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Oral history on this side of my family seems to have taken a turn toward the asburd, probably from the telling of Laura Vyse, William's granddaughter. William's in-laws supposedly were against him marrying their daughter because he was beneath them in the social order. Their daughter, Mary Ann, was called "Lady Green." She married William anyway and her parents disowned her. Going back to England many years later, she went home and was greeted at the door with "you're not my Mary Ann, you're nothing but an ugly old woman!" She went to her bedroom and found the room hadn't been touched since she left and was full of cobwebs. This is the stuff of Victorian melodrama. Assuming this story was silliness, I started researching these people to see what would turn up.

William was born and raised in Diss, the primary market town in that area of Norfolk, England. His father was at least a second generation tanner and currier, meaning he not only tanned hides but also dressed the leather. William continued in this line of work, undoubtedly trained in his father's tanyard. Mary Ann was an only child born in nearby North Lopham, where her father was a tailor and draper. Both fathers had successful businesses and were in the middle income of what the English call "trade." There was no apparent difference in social status. There is evidence, though, that suggests Mary Ann went to great lengths to please her parents.
     William and Mary Ann were married by Edwin Sidney, curate at North Lopham, in 1822. Their first child, Charles Green Vyse, was obviously named for her father. He was baptized in Hadleigh, Co. Suffolk on 15 June 1823, where William was living at the time. The record there has the parents as William Vyse and Marianne, as transcribed. I haven't seen the original. Two weeks later he was baptized by Sidney in North Lopham. Baptizing a child twice in the Church of England wouldn't have been condoned, so it's very unlikely Sidney knew about it. Adding to that, the baptism wasn't recorded until a year and a half later. Judging by handwriting, rector James Barrow wrote it. It says the ceremony was performed by Sidney. This may somehow have been instigated by the fact that parishes were obliged to copy their records at the end of December for the previous calendar year and send them to the diocese, but this was even further back. The bishop's transcript is the same as Barrow's entry at that time - the baptism was for Charles, son of Charles Vice and Mary Ann Chapman. Sidney was doing most of the baptisms at the time (mid 1823), and there is no apparent shortage in his records. Did he simply forget to record it? How did Barrow find out, and where did he get the information? He left a signed note that it isn't very helpful saying the baptism had been "omitted" from the record "according to the declaration of the parents." This sounds like William and Mary Ann found it missing and asked for it to be added. This would be very strange. It's really unlikely under normal circumstances that they returned to North Lopham and check the register to make sure the baptism was recorded, but even less so since the event was ecclesiastically illegal. Also, checking would involve the rector or curate. The record book wouldn't be out and available for anyone to browse through. It would be more obvious if the note said it was at the request of the parents, implying a deception. So the question remains why and how Barrow knew the baptism wasn't recorded, and why the names were wrong. He did know Sidney performed the ceremony, but Sidney had been out of the curacy at North Lopham for at least a year. Did William and Mary feel morally obliged to change their minds about the baptism being recorded?
     Barrow didn't marry the couple, and since they were married with a license signed by Sidney rather than by banns, he may never have met William Vyse. He may also not have realized the mother was Mary Ann Green, whom he would have known given this was her home church. He didn't baptize her, and it's very unlikely she went around calling herself Mary Ann Chapman Green. The parish record of Charles's baptism was eventually changed by Barrow, maybe two months later when he baptized the Vyse's son Edward. Now he would certainly have met William as the husband of Mary Ann Green, and may have recalled the earlier baptism record. For whatever reason, he went back and changed the record. He crossed out Charles and wrote William in pencil and changed Vice to Vyse in ink. The latter must have been done after the initial recording, since "Vice" is in the bishop's transcript.
     It's tempting to think Barrow's use of the word "declaration" was meant synonymously with "request." I might be adding to the Victorian drama by suggesting the Vyse's had the second baptism to somehow appease Mary Ann's parents and have a baptism at her home church with them present, but why didn't she baptize Charles in North Lopham in the first place? And did Sidney leave the event unrecorded because he forgot (while not forgetting his other many baptisms), or simply at their request? Did they tell him it had already been done elsewhere? It's almost pointless to try to recreate a narrative without more information. I do think it's beyond coincidence that all these anomolies involve one child's baptism, especially when there is later evidence of Mary Ann trying to please her parents. So, regardless of the whys, this dual baptism was a serious choice, and serious reasons must have led to it.
     The family moved to the Isle of Guernsey by the time their next child was born. He was Edward, also with the middle name Green. As mentioned, he also was baptized in North Lopham. This was an odd thing to do when living in the English Channel. They made another move to Nova Scotia by about 1829, then to the United States in 1835. Charles isn't on the passenger list when they sailed into New York harbor. The 1851 England census shows that he went back to England and was living with his grandparents in North Lopham. He was also a tailor and draper, and later records imply they were in business together there.

This is when I came to realize that the oral history wasn't completely made up, even before I found that Charles was baptized twice and the anomolies in the baptism in North Lopham. The only explanation I can find for all this is that Charles and Sarah Green expected Mary Ann, their only child, to be a dutiful spinster and stay and take care of them in their old age. Since Charles Vyse never made it the United States, he must have been sent back to apprentice with his grandfather. Maybe this was the grandfather's demand or Mary Ann's guilt. Charles was several months shy of his twelfth birth day when the family sailed to New York, a reasonable, albeit slightly early, age to start an apprenticeship. I don't find him in indexed apprenticeship records, so it may not have been a formal arrangement. There's no evidence Charles ever visited the United States, so he had three siblings he never met. Mary Ann went back to England in 1857. More about that can be found in her biography.
The 1850 Federal census of New York State gives his birthplace as England and says that the next child, William, Jr., was born in France, followed by Mary in Nova Scotia in 1832-3 and Betsey in New York State in 1835. This trail is picked up more specifically in passenger records, which reveal the family sailed on the brig Sarah from Halifax, Nova Scotia, arriving in New York City on 25 April 1835. William is listed as a "farmer" ("tanner" was probably meant) and currier. A notice in The New York Evening Post says the trip took 14 days, indicating it left Halifax on 11 April, and was also carrying fish and plaster for the firm of Barclay & Livingston.

British brig Sarah, Capt. Field, sailed 14 days from Halifax, Nova Scotia

A William Vise/Vyse appears in the1835 city directory of Manhattan,5 but he wasn't obviously William B. Vyse. The first certain appearance of this William in directories is in Manhattan in 1841, where he's listed at 293 Bowery with the occupation "leathers, etc." This is the only information I've found for him in Manhattan. He was naturalized in the New York City Court of Common Pleas in 1838. This event is known from an index and later referred to in the passport of his son William, Jr., but I haven't found the record. He made his home in the town of Williamsburgh, now a part of the Borough of Brooklyn, by the time the 1840 Federal census was enumerated.
     The first directory for Williamsburgh, dated 1847-48, lists him as a tanner at 231 5th Street. The street number and name have changed since then. He bought this as two lots on 1 March 1845,7 and on it, probably had the house built that they lived in. He also bought other lots nearby on 6 March 1848 on both sides of No. 9th Street that became his tannery. I don't know where the family lived and the tannery operated before these purchase dates, but apparently they were rented. It wasn't until Smith's 1855-6 directory for Brooklyn's Eastern District that his business address is included, and it was at No. 9th Street near 6th Street. This is confirmed by a list of properties in Williamsburgh in a local newspaper, with the added description of being on No. 9th Street between 6th and 7th Streets. William died at this time, and he was succeeded at the spot by Frederick Hornby. The 1858 directory for him says "hides and fat, 9th near Gowanus Creek and No. 9th near 6th."

Fifth, now Driggs St., Williamsburgh, in 1868, showing a set-back building likely built for the Vyse family after they bought it. This block, like most of early Williamsburgh, has been built over with later structures. His business was nearby on No. 9th St. Both are shown on the map below, the compass orientation being opposite the map above.

The 1850 Federal census, which mistakenly calls him "John" B. Vyse, describes him as a tanner and currier,9 and the industrial schedule for that census says he had $3,000.00 in capital invested in the business within the previous year.10 He had processed 520 hides valued at $7,000.00, produced by the hand-power of five men. Their labor was valued at $125.00. In the same year, The Williamsburgh Gazette of 18 June says he petitioned the Town of Williamsburg to let him make a length of hose for the fire company. They paid him 62 cents a foot for 1,000 feet of hose. In the following October, the Gazette says he had the approval of the "fire commitee" to pay him $620.
     The 23 July 1852 of The Brooklyn Daily Eagle says that one of William's hired men went to the foot of No. 7th Street at midnight with a horse and cart to empty trash into the East River, as was the custom.11 The horse backed up off the dock, and the man joined him when he tried to save the horse. Both died. "It was a rather unseasonable hour for a man to be at work, and on a dark night too," the reporter said.
     William was only 59 when he died of a stroke. I haven't found any probate having been done for an estate, but he must have been in debt. A court order called for the home and tannery lots to be sold at auction.

One side of the Ross/Vyse monument in Cypress Hills Cemetery, Brooklyn & Queens, NY. William's birth and death years are incorrect. The memorial is of a style long after he died. Since the dates are wrong and another side calls his daughter "Sarah S. Culligan," confusing her with her sister Emma, it may have been one of his grandchildren who commissioned the marker.

children of William Bloomfield Vyse and Mary Ann Chapman Green:

i. Charles Green b. 1823
ii. Edward Green b. 21 December 1824
iii. William b. 9 March 1828
iv. Sarah Selenah b. 1829
v. Mary Ann b. abt. January 1832
vi. Elizabeth b. 25 September 1835
vii. Eugene Richard b. abt. 1840
viii. Emma b. abt. December 1844

vital records sources: William's birth is recorded with his baptism in the Diss parish registers. His marriage is in the North Lopham parish registers. His death date is from a notice in the New York Tribune, 1 Feb 1856.

all text and photographs © 1998-2020 by Doug Sinclair unless where otherwise noted