Porthoustock in the parish of St Keverne is a small fishing village located close to the southern tip of the Lizard Peninsula in South-West Cornwall and it was here that the Hold family had their origins as mariners and coastguards. Early parish records show the family surname as Old and it is interesting to note that Stephen snr (born 1836 Porthoustock)was the first of the family to change his surname from Old to Hold and for what purpose remains a mystery.
Stephen Snr lived at Porthoustock and the 1861 census shows him at home with his mother, Elizabeth and younger sister also called Elizabeth. The census reveals he was a seaman serving in the Royal Navy and by 1864 it is known that he was serving as a warrant officer, holding the position of boatswain. At about that time he married Anna Maria Connor who, with her family, had also been residing in Porthoustock where her father, James was a coastguard.
The first child of their marriage was Henrietta, born at Porthoustock and baptised at the parish church on 18 March 1866 followed by Stephen jnr, born on 24 January 1868 (the Titanic passenger). On 1 April 1870 Stephen snr was promoted to boatswain 2nd Class which necessitated moving away from Cornwall.
At Devonport, Plymouth, Devon is located the large naval dockyard and it was here that Stephen snr moved to live with his family sometime following his promotion in 1870. The UK census of April 1871 finds the family living at Charlotte Terrace, Stephen snr however is absent, and is assumed away at sea. At the address is his wife, Anna and their two children, Henrietta and Stephen jnr. In 1872 a second son was born and named Arthur Wallace Hold (interestingly the only child of the family to have been given a second forename).
Three years later on 30 December 1875 Stephen snr is known to have joined the Royal Navy vessel ‘HMS Lively’ as boatswain.
‘HMS Lively’, built at Sheerness, Kent and launched in December 1870 was of 985 tons and described as a wooden paddle dispatch vessel. Armed with two 20-pounder guns it was engaged on coastguard duties in the English Channel close to the southern coastlines of Devon and Cornwall.
However, Stephen snr’s time on this vessel was to be short, barely 4 months after joining it he died in the April or May of 1876. The circumstances surrounding his death have not yet been uncovered but presumably occurred at sea as his name is not included in the GRO Register of Deaths for that period.
In 1876 Stephen jnr had just turned 8 years old and his father’s death must have made life very difficult for his mother who had been expecting their fourth child when Stephen snr lost his life. Emma Hold, the fourth child was born barely two months following her father’s death.
Anna Hold had two unmarried sisters, Henrietta and Lavinia Connor and a brother, William. They had first come to Devonport in 1873 following their parent's deaths at Porthoustock and they now provided support to the widowed Anna Hold and her 3 young children. By 1881 they were all living at 7 Albert Road, Devonport where the Connor’s ran a stationery and tobacconist shop.
However at this point Stephen jnr is not with the family in Devonport, nor can he be traced anywhere else in the UK in the 1881 census so it is assumed that at some point following his father’s death in 1876 he was taken by a relative to America. His uncle, William Connor (a carpenter by occupation) may be the likely candidate, or perhaps he went with a family friend as he was certainly too young to have made the journey on his own. In any event he ultimately acquired American citizenship and his later life is documented in the main biography.
As for his return visit to England with his wife Annie in 1911/12 it appears that the main reason for this was to visit Annie’s grandfather, James Hill at Porthoustock, who, according to contemporary news items had been quite ill at that time. The couple also stayed in Devonport (31 St George’s Terrace) which was the home of his sister Henrietta and her husband, Thomas Henry Anstey. In North Devon they paid a visit to 99 Irsha Street at Appledore. This was the home of Annie Hold’s mother, Augusta Lavinia, and her mariner husband, William.
1861 UK Census, St Keverne, Cornwall
1871, 1881, 1891 & 1901 UK Census, Devonport, Devon
The Navy List, April and July 1876
Street Directories of Devonport 1873-1912