The name of Bramah is famous among engineers. The portrait above reputedly shows Joseph Bramah (1748-1814) who was an inventor, engineer and lock maker, born into a farming family in Yorkshire, but made his way to London, where he founded a company which still bears his name today. The picture comes from Wikpedia. He invented a virtually unpickable lock, an unfreezable lavatory, the beer pump and various hydraulic systems.
His nephew, John Joseph Bramah (1798 to 1846) followed in his uncle’s footsteps and became renowned for the engineering works and ventures in partnership with George and Robert Stephenson, famous in railway history.
In the census for 1841, John Joseph Bramah and his wife Martha have two visitors staying with them on the night of the census: Marianne Sannemann and Laetitia Robey. Both are interesting to me because of their links with the Dickins family. Marianne Sannemann went on to marry Robert Archibald Dickins, my five greats uncle, and later they named their only son Bramah. Laetitia Robey was the sister of my four greats grandmother, Charlotte Eleanor Robey, who married my four greats grandfather nine years later.
I noted the friendship between the Robeys and Bramahs, and wondered if there might have been a closer relationship between the families (given the use of Bramah as a first name for her only son) but filed it away in my family history as an oddity when I first came across it. I continued to look in a casual way for some link between the Robeys and the Bramahs, and later came across the strange case of two infants fostered by John Joseph and Martha. Thomas Bramah Diplock and Samuel Robey Diplock were very small when their father and mother died in 1831. The children were then looked after by their uncle and aunt.
It is fairly common in English genealogy to find children with surnames as middle names. In Scotland this practice is formalized to the extent that the first grandson is given the first and last names of one grandfather as first and second names, and the next grandson the first and last names of the other grandfather and so on.
Thus, I felt sure that there must be a link between the Bramahs, Robeys, and Diplocks… and I just needed to investigate the family tree of Thomas Bramah and Samual Robey Diplock to find it.
It was fairly easy to find the information that their father and mother had been William Diplock and Esther Frances Diplock, nee Bramah. A number of obituaries for Thomas Bramah Diplock, who became a doctor and latterly a coroner, mentioned that his mother had been a sister of John Joseph Bramah, who was himself a nephew of Joseph Bramah. However, looking at the ancestry family trees for John Joseph Bramah, most of them ascribed him to Thomas Bramah, son of Joseph Bramma of Yorkshire, and I could find no mention of Esther Frances at all.
Then I stumbled across a blog by David O’Flaherty, in which he mentioned an article in Ripperologist magazine, which included some family history for Thomas Bramah Diplock, who is interesting to Ripperologists because he acted as coroner in some of the Ripper murders. After some false starts, I was able to see a copy of the article, which is very detailed and gives a lot of information, but disappointingly little about the ancestors of Esther Frances Bramah.
David mentioned in his covering email that his co-author Robert Linford had found a birth for Esther Frances Bramah in the registers of St George’s, Hanover Square, a church that has featured heavily in my family history in the past. He said that the birth of Esther Frances Bramah was in 1796, to Edward and Wilhelmina Bramah, and I found it: 13 March 1796.
I soon found the relevant baptism, and two years later, on 18 May, 1798, the record for John Joseph Bramah, also son of Edward and Wilhelmina Bramah. It was the work of some hours to trudge through the marriage records for St George’s, only because there was quite a gap between the marriage and the birth of Esther… but there, in 1790, it was. Edward Bramah marrying Wilhelmina Sayers (1768-1808) on 3 January 1790. I found other births for the family, an Edward in 1792 and 1802 (which probably means the earlier child died), and a Richard in 1794.
This means that nearly all the family trees I have seen online for John Joseph Bramah are wrong. They are right to say that he was the nephew of Joseph Bramah, but his father is Edward Bramah, born 1751, brother of Joseph Bramah (1748-1814) not the brother he is normally ascribed to (usually Thomas, born 1754).
There is more to do on the Diplock side, but I am very happy to have sorted out the genealogy for John Joseph Bramah. For those interested in his work in engineering, there is information here about it. For those wishing to read the obituary for Thomas Bramah Diplock, it can be found here. For those who wish to know more about the uncle, Joseph Bramah, information is here, and the company which still makes his locks can be found here.