The African American choral groups which brought black music to Europe — and the world (detailed in the fine biographic study by Andrew Ward in Dark Midnight when I Rise of 2000) in the 19th century have been dominated by the jubilee singers of Fisk University, Nashville. The Wilmington (North Carolina) Jubilee Singers toured Britain 1876-1880 but remain obscure (hence page 085 of this website).
Seeking more information in March 2017 I consulted the John Johnson collection at Oxford’s Bodleian library on line and noted the booklet promoting their Bridgnorth, Shropshire appearances in January 1877 detailed the nine performers (three female) four of whom had not been identified in British sources (see pages 124, 143 and 172, as well as 085). In the original Wilmington group was Isaac William Cisco, born on 3 July 1848 who had been a house slave on the North Carolina-Virginia border. That unusual surname led me to an on-line investigation of birth-marriage-death records, and the British census files.
Isaac William Cisco married Mary Jane Turner in Ormskirk in 1878. They had seven children, the first two born in Liverpool (Ann Maud in 1879, William Henry in 1880 — he died in Bolton in 1881). The others were born in Bolton: Gertrude in 1883, Edith in 1884 (she died as a baby), George Washington in 1887, Herbert in 1890 (he died in 1891) and Harold in 1892 who also did not survive infancy. The three surviving children – that is Ann Maud, Gertrude and George – are listed in Manchester Road, Bolton in the 1901 census. The 1911 census repeats that, with Ann being the head of the household, Gertrude working as a ‘confectioner’, and George as a cotton spinner – Bolton had numerous cotton mills. The parents had died – Mary Jane in 1904 and her American husband in 1905…aged 52.
Of these three Cisco children we can see that Ann died in Bolton in 1973, unmarried. Her sister married a fellow named Fred Holmes in 1919 and their brother George Washington Cisco married Sarah Ellen Thompson in 1920 – he died in Bolton’s Royal Infirmary on 28 April 1935 and she died in Bolton aged 50, in 1943. Their son Kenneth George Cisco was born in Bolton in 1928, and worked as an electrician. He died in 1973.
As at mid-March 2017 this investigation continues and Anita Bateson of the Bolton Archives and Local Studies Service advised as follows. George W. Cisco served in the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment from April 1917 to February 1919, regimental number 37631. [Army records indicate he was a Private.] In 1932 he was listed as a warehouseman and lived at 25 Lilly Street, Halliwell, Bolton from 1922 – his widow continued to live there to 1939. Between 1916 and 1927 his sister Ann or Annie lived with them. From 1932 to 1935 Annie lived with Gertrude and Fred Holmes at 37 Draycott Street in Bolton. Fred was listed as a labourer. In 1939 the Holmes are listed at 57 Eskrick Street in Bolton.
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