Yesterday I made an important discovery about my maternal great great grandfather, Daniel Roe. I’ve managed to find out a great deal about Daniel and his family, but until now I hadn’t known when he died, or where he was buried, despite searching for this information for a number of years.

Born in Biggleswade, Bedfordshire in 1829, Daniel was the son of shoemaker Daniel Roe senior and his wife, Stepney-born Eliza Holdsworth. Following the death of his father, the family came to London, where in 1848 Daniel married his second cousin, Mary Ann Blanch, the daughter of Bethnal Green shoemaker John Blanch and his wife Keziah Holdsworth (the cousin of Daniel’s mother Eliza). 

                 Victorian shoemaker’s shop

Like his father and father-in-law (to whom he may have been apprenticed), Daniel Roe worked as a shoemaker, at first in Bethnal Green and later in Great Crown Court, Soho – in the parish of St James, Westminster – where he and Mary Ann moved, together with their children, and with Mary Ann’s parents, in the 1850s. Daniel and Mary Ann had five children: Kezia Eliza (1850), Daniel Ellis (1854), Mary Ann Blanch (1857), John Richard (1859) and finally, in 1862, my great grandfather Joseph Priestley Roe

I’ve known for some time that Mary Ann’s father John Blanch died in December 1869, and was buried on 22nd of that month at the City of London and Tower Hamlets Cemetery. I also knew that Mary Ann herself had died on 7th December 1870, at the age of 34, at Dufours Place, which was off Broad Street in Soho. The cause of her death was phthisis, or tuberculousis. I’ve always assumed that Daniel must also have died around this time, since at the time of the 1871 census his and Mary Ann’s children were living with their widowed grandmother, Keziah Blanch née Holdsworth, in Broad Street. But until yesterday, I’d been unable to find any record of Daniel’s death, or his whereabouts from the mid-1860s onwards.

The breakthrough came yesterday as I was researching the Roe family of Luton (see the last two posts), following up on leads provided by a fellow researcher. I found myself looking through the Non-Conformist and Non-Parochial Registers now accessible via Ancestry, initially for evidence of the Baptist affiliation of the Luton Roes. However I then decided to search in the whole archive for members of my own branch of the Roe family, including Daniel. Eventually I came across a reference to the burial record for a ‘Daniel Rowe’ (sic) in Hackney.

I don’t know why I hadn’t found this record before: perhaps the spelling of his surname, or the location (thinking he had died in Westminster) had put me off. But when I looked up the record, there it was: ‘Daniel Rowe’, aged 40, of 8 Great Crown Court, St James, had died – or had been buried – on 20th November 1869, in Victoria Park Cemetery in Hackney. Searching further, I discovered that Daniel’s wife Mary Ann was also buried in the same cemetery (presumably in the same grave?) in the following year. 

So I now know that my great great grandfather Daniel Roe died in November 1869, just a month before his father-in-law John Blanch, and that my great great grandmother Mary Ann Roe née Blanch lived for a year as a widow, before her own death just over twelve months later. When his parents died, their youngest child – my great grandfather Joseph Priestley Roe – would only have been seven or eight years old.

Entrance to Meath Gardens (via tower hamlets.gov.uk)

Despite its Hackney address, Victoria Park Cemetery was actually in Bethnal Green, close to where the Blanch and Roe families had lived before moving to Soho. Any hope of finding my ancestors’ graves was dashed by the discovery that the cemetery was closed in the 1870s and later turned into a public park – now known as Meath Gardens. Apparently all that now remains of the burial ground is its entrance arch. 

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