Setting out the events of my 5 x great grandmother’s life, in the years 1753 – 1763, in chronological order, as I did in the previous post, throws some light on her key relationships in this decade.
The births of a number of nieces and nephews, during these years of her first marriage to John Collins, are a reminder that Elizabeth would have had an extended family with her in Epping (if that is indeed where she and John lived), and also in London. Not only would she have had her brother-in-law and sister-in-law Richard and Ann Collins, and their two children, living nearby in Essex. Her older sister Jane would also have been close at hand. Like Elizabeth, Jane had married a local landowner, William Coates, from Theydon Mount, and during this period they would have three children, all born and baptised in Epping. We can imagine that Elizabeth would have been a frequent visitor to both the Collins and the Coates homes.
The timeline is also a reminder that Elizabeth’s other three sisters would also marry during this ten-year period, though all of them would remain in London, the site of the Gibson family’s original home. It’s likely that Elizabeth attended these ceremonies. A little over a year after Elizabeth’s own wedding, she would have seen the marriage of her younger sister Ann to Charles Gottfried Schwartz. We know that Elizabeth’s brother-in-law William Coates travelled from Epping for this event, since he was one of the witnesses. Although there are still many mysteries surrounding the Schwartz family, it seems likely that Charles Schwartz was a merchant of some kind, and was almost certainly of German origin. I’m also fairly certain that Ann Schwartz, as she now was, remained close to her sister Elizabeth. After all, Elizabeth’s daughter Frances would end up marrying the man I’m fairly sure was Ann’s son, John Godfrey Schwartz – her first cousin.
At one time I believed that John and Elizabeth Collins lived, or at least kept a house, at Darby Street, off Rosemary Lane, in London, since that’s the address given for the christening of their daughter Frances, at St Botolph Aldgate, in 1759. Then I wondered if, at the time of the birth, Elizabeth was simply staying with her sister Frances, who would be at the same address when she gave birth to her own first child, John William Bonner, in 1762. However, Frances didn’t marry her husband, Captain Michael Bonner, until 1761. I now believe that the Darby Street house was the home of the Gibson girls’ widowed grandmother, Mary Greene, since we know that she would be living there in 1764. However, the fact that Elizabeth gave her daughter the name Frances is surely an indication that she and her sister were close. I also wonder if Elizabeth’s choice of Bermondsey as the location for her second marriage, to Joseph Holdsworth, in 1763, might be due the fact that the Bonners lived there for some time.
As for Elizabeth’s other older sister, Mary, we know little about her marriage in 1760 to William Hunter, except that he, like Michael Bonner, seems also to have been a mariner.
If these ten years in Elizabeth’s life, when she was in her twenties, were generally eventful, then the last few years of the decade were particularly dramatic. Some time between 1759, when her daughter Frances was born, and 1763, when Elizabeth married for a second time, her first husband John Collins died. We don’t know the precise date or the cause of death, but given that he was not yet thirty years old, it must have come as something of a shock. Then, in February 1763, Elizabeth’s father John Gibson died, apparently intestate, leaving Elizabeth’s mother Mary to administer his complicated financial and business affairs.
It was only three months after her father’s death that Elizabeth embarked on a new phase of her life, as the wife of Joseph Holdsworth, another Essex (though Yorkshire-born) farmer, but one of seemingly more modest means than her first husband. The next decade of her life would be eventful in other ways, as she became the mother of seven more children.