Friday, March 4, 2016

Frederic Clift’s Darned First Marriage

We depend upon records to reveal the “truth” about the past. Yet sometimes records have anomalies. Some are amusing or humorous. Some are interesting or weird. Some are peculiar or suspicious. Some are infuriating, or downright laughable. Records say the darnedest things!

By Maurine Clift Nuttall

Frederic Clift married Felicia Victoria Jones June 3, 1872 at the Register Office in Brighton, Sussex, England. The Jones and Clift families were neighbors in Croydon, Surrey, living only three houses apart on Church Road. It is likely this is how the couple met each other. For whatever reason, they married under the fictitious names of “Frederic Nelson” and “Felicia Jones,” and gave fictitious names to their fathers, as well—“Richard Nelson,” deceased Accountant and “Francis Jones,” Stock Dealer.

Click to enlarge
“Darned” Record #1: Marriage Certificate for “Frederic Nelson” and “Felicia Jones.”
With compliments from the Brighton & Hove Registration District, 22 June 2001
The Register Office, Town Hall, Bartholomews, Brighton BN1 1JA
Now indexed: Felicia Jones and Frederic Nelson, June Quarter 1872, Brighton, Sussex, Volume 26, Page 367,
FreeBMD. England & Wales, FreeBMD Marriage Index, 1837-1915 [database on-line].
Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2006.

In fact, Richard Clift was alive and well and working as a stockbroker on the London Stock Exchange and Felicia’s father, James Felix Jones, was a retired captain in the Royal Indian Navy and former political agent in Her Majesty’s service at Bagdad and the Persian Gulf.

The marriage was legitimate; both parties were of full age. Was it an elopement of sorts? Perhaps the couple had not received the approval of their families? These questions remain unanswered. It appears, however, that Frederic’s parents learned of the union late in 1872. A post-nuptial settlement of the proceeds of sale of a “Leasehold house and furniture at Westow Hill Upper Norwood and East India and other Stocks” was made between Richard and Christian Clift and their son, Frederic Clift. The settlement was dated 5 December 1872 and assigned the family home and furnishings to Frederic Clift with provisions made for the sustenance of his parents.

Here (below, right) is a copy of the face of the legal document which seems to deal with the 1872 marriage under assumed names of Frederic Clift and Felicia Victoria Jones. It is still not quite clear when their parents first learned of the marriage. A partial transcription follows this article.

Post Nuptial Settlement between Rich'd Clift and Frederic Clift

This settlement was later updated 2 January 1874 (pictured above, left). That was the day before Frederic and Felicia were married again—the marriage taking place this time at the Parish Church, All Saints, at Upper Norwood. The couple’s fathers were identified correctly and James Felix Jones signed as a witness.

Click to enlarge
The Second Marriage Certificate for Frederic and Felicia ~ The “Darned” truthful one!
Given at the General Register Office 4th July 2001
Now indexed: Felicia Victoria Jones and Frederic Clift, March Quarter 1874, Croydon, Surrey, Volume 2a, Page 275
FreeBMD. England & Wales, FreeBMD Marriage Index, 1837-1915 [database on-line].
Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2006.

Officially now, the couple set out to make a home and a livelihood for themselves.

Yes, records say the darnedest things.


Partial Transcription of the 1872 Settlement

Dated 5th December 1872
Rich’d Clift Esqre
to Frederic Clift Esqre

Post Nuptial Settlement of the proceeds of sale of a Leasehold house and
furniture at Westow Hill Upper Norwood and East India and other Stocks

“This Indenture made the 5th day of December 1872 between Richard Clift of Westow Hill Upper Norwood in the county of Surrey Esquire of the first part Christian Bottrall Clift his wife of the second part and Frederic Clift of Westow Hill Upper Norwood aforesaid Esquire of the third part. . .”

“. . .said Richard Clift hath assigned certain hereditaments comprised in and expressed to be demised by an Indenture of Lease dated the 12th day of March 1863 and expressed to be made between The Ecclesiastical Commissioners for England of the one part and James Franks therein described of the other part unto the said Frederic Clift his executors administrators and assigns for the residue of the term of Ninety nine years by the said Indenture of Lease expressed to be granted. . .”

“. . .belonging to the said Richard Clift now in or about his present residence at Westow Hill, aforesaid and commonly called or known by the name of “Tusculum” unto the said Frederic Clift his executors administrators and assigns Upon trust that the said Frederic Clift. . .”


  1. How did you find out about the first marriage? I don't see anything here mentioning the name Nelson.

    1. A search for Felicia Jones would have found it. But recognising it as the same Felicia Jones would require looking at the certs.

      It's very odd ...

    2. When was the first child of this couple born?

  2. I was flabbergasted one day when one of those Ancestry leaves linked me to a marriage certificate for my parents in 1930 -- four years before they got married. That early marriage was performed over the state line by a justice of the peace. They used their real names and their parents' real names, but fudged their ages to meed the legal minimums. I can recognize their signatures even now. They then went back home, continued to live with their families, and were married by their minister four years later with family and friends attending. I have that marriage license, with names I recognize as attendants. Both documents specify marriages, the church rite wasn't a blessing of the secular act. I have my own guess as to why they did it, but the real frustration is: there's no one of that generation left to ask!