I’ve been trying to discover what became of my 5 x great grandmother Elizabeth Gibson, after her first marriage to John Collins in 1753 and before her second marriage to Joseph Holdsworth ten years later. Until now, we’ve had no clues as to where John and Elizabeth Collins lived, or whether they had any children. Last week I wrote about the properties that John inherited in and around Epping, speculating that one of these might have been home to the couple after their (possibly clandestine) marriage at St George’s Chapel, Mayfair.

Yesterday I made what may turn out to be an important breakthrough. As often happens in family history research, it was an indirect approach to the problem – going round the brick wall rather than continuing to batter my head against it – that provided the beginnings of a solution. I’d been trying to find out more about Elizabeth’s sister, Anne Gibson, when I inadvertently stumbled upon a piece of evidence that threw new light on Elizabeth’s life.

St Botolph Aldgate (from London Lives website)

In her will of 1788, my 6 x great grandmother Mary Gibson, nee Greene, who died in Mile End Old Town in 1790, left an annuity of five pounds ‘to my daughter Mrs Ann Schwartz’ and a similar annuity ‘to my grand daughter Frances Schwartz the daughter of the said Anne Schwartz’.  Anne Gibson, born at Tower Hill and baptised at St Botolph, Aldgate, in 1737, was the fifth of the seven children of John and Mary Gibson, and the younger sister of my 5 x great grandmother Elizabeth Holdsworth, nee Gibson.

As I noted in my analysis of Mary Gibson’s will, the most likely explanation for Anne’s married name is the marriage that took place on 30 August 1754, at the church of St George in the East, between Anne Gibson ‘of the parish of St Mary le Bow in the City of London’ and Charles Gottfried Schwartz of the parish of St George’s. John Gibson (Anne’s father?) was one of the witnesses.

So far I’ve been unable to find any other records for Charles Schwartz, either before or after his marriage. Given his name, the likely explanation is that he was born in Germany. I’ve also failed to find any records for Frances Schwartz, daughter of Anne and (possibly) Charles.

Although my searches for Charles came up with nothing, they did lead me to someone with a very similar name. In the Register of Duties Paid for Apprentices’ Indentures, I found a record, dated 8 May 1776, for G. John Godfrey Schwartz, who was apprenticed to a merchant by the name of Paul Amsinck of Steelyard, London. Amsinck seems to have been from a line of prominent merchants, based in London but of German origin. Interestingly, John William Bonner, son of Anne Gibson’s sister Frances, paid his apprenticeship dues to another London merchant in the same year.

Steelyard, London, 17th century

Given that Godfrey is an anglicised version of Gottfried, I began to wonder if G. John Godfrey Schwartz might be the son of Charles and Anne, though again I’ve failed to find any record of his birth. If he was born in the late 1750s or early ‘60s, this would fit with his apprenticeship being paid in 1776.

Looking for other records for this person, I found two marriages for John Godfrey Schwartz (the initial ‘G’ seems to have been dropped at some stage), both of which immediately caught my attention. The first marriage, which took place on 17 May 1780 at St Botolph, Bishopsgate, was to Frances Collins ‘of the parish of Romford in the County of Essex’. The second marriage was on 12 September 1813 at St George the Martyr, Southwark, to Mary Ann Bonner. As already mentioned, the first marriage of my 5 x great grandmother Elizabeth, sister of the Anne Gibson who married Charles Schwartz, was to John Collins of Epping.  And another Gibson sister, Frances, married William Bonner.

I think I’ve worked out who John Godfrey Schwartz’s two wives were. Taking them in reverse order, I believe that his second wife Mary Ann Bonner was the daughter of John William Bonner and Sarah Ford. John William, born in 1762, was the eldest son of William and Frances Bonner. His daughter Mary Ann was born in Mile End Old Town in 1793, though her older siblings were born in Bermondsey and it’s possible that the family had moved south of the river again by 1813. Mary Ann Bonner would have been twenty years old when she married John Godfrey Schwartz, and if my theory is correct, she was the daughter of his first cousin, John William Bonner.

Romford (date unknown)

As for John Godfrey Schwartz’s first wife, I had no luck searching for a baptismal record for Frances Collins in the Romford parish registers. But when I searched more widely, I made an astonishing discovery. On 8 July 1759, a Frances Collins was baptised at St Botolph, Aldgate: she was the daughter of John and Elizabeth Collins. Could this be my 5 x great grandmother and her first husband? The couple’s address – Darby Street, close to St Botolph’s churchyard – made this more likely, since Elizabeth’s sister Frances and her husband William Bonner would be living in the same street (the same house perhaps?) when their son John William was born three years later. Perhaps the fact that the child was given the name Frances suggests that the two sisters were particularly close.

Christening of Frances Collins, 8 July 1759, from parish register of St Botolph, Aldgate

Could this be the solution to the whereabouts of John and Elizabeth Collins after their marriage in 1753? Perhaps, rather than living on one of John’s Essex estates, they made their home in London: or is it possible that, like Elizabeth’s parents, they had houses in both town and country? And did they have a daughter named Frances? The date of Frances’ birth would certainly be consistent with her marrying John Godfrey Schwartz in 1780, when she would have been twenty-one years old. If this is the right person, then bride and groom were first cousins, but then that was hardly unusual at this period.

I’ve searched for other children born to John and Elizabeth Collins and so far have found none, so I suspect that Frances was their only child. We know that John Collins must have died before May 1763, when Elizabeth married Joseph Holdsworth. The question then arises: what happened to Frances Collins after her father’s death and her mother’s second marriage, and how did she end up in Romford by 1780? Elizabeth and her new husband, Joseph Holdsworth, appear to have taken up residence in South Weald (about five or six miles from Romford) soon after their marriage: their first daughter Elizabeth was christened there in October 1764. Their youngest child, Godfrey, was baptised in South Weald in 1773. Joseph Holdsworth died in 1795 at the age of 60 and was buried in South Weald parish church.

Old map of Essex, showing South Weald (top right) in relation to Romford (bottom left)

Frances Collins’ residence in Romford in 1780 is therefore a mystery: perhaps she was living with relatives? Her wedding to John Godfrey Schwartz took place in his home parish of St Botolph, Bishopsgate. Is it just coincidence that this is where Sarah Holdsworth (her half-sister?) would marry Edward Porter six years later in 1786 , and where my 4 x great grandfather William Holdsworth (her half-brother?) would marry Lydia Evans fourteen years later in 1792? Both Sarah and William were said to be ‘of this parish’ at the time of their marriages.

The fact that Mary Gibson’s will of 1788 fails to mention Frances is something of a worry. As I noted above, she does make reference to her granddaughter Frances Schwartz, the daughter of Anne Schwartz: is it stretching a point to read this as meaning her daughter in law – after all, she would still be Mary’s granddaughter?  Alternatively, it could be that Frances Collins died young, some time between her marriage to John Godfrey Schwartz in 1780 and the writing of the will in 1788.

This would mean that John Godfrey Schwartz was a widower for at least two decades before marrying Mary Ann Bonner in 1813. An alternative scenario also suggests itself: perhaps this second marriage involved another John Godfrey Schwartz, possibly the son of the first John Godfrey and Frances Collins, who in marrying Mary Ann Bonner was also wedding his first cousin?

Whatever the truth of the matter, we know that John Godfrey Schwartz and Mary Ann Bonner produced at least five children together. Marianne Frances Schwartz was baptised at St Mary Whitechapel on 5 August 1814. The family’s address is given as ‘Roadside’ (?) and her father’s occupation as ‘clerk’. Sarah Schwartz was christened at St Anne Limehouse on 17 May 1816; the address is given simply as Limehouse and John’s status has become ‘gentleman’. John Edward Schwartz was christened at St Mary Newington, Southwark: the family’s address was now Graham Street, Walworth. By the time their daughter Emma was baptised on 9 April 1820 the Schwartz family was at Patriot Square, Bethnal Green, and the ceremony took place at the parish church of St Matthew’s. What looks like the family’s final move was to Mile End Old Town, which was their address when Francis Daniel was christened at St Dunstan’s church on 15 September, 1822.

When Francis Daniel Schwartz married Sarah Eliza Boice at St Philip, Bethnal Green on 1 September 1856, he was described as a painter, living in Wentworth Street, while his father John Godfrey was described as an ‘interpreter of languages’. It’s not clear from the parish record whether John was still living at the time. If he was the son, rather than the grandson of Charles Gottfried Schwarz and Anne Gibson, he would have been over ninety years old.