As an avid fan of classic films, I could not resist alluding to one of my favorites for the title of this post: "The Barretts of Wimpole Street" (1934, MGM). Though not as famous as the Barretts, the Hartnells of Nelson Street (Road, actually) are a truly noteworthy family and, in my humble opinion, just as illustrious. This post will attempt to introduce the family that lost two promising lives to the Arctic's avaricious grip.
Thanks to a website called british-genealogy.com, I found out that John and Thomas (born 1820 and 1822, respectively) were the first two children of Thomas Hartnell, a shipwright, and his wife Sarah, who was born in 1796. They had three other children: Mary Ann (born 1826), Charles (born 1828), and Betsey (born 1832). They lived in Gillingham, Kent, which is in the very southeastern UK and in close proximity to the Chatham Dockyards on the River Medway. All three sons followed the call of the sea; two (John and Thomas, Jr.) would perish thousands of miles from home in one of history's greatest maritime tragedies: the lost Franklin Expedition.
A few Google searches later, I came across a fascinating article from the "Medway Messenger" dated October 10, 2011. In it, Brian Spenceley, Professor Emeritus of Physics at Lakehead University in Ontario, Canada, reminisced about witnessing the autopsy of his ancestor, John Hartnell. Spenceley had accompanied Dr. Owen Beattie and his team to Beechey Island to photograph the proceedings. Even more importantly, the article stated that Hartnell lived on Nelson Street (presumably with the rest of the family), and that eight other seamen from the Medway towns also took part in the Franklin Expedition. Further research could uncover the identities of the other eight men.
With the help of Google Maps, I was able to take a virtual "drive" down Nelson Road. I hope to visit in person one day and take a tour of the Chatham Dockyards where Thomas Hartnell, Sr. probably found employment in the construction and repair of ships. The loss of two sons must have dealt a terrible blow to this hardworking family.