Saturday, January 08, 2011

Bernard Home Thomson

Another enquiry, another run around the family records circuit. Bernard Home was credited with a couple of thrillers in the 1930s and has previously been identified as Bernard Cecil Home (1895- ). However, copyright records prove this to be an error and the author was, in fact, Bernard Home Thomson. The problem? Bernard Home Thomson doesn't turn up on any birth, marriage or death records.

I could find only a couple of immediate traces: he served with the British Red Cross during WWI (the abbreviation BRX had me scratching my head for ages!); and he was elected to The Arts Club in 1918.

Possibly the most useful trace was the marriage of his daughter Juliet Daniel to Richard Hugh Sedley Allen in 1945. Marriage records give a fuller account of her name as Juliet E. B. Daniel. A notice of the marriage says she was the daughter of Bernard Home Thomson and the late Mrs Thomson.

Further digging reveals that she was was Juliet E. B. Thomson who married John S. Daniel in 1936; they had a son, Julian Abbott Daniel. Her full name was Juliet Ella Bernardine Allen who was born on 4 June 1909, died Chichester, W. Sussex, in 1983. A look on the census for 1911 shows that she was living in Chelsea.

And that leads to Bernard Henry Home Thomson, 37 (b. c.1873/74), also living in Chelsea, and presumably the Bernard Henry H. Thomson who marries at St. George Hanover Square in 1905 to either Rose Duke or Helen M. Scholfield. There's a Rose May Thomson living in Chelsea in 1911 and also a Helen Margaret Thomson (b. c.1881) who is more in line with her Bernard's age.

Bernard H. H. Thomson is in the 1901 census, aged 27, living in Chelsea. The son of Zoe Thomson, he was born in Bishop Thorpe, Yorkshire and had a younger sister, Madeline, also born in Yorkshire.

Working backwards: in 1891 Zoe (already widowed) is living with son Wilfred Forbes Home Thomson (33, born in Oxford) and Madeline Ita Mary Thomson (15). Wilfred, incidentally, married in 1899 which makes me wonder if he is the father of Ivo Wilfred Home Thomson, born in York on 14 October 1902.

Now, Zoe Thomson (b. c.1836) turns up in the 1861 census, born in Athens, Greece, but a British subject, and married to William Thomson (b. c1819, Whitchurch, Cumberland) [corrected to Whitehaven, Cumberland] with children Ethel Zoe Thomson (4), Wilfred F. H. Thomson (3) and Jocelyn H. Thomson (1), all born in Oxford. Dad is Provost of [unreadable] Coll. Chaplain to the [unreadable] and author.

In the 1871 census, Zoe is still with William, but now with Ethel (b. Oxford, 14), Zoe (b. Oxford, 8), Beatrice (b. London, 6) and Alexandra (b. Bishop Thorpe, 3) and now living in Bishop Thorpe. Dad has a more legible occupation this time: Archbishop of York.

William has an entry at Wikipedia and I also found a lengthy and interesting article about him here which is mostly derived from his entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (not online), from which we learn that William and Zoe had nine children (four sons, five daughters). We also learn that Zoe was the daughter of James Henry Skene, British consul at Aleppo, and the granddaughter of James Skene of Rubislaw, the friend of Sir Walter Scott. A quick dig around library listings turns up a book about her: Zoe Thomson of Bishopthorpe and her friends by Edith C. Rickards, with a preface by Basil Thomson (London, John Murray, 1916). Basil was the third son of William and had a very interesting career as a spycatcher as well as writing novels, someone worth taking a look at in the future.

So, we should now be possible to list all the children...

Ethel Zoe (b. Oxford, 1856)
Wilfred Forbes Home Thomson (b. Oxford, c.1857)
Jocelyn Home Thomson (b Oxford, 31 August 1859; d. 13 February 1908)
Zoe (b. Oxford, c.1860)
Basil Home Thomson (b. Oxford, 1861; d. 1939)
Beatrice (b. London, c. 1862)
Alexandra (b. Bishopthorpe, c. 1865)
Bernard Henry Home Thomson (b. Bishopthorpe, 9 January 1874)
Madeline Ita Mary Thomson (b. Bishopthorpe, c.1875)

A search for William Thomson in Bishopthorpe (sic) turns up William in the 1881 census but no sign of the rest of his family. Just some servants. In fact, there seems to be no sign of Zoe or any of the family at all in the census.

All of which brings us back to Bernard Henry Home Thomson, who was educated at Winchester College and received a civil service commission in 1895 as a clerk in the Probate, Divorce and Admiralty Division. He subsequently trained as a lawyer at Lincoln's Inn where he passed in Roman Law in 1910. He travelled extensively in Germany, Austria, Hungary, France, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Algeria and Tunisia. He died in Bridport, Dorset, in 1953, aged 79.


Novels as Bernard Home
Passport to Death. London, Hutchinson & Co., Apr 1937.
Rogue Haven. London, Hutchinson & Co., 1938.


  1. There's more about Zoe Thomson, neƩ Skene in Willliam Forbes Skene's book, Memorials of the Family Skene of Skene (1898). It's on Google books (), and in the


    Dominik Wujastyk
    great-grandson of Felix Skene, Zoe's elder brother.

  2. Thanks for taking the time to comment, Dominik.

    The Google Books version is only a "snippet view" but the full text can be found at

  3. Thankyou for filling me in on my family history..

    Rachael Sarah Zoe Daniel ... Daughter of Julian Daniel

  4. Thankyou for enlightening me on my family history.. I've tried to trace back but found it very difficult..
    Rachael Sarah Zoe Daniel.. Daughter of Julian Daniel



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