I recently realized that George wasn't the first person in his family to emigrate to Canada - he had an uncle, also called George Cockram, who did the same in 1873, two years before George. This revelation led me to consider two theories:
1) Did Uncle George find life in Ontario, Canada so much to his liking that he encouraged, and perhaps helped his nephew to join him there?
2) Or was Uncle George the black sheep of the family? When young George went to Ontario, did he change his name so as not to be mistaken for his nefarious uncle?
These both seemed like good leads to follow up, so in the last couple of days I've been looking for any evidence that would back up either theory. Uncle George was born in 1838, and lived in Devon until 1873, when he
left England. Nephew George left in 1875, so I was looking at Devon
newspapers between 1845 and 1875, to cover both Georges.
Of course I went down the most interesting path first, and looked for one of them as a bank robber, molester of women, sheep rustler or anything else along those lines. I only found two articles of interest, but with not enough information in them to assure me that they are about either of my George Cockrams.
The earliest article is in the 'Chulmleigh, County Magistrates Petty Sessions' column of the North Devon Journal, January 20th, 1859, page 5:
Uncle George would have been nearly 21 years old at this time. I don't know whether or not he lived in Chulmleigh, as he's missing from the 1851 census, and in 1861, he and his widowed mother were visitors at a friend's house in Barnstaple on census night. But Chulmleigh is only a few miles south of Stoke Rivers, where he was born, and Barnstaple, where he lived later, so it's certainly possible. But I have a strong feeling that this is another George Cockram altogether. And by the way, the name Cockram is a very common one in Devon, and the number of George Cockrams born there in the 19th century is annoyingly large.
The next, and rather more juicy article is in the 'Barnstaple, Divisional Petty Sessions' column of the Western Times, February 14th, 1868, page 7:
By this time, Uncle George was nearly 30, and young George was nearly 17, so either of them (or neither of them) could have been the culprit. Uncle George married Ann Geen in Barnstaple in 1862, and they were living there in 1871, where he worked as a coach-maker. As we know, young George's whereabouts between 1861 and 1875 are unknown, but his parents' home in Bickington was within the range of the Barnstaple courts. Not really a lot to go on, though.
Other names in the article might provide a clue or two. I'll try to locate a likely Elizabeth Grant - her age and residence could tell me something useful, but it may be very difficult to find her. The defendant's solicitor's name, JA Thorne, is of interest because Uncle George's grandmother, and young George's great-grandmother, was Thomasin Thorne. I'm now trying to discover whether or not JA Thorne was related to my Georges.
To be continued...