Looking back through my old notes and records (as I now find myself doing) I came across an intriguing encounter I had in 1994 whilst waiting for a copy of a Yelf will in Somerset House. It led to some interesting and intriguing information being passed on that I was, unfortunately, unable to bring to a satisfactory conclusion at the time. I offer all the information I have to any budding Sherlock out there who might wish to take up the challenge...After hearing the name Yelf called out when my will arrived, I was approached by a professional genealogist cum journalist who was there researching background information on Lady Bienvenuda Buck (remember her?). It turned out that he had an ancestor called Louisa Yelf who had married James Henderson some time in the 1830's. However Louisa had always maintained that she was, in fact, the daughter of George Rendall, a wealthy and prominent Isle of Wight businessman. George was apparently a stalwart of the local church, a Mason and an investor in the Ryde Pier Company who, it was claimed, had conducted a steamy and tempestuous affair with the wife of his friend and business partner, Mr Yelf (this would have been Robert Yelf Jnr. of Ryde, Isle of Wight)
This seemed to be too good a story to pass by so I went to see what I could unearth to flesh out the story.
Looking first at the IOW births between 1759-1832 I could find no mention of a Louisa Yelf. Nor could I in the Catherine’s House records. However a Louisa was baptised in 1835, but she was certainly not getting married at the time, as this Louisa seems to have been. There was a baptism for a Louisa in London in 1827 but I couldn't find any more information on her at the time.
Then an extract from the IOW Family History Journal caught my eye which read -
‘In that year (1859) the town commissioners elected by the rate payers were: Geo. Rendall, Robt. Yelf (and 25 other names)’ It then went on to describe the formation of the Pier Company, 2,500 shares at £50 each and construction began on 31st June 1813.This certainly confirms some of the details in the story, confirming that there was indeed a George Rendall who would have known Robert Yelf but whether the child might have been born 'off the Island' and not recognised by Robert Yelf Jnr., I could not say. Nevertheless with these details and the greater accessibility to records it just might be the time to start looking again.