Here's a sorry tale that I mention only because I was going to write something tonight but haven't.
I'd just finished watching Mock the Week and thought I'd check my e-mails. There was a message from my mate John Herrington asking about Wyndham Martyn, who was an author and film script writer.
Here's what John told me...
Apparently British born (in London) 6 July 1874 or 1875 (depending on where you look) and the son of Richard Wyndham and Clarice (Camplyn) Martyn (according to his entry in an American writers directory).
Emigrates to America (probably before 1905), married an Amy Elizabeth Stanley in 1901 (no trace of wedding on Freebmd) who might be American. Cannot find him on passenger lists on Findmypast. According to one source, his wife Amy was born circa 1883 and there is an Amy Elizabeth Stanley born in Aston in 1883.
Found his WW1 draft registration, 1918, where he signs as Wyndham Martyn and is living in New York.
... and I was thinking "With that many clues it shouldn't take too long to find something."
I've just spent a whole evening on this and come up with nothing. Actually that's wrong. I did come up with something.
Having spent an hour or so establishing that I couldn't find him or his parents in the UK census records or birth/marriage/death records, I was stuck. In fact, the only thing I had found was that WWI draft registration card that John had already mentioned. It listed Martyn's occupation as an editor with Warner Pub. Co. which might be a clue. The date of registration was September 12, 1918.
So I started writing back to John explaining that I was completely stumped. Unless the Amy Elizabeth Stanley who married James Martin in 1894 was a clue. OK the spelling's wrong, but the guy was a writer of screenplays and everyone in Hollywoodland changed their name! If Wyndham Martyn was naturalized he could have changed from plain old James Martin to something more exotic quite easily.
Then I had a bit of a brainwave and started digging around in the US Census records. After all, we knew from the registration card that Wyndham was employed in New York. And...
Amy Martyn was married to a guy called Charles W. P. Martyn according to the 1910 census. The pair had been married 8 years and lived in Brooklyn. He was English, born in England, and was an author of books. He was about the right age at 35. Had to be the right guy.
I followed Charles and Amy through the next two census records for 1920 and 1930 and picked up lots of information on the way: Charles had immigrated to America in 1899 and was naturalized in 1905. Even better: Charles was listed as a book editor in the 1920 census which tied in with Wyndham Martyn's occupation on his draft card. By then (1920) he had a 3-year-old son, Charles Jr.
So I scrap the first e-mail and write an all new one to John. Yes, I'd been stumped but then I had a brainwave and I think I've found him. His real name was Charles, blah, blah, blah.
Which is when I did a stupid thing and went to see if I could find Charles Jr's WWII registration card. He'd have been in his early twenties and very likely to have signed up. It might just have his parents address on it (as next of kin).
Couldn't find it. What I did find was the WWI registration card for Charles William P. Martyn instead.
Which shows that he was born on August 12, 1874, eleven months before Wyndham Martyn.
I started my e-mail to John all over again: stumped, brainwave, red herring, square one.
And I'm still stumped. Even while I've been writing this I've stopped twice because I think I've found another way of searching the census records. But it hasn't turned up Wyndham Martyn or his wife Amy.
Why even mention this? Because I've had a couple of very nice ego-massaging e-mails today and I thought I'd better get my feet back on the ground by admitting that a lot of the research I do turns up zero information. I get a lot of queries come through every day like the one John sent and I can spend, like tonight, three or four hours finding out absolutely nothing. The reply I send doesn't necessarily reflect the amount of work I've put in. (And this is a good place to say that I can't always reply to everyone immediately; sometimes it can take a week or even a few weeks.)
And, of course, by writing this up I'm hoping that someone will put me out of my misery and come up with something solid on Wyndham Martyn. Someone... please?
Update - 20 July
Jamie Sturgeon has come up with another suspect. "I might be making bricks without straw but this is what I found by looking for a marriage for a Amy Elizabeth Stanley," he says. "I found one in 1900 (OK a year early) in London - In freeBMD two possible male names for the marriage are given. Now one of the names (and for a good reason, the most likely one) was William Henry M. Hosken."
The reason why Jamie has honed in on William Henry M. Hosken is because his parents were William Richard Hosken and Emma Clarissa Hosken (nee Campling). If you remember (and if you did your a better man than I), Wyndham Martyn claimed that his father's name was Richard and his mother's name was Clarice (nee Camplyn)... this is almost too close not to be our man. But I've said that before. Let's see what we can find, eh?
Well, I can trace William's family back a couple of generations to Charles Heath Hosken, a Baptist Minister, born in Hayle, Cornwall, on October 30, 1811, the son of Richard and Sarah Hosken. Charles was married to Louisa Hunt at Saint Bride's, Fleet Street, on 30 September 1836. Soon after, Charles and his wife travelled to Ireland, where their first son, Charles Heath Hosken was born in Clonmell in c.1839. The couple then went to America where three further children were born: James Jabez (c.1842), Louisa Barbara (c.1844) and William Richard (c.1847).
The family returned to the UK in the 1850s and settled in Fenny Stratford, Buckinghamshire, where Charles became the Principal of a boarding school, employing Charles, James and Louisa as tutors. In the 1860s, Charles and Louisa had moved to Norwich, Norfolk, where Charles was again employed as a Baptist Minister. He remained in Norwich until his death in 1892. Charles Jr. married Harriet Ann Newman in Norwich in 1870 and became a Managing Clerk, again remaining in Norwich until he died in 1893.
James became a Chief Clerk with the Post Office in Norwich, having married Anne Elizabeth Nash in 1868. He and his family subsequently moved to Portsmouth, Hampshire, where he worked as a Superintendant for a company. James died in 1908.
Louisa married in 1865 and, as Louisa Barbara Bane, died in Portsmouth in 1903.
William Richard Hosken, meanwhile, had married Emma Clarissa Campling (born in Norwich in 1850) in 1872 and took work as a Manager for a tea dealer in Norwich. Their daughter, Ethel May was born in 1873, followed by William Henry M. Hosken in 1874, also born in Norwich.
William and Emma moved to Thanet, Kent, in the 1880s where they died in 1885 and 1887 respectively.
Their son, William Henry become a medical student and, at the time of the 1891 census, was visiting his uncle James in Portsmouth. He married Amy Elizabeth Stanley (b. Kensington, London, 1876 and educated at Parkfield College, Chipping Barnet) in London in 1900.
In the 1901 census, the two were living in St. Keir, Cornwall, William (who claimed to be born in Simla, India, on the census) listing his occupation as "living on own means".
And that, unfortunately, is it. No further census records are available for the UK until 2011. I can't find any trace of William and Amy Hosken entering or living in the USA.
However... and this is an interesting however, I promise... William Henry M. Hosken was the cousin of Ernest Charles Heath Hosken, the son of uncle James who lived in Portsmouth. Born in Norwich in 1875, Ernest was to marry Mary Alice Cecil Seymour Keay in 1901 and, as Heath Hosken, collaborated on a number of crime novels with his wife, who was a prolific and popular writer under the pseudonym Coralie Stanton.
Could William have been inspired by his cousin to try his hand at writing novels? Could William really be the author known as Wyndham Martyn?
And why does Ernest C. Hosken, journalist and author, list his place of birth as India in the 1901 census, as his cousin William had done? A joke shared by two cousins?
Buggered if I know. One sticking point for me is that "Wyndham Martyn" claimed on an official document he was born on 6 July 1875 and William Henry M. Hosken was definitely born in the 3rd quarter of 1874 (covering July, August and September). We know from his draft registration card that Martyn was living in New York and working as an editor in 1918 so it's not unreasonable to expect to find him in the 1920 census... but there's no trace of them.
The only other trace of the couple is when Wyndham Martin sailed from Southampton to New York in 1933, arriving on 21 March. According to the passenger manifest, his last permanent address was Santa Monica. His wife, Amy Elizabeth Martyn, followed soon after, arriving in Los Angeles on 13 April 1933. Her last permanent address was also Santa Monica. Yet neither are listed in the 1830 census.
End of round two and a few more hours spent on this mystery. No doubt there's more to come.