is my nan’s cousin. He is a lovely man and the mysterious Charles Sherlock Maffitt was his great grandfather. He had an extensive DNA test with a known descendant of Captain John Newland Maffitt in the USA and there was no match. So that was that…this was a huge disappointment to the members of the family who had believed that this man was the answer to our heritage.

At least now we can put that myth to bed as his was a name that came up a lot.

The search continues…

What we know so far…

As with many family legends that get passed down through the generations, stories get exaggerated, information gets either forgotten or fabricated but in our case, we have very little to go on. And when I say little, I mean pretty much nothing at all.

We have no idea where Charles Sherlock Maffitt hailed from. The majority of our family feel we originated from America, mainly due to the huge shipping trade that took place around that time. Liverpool was one of the busiest ports for trading goods around 1866 so we thought he may have come here due his profession as a Mariner.

We have obtained a marriage banns which you can find in the media section at the bottom of this blog. As you can see, Charles Sherlock was mentioned as being a Mariner from Lancs Place and Parish. It doesn’t state which ship he was residing on and there is no mention of a home address, which seems to be unusual judging by the majority of banns we have seen. There is nearly always a form of address.

It also states that this is needed immediately as they wish to be married on the 9th April.

We then managed to find a marriage certificate. More intrigue. Charles’ father is listed as John Sherlock Maffitt. Master Mariner, yet when we searched for his Master Mariners certificate, there was no trace. No surprise there as Charles stated that he was a Master Mariner on his son’s birth certificate the following January and we cannot find his certificate on that database either. We have been told by numerous genealogists that it was not unusual for mariners to “exaggerate their qualifications” shall we say, so again we are at square one.

The marriage was witnessed by Francis Patten, who was also a Master Mariner. He was born in Montrose, Scotland in 1833 and was married to Mary Anna’s sister Elizabeth. It was with Elizabeth and Francis that Mary Anna was residing with when she married Charles Sherlock Maffitt.

So in a nutshell, Charles and Mary Anna marry in 1866, have their first child Charles James Patterson Maffitt in 1867, have their second child Elisabeth in 1869 and then on an 1871 census, Mary Anna is listed as “Head” of the household and “husband at sea”. That is last bit of information we have about him.

Any ideas?