John Bailey (my 3 x great grandfather) was born in 1801 somewhere in Essex (the 1841 census was imprecise about places of birth). He married Eliza, born 1802, also in Essex. The 1841 census has them living in what appears to be North Street, Barking. At the time they were aged 40 and 39 respectively. John was working as an agricultural labourer, as was their eldest son (or rather eldest son still living at home) William, who was aged 16 (born in 1824 or 1825). The other children in the family were Sarah (born 1828), John (born 1831), Mary (born 1834) and Louisa (born 1837). 

By 1851 William, now 25, is living in Barking Road, Wall End, East Ham, with his wife Elizabeth, age 25. William is said to have been born in Barking, while Elizabeth was born in East Ham. They have two children: Louisa, 2, and John, 1 month. William is still working as an agricultural labourer.

Ten years later they are still living in Wall End, one or two doors down from the Duke’s Head pub. Louisa is now 12 and described as a ‘scholar’, but although John is only 10 we are told that he ‘works in the fields’. They have been joined by Thomas (age 8, born 1853) and William (age 4, born 1857).

By 1871, two more children have arrived: Joseph (born 1861) and Eliza, my great grandmother. The census transcript at Ancestry has Eliza’s age as 8, and thus born in 1863, though the number on the original record could be an 8 or  a 5. In the 1881 census, she’s 17, which would place her birth around 1864. In any event, while it’s no great surprise to find all the boys – including 10 year old Joseph – working like their father as farm labourers – it’s a shock to see that Eliza, whether she’s aged 7 or 8, is already working at a jute factory.

In 1881 only John, now 20 and a general labourer and Eliza, 17, still a jute spinner, are living at home with their parents, in a cottage in the High Street, Wall End. Two years later Eliza, aged 18 or 19, would marry 21 year old Joseph Priestley Roe. By the time of the next census, in 1891, she and her new husband would be living at 36 Denmark Terrace, East Ham and Eliza’s parents, William and Elizabeth, now 67, would be living with them. Eliza would already have given birth to 6 children. By 1901, when they were living in Barking Road, East Ham (and Eliza’s parents were still living with them), there would be two more sons: William Thomas and John. Minnie Louisa, my grandmother, would be born in 1902.