american cousins



Thomas Veale Colenso was born in 1866 in Penzance, Cornwall, England,
son of Richard Veale Thomas Colenso and his wife Susan Ann (Edmondes).

He was the youngest of an 'army' of children.
Susan Ann, the eldest, was 29 by the time Thomas came along, and only Mary (2nd) had married (George Matthews Charles) but had died 3 years before he was born . Eight other siblings had also died, but nevertheless Thomas was born into a household with 8 brothers and sisters still at home.

Joy was mixed with sadness as about the same time Richard's father Samuel May Colenso passed away. Thomas never knew his paternal grandparents. His own father was 50 years of age and his mother 47.

Having said that, they both lived to see Thomas grow up to be a married man, as well as witness the many changes that took place during their lifespan of 19th century.

When Thomas was aged 3 sister Alice married Joseph Carter and moved to St Ives.

In the following year Susan Ann married Edward Sampson Noy (no children), and Alice had a daughter which meant that Thomas was no longer the youngest.
However, this was shortlived as Alice soon left Cornwall for Kent with her family.

In 1872, William married Mary Nicholls Richards, and sister Olivia died. Thomas was still only 6 but he must have sensed that since he arrived on the scene anyone close that he knew seemingly 'upped and left' - and some further away than others.


Samuel May Colenso

Mary Veale Thomas



Richard Veale Thomas Colenso

Susan Ann Edmondes

Susan Ann 1837-1923

William 1845-1942

Olivia 1853-1872

Edwin 1861 - 1861

****Mary 1839-1863

Richard Veale Thomas 1847-1848

*Andrew 1854 -1854

**Caroline 1862-1952

Sarah Veale Thomas 1840-1929

Samuel May 1849-1914

John Williams 1856-1927 ******

Richard 1864 - 1923 *********

Alice 1842-1898

Olivia 1851-1851

Andrew 1858-1852 ******

Thomas Veale 1866 - 1921

Ellen 1843-1844 ***

Olivia 1852-1852 ******

Richard Veale Thomas 1859-1862


There followed a spell of five years before any fiurther marriages took place but during which time the births of 1 nephew and 2 nieces occurred, which meant that Thomas was no longer the youngest again. One niece died and another nephew was born.

In 1877 John Williams married Eliza Jane Corin, followed in the next year by Samuel May who married Kate James (no children).

Now also at some point during Thomas' life thus far, a stir will have been made by the arrival of one William (Wiremu) Colenso - illegitimate son of Thomas' Uncle William , from New Zealand. He travelled to England to complete his education. (His mother, Elisabeth (Fairburn) Colenso was also in England during the early 1860's with his half-brother Ridley Latimer and half-sister Frances Mary but they returned to New Zealand in 1867.) I wonder what kind of reception he had.............. It must have been quite favourable because in 1880 he married Thomas' sister Sarah Veale Thomas Colenso. Uncle William paid for their home and neither had to work for the rest of their lives.
I dare say that Thomas would have listened very intently to stories and accounts of events of a place on the other side of the world. It must have sounded like one big adventure to a lad of 13/14.

Thomas, too, was about to embark on his own adventure...... in the world of work......fortunate in that he had a ready established family business to join.

Richard and two of his brothers, Samuel and John Williams, had started a house decorating business well before Thomas was born.

By 1841 it was firmly established and successful which continued to flourish over the years.

As Samuel had 3 daughters and John Williams had no children, the business became Richards after their deaths in the 1850's.

Hard work and determination must have kept the business afloat during the interim years until Richard's own sons, William, Samuel May and John William, could 'learn the trade' and become working members themselves through 1860's.

By 1871 the business was doing so well that Richard was able to place this advertisement in Kelly's Directory for Cornwall in 1873.

It is an excellent indicator of the skills on offer and the range of customers for which the business catered. The fact that he had opened his 'stock' to the public might be an indication that he had become a 'centre and supplier' for other tradesmen and/or that DIY may also have started to be popular among certain sections of society.
In any event, there was no shortage of work for Thomas which meant a regular income and he soon thought of settling down.

On 18th March 1889 Thomas married Phillis Bodinar Trahair in Penzance.

I cannot imagine that it was a small affair even with just close family consisting of Mum and Dad, Susan and Edward Noy, Sarah and Wiremu Colenso, Alice and Joseph Carter and 7 children, William and Mary Colenso and 5 children, Samuel and Kate Colenso, John and Eliza Colenso and daughter, Caroline Colenso and Richard Colenso.
Not to mention aunts and uncles and cousins... then there was the Trahair family too. I daresay that local customers of the decorating business will have turned out to wish the couple well, even if they did not attend the church ceremony.


Thomas Veale Colenso
1866 -1921

Phillis Bodinnar Trahair
1870 -

Phyllis 1889-

Thomas 1891-1961

Olivia 1892-1973


They did not have to wait long until their first daughter was born and to whom they gave the name Phyllis. Then two years later, Thomas had his son and heir, and they naturally called him Thomas. During the third pregnancy, Thomas had an idea that he would travel to see whether all the rumours of a 'better life' and 'land for claiming' in the 'New World' were true, promising he would send for Phillis and the children if it was true and returning if it was not. Phillis gave birth to a daughter and called her Olivia - a name which her in-laws had given three times and perhaps in memory of Thomas' sisters.


It must have been a very difficult time for Phillis, waiting and wondering and not hearing anything from her husband. Three children to feed and clothe and always thinking that the next day she would hear .......... but nothing ever came.
She was offered a hand in marriage , and finally thinking of her own happiness and that of her children, she took the difficult decision to apply to have Thomas declared dead so that she could legitimately remarry and start a new life. Late in 1905, Penzance witnessed another marriage involving Phillis and her new husband-to-be Albert Gendall. I suspect a very different atmosphere hung over the town for this wedding.


So what had happened to Thomas?


Thomas Veale Colenso
1866 -1921

Katherine Mongeau

Richard Thomas Colenso
1899 - 1996




Photograph used with permission courtesy of Richard William Colenso
Grandson of Thomas Veale Colenso




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