Reflecting on a crucial ten-year period in the life of my 5 x great grandmother Elizabeth Holdsworth, formerly Collins, née Gibson, has reawakened my curiosity about some of her close relatives. In the previous post, I noted that Elizabeth’s younger sister Ann married Charles Gottfried Schwartz in 1754, a year or so after Elizabeth’s own first marriage to John Collins. I also repeated my theory that it was Elizabeth’s daughter Frances who married John Godfrey Schwartz, who I believe to have been the son of Charles and Ann.
In this post I want to revisit the Schwartz family and summarise what we know about them. There are huge gaps in our knowledge of the family, and the records for them are few and far between. In fact, the information we have about them can be divided into three sections, relating to three male members of the family and their wives.
(1) Charles Gottfried Schwartz and Ann Gibson
The first evidence of a connection between the Schwartz and Gibson families, indeed the earliest reference of any kind that I can find to the Schwartz family, is the record of Ann Gibson’s marriage to Charles Gottfried Schwartz. This took place at the church of St George-in-the-East in Stepney on 30th August 1754. Born in 1737, Ann would have been just seventeen years old at the time. The witnesses were John Gibson, undoubtedly Ann’s father, and a certain William Bates. Curiously, given the Gibson family’s longstanding residence at Tower Hill in the parish of St Botolph Aldgate, the parish register notes that Ann was of the parish of St Mary-le-Bow in the City of London.
Charles Schwartz was said to be ‘of this parish’. In 1759, five years after this marriage, a man by the name of Carl Frederick, otherwise Charles, Schwartz, a mariner from the parish of St George-in-the-East, made his will. It was proved in the same year. Frustratingly, the testator makes no reference to any family members in his brief will, leaving everything he owns to friends.
However, it seems likely that Charles Gottfried Schwartz may have been a merchant of some kind, perhaps with maritime connections. This was certainly true of the husbands of two of Ann’s sisters – Mary and Frances – who both appear to have married mariners. Perhaps these spouses were found through business connections of their father John, a lighterman and coal factor. His name clearly identifies Charles as having German connections, and it’s possible that he was born in Germany.
I’ve found no further references to Charles Gottfried Schwartz. As for Ann, the only other record I’ve come across that mentions her explicitly is her mother Mary Gibson’s will of 1788, in which she leaves an annuity of five pounds to ‘my daughter Mrs Ann Schwartz’, as she does to her other married daughters Jane Coates, Frances Bonner and Elizabeth Holdsworth. So we know that Ann was still alive in 1788, forty four years after her marriage, when she would have been 51 years old.
Mary Gibson leave a similar sum ‘to my grand daughter Frances Schwartz the daughter of the said Anne Schwartz for and during the term of her natural life’. This is the only information we have about any children born to Charles and Ann Schwartz. Why Frances, of all Mary Gibson’s grandchildren, is singled out for a legacy is unclear: perhaps her father had died and she was the only grandchild without a male provider? Perhaps the Schwartz family had fallen on hard times, or perhaps Frances was simply a favourite grandchild. The fact that no record of Frances Schwartz’ birth or baptism (or that of any other child born to her parents) has come to light could mean that they lived in one of the parishes whose records have yet to be digitised. Or it might be that they attended one of the German Lutheran churches in London whose records or less easy to access.
When I first read Mary Gibson’s will, I wondered if Mary Gibson had got her facts slightly wrong. Because, of course, I was already aware of a Frances Schwartz who was another of Mary’s grandchildren, except that Schwartz was her married not her maiden name. She was the daughter, not of Ann but of her older sister Elizabeth. And that brings me on to the second set of records.
(2) John Godfrey Schwartz and Frances Collins
The second set of records relate to the John Godfrey Schwartz who married Frances Collins. On Wednesday 8th May 1776, ‘G John Godfrey Schwartz’ was apprenticed to Paul Amsinck, a merchant of Steel Yard, London. As I’ve noted before, Paul Amsinck belonged to a family of London merchants of German origin. A number of contemporary records describe him (or possibly his father, who bore the same name) as the London agent for the Hanse towns, that is to say the Northern European trading centres of the Hanseatic League. He seems to have traded in tobacco with the American colonies, and also acted ascommissary for the Royal Wine Company at Oporto in Portugal. In 1812 it was reported that Mr Paul Amsinck had died at Norwich, in his 79th year, meaning that he was born in about 1733 and was of the same generation as my 5 x great grandmother Elizabeth Gibson and her sister Ann Schwartz.
I’m almost certain that G John Godfrey Schwartz, apprentice London merchant, is identical to the John Godfrey Schwartz who, on 27th May 1780, married Frances Collins at the church of St Botolph Bishopsgate. As I mentioned above, my theory is that Frances was the daughter of my 5 x great grandmother Elizabeth Collins née Gibson and her first husband John Collins. Frances was born in Darby Street, off Rosemary Lane, and christened at St Botolph Aldgate in 1759. She would have been 21 years old in 1780, a fairly normal marriageable age. I also believe that John Godfrey Schwartz was her first cousin, the daughter of her mother’s sister Ann and husband Charles Gottfried Schwartz. However, since no record of John Godfrey’s birth has come to light, I can’t yet prove this.
The only evidence we have is circumstantial. Charles Gottfried Schwartz and Ann Gibson were married in 1754, so if John Godfrey was their son, he could have been anything up to 25 years old. A lot depends on his age when he started and finished his apprenticeship. If , as seems likely, he is the same person who was apprenticed to Paul Amsinck in 1776, then it must have been a short apprenticeship, and perhaps he was 21 or 22 when he was married in 1780, meaning he would have been born in about 1759. So the groom’s age certainly fits with the theory that he was the son of Charles and Ann Schwartz.
Other circumstantial evidence includes the fact that Elizabeth, the mother of Frances Collins, would name one of her own sons (from her second marriage to Joseph Holdsworth) Godfrey, a fairly unusual name at the time. Then (as we shall see) there is the fact that a John Godfrey Schwartz married a granddaughter of another Gibson sister, Frances, the husband of Captain Michael. And the fact of this later marriage demonstrates that marrying one’s cousin was a common enough occurrence at the time, certainly in this family.
As I’ve noted before, the home parishes of the bride and groom are of some interest. John Godfrey Schwartz is said to be ‘of this parish’ – i.e. St Botolph Bishopsgate, which is not remarkable, given that presumably he was now working as a merchant in the City of London. However, it might provide us with a clue as to where his parents had been living. Frances Collins’ home parish – Romford – is more intriguing. By this date, 1780, her mother Elizabeth had been married to her second husband, Joseph Holdsworth, for seventeen years, and was now living in the village of South Weald in Essex. Romford, still at that date a small country town, was only seven or so miles away. If this really is Elizabeth’s daughter, it raises the question of where she lived after her mother’s second marriage. To begin with, Frances must surely have lived in South Weald with her mother and stepfather, since she would have been only four years old. But what about later, when she was a young woman? Might she have gone to live with a relative with a house nearby? Did her father John Collins bequeath her property of her own? Or were her parents’ circumstances such that she had to seek work as a governess or even, like young women in later poorer generations of the Holdsworth family, as a domestic servant?
The records for John Godfrey Schwartz and Francis Collins begin and end with their marriage. I’ve come across no record any children born to them, nor are they mentioned in any tax records, or in any family wills that I’ve come across. In fact, the Schwartz trail goes completely cold for another thirty years, until the next batch of records.
(3) John Godfrey Schwarts and Mary Ann Bonner
We pick up the scent in 1813, when, on 26th September, a John Godfrey Schwarts (sic) marries a certain Mary Ann Bonner at the church of St George the Martyr in Southwark. Mary Ann was almost certainly the daughter of John William Bonner and his wife Sarah Ford. She was christened at St Dunstan’s Stepney on 6th October 1793, meaning she would have been twenty years old when she married John Schwarts or Schwartz. John William Bonner was the son of Michael Bonner and his wife Frances Bonner née Gibson, the sister of Ann Schwartz née Gibson.
So who is this John Godfrey Schwartz? When I first came across this marriage record I thought that, given the identical name, it might be a second marriage for the person who married Frances Collins in 1780. But if my calculations are correct, that John Schwartz would have been in his early fifties by the time he married the twenty-year-old Mary Ann Bonner. This wouldn’t have been unheard of at the time, but it’s certainly less likely, especially as the marriage record and record of the banns both clearly describe this John Godfrey Schwartz as a bachelor. And let’s not forget that the first John Godfrey Schwartz, the man who married Frances Collins, would have been Mary Ann’s uncle. It’s much more likely that John Godfrey and Frances Schwartz named one of their children John Godfrey after his father and that he was born some time in the 1780s or even the early 1790s. And, as we’ve seen, marriage between first cousins was by no means unusual in this family.
Fortunately, there are more records for this John Godfrey Schwartz and his family than for the man I assume to have been his father. On 5th August 1814, John Godfrey and Mary Ann Schwarts had a daughter named Marianne Frances baptised at the church of St Mary Whitechapel. The child appears to have been named after her mother and either her grandmother, Frances Schwartz, or her great grandmother, Frances Bonner. We learn that the couple live at Roadside which, as I’ve noted before, means a section of Whitechapel High Street, and that John Schwarts worked as a clerk.
The family seems to have moved rather frequently. Two years later, in 1816, they were living in Limehouse when their daughter Sarah, obviously named after Mary Ann’s mother Sarah Bonner, was christened at St Anne’s church. By now, John Schwarts was describing himself as a gentleman. By 1818 the Schwarts family had crossed the river and was living in Graham Street, Walworth, when their son John Edward was born. He was christened at St Mary Newington in June of that year, and again John Godfrey Schwarts described himself in the record as a gentleman.
Yet another move preceded the birth of a fourth child, this time to Patriot Square in Bethnal Green. Emma Schwarts was christened at St Matthew’s church on 9th April 1820. Of course, Bethnal Green was very different at that time to the place it would be even a few decades later: it was still semi-rural and there are a number of other ‘gentlemen’ mentioned in the parish register. By the time their last child, Francis Daniel, was christened at St Dunstan’s church, Stepney, in September 1822, John and Mary Ann Schwarts had moved to Mile End Old Town, which was also a very respectable address at that period: Bowes John Gibson, great uncle to both John and Mary Ann, and a wealthy East India Company official, had died there four years earlier. The Schwarts family was still living there when Emma died, aged 4, in 1824.
Mary Ann Schwarts was buried on 5th October 1829 at St Dunstan’s church, Stepney. Her burial record states that she was thirty-six years old when she died, confirming that she was born in 1793 and providing further evidence that she was the daughter of John William and Sarah Bonner.
I haven’t found a burial record for John Godfrey Schwarts, but it seems likely that he survived his wife and that he moved house yet again before his own death, some time before 1834. On 5th May in that year, his son John Edward was apprenticed to George Sparks, a loriner (see this post). He was said to be the son of John Godfrey Schwarts, ‘late of 17 Swan Street, Minories, dec’d’.
I’ve written about the children of John Godfrey and Mary Ann Schwartz before. In 1841 their daughter Marianne was working as a governess and lodging in Well’s Yard, Whitechapel. Interestingly, the seaman in whose house she was living was said to have been born in foreign parts. His first names was Charles and his surname, though difficult to decipher, looks distinctly Germanic: it might be Konhertz. That’s the last record I’ve found for Marianne. Nor have I come across any trace of John Edward after his apprenticeship in 1834. Their sister Sarah is supposedly the Sarah Swatts (sic) who married Lancashire power loom weave Mitchell Rothwell Ramsden in 1836. They eventually emigrated to Utah.
That leaves Frances Daniel Schwarts, about whom we know rather more. In 1851 he was a twenty-eight-year old painter lodging in Wentworth Street, Whitechapel. Five years later, on 1st September 1856, when he was thirty four, Francis married twenty-six-year old Bath-born Sarah Eliza Boice, daughter of a carpenter named William Boice, at St Philip’s, Bethnal Green. The marriage record gives an insight into the career of Francis’ late father, John Godfrey Schwarts: he is described here as an ‘interpreter of languages’.
Francis and Sarah Schwarts had five children and moved almost as often as Francis’ parents. In 1861 they were living in Green Dragon Yard, Whitechapel, where Francis was still working as a painter. He was in the same line of work ten years later, when the census found them living in Little Guildford Street, Bloomsbury. In 1881 they were back in Whitechapel, in Finch Street, but Francis was now working as a cellarman. His son George worked as a porter, daughter Miriam as a milliner and youngest son Daniel as a machine boy. Clearly, John Godfrey Schwarts had not been able to leave enough money to set his younger son up in a profession, and certainly not to describe himself, as his father did, as a ‘gentleman’. It’s interesting that the Schwarts family had a boarder in Finch Street, a German-born widow and former nurse, aged 72, by the name of Gracie (?) Vogell. Was this another sign of a continuing connection with the London German community?
A further decline in status seems in evidence in the 1891 census record, which finds the family at St George’s House, Whitechapel, where Francis, now 68, is working as a port messenger, his wife Sarah as a dressmaker, son George as a general labourer, daughter Miriam as a ‘stamp looker through’ at a station and Emily as a waitress in an inn. By this time Daniel had married his wife Amelia and was living in College Buildings, Whitechapel, and working as a drapery packer. They had a young son: John Francis Godfrey Schwartz.
Frances Daniel Schwartz died in 1894, at the age of 71, in Whitechapel. That seems an appropriate point at which to bring the curtain down, for now, on the Schwartz family. If my speculations have any substance, and the John Godfrey Schwartz who married Mary Ann Bonner was the son of the John Godfrey Schwartz who married Frances Collins – and if he was the son of the Charles Gottfried Schwartz who married Ann Gibson – then the family experienced a steep decline in its fortunes in the course of three or four generations. Ann Gibson was the daughter of a London coal factor (my 6 x great grandfather John Gibson) who owned a country estate in Essex, and it’s likely that her husband Charles Schwartz was also a merchant. Certainly their son John Godfrey was apprenticed to an important German-born merchant, Paul Amsinck. His son, the second John Godfrey Schwartz, married the daughter of John William Bonner, who had also been apprenticed to a merchant and was described on his tombstone as ‘late of His Majesty’s Ordnance Office, Tower’. But John, despite describing himself as a gentleman, would have one son apprenticed to a trade and the other end up working as a messenger, with the latter’s children employed in various menial occupations in the Victorian East End.
I suppose it demonstrates that the downward mobility experienced by the family of my 5 x great grandmother, Elizabeth Gibson, was by no means unique. She would experience a childhood divided between a London merchant’s home and a country estate, but live to see her children employed as shoemakers and builders.