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Kennedy Family History

The Benson Families

Jim's Greatgrandparents were John and Fanny Benson, from Blandford, Dorset

He remembers his Greatgrandmother sitting in a chair in a black bombazine dress - "looking like a witch" - while he, five years old, sat at her knee, and she would tell him stories of the family. He didn't want to be there, but he was too frightened to move !

Now, some 80 years on, Jim has forgotten many of the details, but he remembers that Fanny Benson's maiden name was believed to be Vachre, although there is some confusion about it.

One of the Benson ancestors was a postillion on the Blandford-London stagecoach. Jim is not sure who it was exactly. He remembers a name, Hardy Vachre, who could have been the brother of Fanny Benson or even her father.
Other possibilities: Hardy Vachre married a sister of Fanny Vachre.
Then again, Hardy may have been a surname, rather than first name. Jim believes that they (Hardy, Vachre ?) were originally horse and cattle dealers, driving livestock between Britain and Cork.

The name is sometimes spelled Vacher or Vatcher. i.e. Fanny Benson's daughter is Fanny Elizabeth Vatcher Benson !
On the Dorset Online Parish Clerks (OPC)  site there are there are no VACHREs, but many VACHERs and VATCHERs !
There is also a record of a marriage in the Parish of Dorchester Holy Trinity, on January 31st. 1799 between a William Vatcher and Ann Hardy. Could this be The Hardy connection ?
If so, then these could be Fanny Vachre's grandparents.

15th. August, 2006, UPDATE:
Some of the speculation is over; I now have the birth certificate of Fanny Elizabeth Vatcher Benson, and her mother's maiden name is . . . HARDY !!!

Unfortunately, all the children were born before 1837, so I now need to find the marriage of John Hardy and Jane X in the parish registers . . . somewhere !


The first mention of Jim's greatgrandfather, John Benson, is in the 1841 census for Blandford St. Mary, but our story begins with another John Benson, two generations earlier.

It's quite a sad story, to begin with . .

1781 John BENSON marries Mary BRAMBEL
1782 Baptism Mary, 1782 Death of Mary
1783 Baptism William, 1784 Death of William
1785 Baptism Mary
1788 Baptism William, 1789 Death of William
1791 Death of Mary, John's wife

but then it got 'happier':

1791 Marriage of John BENSON and Catherine BENNETT
1792 Baptism Lydia
1796 Baptism Rebekah
1800 Baptism George (Jim's greatgreatgrandfather)

The story then continues with the 1841 census:

1841 Census: HO107/277 F2/p4

Enumerator P.Etheridge Houses 89 Male 200 Female 207 Total Persons 407

Name RelationAge(Born)Born in CountyOccupation
George Benson Head 40 (1801)Y Plumber
Mary Benson Wife 35 (1806)N
Elizabeth Benson Daughter11 (1830)Y
George Benson Son 9 (1832)Y
John Benson Son 6 (1835)Y
Benjamin Benson Son 4 (1837)Y
James Benson Son 1 (1840)Y
In the Name Index to the 1851 census for Blandford, John is still living at home, but is already described as a Cooper, a trade which he continued till his death.

1851 Census: Name-Index



Name RelationAge(Born)BirthplaceOccupation
George Benson Head 50 (1801) Plumber
Mary Benson Wife 49 (1802)
Elizabeth Benson Daughter21 (1830)
George Benson Son 19 (1832)
John Benson Son 17 (1835) Cooper
Benjamin Benson Son 14 (1837)
James Benson Son 11 (1840)
Mary Benson Daughter 8 (1843)

In the 1861 Census the family, now consisting of the parents and the two youngest children, is still living in Blandford ......
1861 Census: RG9/1333 F26/p2 / Enumerator James Downey. 226 schedules, 185 inhabited houses, 6 uninhabited. 405 males, 510 females, total of 915
Dwelling : White Cliff Mill Street


Name RelationAge(Born)BirthplaceOccupation
George Benson Head 61 (1801)Blandford Plumber
Mary Benson Wife 60 (1802)Holdenhurst [Hants.]
James Benson Son 21 (1840)Blandford Lab.
Mary Benson Daughter18 (1830)Blandford Dressmaker
.... but John Benson has now married Fanny Hardy and has his own family:
1861 Census: RG9/1333, Reference: F93/p37 / District 4. Enumerator John James 273 schedules, 193 inhabited houses, 4 uninhabited, 19 being built. 482 males, 520 females, total of 1002
Census Place: Blandford Forum, Dorset, GB
Dwelling : White Cliff Mill Street

Name RelationAge(Born)BirthplaceOccupation
John Benson Head 26 (1835)Blandford St. Mary, Dorset Cooper
Fanny Benson Wife 25 (1835)Blandford, Dorset
Frederick Benson Son 7 (1854)Blandford, Dorset Scholar
Robert Benson Son 3 (1858)Blandford, Dorset Scholar
William Benson Son 1 (1860)Blandford, Dorset

The 1871 Census for Great Britain lists John Benson's household as follows:
1871 Census: RG10/1978
Census Place: Blandford Forum, Dorset, GB
Dwelling : Orchard Street

Name RelationAge(Born)BirthplaceOccupation
John Benson Head 36 (1835)Blandford, Dorset Cooper
Fanny Benson Wife 36 (1835)Blandford, Dorset
Frederick Benson Son 17 (1859)Blandford, Dorset Baker's Servant
Robert Benson Son 13 (1859)Blandford, Dorset Baker's Servant
William Benson Son 11 (1862)Blandford, Dorset Scholar
Fanny Benson Daughter 7 (1864)Blandford, Dorset Scholar
John Benson Son 5 (1867)Blandford, Dorset Scholar
Charles Benson Son 4 (1869)Blandford, Dorset Scholar
Caroline Benson Daughter6m.(1871)Blandford, Dorset Scholar

The 1881 Census for Great Britain lists John Benson's household as follows:
1881 Census:
Census Place: Withnell, Lancashire, England
Dwelling : Brinscall

Name RelationAge(Born)BirthplaceOccupation
John Benson Head 46 (1835)Blandford, Dorset Cooper
Fanny Benson Wife 46 (1835)Blandford, Dorset
Robert Benson Son 22 (1859)Blandford, Dorset Beamer in cotton mill
William Benson Son 19 (1859)Blandford, Dorset Padder calico print works
Fanny Benson Daughter17 (1862)Blandford, Dorset Stitcher in cotton mill
John Benson Son 14 (1864)Blandford, Dorset Scholar
Charles Benson Son 12 (1867)Blandford, Dorset Scholar
Caroline Benson Daughter10 (1869)Blandford, Dorset Scholar
Lilley Benson Daughter8 (1871)Withnell, Lancs. Scholar
The census district of Withnell, in Lancashire, includes the village of Brinscall, which is where the Bensons and later the Kennedys lived.

Sometime between the births of Caroline (1869) and Lilley (1871) the family has moved to Brinscall, in Lancashire.

Frederick Benson is nowhere to be found in the 1881 Census ...
- died ?
- away from home, on census night ?
- serving abroad in the army ?

Robert and William have left school, and are now working in the mills.


The 1891 Census for Great Britain lists John Benson's household as follows:
1891 Census:
Census Place: Withnell, Lancashire, England
Dwelling : Brinscall

Name RelationAge(Born)BirthplaceOccupation
John Benson Head 56 (1835)Blandford, Dorset Cooper
Fanny Benson Wife 56 (1835)Blandford, Dorset  
John Benson Son 24 (1867)Blandford, Dorset Insurance Agent
Charles Benson Son 23 (1869)Blandford, Dorset Cotton Cloth ???
Caroline Benson Daughter20 (1871)Blandford, Dorset Cotton Weaver
Lilley Benson Daughter17 (1873)Withnell, Lancs. Cotton Weaver


I haven't seen the image for the 1901 Census but we can use the free viewing facility to obtain a list of Bensons, sorted into page-groups. In general we can assume that people on the same census page were either members of the same family, or living in the house next door.

So, according to the 1901 census, John and Fanny Benson are still alive, and
Lilley is either still at home, or living next door:
1901 Census:



Name RelationAge(Born)BirthplaceOccupation
John Benson Head 66 (1835)Blandford, Dorset Cooper
Fanny Benson Wife 65 (1836)Blandford, Dorset
Lilley Benson Daughter27 (1874)Withnell, Lancs. Cotton Weaver

John Benson died in 1909, and in the 1911 UK census Fanny - mis-transcribed as Fenny is - living alone.
1911 Census:
Census Place: Chorley, Lancashire, England


Name RelationAge(Born)BirthplaceOccupation
Fenny Benson 76 (1835)



... and what's happened to the children ? We can also follow them in the 1891 and 1901 censuses. Again, for the 1901 census, we only have "same-page" data and I am assuming that this is a family. Note also, the following non-Benson surnames are mainly conjecture, based on ages and a list of Benson marriages registered in Chorley (the registration district for Brinscall), or elsewhere in Lancashire.

Robert Benson (1859) has left the mills, and is now Subpostmaster. He has married Sarah (Benson) and they have 3 children, among them, Jim's Uncle Fred !

The 1891 Census for Great Britain lists Robert Benson's household as follows:

1891 Census: RG12/3419 Folio ??
Census Place: Withnell, Lancashire, England
Dwelling : School Lane, Brinscall

Name RelationAge(Born)BirthplaceOccupation
Robert Benson 31 (1859)Blandford, Dorset Subpostmaster, Lay Preacher[?]
Sarah Benson 31 (1860)Wigan, Lancs.
Frederick Benson 6 (1885)Brinscall, Lancs. Scholar
Elsie Benson 3 (1888)Brinscall, Lancs. Schoolgirl
Percy Benson 1 (1890)Withnell, Lancs.

The 1901 Census for Great Britain lists Robert Benson's household as follows:
1901 Census: RG12/3419 Folio ??
Census Place: Withnell, Lancashire, England
Dwelling : School Lane, Brinscall

Name RelationAge(Born)BirthplaceOccupation
Robert Benson 42 (1859)Blandford, Dorset Subpostmaster and Postman
Sarah Benson 41 (1860)Wigan, Lancs.
Frederick Benson 16 (1885)Brinscall, Lancs. Postman
Elsie Benson 13 (1888)Withnell, Lancs. Schoolgirl
Jane Benson 9 (1892)Withnell, Lancs.
Harry Benson 6 (1895)Brinscall, Lancs.
Fanny Benson 4 (1897)Withnell, Lancs.



I haven't found Percy Benson on the 1901 census ... did he die young ??



William Benson (1861) is still at the mills, but he is now a blue dyer.
There is a marriage record for 1884 of a William Benson marrying an Elizabeth Stringfellow

The 1891 Census for Great Britain lists William Benson's household as follows:
1891 Census:



Name RelationAge(Born)BirthplaceOccupation
William Benson 30 (1861)Blandford, Dorset Labourer at Print Works
Elizabeth Benson 30 (1862)Ecclestone[?], Lancs. Cotton Weaver

The 1901 Census for Great Britain shows that William Benson has advanced from Labourer to blue dyer:
1901 Census:



Name RelationAge(Born)BirthplaceOccupation
William Benson 40 (1861)Blandford, Dorset Blue Dyer at Print Works
Elizabeth Benson 39 (1862)Wrightringham, Lancs. Cotton Weaver



Fanny Benson (1864) is still in Brinscall, but she is now married and is listed as Fanny Kennedy.



Charles Benson (1869) has now left Brinscall and lives in St. Helens, Lancs., with his wife, Mary.
There is a marriage record for 1895 of a Charles Benson marrying a Mary Elizabeth Leach.
Mary was born in Withnell, Lancs.
The 1881 Census lists two Mary Leaches, both born in Withnell.
1) Mary Leach, daughter of Thomas and Mary A. Leach
2) Mary E. Leach, daughter of James and Mary J. Leach

1901 Census:



Name RelationAge(Born)BirthplaceOccupation
Charles Benson 32 (1869)Blandford, Dorset Insurance Superintendant
Mary Benson 30 (1871)Wrightringham, Lancs.



John Benson (1867) is not listed in the 1901 Census.



Caroline Benson is probably married by now and listed under her married name.
There is a marriage record for 1896, of a Caroline Benson marrying either Edward Moss or Henry Taylor.