A memorandum written by my great great grandfather William Robb in June 1880, when he was sixty-six years old, and entered in the family Bible, includes a list of  ‘my brothers and sisters who lived to grow up’. The first entry in the list is for ‘Charles Edward who was born in 1809 and died in 1836 (Sept.) Fever.’ A separate document, also included in the family Bible, provides more details of the births, marriages and deaths of each of his siblings. In relation to his brother Charles Edward we read:

Born at Whitby Wednesday 7 February, Baptized

Feb 21st 1810. Died 27 September 1836. Age 26 years.

Buried at St.Martin in the Fields.

I’ve often tried, unsuccessfully, to discover more about Charles Edward Robb. I made another attempt more recently, in my quest to establish where my Robb ancestors were living when they first came to London. In a recent post, I mentioned new evidence that my 3rd great grandparents Charles and Margaret Robb (parents of William and Charles Edward) may have lived at 63 Lincoln’s Inn Fields on their arrival in London from Yorkshire, before moving to 29 Charing Cross by the time of the 1841 census. I wondered if finding Charles Edward’s address at the time of his premature death in 1836 might help to clarify the Robb family’s movements around London at this period.

Having failed to find any record of Charles Edward Robb’s death or burial in the available records online, I tried to order a copy of his death certificate from the General Register Office, only to discover that their records only begin in 1837 – the year after Charles’ death.  Frustrated, I returned to the records of births, marriages and deaths accessible online, and tried a different approach: just entering the surname ‘Robb’ without any other names, but searching for 1836 or thereabouts, and for the London / Middlesex area.

The burial of Robert Charles Robb, 2nd October 1836 (via findmypast.co.uk)

I was surprised to come across a record that closely matched the information for Charles Edward Robb. On 2nd October 1836, just five days after Charles’ death, a twenty-seven-year-old man was buried at the church of St Martin in the Fields. His address was given as Charing Cross, where my Robb ancestors would be living in 1841. The only problem was, his name was given not as Charles Edward but as Robert Charles Robb.

I’ve checked the parish register and there are no other burials in the parish for anyone with a name that is at all similar between the supposed date of Charles’ death (27th September) and the end of October (there were twenty-three burials in total during this period). Unfortunately, the parish had not yet developed the habit of inserting the deceased’s date of death in the margin, as it did in later years.

How can this be explained? Surely it is too much of a coincidence that another young man named Robb, from Charing Cross, would be buried at the same church in the same week? This must mean that either the parish clerk got the name of the deceased wrong, or his brother entered it wrongly in the family Bible. The former seems much more likely, especially as Charles Edward was not only the name of my 3rd great grandfather, but also of my great grandfather, the son of William Robb.

St Martin in the Fields

If the Robert Charles Robb who was buried at St Martin’s in October 1836 is actually my great great grandfather’s older brother Charles Edward, then it undermines my theory about the family living in Lincoln’s Inn Fields at this period. I based that theory on freemasonry records which find a ‘gentleman’ named Charles Robb registered with a number of London lodges in 1836 and 1837. At least one of these places him at 63 Lincoln’s Inn Fields in October 1837.

I don’t want to give up my theory about the Robbs’ earlier address without further evidence, as it fits so well with other facts about the family. There could be an error in the dating of the freemasonry records. Alternatively, it’s possible that Charles Edward (a.k.a. Robert Charles) Robb, who after all was an adult of twenty-six, was lodging at Charing Cross in 1836, while the rest of his family were still at Lincoln’s Inn Fields.

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