I’ve written recently about my great-great-great-great-grandfather William Holdsworth, who was born in South Weald, Essex, in 1771 and lived for most of his adult life in Stepney. William’s daughter Eliza married Biggleswade shoemaker Daniel Roe; their son, another shoemaker named Daniel, married Mary Ann Blanch; and their youngest son Joseph Priestley Roe was the father of Minnie Louisa Roe – who was my ‘Nan’, my mother’s mother.

However, as I’ve mentioned before, William’s older brother John was also my 4 x great grandfather. This is because his daughter Keziah married Stepney shoemaker John Blanch, and it was their daughter Mary Ann who married Daniel Roe junior (her second cousin).

In this post, I want to set down what we know about John Holdsworth and his family. We know that John was born in South Weald, Essex, in 1765, the second child, and eldest son, of Joseph and Elizabeth Holdsworth. From the family trees constructed in the last decades of the 19th century by Joseph Cook and Joseph James Holdsworth, we also know that John had five children: Eliza, Keziah, Ann, Joseph and Sarah, though other family trees also mention another son, John.

I’ve seen no documentary evidence for John’s marriage, so can’t confirm the date or place, or the name of his wife. However, some family trees give her name as Eliza Ann Webb and claim that the couple were married in Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire in 1797. John would have been about 32 at the time. How he came to be in Oxfordshire, when his siblings moved from Essex to East London at around this time, is unknown.

Chipping Norton

We know from later census records that John’s daughter Eliza (not to be confused with his brother William’s daughter of the same name) was born in Chipping Norton in 1798, and apparently John junior was also born there two years later. Census records also tell us that Keziah was born in St Clement, Oxford, in 1804, and that Joseph was born in the same city in 1809.  I have no information about the date or place of daughter Sarah’s birth. As for Anne, both Joseph Cook and J.J. Holdsworth write under her name, in brackets, ‘Mrs Morley, Oxford’ (at least, the name looks like Morley). However, I’ve yet to find any matching marriage or census records.

While Ann may have married and remained in Oxford, the other children of John Holdsworth appear to have moved to East London at some point. The next definite date we have for a member of the family is 1827, when Keziah married John Blanch at St Anne, Limehouse. This suggests that Keziah, and probably other members of the family, had moved to London by the mid 1820s at the latest. By this time, John Holdsworth would have been about 60.

The fact that John’s son Joseph also got married at St Anne, Limehouse, eight years later suggests that the Holdsworths might have settled in this part of East London, at least initially, on their arrival from Oxfordshire. Joseph married Elizabeth Cuzens in 1835. His brother-in-law John Blanch, who was now living with Keziah and their young family in Mile End Old Town, was a witness.

Carpenter at work (1830)

By 1837, when their son Joseph George was born, Joseph and Elizabeth were living in Devonshire Street, Mile End Old Town. Joseph, now 32, was working as a carpenter. They were still in the same street at the time of the 1841 census: Joseph was now working as a builder and Elizabeth as a haberdasher.

At the same date, Joseph’s older sister Eliza, who was 42 and unmarried, was living in Cottage Grove, Mile End Old Town, where she was a servant in the home of Rev. Joseph Fletcher, ‘dissenting minister’ of Stepney Green congregational chapel. Eliza would remain unmarried and spend most of her life as a domestic servant, much of it working for the Fletcher family.

Meanwhile, Keziah, 36, her husband John Blanch and their children were living in Wellington Street, Mile End Old Town. In the same street we find John Holdsworth, a carpenter aged 75, who seems to match some of the details of my 4 x great grandfather. However, the census record states that he was born ‘in county’, i.e. in Middlesex, when we know ‘our’ John was born in Essex. There’s also a mystery about why he’s living here, rather than with Keziah or one of his other children. The house he shares is also occupied by Sarah Elliot, a 50 year old widow and midwife, and her three children.  I wondered whether this might be John’s daughter Sarah, but the age doesn’t match, and her maiden name doesn’t appear to have been Holdsworth. However, further investigation of the Elliot family is probably needed.

At any event, it would appear that John Holdsworth was a widower by this time, though I’ve yet to find any information about his wife’s death. Nor do we have a definite death or burial record for John himself, though the Cook and Holdsworth trees maintain that he died in Stepney in 1841.