Some time ago I took an Ancestry DNA test, but I have to confess that, so far, it hasn’t resulted in any startling revelations or discovery of new relatives. According to my DNA report, the breakdown of my ethnicity is 82% Great Britain, 5% Western Europe, and the remainder ‘other’. More useful has been making contact with other researchers with whom I have a DNA ‘match’. For the most part, these contacts have confirmed what I already knew about my ancestors, but just occasionally a message from a DNA match can do more than that – and provide firm evidence to support something that hitherto was just a hunch or speculation.
Recently I heard from John Webb, who Ancestry predicted -with ‘extremely high’ confidence -was a third or fourth cousin of mine. It turns out that John’s father was George Alfred Webb (1912 – 1967) and his grandfather was Alfred Webb (1884 – 1943). As I’ve noted before, I’ve had great trouble tracing my Webb ancestors, and have had little confidence in my findings about them, but John’s message has helped to confirm that my most recent speculations were along the right lines.
My grandmother Mary Emily Elizabeth Robb née Webb (centre), with her daughters Grace and Kit, and other family members, some time in the 1920s
To recap: my father, Peter Ernest Robb, who was born in East Ham, London in 1933, is the son of Arthur Ernest Robb (1897 – 1979) and Mary Emily Elizabeth Webb (1898 – 1965), both of whom were born in Stepney. My grandmother Mary Webb was the daughter of Mary French (b.1873), and her husband George Webb (b. 1874). My great grandfather George Webb was born in Shadwell, the son of another George Webb, a house decorator and sometime bricklayer, who was born in 1846. Thanks to information from other researchers, I discovered that George Webb senior – my great great grandfather – was married to Elizabeth Ann Knight.
My great grandmother Mary Webb née French in old age
John Webb’s recent message, and our DNA match, provides confirmation that the above information is correct, since his grandfather Alfred Webb was the younger brother of my grandfather George Webb junior. This means that John is actually my second cousin, once removed. Alfred was christened at the church of St George in the East, Stepney, on 13th April 1884, the parish register confirming that he was the son of George and Elizabeth Ann Webb of 83 Cornwall Street. According to John, Alfred met his wife Ellen Hinson when they were both working at St George’s in the East Infirmary, where she was a ward sister. He later joined the Metropolitan Police Force. They were married at Holy Trinity church, Mile End Old Town, in April 1909. In an earlier post, I stated that Alfred and Ellen had only one son – Frank Harold, born in 1914 – but at that stage I didn’t know about John’s father George Alfred, who had been born two years earlier in 1914. This George Webb married Florence Booth in Hampstead in 1936.
The marriage of my great grandparents, George Webb senior and Elizabeth Ann Knight, in 1865
Receiving new information about the Webb family has prompted me to return to this branch of my family tree. When I last wrote about my great grandfather’s family, I had managed – again, with the help of other researchers working in the same field – to push the Webb family tree back another generation. George Webb and Elizabeth Ann Knight – my great great grandparents – were married on 2nd October 1865 at St Thomas’ church in Stepney. According to the entry in the parish register, George Webb was the son of John Webb, a cooper, and at the time George was following his father’s profession.
My great great grandmother Elizabeth Ann Webb née Knight was born in Stepney in February 1848, the daughter of William Aaron Knight, a lighterman, and his wife Susan Knight née Taylor, who had married two years earlier. Elizabeth seems to have been the eldest of their five children. Some confirmation that this is the ‘right’ Elizabeth is provided by the names of her siblings. Not only did she have a brother named Alfred, but also a sister with the unusual name of Virtue – a name that Elizabeth and her husband George Webb would give to three of their children, as either a first or middle name.
Virtue Buckner, formerly Matthews, née Knight – the sister of my great grandmother Elizabeth Ann Webb, née Knight – with her daughter Virtue Maria, son-in-law Alfred and granddaughter, probably in the 1920s (via Bedlow/Jones family tree at Ancestry)
When Elizabeth’s brother John Henry Knight married Hannah Cropp in 1869, someone with the surname Webb – probably Elizabeth’s husband George, though the first name is scarcely legible – was one of the witnesses. Interestingly, John Henry was said to be a house decorator, like George Webb: did the two brothers-in-law work together? And when Elizabeth’s sister Virtue Knight married her first husband Alfred Matthews in 1872, Elizabeth and George were both witnesses. Alfred Matthews would die in 1880, and a year later Virtue married her second husband, Alfred Buckner.
To sum up: I’m now fairly confident that George Webb and Elizabeth Ann Knight were my great great grandparents, and the parents of my great grandfather George Webb junior. However, an air of uncertainty hangs over the earlier Webb generations, and I plan to revisit what we know about them in a future post.