A message from Lynn Ayres in Canada, who is researching her husband’s Webb ancestors, has prompted me to revisit the family of my great grandfather George Webb. Also, the availability of new records at Ancestry has made it possible to add to the narrative that I set down in these three posts, and (I hope) to extend the story forward and backward in time.

However, coming back to this branch of my family tree after some time away, I realised that I was still uncertain about some of the connections, so I’ve decided to reappraise everything, starting in this post with what we know for certain about George’s family of birth. Firstly, a reminder of my link to the Webbs: George Webb and Mary French (both born in 1874) were the parents of my grandmother Mary Emily Elizabeth (‘Polly’) Webb (1898 – 1965), husband of Arthur Ernest Robb (1897 – 1979).

Our starting-point – a record that we can we sure of – is the marriage between my great grandparents, which took place at St Paul’s church, Bow Common on 1 August 1897. George Webb and Mary French were both 24 years old at the time, and they both gave their address as 92 Burdett Road. Mary’s father Frederick French is described as a bootmaker, while George’s father, also George Webb, is said to be a decorator – as indeed is George junior.

St Paul's, Bow Common

When their first child, my grandmother Mary Emily Elizabeth, was baptised at the same church on 25 September 1898, George and Mary were living at 32 Coutts Road and George was still working as a decorator. Three years later, at the time of the 1901 census, they were at the same address, but now they had another daughter Jessie, aged 10 months. Living at the same address was widower and vestry carman Joseph Webb, who had been born in Bethnal Green in about 1850. He is almost certainly a relation of George’s, though I’m still trying to work out the precise connection.

George Webb is said to have been born in about 1873 in Mile End (the same location is given for the births of his wife and daughters). This might have raised doubts about George’s connection with some earlier records, if we didn’t also have access to the 1911 census record, which places George’s birth in nearby Shadwell.


If we work back through the records, the 1891 census shows a George Webb, born in about 1874, living at 54 Prusom Street, Wapping, in the parish of St George in the East (the same parish where he is said to have been born). He is the son of another George Webb, a house decorator. Although we can’t be absolutely sure that this is ‘our’ George, the matching of birth date and place, and the name and occupation of his father, together with the absence of any ‘rival’ census record, make it almost certain. The only note of doubt is that George junior is working as a baker, but his occupation seems to have changed a number of times during his adult life.

The census record tells us that George Webb senior was born in about 1844 in Wapping, and his wife Elizabeth in about 1848 in St. George’s. Besides son George, there are three other children at No. 54: Alice, 15, Virtue, 10, and Alfred, 7. All were born in St. George’s. They also have a boarder, 28 year old Jane Hogwood, a tailoress like Elizabeth.

If we go back ten years, to the census of 1881, we find the same family living at 83 Cornwall Street in Shadwell, about a mile to the north of Prusom Street (see map in this post). George senior is once again said to be a house decorator while his wife Elizabeth works as a machinist.  Two of the children mentioned in the 1891 census are present: George, 7, and Alice, 5, their birth dates matching exactly with the later record. In addition there are three older children: Susannah, 15, a machinist like her mother, Elizabeth, 13, and Rosina, 10. The connection with the family in the 1891 record is sealed by the information that the Webbs share No. 83 with painter Joel Hogwood (a workmate or partner of George senior’s, perhaps?), his wife Susannah, and 19 year old Jane, who works as a servant, presumably their daughter and clearly the same person who is to be found boarding with the Webbs ten years later.

Finding a cast-iron match for the Webbs in the 1871 census is more difficult. The best match seems to be the family living at 34 Sheridan Street, which was a couple of streets from Cornwall Street. George and Elizabeth Webb are said to have three children: Ann, 5, Elizabeth, 3 and Georgianna, 10 months. The couple’s names are an obvious match, as is Elizabeth’s work as a needlewoman, and the younger Elizabeth’s age matches that of the daughter in the 1881 census. But there are also some discrepancies. Although Elizabeth senior’s age more or less matches (she is 22), George is said to be 23, and thus born in 1848, not 1844 as in the later census record. Moreover, he is working as a dock labourer, not a decorator. While the other members of the family were all born in St. George’s, Middlesex, George’s place of birth says Middlesex, ‘K’. I’m not sure what this means: it’s not on the list of census abbreviations provided by Ancestry.

Victorian needlewoman

Then there is the question of the children. Elizabeth is a match, and Rosina (who would be 10 in 1881) could have been born after the census was taken. But where is Susannah, who would have been 5 in 1871, and what happened to Ann and Georgiana? The latter is easily dealt with, since there is a record of a Georgina Webb, born in 1870, dying in 1874. As for Ann and Susannah, my current theory is that they were the same person. I haven’t found a birth or baptismal record that matches Ann, nor does she appear in later records, but Susannah was born to George and Elizabeth Webb in 1866, which means she would have been 5 at the time of the 1871 census. Perhaps ‘Ann’ was used as a familiar or shortened version of Susannah?

Another positive connection between the 1871 and 1881 records is provided by the consistent use of the unusual name ‘Virtue’ for a number of the Webb children. The Alice Webb whom we noticed in the 1881 record was baptised Alice Virtue Webb in 1876, and  another daughter, given the first name Virtue, was baptised shortly after the 1881 census was taken. The fact that the short-lived Georgina or Georgiana was given the middle name Virtue when she was christened seals the link between the family at Sheridan Street in 1871 and that at Prusom Street in 1881, and leads to the conclusion that George senior’s age in the earlier census must simply be a mistake.

This means that we can be sure of the following facts about my great grandfather George’s family of birth. His parents George and Elizabeth Ann Webb had nine children in all, of whom George was the sixth. Susannah (also known as Ann?) was born in 1866 at 35 Spencer Street and baptised at Christ Church, Watney Street, St. George in the East. Elizabeth was born in 1868, possibly in Bethnal Green. Georgina Virtue was born in 1870 at 25 Sherrington (Sheridan?) Street and baptised at St. James the Great, Bethnal Green (she died in 1874). Rosina was born in 1862 at 25 Sheridan Street and baptised at the same church. George was born in 1874 at 83 Cornwall Street and also baptised at the same church. Alice Virtue was born in 1876 at 83 Middle Cornwall Street (presumably the same address) and baptised at St. George in the East. Virtue was born in 1881, and Alfred in 1884: both were born at the same address and baptised at the same church.

St James the Great Bethnal Green

It seems that George’s mother Elizabeth Ann Webb died in 1910 and his father in the following year. One remaining mystery is the date of their marriage, the record of which might provide us with Elizabeth’s maiden name. As I mentioned in an earlier post, one candidate is the marriage of George Webb to Eliza Ann Redder at St. John Limehouse. However, there are two problems with this. One is that it took place in 1867, the year after the birth of Susannah/Ann. The other is that George’s father’s name is given as William Webb, whereas I’ve believed for some time that he was the son of another George Webb. But unravelling that particular mystery will have to wait for another post.