What became of my great grandfather’s brother and sisters?

My great grandfather, Charles Edward Robb, was the last child born to William Robb and Fanny Sarah Seager. Fanny died of pneumonia shortly after giving birth to Charles in January 1851.

Before Charles, Fanny had four other children: Fanny Margaret Monteith (1838), William Henry (1841), Elizabeth Margaret (1843) and Matilda Fanny (1846).

Fanny Margaret Monteith Robb died of croup in February 1840 and was buried at Spa Fields, London. Her death is mentioned in the information copied from the register in the family Bible in 1885, but there is no information on what happened to her siblings (besides Charles), which suggests that the author (probably Charles) did not know what had become of them.

The last definite information we have for William Henry Robb is in the census return for 1851, which finds the 9 year old living with his newly-widowed father in Queen Street, Soho. He was not living with his father and his second wife, Marianne, in Mile End Old Town, at the time of the 1861 census. However, he would have been 19 by this time and probably independent. I’ve been unable to find any record of a death at around this time, so we must assume that he was still alive.

In the 1881 census, we find a William H Robb, railway clerk, born around 1844 in London, living with his 25 year old wife Phoebe, who was born in  Grouville, Jersey in about 1856, together with their 8 year old daughter Beatrice, and boarder William Humphrey (another railway clerk), at Kilburn Lane in Chelsea. Could this be William Henry?

Acting on a hunch that the lodger might be a relative of Phoebe’s, I eventually found a Phoebe Humphrey in the 1861 census for Jersey.  At the time five year old Phoebe, born in Grouville, Jersey, was living in the Channel Islands with her family, including her father, Royal Navy seaman and pensioner John Humphrey. Ten years later, a Shebea Humphrey (surely a misprint for Phoebe), a 15 year old dressmaker, was still living in the same location with her widowed mother and siblings.

I’ve since come across another family tree at Ancestry which suggests that Phoebe Robb’s maiden name was Humphrey, and confirms the Jersey connection. According to this tree, Phoebe married for a second time, some time before 1885, which indicates either a divorce, or that William died at around this time. Confusingly, Phoebe’s second husband is also said to have the surname Humphrey, suggesting that she may have married a cousin or more distant relative.

Beatrice Phebea Robb (again, surely a mistake for Phoebe) was born in Brentford in 1872, suggesting that her parents might have married shortly before this date.  However, I can find no record of William Robb’s marriage to Phoebe Humphreys. There is a record of a Beatrice Phoebe H (Humphrey?) Robb being married in Brentford in 1899. The other tree at Ancestry has her marrying Frenchman Jean Marie Pellenec and having a daughter Jeanie in 1901.

Is it more than a coincidence that a William H Robb, born around 1842, died in Brentford in September 1914? If this is William Henry, then he would have been 73 years old.

The last record we have for Elizabeth Margaret Robb, born in 1843, is the 1851 census, when 8 year old Elizabeth and her 6 year old sister (Matilda) Fanny are said to be staying or living with their Seager relatives in Gerrard Street, Soho, while their father and brother were in nearby Queen Street, After that, the trail for Elizabeth goes cold.  Unlike Matilda Fanny, Elizabeth is not to be found living with her father and his new wife and family in Mile End in the 1861 census. However, as with William Henry, the fact that she was 18 years old by this age might indicate that she was now independent. I certainly haven’t managed to find any record of a death for Elizabeth before this date, and so far I’ve found no records for her after 1851.

Elizabeth’s sister, Matilda Fanny, on the other hand, was living with her father’s family at the time of the 1861 census, when she was 14. She is not mentioned in the 1871 census return for the family, but by this time she would have been 24. I’ve yet to find any record of her living elsewhere at this date, or any trace of a marriage.

As mentioned in an earlier post, Matilda Fanny is the most likely candidate for the witness to my great grandfather’s wedding in 1877, even though the name given is Matilda H Robb, which may simply be an error in transcription. The only other Matilda in the family that I know of was Fanny’s aunt (he father’s older sister), who had died in 1870. If the witness is Matilda Fanny, then she would have been about 31 at this time, and was obviously unmarried.  After that date, her trail too goes cold.

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