In January I reported a new finding by my distant relative Richard Seager, which identified our common ancestor Samuel Hurst Seager with the person of that name christened at St. Philip’s church (now the cathedral), Birmingham in November 1780. Now Richard has commissioned independent research which confirms the identification, and also traces the Seager line back further through a number of generations.
First, a quick recap. Samuel Hurst Seager was the father of Fanny Sarah Seager (1814 – 1851), who married William Robb (1813 – 1888) at the church of St. George the Martyr, Queen Square, Holborn, in 1836. Their son, Charles Edward Robb (born 1851) was my great grandfather. Fanny’s brothers emigrated to New Zealand and among their famous descendants were the novelist Ngaio Marsh and the architect Samuel Hurst Seager (the name recurs in every generation). For more information about the Seagers, follow the links to earlier posts at the side of this page.
Until recently, the only definite information that we had for Samuel Hurst Seager (the father of Fanny) was that he died in 1837 and was buried in the grounds of the Temple Church in London, close to where he had worked as a porter at the Inns of Court. Now we can be fairly sure that Samuel was born in Birmingham around 1780 and that he was one of at least five children born to another Samuel Hurst Seager and his wife Elizabeth Cash. His siblings were William (1776), Mary (1777), Thomas (1779) and Elizabeth (1781). We don’t yet know what became of William, Mary and Thomas, but Elizabeth died and was buried at St. Philips in 1783.
Moreover, further research has established that Samuel Hurst Seager senior came originally from Kingswinford in Staffordshire, where he was christened at the parish church on 10 April 1752. He married Elizabeth Cash on 17 October at St. Martin’s church, Birmingham. Samuel died in the same year (1783) as his short-lived daughter Elizabeth and, like her, was buried at St. Philip’s church.
We don’t know why Samuel senior moved to Birmingham, but we know that the Seagers had been firmly rooted in Kingswinford for many generations. Richard’s researcher has assembled an impressive family tree, stretching back to the 17th century, but obviously the further back you go, the more tentative the links in the chain become, especially when there are so many people sharing the same surname in the same area.
What does seem fairly certain is that Samuel Hurst Seager senior was the son of William Seager, who was christened in Kingswinford on 7 June 1718 (or 1728?) and married Mary Dixon there on 5 October 1739. This is almost certainly the William, mentioned in this source , who constructed glasshouses in Brettell Lane, Kingswinford, in 1774. From his will (which can be found here) we can ascertain that he left most of his property to three of his daughters, Martha, Susanna and Elizabeth, who married Francis Smith, Thomas Wheeley and George Adams respectively.
It would appear that William’s son-in-law Thomas Wheeley was also in the glass manufacturing business and may have inherited the Seager business: his son William Seager Wheeley, a glass manufacturer, and daughter Lucy can be found living at ‘Dennis’ (Dennis Park?), Brettell Lane in 1841, where they are prosperous enough to employ four domestic servants. We also have quite a lot of information about the family of Martha Seager who married Francis Smith, thanks to the work of John Grove, one of their descendants, which can be found here (John has also contacted me with additional helpful information). Penelope Smith, daughter of Francis and Martha, married farmer John James Grove in Lindridge in 1811, and in 1832 they emigrated to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Important gaps remain in our knowledge of Samuel Hurst Seager and his origins. Not only would it be useful to know why his father moved from Kingswinford to Birmingham, and what his profession was. It would also be helpful to discover when and why Samuel came to London, and whether there is any truth to the family legend (?) cited by Ngaio Marsh in her memoir (which I quoted here):
My mother’s maiden name was Rose Elizabeth Seager. Her paternal grandfather was completely ruined by the economic disturbances that followed the emancipation of slaves in the West Indies. […] Among the Seagers […] there appears briefly an affluent and unencumbered uncle to whom my great-grandfather was heir. The story was that this uncle took his now impoverished nephew to Scotland to see the estates he would inherit and on the return journey died intestate in the family chaise. His fortune was thrown into Chancery and my great-grandfather upon the world. He got some extremely humble job in the Middle Temple and my grandfather went to the choir school of the Temple Church. None of the family fortunes was ever recovered.
Rose Seager’s paternal grandfather was Samuel Hurst Seager and Ngaio Marsh’s grandfather was his youngest son, Edward William Seager (1828 – 1922). If there is any truth in the story (and Marsh seemed to think it was partly confirmed by papers discovered after her grandfather’s death), then the ‘affluent and unencumbered uncle’ might have been one of Samuel Hurst Seager senior’s Kingswinford brothers (there were three: Thomas, William and Stephen); unless, of course, the uncle was from his mother Elizabeth Cash’s side of the family.
Another gap in our knowledge is where and when Samuel Hurst Seager married Fanny Fowle: repeated efforts have failed to locate a record of their marriage. The next official record we have for Samuel after his own baptism in Birmingham in 1780 is the christening of his and Fanny’s first child, Mary Ann, at St. Clement Danes, London, in 1813 (seven other children were born and baptised at the same location over the following 15 years). This means that Samuel and Fanny were married by about 1812 at the latest, and it’s likely that their marriage took place around 1810-1812 (childbirth usually followed fairly swiftly on marriage in those days, and the couple don’t appear to have had any problems with fertility).
But then there is this curious piece of evidence (?), which I came across recently while searching for records about Samuel at Ancestry. To begin with, I was put off by the fact that the name had been transcribed as Samuel Hunt Seager, but close inspection of the original record reveals that the middle name is almost certainly Hurst. In the parish records of the church of St. Mary, Rotherhithe, we find this entry for 1804:
Samuel Hurst Seager, Bachelor, and Jane Boyes, Spinster, both of this Parish, were married in this Church by Licence, this seventh day of January, one thousand eight hundred and four.
by me John Middleton, B.D., Curate
The witnesses appear to be John Jamieson, Ann Jamieson and Richard Hanses (?).
One of two conclusions must be drawn. Either there was more than one Samuel Hurst Seager living in London in the early 19th century, which seems unlikely, given the unique combination of names and the fact that the name seems to have been passed from father to son in one particular branch of the Seagers. Alternatively, ‘our’ Samuel Hurst Seager could have married twice: first to Jane Boyes, who subsequently died, and then to Fanny Fowle. Jane would need to have passed away some time before about 1810; as yet, I’ve been unable to find a matching death or burial record, or indeed any other definite record for her.
In 1804, ‘our’ Samuel Hurst Seager would have about been 24. Further research is obviously needed before we can establish that this is definitely him, or confirm what brought him to London and where he was living before he met and married Fanny Fowle.