Blog19 Oct 2012
Welcome to the latest post in our series of blogs exploring the family trees of the famous. Experienced family historian, Roy Stockdill, takes us on a journey through time as he investigates the family history of the famous, both living and dead. This time Roy explores the past of TV sports presenter Gabby Logan.
Gabby Logan, Britain’s best-known female TV sports presenter, comes across on our screens as the classic English rose but she has a family history that is truly multi-national. On her mother’s side she has Irish ancestors who went to Leeds in the 19th century. Through a pair of great-great-grandparents in her paternal line, she has forebears from Greece and America.
Gabby was born Gabrielle Louise Yorath on 24 April 1973 in Leeds, the daughter of Welshman Terry Yorath and his Leeds-born wife, Christine Kay, who were married in 1971.
Terry was born Terence C Yorath on 27 March 1950 in Grangetown, Cardiff, son of David Charles Edward Yorath (1918-1999) and Mary Margretta Sigallias (1918-2004) who were married at the parish church of St Mary the Virgin, Cardiff, on 21 October 1939, just a few weeks after the outbreak of WWII.
Remember the surname of Gabby’s grandmother, Mary Sigallias, because it will crop up later and we shall meet her ancestor, a great-great-grandfather who brought the name to Wales from Greece in the 1880s.
The Yoraths were in Cardiff for as long as I have been able to trace the family, back into the early 19th century. For much of that time they lived in the poorest parts of the city, close to the docks area, and knew deprivation and poverty. Indeed, a great-great-grandmother, Clara Yorath, had a desperately sad life.
David Charles Edward Yorath, Gabby’s grandfather, was born in Cardiff towards the end of 1918, the son of David James Yorath and Edith Magee who were married at Cardiff Register Office on 16 February 1918. Her great-grandfather, David Yorath Snr (1895-1967), served in France in WWI with the Cardiff City Battalion of the Welsh Regiment, joining up in 1915. He is found in the 1911 census, aged 15, living with his widowed mother Clara, 41, and younger brother William, 11, in apartments shared with another family at 20 Hewell Street, Grangetown, Cardiff:
There are a couple of oddities about this entry. First, the schedule was originally completed by a Thomas Henry Wilkins, of 8 Hewell Street, who was Clara’s son from her first marriage. His name was crossed out, however, and Clara’s substituted.
Second, the ‘Particulars as to marriage’ column showed that Clara had had eight children, of which four had died. This, too, was crossed out; possibly either Clara or Thomas (or the enumerator) realised a mistake had been made and that, as Clara was a widow, this section should not have been completed – though I gave thanks that it was! Finally, a note in the infirmity column revealed that Clara was deaf.
Poor Clara’s life appears to have been a very sad one. She was born at Cardiff in 1869 or 1870 as Clara Poulton and married at Cardiff in 1887 to Thomas Wilkins. Their son, Thomas Henry, was born the following year. Thomas Snr died in 1890 from pneumonia, aged only 23, so Clara was first widowed at 21.
She appears in the 1891 census at 30 Seven Oak Street, Canton, Cardiff, with her son, Thomas, aged 3, both described as lodgers with a couple called Joseph and Harriet Poulton. In fact Joseph and Harriet were Clara’s parents, both originally from Somerset, and also in the household was Clara’s elder unmarried sister Matilda, 23:
Clara remarried in 1895 as Clara Wilkins to David James Yorath, Gabby’s great-great-grandfather, and their son, also called David James, was born a few months later. By the census of 1901 they had had three sons and were living at 3, York Place, Ferry Road, Canton, Cardiff:
David Yorath Snr was a dock labourer, aged 31, Clara was also 31, and their sons were David, 5, Charles, 3, and William 16 months. Also living with them was 13-year-old Thomas Wilkins, Clara’s son by her first marriage.
This census entry shows three generations of the Yorath family all on the same page – with no fewer than four of them called David!
At 1 York Place was a shopkeeper, David Yorath, 65, with his wife Eliza, 63. Two doors away was William Yorath, 32, a dock labourer, and his wife Hannah, 26, with five children including a David aged 7. In the same household were David and Clara Yorath with their son, yet another David.
I discovered that David and Eliza Yorath were the grandparents, William and David Yorath Snr were brothers and the two youngest Davids were first cousins. It was common in Victorian times to find families living close together, but for a genealogist to find 15 members of one family all on the same page of a census can only be described as pure joy!
More sorrow struck Clara in 1905 when she was widowed for the second time, her husband David James Yorath dying of tuberculosis at 35.
Another son, Charles, fought in WWI with his brother David – though the two had lost touch by then – and was killed in 1916. Clara herself died in Cardiff in 1940 after a life with much tragedy.
Going back to the earlier generations, I found David Yorath, the shopkeeper, with his family in the 1881 census at 4 Ferry Road, Canton (they run over two pages). David was then a general labourer, aged 48 (though in 1901 he was shown as 65, a discrepancy) and his birth place was Dinas Powis, a village about 5-6 miles south of Cardiff:
David’s wife Eliza was 46, born at Watchet, Somerset, and they had six children ranging in age from 13 to six months, including William, 12, and David, 10. Also in the household was William Mogford, 30, also born at Watchet and a relative of Eliza – whose maiden surname was Mogford – and William’s wife Mary Jane, also 30 and born at Bristol.
David Yorath and Eliza Mogford – Gabby Logan’s great-great-great-grandparents – married at Cardiff in 1864 and in the 1871 census were in Llandaff parish, Grangetown, with their address given as ‘Row of Houses near Railway Hotel’:
As well as the three eldest children who were with them in 1881, there was an older son, Charles, aged 6, who died soon after the census since the death indexes show a Charles Yorath who died at 6 in the last quarter of 1871.
David Yorath the elder outlived his unfortunate son David, who died at 35, by some eight years, dying in 1913 aged 77. Eliza lived even longer, dying in 1923 at 84.
To try and discover David’s parentage I looked at the 1861 census. He was there but as a lodger in the household of his brother-in-law and married sister, George and Elizabeth Gould. He was then single, aged 27, a plate layer born at Dinas Powis:
I looked at the census of 1851; again, David was there but this time as a farm servant, aged 17, at St Andrews, Glamorgan, a parish which included Dinas Powis. He was working for a 70 year-old widow called Mary Jones:
I had to go to the 1841 census to find who David’s parents were and this time I was successful. The family were found at Dynas Powis (spelling of the name varied over the years) and David was aged seven, his parents being Charles and Eleanor Yorath:
Charles Yorath was an agricultural labourer of 30 and his wife was 28 (ages were reduced in 1841 to the nearest lower multiple of five). Besides David there were three other children aged from 9 to 1.
The 1851 census saw Charles and Eleanor Yorath at an address called Little Turnpike, St John, Cardiff. As mentioned, David was not at home, being a farm servant at St Andrews, but they had two daughters of 11 and 8 and a son of 2 with them:
Charles Yorath was aged 41 and his birth place was given as Lantwit Major, a village near the sea a few miles west of Barry, and Eleanor’s birth place was shown as Cogan which is near Penarth, south of Cardiff. The two-year-old son was called Morgan Yorath, which suggests Eleanor’s maiden surname may have been Morgan. Charles and Eleanor Yorath were the 4x-great-grandparents of Gabby Logan, Charles being born in around 1810.
To close this account of Gabby Logan’s family tree I will return to the maiden name of her paternal grandmother, Mary Sigallias. Hardly a Welsh surname, you would have thought? Well, no, it wasn’t. It first appears in the birth, marriage and death indexes with the death at Swansea in the last quarter of 1894 of a Nicholas Sigallias, aged 42. Who was he?
I found him in the 1891 census as N. Sigallias with his wife, Sarah Jane. They were at 20 Herbert Place, Swansea, and his occupation was given as a fruiter, aged 36, his birth place being Syra, Greece. His age in the census and at death don’t quite tie up, but this is far from uncommon!
On the website of the London Gazette, the official government newspaper of record, I found a notice saying Nicholas Sigallias of Swansea was granted naturalization on 20 February 1893. Also interesting was my finding that in 1891 the birth place of his wife, Sarah Jane Sigallias, 34, was given as ‘Savanah, America’. Presumably, this referred to Savannah, Georgia, in America’s Deep South.
The couple had a son, Michael Sigallias, born at Swansea in the second quarter of 1893. After Nicholas’s death, Sarah Jane remarried in 1895 to a William Francis O’Bryan, but she is not found with him in the censuses of 1901 or 1911.
In 1901 Sarah and her son were in Cardiff at 6 Adelaide Street, St Mary. She was recorded as Sarah O’Brien, 43, a retired publican, and her birth place was given as ‘America, Naturalized English Subject’. Michael Sigallias, her son, was aged 8, born at Swansea:
Also in the household was George B. Hugo, 32, a street musician born at Exeter who, interestingly enough, appeared also in the 1911 census with Sarah and her son at 8 South William Street, Docks, Cardiff:
Michael has been transcribed as Syslies but by the time you read this it may have been corrected. He was then 18 and a baker.
This, too, is an interesting entry, for it suggests that Sarah was now living with George Berry Hugo, the musician, since it was he who completed the schedule, even though he was described as a boarder and Sarah the head of the household. Sarah was now 53 and this time her birth place was given as ‘America – Nat. Brit. Sub.’. What happened to her second husband William I cannot say.
To complete the picture, James M. Sigallias married Margaretta Geary at Cardiff in 1914 and their daughter, Mary M. Sigallias – Gabby Logan’s grandmother – was born in the first quarter of 1918.
That Michael Sigallias and James M. Sigallias were the same man I have no doubt, for his death was recorded in both names on the same page of the GRO death indexes, with the same reference number, in 1967.
A number of people called Sigallias were born in Cardiff and it seems likely that all of them descend from Nicholas and Sarah Jane Sigallias, Gabby Logan’s great-great-grandparents, and must, therefore, be related to her in a truly international family.
Roy Stockdill has been a family historian for almost 40 years. A former national newspaper journalist, he edited the Journal of One-Name Studies (for the Guild of One-Name Studies) for 10 years. He is on the Board of Trustees of the Society of Genealogists and is commissioning editor of the ‘My Ancestors…’ series of books. He writes regularly for Family Tree magazine.