Following on from the last post about Eliza Roe:

Ron Roe has sent me some more records that shed further light on the lives of Eliza and her husband Thomas Parker, and have also led me to a discovery which appears to explain the connections between the Roe, Blanch and Parker families.

First, Ron has pointed me towards an 1851 census record for Thomas Parker, which places him in the household of baker George Garner, 27, and his wife, Sarah, 26, both from Bethnal Green, at 85 Redcross Street, Southwark.  The record describes Thomas, 23, also born in Bethnal Green, as George’s brother-in-law, and as an unmarried journeyman. Also at the same address are George Garner’s widowed mother, Ann, 65, who was born in Mile End, as well as a servant and an errand boy.

This explains the presence of Sarah Garner as a witness at Thomas’ wedding to Eliza Roe two years later: she was the groom’s sister. Sarah married George Garner on 29th June 1846 at St. George in the East, when she was living at 18 Lower John Street and he was at 6 Lower Chapman Street. (The two streets were close together, on either side of Cannon Street, not far from Chapel Street where Eliza Roe and Thomas Parker were living at the time of their wedding five years later.) At the time, George was described as a silk manufacturer, the occupation also pursued by his father John, as well as by Sarah’s father Thomas Parker senior.

The names of the two witnesses to the marriage are very familiar: John Blanch and Kezia Holdsworth. There’s a slight mystery as to why Kezia should use her maiden name, given that she had been married to John for 19 years by this time. However, it’s probable that, like many of her relatives, she was all but illiterate. It seems likely that she had only learnt to write her name, and just her maiden name at that.

The bigger mystery is why John and Kezia should fufil this important role at the wedding of a Parker and a Garner, given that (as far as we knew until now) the connection between the families would only be established some years later: John and Kezah’s daughter Mary Ann would marry Daniel Roe in 1848, and Daniel’s sister Eliza would marry Sarah Parker’s brother Thomas in 1853.

Bethnal Green, 1851 (from Cross's London Guide)

I found the key to this mystery, and uncovered the longstanding link between the two families, by tracing the Parker family back throug the records. Sarah Parker and her brother Thomas were the children of silk weaver Thomas Parker and his wife Sarah. In the 1841 census we find them living in Bullards Place, Bethnal Green, just south of Green Street (which was home to the Blanch family in 1851 and possibly earlier). This was an area that developed rapidly during the early decades of the 19th century, as the population of Bethnal Green expanded: on Greenwood’s 1827 map, Bullard’s Place still backs on to open fields, but by the time that Cross produced his 1851 map, there are streets on all sides and the Eastern Counties Railway Line runs through the district. (Click on the map above to open in a new window, then click again to enlarge: Bullard’s Place is sandwiched between Green Street, the railway line and Victoria Park Cemetery at lower right.)

Silk weaver Thomas Parker senior, 40, and his wife Sarah, 35, had four children by this time. Besides 15 year old Sarah and 14 year old Thomas, there were two other sons: William, 11, and Joseph, 8. Many of the Parkers’ neighbours in Bullard’s Place were also silk weavers or twine spinners.

London silkweaver, 19th century

Ten years later, Thomas, 51, and Sarah, 45, have moved to nearby West Street – another silk-weaving neighbourhood, it would seem. All of  their children have left home by this stage (we know that Sarah was married by this time and that Thomas was living with her and her husband in Southwark: see above). Sarah Parker is described as a ‘silk weaveress’, as are  the two visitors residing at the same address: Harriet Payton, 18, and Eliza Philpot, 21. Harriet was the daughter of silk weaver Joseph Payton: in 1841 the family can be found living in Mape Street, Bethnal Green.

As for Eliza Philpot:  the name immediately rang bells in my mind and sent me searching through my records, until I recalled that this was the name of the young woman who would marry Joseph James Blanch, eldest son of John and Keziah, in  the following year (see this post). Eliza was the daughter of another silk weaver, John William Philpot and his wife Sarah Buckingham, whose families are well documented, since they feature in a number of family trees at Ancestry. In 1841 they were living in East Street, a couple of streets away.

So it would seem that the Blanch, Parker and Philpot families were near neighbours in the Green Street area of Bethnal Green in the 1840s and 1850s and would be linked by marriage in future years. But is this enough to explain the presence of John and Kezia Blanch at Sarah Parker’s wedding? Going even further back in the Parker family records, I came upon a much more powerful reason.

Sarah Parker was Thomas and Sarah Parker’s first child: she was born on 28th May 1823, though not baptised until two years later, when the family was living in Park Street. Searching for the record of a marriage between Thomas Parker and Sarah in the immediately preceding years, I came across a familiar record, which made everything fall into place.

In an earlier post, I mentioned the wedding of Sarah Holdsworth (born 1806), daughter of John Holdsworth and Eliza Jane Webb, to a Thomas Parker, at St. George in the East in October 1821. In that post I reproduced the information that I found on other trees at Ancestry, identifying the couple with the Thomas and Sarah Parker who lived in the City of London, where he was a butcher, though I wasn’t completely happy with this theory.

Now I realise that Thomas Parker the butcher was a bit of a red herring, so to speak. The Thomas Parker who married Sarah Holdsworth in 1821 was in fact the Bethnal Green silk weaver, and it was their son Thomas who would marry Eliza Roe. Now everything fell into place. Sarah Holdsworth was, of course, the sister of Kezia Holdsworth, which would explain why the latter was a witness at the wedding of the younger Sarah Parker – her niece. The birth dates and locations all match perfectly.

This means that Sarah, like Keziah, was the cousin of Eliza (Holdsworth) Roe, mother of Eliza Roe. In other words, when the younger Eliza Roe married Thomas Parker in 1853, she was doing exactly what her brother Daniel had done five years earlier when he married John and Kezia’s daughter Mary Ann Blanch. She was marrying the child of her mother’s cousin: or her own second cousin.

The Holdsworth link also explains why Thomas and Sarah Parker were witnesses at the second marriage of Eliza (Holdsworth) Roe, to John Sharp, at St. George in the East, in 1846. Sarah was witnessing the marriage of her cousin.

I’ve been unable to find any definite records for Thomas and Sarah Parker after their son Thomas’ wedding in 1852, by which time Thomas senior had switched trades and was working as a licensed victualler. However, there is a record of a Thomas Parker, born in about 1801, dying in 1876 in Shoreditch.

There’s one outstanding mystery, which may hint at an even older association between the Holdsworths and the Parkers. When Eliza Holdsworth was born in 1801, there were two witnesses (according to the register at Dr. Williams’ Library): the midwife, and Sarah Parker. This can’t be Eliza’s cousin Sarah Holdsworth, who was not even born at the time. According to some other family trees, another Sarah Holdsworth, born in 1767, Eliza’s aunt (her father William’s sister), married a William Parker. I wonder if there is any connection with the silk-weaving Parkers of Bethnal Green?


My distant relative in Australia, Julie Campbell – a descendant of Richard John Roe – informs me that Thomas and Sarah Parker were also witnesses at Richard’s marriage to Fanny Debney, which took place at St. George’s church, Hanover Square, in 1850.