‘Past Lives’ is the family history blog of Martin Robb, an extremely amateur historian, based in Hitchin, Hertfordshire, England.

The blog is a record of my research into the many and various branches of my family tree. My aim, to adapt the words of E. P. Thompson, is to rescue from obscurity the servants, shoemakers, laundresses and law clerks whose interwoven lives created the conditions for my own.

My father’s family came to London from Aberdeenshire via Yorkshire in the early 19th century, and then slowly moved eastwards until they reached East Ham. My mother’s family also ended up in East Ham, but they have roots in Stepney and the City of London going back at least to the early 17th century, as well as in Bedfordshire, Gloucestershire, Worcestershire, Yorkshire and Sussex.

My father is Peter Ernest Robb (b. 1933), son of Arthur Ernest Robb (1897 – 1979) and Mary Emily Elizabeth Webb (1898 – 1965). My mother is Joyce Alma Londors (b. 1933), daughter of George John Londors (1896 – 1961) and Minnie Louisa Roe (1902 – 1987). My father’s family tree also includes the surnames French, Bowman, Larke, Seager and Monteith, while my mother’s includes Blanch, Holdsworth, Gibson, Greene, Byne, Manser and Fowle, among many others.

You can search this site by clicking on the names in the list of surnames (recent posts appear first) or by entering a name or other key word in the ‘search’ box.

Click on the tabs below the header image for summaries of the individual branches of my family tree.

Family history is essentially a collaborative endeavour, and comments are always welcome, especially from relatives, however distant, and those researching the same families, periods and places. Contributions will always be acknowledged.

You can email me at:


The header image is from a 1615 map of Stepney.

46 Responses to About

  1. Jon Axtell says:

    I see from a Google Alert that you mentioned William Axtell, husband of Hannah Sarah Parker in your Joseph Priestley Roe in 1871 blog entry. If you are interested you can have a look at my website where I have information on their descendents, and William’s family.

    See http://www.axtell-surname.org.uk/fam2250.html

    Jon Axtell – familytree@jonaxtell.me.uk

  2. Richard Seager says:

    Hi Martin, I’m from New Zealand and a descendent of Edward William Seager. I’m happy to exchange information with you.

    • Michael Batchelor says:

      Hello Richard, my great-grandfather was EWS. His daughter Ethel Wilson married Harry Stacpoole Batchelor. One of their sons was Norman Seager Stacpoole Batchelor who married Thelma Spence Thompson in 1928 and I was born 30 August 1935 in Christchurch.
      Today,10 April 2010 there has been a small Seager family re-union organised by Brian Seager and his wife May. It took place at Sharon Seager’s home in Te Puke, near Tauranga where I live.
      One of my sons is Richard and my other son’s eldest is Owen – a mildly interesting coincidence.
      I am a semi- retired lawyer – 4 days a week.
      I gather that you are Edward’s son who was there today.

  3. alan affleck says:

    Hi martin
    I came across your site by accident and found the name of samuel affleck mason of dumfries.
    I believe this to be my ancestor who came to london in 1825.
    He married a sarah taylor, I am not sure of the connection to your family.

  4. Julie Campbell says:

    Hello Martin,
    We are following your blog here is Australia, would you like details of Richard Roe ( son of Eliza and Daniel ) to add to your pages.

  5. Michael John Robb says:

    Hi Martin,
    In your blog on the Robb Family Bible you wonder whether the descendants of ‘Joseph John (born 1880) who married Alice and had a son Arthur’ might have the family bible.
    Joseph John Robb (7/2/1880 – 29/3/1950) was my Grandfather. He married Mary Alice Tyler on 23/9/1911. Their only child was Arthur Charles Robb (3/1/1914 – 1/12/1989), my father, who married Constance Eleanor Arthy on 1/7/1939. I am their eldest child born 13/2/1949.
    My father did a lot of investigation into his family tree, and, like you, had a copy of the note you reproduce in your blog, but we do not have the Family Bible itself.
    I would be happy to discuss in detail any aspects of our family history, shared or otherwise.

  6. Toban Wild says:

    Hi Martin, I found you’re blog while Googling ‘John Rodbard’ – a gentleman I had claimed for my own family as husband of a Maria Blanch in my family tree. I also had James Blanch, born 1755 in Holborn, as the father of my Maria and her siblings (one of whom was my 4xgreat-grandmother). The information you posted on your blog is remarkably different to the particulars of my family, so I am positive that they are not the same Blanchs, however, we have both seemed to hold James Blanch (1755) as our respective ancestor. I would be very happy to communicate with you to see whether we can rectify this situation and establish a connection (if there is one) or at least to confirm where James belongs (I’m willing to concede that I was mistaken in accepting Mr. Rodbard as the husband of my Maria, given the census and parish register evidence you’ve put forward – even though the signatures of ‘Maria Blanch’ on her marriage to John and ‘Marian Rodbard’ witnessing David’s marriage are exceptionally dissimilar). Incidentally, I possess a copy of the Will of John Rodbard from 1829 and on of William Blanch (father of 1755 James) from 1763 (unfortunately, this does not give much family details, only naming his wife and two children, as neither of them were old enough to be married, it cannot be confirmed where James belongs by William’s grandchildren). I think I’ve rambled for quite long enough, and look forward to our future communications.

  7. Maria Hopper says:

    I see you have a Caleb Roe, I have a Caleb Roe b. NY City ca. 1840 son of Edward Roe b. 1778-80 in England. Any relation? Maria

  8. Niki says:

    Hi there Martin

    I came cross your website when I “Google”d St Mary’s Haggerston, and have taken the liberty of poaching the image since it is the best on the Internet that I have found. One of my relatives was baptised at St Mary’s in 1830. I am sure you will forgive me since although we are not related, our relatives were doubtless neighbours (am still trawling to see if there is not in fact a link). Thank you very much!

    Good website, by the way. Nice images, direct & straighforward, no irritating bells and whistles.

    All the best and keep up the good work!

  9. Deborah says:

    I commented at two of your posts relating to Rev. James GAMMACK. My husband’s brother died recently and I am in the process of putting together a GAMMACK Family book for his two surviving sons and their sons.

    May I have your permission to include these two posts – stories, if you will – in my book, of course crediting you as the source?

    It is interesting: A FRENCH married into the GAMMACK family, and I have FRENCH down my line. I will have to check your lines and see if there are any connections.

    Nice blog! Very interesting!! And the photos are beautiful!

    Are you still in Scotland?

    • betsy gammack cappelletti says:

      Hello, My grand father was Rev John Wilson Gammack(born March 1869, Drumlithe Scotland) rector of St Pauls Episcopal Church Glen Cove Long Island.
      My great Grandfather was Rev James Gammack
      Rev Arthur Gammack (Yale Alummi) was the brother of Rev John Wilson Gammack
      ApparentlyJames Gammack of Aberchirder, Baniff 1846 was a very famous clock maker.
      Is any of this helpful? I would love to hear from you via my email address
      Betsy Gammack Cappelletti

      • Sandy Robert Gammack Pratt says:

        I am related to the Gammacks you refer to. Need to check out my genealogy papers to remember relationships,
        Sandy Robert Gammack Pratt
        Email: srgpratt@hotmail.com

      • Martin says:

        Hi Sandy
        I haven’t looked at the Gammacks, or indeed any of my Aberdeenshire ancestors, for a while. Hope you find my information on them useful. I’d be interested to know if you’ve got any additional information about them and their connection with my Robb ancestors. Best wishes. Martin

  10. Patricia( Pat ) Mai Tennent (nee Webb) says:

    I am the granddaughter of Alfred Webb and Ellen Hinson. Alfred born 18 Mar 1884 was a policeman in London. He was youngest brother of George, Virtue, Alice etc.
    My family migrated to Australia in 1949 and live in Toowoomba, Queensland.
    Alfred and Ellen had two sons, George and Frank. I would be very happy to give you further information.

    • Martin says:

      Hello Pat and thank you for the comment. It’s good to hear from you. I’ve only just entered the information about Alfred and Ellen on my family tree, so you’re very quick off the mark! I’d certainly be grateful for any more information about Alfred, and also if you know anything about his parents and family in London. I’m almost certain know that my great grandfather George Webb was Alfred’s brother, but I’m trying to find out more about their mother and father – and keeping coming up against a brick wall.
      Best wishes

  11. Patricia( Pat ) Mai Tennent (nee Webb) says:

    Hi Martin. I have Alfred’s birth certificate and his parents were George Webb and Elizabeth Knight. You had the right info re the 1881 and 1891 census but the wrong Elizabeth. I also have a copy of the marriage between George and Elizabeth and George’s father was John Webb and Elizabeth’s William Knight. George and Elizabeth were married in Stepney in Oct 1865. My father Frank Harold Webb married May Henrietta Leonard on 26th Dec 1935 and they had two boys and two girls. One boy died aged 6 weeks but the rest of us are still alive and kicking. Dad’s brother George had three sons, one died a few years ago but the other two are still living in England. I am very happy to get more news about the more recent family. Cheers Pat

  12. Morgan Webb says:

    Hello. Are you connected to these Holdsworth/Webb connections
    Sidney Webb (b.? d.21.5.47) m Lydia Harriet Holdsworth (b.? d. 7.12.34)
    Seem common enough names but like your family seemed to marry each other!
    They were my great grand parents.
    My grand father was Sidney William Webb (b.1901 d.1974)
    All the best.

  13. Deborah says:

    Betsy, I would love to exchange information with you but have no email for you.

  14. Just writing to say that you made a small typo, it’s not the 1939 photograph of Charing Cross but 1839 🙂
    I like your blog, I have a similar kind of blog for my family history research, but it’s in Dutch.

  15. Greg Holdsworth says:

    My grandfather is Alex Beresford Speedy Holdsworth (b 11 Nov 1915) who i think is also descended from Joseph Godfrey Holdsworth – although i can not make the link via Sir Charles Holdsworth or other. Grew up near Castle Point, Masterton, NZ.

  16. Elizabeth Cherry says:

    Hello Martin,
    I chanced upon your blog and see you have an interest in the Bonners. I am a direct Bonner descendant from Michael and Frances via their other son Michael b 1768 in Stepney. Michael jnr married Eleanor Trantum Sayle and had a large family. They moved across the water to Rotherhithe . Michael jnr was a wealthy mariner and died in 1810. I believe he is also mentioned in the will of Michael snr. but have to delve among papers hiding at the back of various cupboards to check that out.
    I have taken the liberty of e mailing the link to your blog to other Bonner relations who are also into family history. I suspect they will be in touch, one is far more knowledgeable than I.

    Its good to touch base with a fellow researcher especially one from East Ham, I am from that area myself and of similar age! I also had a Saturday job in East Ham library before teaching at Lathom Rd School! We must have passed each other in the street back in the day!
    Good luck with it all

  17. Jill Crawford says:

    Hi Martin,
    I am one of the “other Bonner relations” referred to by Libby (above).
    I am particularly interested in Bonner connections with the East India Company and am happy to exchange information with you although I think you probably have most of the data I have.
    Your “Past Lives” is fascinating and so beautifully illustrated – I’ve spent most of this morning reading it! Congratulations and may you discover much more about your families.
    Best wishes,
    Jill Crawford

  18. Sue Terry says:

    You mention some of your ancestors lived at 9 Roding Cottages, Ilford. Two generations of my ancestors lived at 1 Roding Cottages. My great grandfather also worked at the cemetery as a gardener. I’ve looked on Google Maps – the site of Roding Cottages is now a car park. I wonder if you have any old photos of Roding Cottages? They were at quite an unusual location by a river and a railway line. Please email me if you have any photos of the cottages.

    • jon Newman says:

      I too would like to find Roding Cottages, but for an entirely different reason. I am trying to find what is listed as the “Osler Beds, Roding Cottages”. Apparently there are two world war two unexploded bombs lying there. modern day maps don’t show Roding cottages or the Osler Beds. I think the area is now called Roding Court on Mill Road, can any one help?

  19. Jan Addison says:

    Hi Martin,

    I’m descended from William Henry Blanch.

    I don’t know if you’ve heard from Robin Blanch lately but he and I have information we believe pertains to James Blanch (son of James Blanch and Jane Barlow). Has he mentioned this connection with Australia to you?


    Jan Addison.

    • Martin says:

      Hi Jan

      Thanks for your comment.

      Yes, I was in touch with Robin about this last year. It does look as though it’s the same James Blanch, doesn’t it? Do you have any further information / evidence to support this story?

      Robin and I are still trying to find out where James Blanch senior (the one who married Jane Barlow, and later Sophia) came from – his origins seem very elusive!

      Best wishes

  20. Jan Addison says:

    Hello Martin,

    I’m not sure what Robin has passed on to you. I have a copy of William Barlow’s will which states he was a patternmaker as was his son-in-law James Blanch snr. James and his wife Ann lived in Compton Street, Soho in a house which had been left to her by her father William.

    If you are interested contact me at janandgeoff@westnet.com.au.

    Best regards,

  21. Ben Stables says:

    Hello, I am currently researching the history of Shelf and I have some Mortimers that lived in Stanage near to Giles Hill earlier than your John Mortimer. Could you please email me at benstables@hotmail.co.uk so we can compare information? Thanks, Ben Stables

  22. Kim Caicco says:

    Hello Martin,
    I too have connections to the surname Webb. I have very little information at the moment but continue to search in hopes of finding more connections. The Webbs that I am searching are Frederick Alexander Webb b. 1862 Chelmsford, Essex who married Julia Moore b about 1865 Bethnal Green (daughter of Jane Moore). They married at St Thomas, Bethnal Green Feb 3, 1884. They had 8 children… Julia B 1884, Lilian 13, Mar 1886, Frederick 1888, Florence Alice 17 Sept 1889, Jessie 10 Aug 1892, Nellie 1894, Charles 1897 and Beatrice Gertrude 2 May 1899. All were born in Bethnal Green.
    I have been fortunate enough to have found two new 2nd cousins who are the granddaughters of Lilian and Jessie. My Grandmother was Beatrice. I will be meeting for the very first time one of my new cousins when she visits Canada from the UK!! I am so very excited.
    From the marriage certificate of Frederick and Julia, I know that his father was Joseph and his occupation was carman. I have been unable to find his Mother”s name.
    Census records for Frederick and Julia tell me that they resided at 29 White St, Bethnal Green (1891) and 151 Vallance Rd, Bethnal Green (1901). Frederick was a blacksmith (farrier) and Juia was a laundress.
    I wonder if you or any of your other readers might be related?
    You may email at kim.caicco@rogers.com

    • Martin says:

      Hi Kim. Thanks for the comment. I don’t know whether your Webbs are related to my own ancestors – though, as you may have seen, it’s possible that a Bethnal Green carman named Joseph Webb was an ancestor of mine. I’ll certainly follow this up, and let you know if I come across any connections.
      Best wishes

  23. Kim Caicco says:

    Hi Martin, Thank you for replying to my posting. Your website is so interesting. I appreciate you taking the time to follow up for me. Looking forward to what you might discover.

  24. Joel says:

    Hey Martin,
    Found some very useful info about Whittingham Wood (bet no-one’s ever said that before…) on your website – so thanks for the solid research. In particular, I was wondering where you sourced the Younger Wood’s will from? – Incidentally, along with Whittingham, Mascall and Owen were on the Kent Commission for ejecting scandalous ministers in the 50s.
    Thanks, Joel

    • Martin says:

      Hi Joel
      Glad you found the information useful – it’s a fascinating period in history and these people were obviously at the heart of the religious and political disputes of their day. I found the younger Whittingham’s will at the National Archives – I think it might have been catalogued under the wrong name, and I seem to remember sending them a note about this. I’ll send a copy to your email address. In return, have you got a source for your info about the Kent Commission?
      Best wishes

      • Joel says:

        Sorry for the late reply! Thanks for that – they seem to have updated their records now. Members of the ejector commission in Kent were listed in the legislation which can be found here:
        Definitely was an interesting period in local history, it seems as if this aspect of Kentish society was quite factional at this point.
        Thanks again,

  25. Rosemary O'Neil says:

    Dear Mr Robb,

    Re your post of 17 February 2011, you show the wrong picture of Glasgow University. Given their dates, your ancestors worked at the old uni when it was situated on High Street (near the junction with what is now Duke Street and now called Collegelands). The new university shown in the picture you displayed was build on Gilmorehill in the west end in the second half of the 19th century when the environment surrounding the old university in the centre of the old city became too unpleasant due to the effects of the industrial revolution and the consequent great increase in population, which was exacerbated by famine in both Ireland and the Highlands. You will find pictures of the old university in High Street online.

    Hope this is helpful.

    Yours sincerely,
    Rosemary O’Neil

    • Martin says:

      Thank you for drawing this to my attention, Rosemary. I shall endeavour to find a more accurate image forthwith.

  26. Guy Ellis says:

    Hi – I am researching the HMS Gloucester built at Limehouse in 1654 and would like to know please where you obtained the early map of London that you have on your site

  27. Hi Martin, In your search for James Blanch records, did you ever run into another James Blanch married to Nancy Ann Browne (1753-1827). This James Blanch was a hosier. Blanch-Browne family had similar children names: Nancy (1777), James (1778), Henry (1780), Catherine (1781), Maria (1783), William Henry (1785), Frances Swaile (1787), John (1789), Charles (1792), and Hannah (1794). The first six kids were christened at Saint Martin in the Fields, Westminister, Frances, John, and Charles christened at St. James Westminister, and Hannah christened at St. Dunstan in the East. I am a direct descendant via Catherine (1781) and Henry Hanson. Frances Swaile Blanch married Thomas Fitzgerald and Hanna Blanch married William Thomas Woodlam.

    Hopefully, you might have something on my James Blanch in your research notes.

    Robert van Haastert
    Eagle River, Alaska

  28. Lucy Swift says:

    HI Martin, I just tried to email you in regards to Simeon Warner Millard but it does not seem to like the email address listed above

  29. Paul Manser says:

    Hi Martin. I may have information about the Manser family that I traced as far back as Rye to 1720. I will email you shortly. Possibly the link to the manser family from Wadhurst?

  30. Pete Carney says:

    Hi Martin, great website. I’m a descendant of Joseph Holdsworth (brother of Keziah) who married Elizabeth Cuzens and son of John Holdsworth and Eliza Jane Webb. Much useful information here and obviously a lot of research has gone into this.. Give me a yell if want the Australian side, in brief, Joseph and Elizabeth migrated to Geelong Vic in 1854 with their daughter Emily.

    • Martin says:

      Hi Pete
      Thanks for making contact. If you know anything about Joseph’s origins in Oxford, or have any old family photos, that would be really interesting. Best wishes, Martin.

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