I’ve written about the political affiliations of some of my ancestors, over at my politics blog, Martin In The Margins.
Yesterday’s announcement by findmypast that they have published more than 1.3 million parish records from Westminster online is a huge cause for celebration among those of us with London ancestors. As the announcement says:
The records cover the vast period 1538-1945, making them a historical goldmine for those with London ancestors. We have made these records available online for the first time.
More than 50 Westminster churches are included in the records published today, including St Anne, Soho, St Clement Danes, St George Hanover Square, St James Westminster, St Margaret Westminster, St Martin-in-the-Fields, St Mary-le-Strand and St Paul Covent Garden.
I have ancestors living in these parishes on both sides of my family, and until now, the search for information about their births, marriages and deaths has been frustrating, to say the least. Since the Westminster collection went ‘live’ yesterday, I’ve already found the burial record for my great-great-great grandmother, Margaret Robb née Monteith, who died at Charing Cross on 1 December 1843 and was buried at St Martin-in-the-Fields on 7 December. And I’ve begun to locate records for my Seager ancestors in the parish records of St Clement Danes.
That parish, covering the eastern end of the Strand and surrounding streets, has been among the most difficult to research until now. On my mother’s side of the family, the new collection at findmypast has already made it possible for me to locate the origins, and family, of Marianne or Mary Ann Burbidge, something I’ve repeatedly failed to do before. She was the wife of Soho carpenter Richard Ellis: their daughters Frances and Sophia married two of the sons of David Blanch, while their younger daughter Mary Ann lived for a time with my great-great-great grandparents John and Kezia Blanch.
We already knew from census records that Marianne Burbidge was born in the parish of St Clement Danes in about 1812, and from her marriage certificate that she was the daughter of Robert Burbidge, a victualler. But until yesterday, all my searches for further records of the family had been in vain. Now, however, I’ve discovered that Marianne was born at the Plough, a tavern in Beaufort Buildings, in the Strand, where her father Robert was the publican. She was christened on 14 November 1813 at the nearby church of St Clement Danes.
Marianne’s mother’s name was Ann, and it’s possible that her parents were the Robert Burbidge and Ann Perkins who were married at St George, Hanover Square, in 1812. This would certainly fit with the date of Marianne’s birth, and we know that she was the eldest of Robert and Ann’s children. She had two siblings that I’ve been able to identify: Charlotte, born in 1816, and John Robert, born in 1818: both were born in Beaufort Buildings and both baptised at St Clement Danes.
Beaufort Buildings was on the southern side of the Strand, roughly where the Savoy Theatre and Hotel stand today. One of its famous former occupants (in the 1780s) was the novelist Henry Fielding, author of Tom Jones.
The National Archives have records from the Sun Fire Office for 27 February 1822, noting the insurance policy of ‘Robert Burbidge Beaufort Buildings victualler’. There’s also a note of ‘other property or occupiers: the Turks Head in Charlotte Street Portland Place (victualler)’ which appears to suggest that Robert owned or leased more than one establishment.
The London Lives website includes records from the Westminster Ratebooks, giving details of the property values of Westminster Electors. There are two entries for Robert Burbidge of Herberts Passage, St Clement Danes and St Mary-le-Strand, for 1818: for one, the rack rent value is 45, for the other 34 (pounds). This suggests either that the Plough stretched across two buildings, or that the Burbidges occupied two properties in the same street.
Herberts Passage was the narrow street that intersected Beaufort Buildings, running parallel to the Strand. It may be simple coincidence that my great-great-grandparents, Daniel and Mary Ann Roe (née Blanch) were living at 4 Herberts Passage in 1856 and in 1859, when their children Mary Ann Blanch Roe and John Richard Roe were born. I believe that Robert Burbidge had died by this date and that the Plough was under new ownership, but perhaps the Burbidge connection helps to explain why the Roes moved to this address from Great Crown Court, Soho, where they had been living in 1853, and where they would be found again, together with Mary Ann’s parents John and Kezia Blanch, in the 1861 census. We know they were in Great Crown Court in 1853, as this was where another son, Daniel junior, was born: perhaps significantly, he was given the middle name Ellis.
My fellow family historian and distant relative Ron Roe has alerted me to a problem with the records for my great-great-great-grandfather, John Blanch. John was a shoe and boot maker in Mile End Old Town, Bethnal Green and finally Soho. He was married to Kezia Holdsworth, and their daughter Mary Ann married Daniel Roe, son of Kezia’s cousin (and my 3 x great grandmother) Eliza Holdsworth. Daniel’s and Mary Ann’s youngest son, Joseph Priestley Roe, was my great-grandfather on my mother’s side.
Until now, we’ve believed that John Blanch was christened at the church of St Andrew, Holborn, on 2 August 1802. This is certainly consistent with his age in later census records. The child baptised on this date was the son of James and Sophia Blanch of Saffron Hill, which ran between Holborn and Clerkenwell Green.
Ron has now found another baptismal record for a John Blanch, son of James and Sophia of Saffron Hill, at the same church on 23 January 1810. This would normally lead us to conclude that the first child had died in infancy, and that a later child in the family had been given the same Christian name. However, I’ve been unable to find a death or burial record for the first John Blanch.
This kind of discovery can make you doubt everything you thought you knew about your ancestor. Is it possible that my 3 x great grandfather wasn’t, after all, the son of James and Sophia Blanch?
I’ve been reviewing what we know about John Blanch, and about his connections with the family of James and Sophia. The first definite record we have for John is his marriage to Kezia at the church of St Anne, Limehouse on 5 July 1827. One of the witnesses to the marriage was Thomas Harrison. It’s a fairly common name, and it might be simple coincidence, but someone of that name would marry Mary Ann Blanch, daughter of James and Sophia (and, on our current understanding, John Blanch’s older sister) in Southwark in the following year. In October 1827, at the same church, Thomas would witness the marriage of William Henry Blanch (who I believe was John’s brother) to Martha Sarah Stokes.
The 1841 census finds John Blanch, Kezia and their young family living in Wellington Street, Mile End Old Town. The census record gives John’s age as 40, which would mean he was born around 1801, though we need to bear in mind the tendency of the 1841 officials to round ages up and down. His county of birth is said to be Middlesex. The 1851 census record, which finds the Blanch family at 2 Green Street, Bethnal Green, is more precise. It gives John’s age as 50, suggesting a similar date of birth, and his place of birth as ‘Middlesex Clerkenwell’. Incidentally, this is exactly how David Blanch, who we believe was John’s brother, describes his birthplace in the same census.
One intriguing and telling detail about the 1851 record is the presence in the Blanch household in Bethnal Green of two-year-old Mary Ann Ellis, who is described as a ‘nurse child’ and as having been born in ‘Middlesex, Soho’. Mary Ann was almost certainly the daughter of carpenter and builder Richard Ellis and his wife Marianne Burbidge of Richmond Street, Soho, two of whose daughters, Frances and Sophia, would marry James George Blanch and David John Blanch respectively. These two were the sons of David Blanch, coach maker of King Street, Soho, the possible brother of John Blanch. The precise nature of the connection between the Blanch and Ellis families, which predates these marriages, remains to be explained. However, although it’s circumstantial rather than conclusive, I believe Mary Ann’s presence in John Blanch’s household is fairly strong evidence of a familial link between John and David Blanch. Further evidence of the Ellis connection would come three years later, when John Blanch’s daughter Mary Ann and her husband Daniel would give their son, also Daniel, the middle name ‘Ellis’.
By 1861, John, Kezia and their family would themselves be living in Soho, in Great Crown Court, just a few streets from where David Blanch and his brother (and coach-making business partner) William Henry lived, though by this date David and his family, as well as his Ellis relatives, had moved to Chelsea. John’s daughter Mary Ann and her husband Daniel Roe were also living in Great Crown Court. In the following year their youngest son, my great-grandfather Joseph Priestley Roe, would be born in Great Windmill Street, where William Henry Blanch had recently lived (he died in 1857 in the adjoining Archer Street) and where the Blanch coach-making business had its premises in Ham Yard. The Blanch family had strong links with Soho: James Blanch lived and worked in this area during his first marriage to Jane Barlow, and a number of his children (John Blanch’s half-siblings?) were born there.
John Blanch died in the parish of St James, Westminster, in the last quarter of 1869. The official record gives his age at the time of death as 69, confirming that he was born in 1800.
If all the evidence confirms this earlier date of birth for John, and at the same time points towards some kind of link with the family of James and Sophia Blanch, then how are we to explain the ‘rogue’ baptismal record of 1810?
It might help to review the other records for the family of James and Sophia. They were married at St Anne’s, Soho, on 21 March 1792. This was James’ second marriage: he already had three children – Maria, Elizabeth Ann and James – by his first marriage to Jane Barlow. James and Sophia’s first child together was Mary Ann, who was born on 6 May 1794 and christened on 1 August that year at the church of St George the Martyr, Southwark. On 26 December 1797 their son Thomas was baptised at St Andrew’s, Holborn. By now, they were living in Saffron Hill. In 1799, James and Sophia were back at St Anne’s, Soho, for the baptism of their daughter Sophia Sarah. She died in the following year and was buried on 21 August 1800 at the Countess of Huntingdon’s Chapel in Spa Fields, Clerkenwell.
As we have seen, on 2 August 1802 John Blanch was baptised at St Andrew’s, Holborn: the family was once again living in Saffron Hill. When their son William Henry was christened at the same church, on 15 April 1804, James and Sophia were said to be living in nearby York Street . However, it’s possible that this was also their address two years earlier and that the parish clerk used ‘Saffron Hill’ as a shorthand for the whole district. James and Sophia were again at York Street when their son Joseph was baptised on 6 December 1807.
When the second John Blanch christening took place in January 1810, the address was once again given as Saffron Hill. When their youngest son David was baptised on 28 May that year, they were said to be in York Street.
The gap of only four months between the second John Blanch christening, and that of his brother David, is curious, and may provide a clue to the mystery that’s bothering me. I think we can dismiss the explanation that David and the ‘second John’ were twins: if so, why not christen them together? But if they weren’t twins, then their baptism dates can’t possibly reflect their dates of birth. Or rather, since later census records all suggest David was actually born in 1810, then the baptism date of the second John can’t reflect his actual birth date. (As we’ve already seen, ‘our’ John was actually born in about 1800, so even the 1802 christening date is a year or two after his actual date of birth.)
So, whatever the explanation for the second John Blanch baptism, it’s certain that this child was born some time before January 1810. It’s possible, but unlikely, that James and Sophia had two sons named John, but distinguished by a different middle name. Another possible explanation is that there was only one child named John, but he was christened twice – though I can’t imagine why this might be.
At this stage, the second John Blanch baptism remains a puzzle. However, I believe there is enough circumstantial evidence to associate my ancestor with the family of James and Sophia, and to continue working on the assumption that John Blanch, shoemaker, was their son.
If anyone has any alternative theories to explain this anomaly, I’d really like to hear from them…
I’m grateful to Ron Roe for pointing out that the three signatures for Thomas Harrison -when he witnessed the marriage of William Henry Blanch in 1825, when he witnessed John Blanch’s marriage in 1827, and at his own marriage to Mary Ann Blanch in 1828 – are identical, thus providing further evidence of John’s connection to this particular Blanch family. (There’s a slight anomaly here, though: why, if they weren’t married until 1828, did Mary sign herself ‘Mary Harrison’ in 1825?)
I’ve also remembered that one of the witnesses to the marriage of John Blanch’s son Joseph James in May 1852 was Richard Ellis: the signature confirms that this is the same person, two of whose daughters would marry two of the sons of Soho coach-maker David Blanch, thus providing further evidence that John Blanch was probably David’s brother. The Joseph James’ wedding took place, of course, a year after the 1851 census, when (as noted above) Richard’s two year old daughter Mary Anne was being nursed, presumably by John’s wife Keziah, at their home in Bethnal Green.
I should also add that the fact that William Henry Blanch and John Blanch were both married at St Anne, Limehouse within two years of each other, is perhaps significant.
I’ve written a fair amount, under various headings, about my great-great-great-great-great grandmother Elizabeth Holdsworth, formerly Collins, née Gibson, who was born in 1733 and died in 1809. However, I thought it might be helpful to put everything we know about her together in one continuous, chronological narrative. There’s still a great deal we don’t know about Elizabeth, but the main outlines of her life are becoming clearer and provide an interesting case study of a certain kind of life in Georgian England. As always, I’m indebted to the work of other researchers, in particular Ron Roe and Adrian Holdsworth.
Firstly, a reminder of my connection to Elizabeth: her son William (1771 – 1830) had a daughter Eliza (1801 -1885 ) who married Daniel Roe (d. 1836). Their son, another Daniel Roe (b. 1829), married Mary Ann Blanch (1827 – 1860), and their youngest son Joseph Priestley Roe (1862 – 1947) was the father of my maternal grandmother, Minnie Louisa Roe (1902 – 1987).
Birth and background
Elizabeth Gibson was born in 1733 in the Minories in the City of London, in the sixth year of the reign of King George II, when Robert Walpole was prime minister. She was christened on 17 May about a half a mile away, at the church of St Botolph without Aldgate. Elizabeth was the third daughter of Lieutenant John Gibson and Mary Greene who had married four years earlier at All Hallows, London Wall. Their elder two daughters were Mary (who did not survive) and Jane.
If his burial record is correct, then John Gibson was born in about 1699, though at this stage we can’t be sure of his parentage or origin, nor do we know much about his occupation, except for his (naval?) rank. Mary was the only surviving daughter of Citizen and goldsmith Joseph Greene (1677 – 1737) and his wife (also Mary) who lived at the corner of Little Tower Hill and the Minories. In fact, Elizabeth was born in her grandparents’ house, though her parents’ home was in nearby Tower Hill. When she was two years old, Elizabeth’s younger sister Frances was born, and two years after that saw the birth of another sister, Ann, both at Tower Hill.
On Boxing Day, 1737, when Elizabeth was four years old, her grandfather Joseph died, leaving the sum of one thousand pounds to her parents. He also left sufficient funds for his widow, Mary, to purchase the house and manor of Woodredon at Waltham Abbey, Essex, from the Duke of Bedford in the following year. Mary Greene immediately transferred the ownership of the manor to her daughter and son-in-law, Elizabeth’s parents.
Although we can’t be sure, it’s safe to assume that Elizabeth spent much of her childhood at Woodredon, which is about fifteen miles north-east of London, and was probably reached in a half a day or so along the main highway via Woodford. We know that the Gibsons retained their house in Tower Hill, since Elizabeth’s younger brother Bowes John Gibson was born there in 1744, as was her youngest sister Sarah in 1746. (In the following year, the Gibsons would have been aware of the crowds thronging to witness the public beheading on Tower Hill of the aged Lord Lovat, in the aftermath of the crushing of the 1745 Jacobite uprising: he was the last person to be executed in this manner.)
First marriage to John Collins
Confirmation that the Gibsons regarded Woodredon, as much as London, as their home came in 1752, when Elizabeth’s older sister married William Coates at nearby Theydon Mount. The parish register describes Jane as coming from Waltham Holy Cross.
Three months later, on 21 February 1753, Elizabeth herself was married at St George’s Chapel, Mayfair, to John Collins. Her address was said to be Waltham Abbey, while the bridegroom was described as a ‘gentleman’ of Epping. John was almost certainly the son of Richard Collins, a landowner with a considerable number of properties in the Epping area, and therefore a near-neighbour of the Gibsons at Woodredon. The reasons for marrying at this particular chapel, which had a reputation for private and secret marriages, are unclear. Since both Elizabeth and John were both still under twenty one, perhaps the marriage did not have the approval of one or both sets of parents?
We know from their mother’s will that the married name of Elizabeth’s younger sister Ann was Schwarz. The most likely marriage took place in August 1754 at the church of St George in the East: the bridegroom was Charles Gottfried Schwartz of that parish.
The only glimpse we have of the brief married life of Elizabeth and John Collins is the record of the baptism of their daughter, Frances, on 8 July 1759, in Elizabeth’s home parish of St Botolph’s. As far as we know, she was their only child. The family’s address is given as Darby Street, off Rosemary Lane and a few streets to the east of Tower Hill and the Minories. Since John Collins was left considerable property in the Epping area, by both his father and his aunt Elizabeth, it seems unlikely that this was the couple’s only home and probable that, like Elizabeth’s parents, they divided their time between town and country.
In January 1761, Elizabeth’s sister Frances married Captain Michael Bonner of Stepney at St Botolph’s church. A year later, the Bonners would themselves be living in Darby Street – perhaps in the same house as John and Elizabeth Collins? – when their first child, John William Bonner, was born.
John Collins must have died some time between 1759 and 1763, when Elizabeth married for a second time. The apparent absence of a burial record for John in the London registers increases the likelihood that the couple also kept a home in a rural parish.
Elizabeth’s father is almost certainly the John Gibson of St Botolph’s, Aldgate, who died of fever and was buried in February 1763 at St Dunstan’s, Stepney. In the following year, Sir John Henneker began to acquire the manor of Woodredon from the Gibson family, though the process was not completed until after the death of Elizabeth’s mother Mary in 1790.
Second marriage to Joseph Holdsworth
On 20 May 1763, in the third year of the reign of King George III, Elizabeth Collins, a widow of thirty, married Joseph Holdsworth, a bachelor, at the church of St Mary Magdalene, Bermondsey. Why this particular church was chosen is unclear, though a number of members of the Gibson and Bonner families lived in the parish at various times. Either Joseph or his father John had been born in Yorkshire and had taken a farm at South Weald, Essex. How Elizabeth met Joseph is another mystery, though we know that members of the Collins family owned land in neighbouring villages and it’s possible that Elizabeth knew of Joseph via her first husband.
Three years later, in 1766, Elizabeth’s younger brother Bowes John Gibson married Elizabeth Hendly at St Dunstan’s, Stepney. By this stage, it is likely that their widowed mother Mary had moved, with her unmarried offspring, to Mile End Old Town. Bowes John and his wife Elizabeth were certainly paying land tax on a house there in 1766-67, and a Mary Gibson on a separate house in 1768.
Over the course of the next ten years, Joseph and Elizabeth Holdsworth would have seven children, all of them christened at the church of St Peter’s, South Weald: Elizabeth, born in 1764; John, 1765; Henry, 1766; Sarah, 1767; Joseph, 1770; William, 1771; and Godfrey, 1773. During this period Joseph served as a parish councillor, overseer of the poor, and leet jury member.
In June 1780, a month before the Gordon riots erupted in London, Frances Collins of Romford (only a few miles from South Weald) married John Godfrey Schwartz at St Botolph, Bishopsgate, a church that would later be the location for the marriages of two of Joseph and Elizabeth Holdsworth’s children. My theory is that Frances was the Elizabeth’s daughter from her first marriage to John Collins (see above), and that John Godfrey was the son of Elizabeth’s sister Ann and her husband Charles Gottfried Schwartz. In October of that same year, Joseph and Elizabeth Holdsworth’s oldest child, Elizabeth, died in South Weald; she was fourteen years old.
In April 1788, Mrs Mary Gibson, a widow of Mile End Old Town, composed her last will and testament, in which she left her daughter Elizabeth Holdsworth an annuity of five pounds, as well as her second largest punch bowl and ‘the plates with parrots’. Mary Gibson, née Greene, died in 1790 and was buried on 26 October at St Dunstan’s, Stepney. Her youngest daughter Sarah, who never married, had been buried ten days earlier at the same church: she was 44 years old and was said to have suffered a ‘decline’. In her will, composed in 1789, the year of the French Revolution, Sarah had left her older sister Elizabeth the sum of one hundred pounds.
All of Joseph and Elizabeth’s surviving children seem to have moved away from South Weald, mostly to London, as soon as they reached adulthood. In October 1786, when she was about 19 years old, Sarah Holdsworth married Edward Porter at St Botolph, Bishopsgate. William Holdsworth married Lydia Evans at the same church in November 1792, when he was 21. Joseph Holdsworth junior married Margaret Miller at Christ Church, Spitalfields, in February 1792, when he was 22 years old. Godfrey Holdsworth married Diana Cam at St Paul’s, Covent Garden, in August 1793, when he was 20. It’s unclear what became of Henry, but since it’s possible he is the person who died in Southwark in 1813, it’s likely that he also moved to London.
The exception to the rule was the Holdsworths’ eldest son John, who married Mary Webb at Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, in 1797, when he was 32. John was the only Holdsworth sibling to wait until after his father’s death to marry, so it’s possible that, as the eldest son, he remained at home to help his ageing father with work on the farm, and perhaps to settle his affairs after his death.
The fact that Joseph and Elizabeth’s children were impelled to leave home suggests a downturn in the family’s fortunes, as well as a lack of employment and other opportunities in their home village. We know that the 1790s saw rising prices and poor harvests, culminating in the ‘famine’ year of 1795, as well as the problems created by wars abroad and political unrest at home.
We must assume that Elizabeth remained in South Weald, at least until after the death and burial of her husband Joseph in June 1795. Then, the presence of most of her children in London and her other family ties there, must soon have drawn the widowed Elizabeth back to the city of her birth.
My assumption is that Elizabeth spent her declining years living with one or other of her married children, somewhere in the Stepney area. At the time of Joseph Holdsworth’s death in 1795, their daughter Sarah was living in Mile End Old Town, with her husband, plumber Edward Porter and their infant son Edward Parker Porter. Godfrey Holdsworth and his wife Diana were also in Mile End Old Town, where Godfrey also worked as a plumber (were he and his brother-in-law in business together?): at this date, they had two young children, Joseph and Sarah. Joseph junior was living in Marmaduke Street with, or close to, his brother William: both were working as cordwainers or shoemakers. Joseph and his wife Margaret had two young children, Sarah and John Clark, while William and his wife Lydia had two infant sons, Isaac and Samuel (their biblical names reflecting their parents’ Baptist affiliation). John Holdsworth was still in Oxfordshire, but he and his family would also be drawn to Stepney in due course.
As for Elizabeth’s own siblings, it’s unclear whether her older sister Jane Coates was still living, though we know she had three children, all born in Epping, with her husband William. No further trace has been found to date of Elizabeth’s sister Anne Schwarz, though she and a daughter, Frances, were mentioned in Mary Gibson’s will of 1788. Frances Bonner and her husband Michael had two children, John William and Michael junior, both of whom were married by this time. Michael and Frances Bonner would both die in 1802 in Bermondsey and be buried at St George’s in the East.
Elizabeth’s younger brother Bowes John Gibson had ten children by his first wife, Elizabeth, who died some time in the 1790s. Having lived in Stepney and Bermondsey, Bowes John was now back in Mile End Old Town and working as an auctioneer, providing financial and broking services to the East India Company. In 1799 he married for a second time, to Mary Catherine Bretman, with whom he would have eight more children. We don’t know whether Bowes John Gibson had any contact with his widowed and probably impoverished older sister.
Death and burial
Elizabeth Holdsworth would live for another fourteen years after the death of her second husband Joseph. By the time she died in 1809, she had as many as twenty-two surviving grandchildren. When she drew up her will in the year of her death, Elizabeth Holdsworth was living in Mile End Old Town, probably with her daughter Sarah, whom she appointed as co-executor, and who by this time had herself been widowed, lost her only child, and married for a second time, to William Parker.
Clearly, Elizabeth had very little money left to bequeath her children or grandchildren. She left forty pounds for funeral expenses in the keeping of her son Joseph, now living in William Street, and anything remaining was to be divided equally between her five sons. All her furniture and apparel she left to Sarah.
Elizabeth Holdsworth died on 1 March 1809, aged 77 years, and was buried a week later, as she had wished, in a ‘vault in the church yard of St Dunstan Stepney built by my grandfather and where my brothers and sisters lay.’ She is buried with her grandparents Joseph and Mary Greene, three of their children, her great grandparents Captain William Greene of Ratcliffe and his wife Elizabeth, as well as her nephew John William Bonner, who would die in 1817, and her eldest son John, who would die in 1848 and whose name is inscribed below hers.
My mother’s father was a gardener at the City of London Cemetery. His father was a grave-digger and came from a long line of farm labourers. My mother’s mother was the daughter of a manual labourer, who was himself the son and grandson of shoemakers, while her mother worked in a jute factory from the age of seven and belonged to another family of agricultural workers.
So you can imagine my surprise on discovering recently that, a few generations further back, my mother’s family tree included wealthy merchants, landowners and high-ranking military officers. In researching my eighteenth-century ancestors, I’ve often stopped to ask myself the question that I suppose must strike all family historians from time to time: can these people really be my ancestors?
More specifically, I’ve found myself questioning whether Elizabeth Holdsworth nee Gibson, who was the daughter of a lieutenant and the granddaughter of a goldsmith, whose parents owned a country estate at Waltham Abbey, and whose first husband was an Epping landowner, is really identical with the Elizabeth Holdsworth whose son William, my 4 x great grandfather, worked as a Stepney cordwainer, and whose daughter, my 3 x great grandmother Eliza, married Daniel Roe, another shoemaker?
In this post, I want to summarise the evidence that these two are indeed the same person – my 5 x great grandmother. My starting-point is the Holdsworth family tree drawn up towards the end of the nineteenth century by Joseph Cook and James Joseph Holdsworth, which informs us that John or Joseph Holdsworth, who was originally from Yorkshire and ‘took a farm in Essex near Brentwood’, was married to Elizabeth, and that they had six children who survived to adulthood, named John, Henry, Sarah, Joseph, William and Godfrey. Evidence from the local parish registers confirms that children with these names were born to Joseph and Elizabeth Holdsworth in South Weald, not far from Brentwood, between the years 1764 and 1773.
Sarah, Joseph, William and Godfrey Holdsworth all turn up in London marriage records between 1786 and 1793. Moreover, Sarah, Joseph and William are named in the 1809 will of Elizabeth Holdsworth, which also mentions her ‘five sons’. In the will, Elizabeth expresses her ‘desire to be laid in a vault in the church yard of St Dunstan Stepney built by my grandfather and where my brothers and sisters lay’. Elizabeth’s will was signed and sealed on 11 February 1809. The parish register of St Dunstan’s records the burial of Elizabeth Holdsworth of Mile End Old Town on 8 March 1809.
James Joseph Holdsworth made a copy of the inscription on a tomb in Stepney churchyard which includes the following statement: ‘Here lieth the remains of Mrs Elizabeth Holdsworth late of this parish who departed this life March 1st 1809 aged 77 years’. There seems little doubt that this is the same Elizabeth Holdsworth who wrote the above-mentioned will. However, if this is indeed the last resting-place of my 5 x great grandmother, then the remainder of the inscription provides a clear link between her and the Greene and Gibson families. Also buried in the tomb are Stepney mariner Captain William Greene and his son Joseph, ‘Citizen and Goldsmith’, as well as various other members of their family. (The only remaining doubt about this tomb is Elizabeth’s use of the phrase ‘where my brothers and sisters lay’. To my knowledge, she only had one brother, Bowes John Gibson, who outlived her.)
My distant relative Ron Roe has convincingly demonstrated that Elizabeth Holdsworth was born Elizabeth Gibson, and that she was the daughter of Lieutenant John Gibson and his wife Mary, daughter of Joseph Greene. Elizabeth Holdsworth’s age at the time of her death fits with the birth date (1733) for Elizabeth Gibson. In 1753 Elizabeth Gibson married Epping landowner John Collins and, on his death, married Joseph Holdsworth. The parish register of St Mary Magdalene, Bermondsey, records that on 20 May 1763, Elizabeth Collins, a widow, married Joseph Holdsworth, a bachelor. Their first child, Elizabeth, was baptised in South Weald in the following March.
Two other pieces of evidence linking ‘our’ Elizabeth Holdsworth with Elizabeth Gibson, daughter of John Gibson and granddaughter of Joseph Greene, are the wills of Mary Gibson née Greene, Joseph’s daughter and the widow of John Gibson, and that of her youngest, unmarried daughter, Sarah Gibson. Mary’s will, drawn up in 1788, clearly establishes that its author is the mother of (among others) Bowes John Gibson, who we know to have been an East India Company broker, and of Jane Gibson, who married Essex landowner William Coates. But she also mentions her daughter Elizabeth Holdsworth several times, proving that the latter was born a Gibson. If there were any doubts remaining that this is ‘our’ Elizabeth, then the will of Sarah Gibson, signed and sealed in the following year, should lay those to rest. Sarah specifically mentions ‘my sister Elizabeth Holdsworth wife of Joseph Holdsworth’ (my emphasis).
While not conclusive, this accumulation of evidence proves beyond reasonable doubt that my 5 x great grandmother Elizabeth Holdsworth was the daughter of John and Mary Gibson of Tower Hill, Aldgate, and Woodredon House, Waltham Abbey. Why she and her immediate descendants did not enjoy the wealth and status of their forebears is a question for another time.
As a result of my interest in the names of witnesses at an 18th century wedding, and thanks to the generous help of a genealogical contact via Twitter, I’ve discovered a whole new and fascinating branch to my family tree.
Last week, I wrote about the 1781 marriage of John William Bonner, nephew of my 5 x great grandmother Elizabeth Holdsworth nee Gibson, to Sarah Ford. I was intrigued by the name of one of the witnesses, who I thought might be John William’s grandfather – and my 6 x great grandfather – Lieutenant John Gibson. I linked to this post on Twitter and asked whether anyone could help with deciphering the name. I was pleased to be contacted by Kirsty Wilkinson, who tweets as GenealogyGirl, and who believed the name of the witness to be ‘Bowes Jno (John) Gibson’. Kirsty noted that the signature on the marriage record was very similar to that given by Bowes John Gibson at the time of his marriage to Mary Catherine Bretman at Bethnal Green in 1799.
These clues set me off on a search of my own for more information about Bowes John Gibson, and led me to a startling conclusion. This previously undiscovered member of the Gibson family turned out to be the son of my 6 x great grandparents, Lieutenant John Gibson and Mary Green, and the younger brother of my 5 x great grandmother Elizabeth Gibson.
Until last week, I believed that John and Mary had five children, all of them girls, the last being Ann, born in 1737. However, it turns out that they had at least one more child, a son, Bowes John, who was christened on 4 November 1744. Confusingly, the Ancestry record gives the name of the parish as St Botolph Aldersgate, whereas the source citation beneath it is labelled ‘Guildhall, St Botolph Aldgate, Register of baptisms, 1718 – 1752′ (my emphases). The latter is more likely to be correct, since a quick survey of the addresses given in the register shows that most of the families mentioned lived in the Aldgate area. The Gibsons’ address is the same as for their other children: Tower Hill.
The confusion between the two St Botolphs led me to review the baptismal records for John and Mary’s other children, and I found the same error there: the source said Aldgate, while the Ancestry summary record said Aldersgate. I’ve contacted Ancestry to point out the mistake. I’d been wondering for some time why the Gibsons, living in Aldgate, would have had their children baptised in a church to the west of the city.
Bowes John Gibson’s unusual first name makes it comparatively easy to track him through the available records. By the time he was in his early twenties, Bowes John Gibson was living in the parish of St Dunstan, Stepney, which is where he married Elizabeth Hendley on 13 October 1766. Elizabeth was from the parish of St Mary, Lambeth. Their daughter Esther was christened at St Dunstan’s on 8 August 1767. The record gives the family’s address as Mile End Old Town and Bowes John Gibson’s status as ‘Gent.’
When their first son, George Milson Gibson, was baptised on 7 January 1782, Bowes John and Elizabeth were living in Long Walk, Bermondsey: the child was christened at the church of St Mary Magdalen. Their second son John Thomas was baptized at St Dunstan’s church, Stepney, on 13 September 1785. The family were now back in Mile End.
Elizabeth Gibson nee Hendly must have died some time before 1799, when Bowes John remarried. It’s likely that she’s the Elizabeth Gibson of Mile End Old Town who was buried at St Dunstan’s on 12 January 1793.
On 6 April 1799 Bowes John Gibson married Mary Catherine Bretman at St Matthew, Bethnal Green, her home parish. I haven’t been able to find any other records for Mary, but I believe her surname to be German in origin. A son, James Charles, was christened at St Dunstan’s on 20 October 1800. The Gibson home was still in Mile End Old Town and Bowes John was again described as a ‘Gent.’ A second son, Bowes Charles, was baptized in 1817, though it looks as though he might have been born in 1811.
Bowes John Gibson was a witness at the marriage of his son, John Thomas, to Henrietta Elizabeth Horn, daughter of Charles Frederick and Diana Horn, at the church of St George the Martyr, Queen Square, Bloomsbury, on 20 Feb 1811 (my paternal great great grandparents, William Robb and Fanny Seager, would be married at the same church a quarter of a century later).
Bowes John Gibson died in 1817, at the age of 73, and was buried at St Dunstan’s on 28 August. I’ve found his will at the National Archives and the transcription reads as follows:
In the name of God Amen. I Bowes John Gibson of Mile End Old Town in the parish of Stepney in the county of Middlesex Gent being of disposing mind memory and understanding God be praised for it do hereby make this my last will and testament first I recommend my soul to the Almighty God who gave it and my body to be buried in the family vault at Stepney above mentioned and that not more than ten pounds be laid out in the funeral is my wish and also xxx constitute and appoint my dear wife Mary Catherine Gibson my wholesale legatee and executrix of all my worldly estate both real (?) and personal Whether (?) in the funds of mortgage debts furniture or otherwise and at her liberty to appoint any person she may think fit to appoint as executor with her and as the children by my former wife Elizabeth were all handsomely provided for by me I leave them each for mourning as follows that is to say to Mrs Esther Lay my eldest daughter by a former marriage ten pounds my eldest son Geo. Milsom Gibson now living by the said marriage the life sum of ten pounds and also ten pounds to John Thomas Gibson son of my wife Elizabeth Gibson but in case of the death of one two or all of them dying before they receive (?) such ten pounds xxx I leave the said bequest of ten pounds of either or all of them to my said Mary Catherine Gibson in witness whereof I have this twentieth day of November one thousand eight hundred and four set my name Bowes Jno Gibson witness to the above xxx two or all being first witnessed Charles Wright Thomas Wright
Proved at London 7 July 1818 before the worshipful Samuel Pearce parson (?) doctor of laws and surrogate by the oath of Mary Catherine Gibson widow xxx the sole executrix to whom xxx was granted being sworn to xxx
Bowes John (or John Bowes) Gibson was listed in Holden’s London Directory for 1790 as an auctioneer, living in Mile End, and in the 5th edition of Bailey’s London Directory, or Merchants’ and Trader’s Useful Companion, for the same year, as ‘auctioneer, financial/broking services, to the East India Company’. At least two of his sons also served the same company, in a military capacity, and I’ll report what I’ve found out about them in future posts.
Bowes John Gibson’s presence at the wedding of John William Bonner in 1781 can now be explained: he was John William’s uncle, brother of the latter’s mother Frances. And since we know that John William Bonner was apprenticed to a London merchant, possibly a stockbroker, there might also have been a business connection between the two men: indeed, Bowes John might have helped his nephew to make a start in his career.
Finding out about Bowes John Gibson also throws some light, albeit in a negative sense, on his parents, my 6 x great grandparents. We know now that Lieutenant John Gibson could not have died in the early 1740s, as some records suggest: the date of his death must have been 1744 or later.
Bowes John Gibson’s profession, and his status as a ‘gentleman’, makes it a little easier to understand how his sister Elizabeth (my 5 x great grandmother) might have married another ‘gentleman’, John Collins of Epping, in 1753, and then Essex tenant farmer Joseph Holdsworth ten years later. Clearly, the Gibsons were not impoverished (after all, my 7 x great grandfather, goldsmith Joseph Greene, had bequeathed a legacy of two thousand pounds to his daughter Mary on her marriage to Lieutenant Gibson).
What is more difficult to comprehend is how one branch of this comfortable London family became, in two generations, a family of shoemakers and tallow chandlers. Clearly, some loss of status and income occurred among the Holdsworths some time in the latter decades of the 18th century.
This disparity in status between the generations has often made me doubt whether the ‘gentlemanly’ Gibsons are, in fact, my ancestors. However, we know that Elizabeth Holdsworth was buried in the same family tomb as John William Bonner and Joseph Greene in Stepney churchyard, and that this is the same Elizabeth Holdsworth whose will explicitly mentions her son William, my 7 x great grandfather and a Whitechapel shoemaker. So the Gibsons are indeed my ancestors, even if their lives seem a world away from those of their working-class Holdsworth and Roe descendants, my mother’s immediate ancestors, in the Victorian East End.
A couple of months ago I wrote about Captain William Greene, mariner of Ratcliffe, who appears to be my earliest known ancestor. His son, City of London goldsmith Joseph Greene, had a daughter Mary who married a Lieutenant John Gibson. Their daughter Elizabeth was married twice: first to John Collins and then to Joseph Holdsworth. Joseph and Elizabeth’s son William Holdsworth had a daughter Eliza, who married Biggleswade shoemaker Daniel Roe, and their son, another shoemaker named Daniel, had a son Joseph Priestley Roe, who was the father of my maternal grandmother (my ‘Nan’) Minnie Louisa Roe.
I’ve been trying to find out more about Captain Greene. I’ve discovered three wills for people who might be him, one of which I mentioned in my earlier post. This was written in 1694 and mentions a wife named Elizabeth, but no son by the name of Joseph: this William Greene’s children were Edmond and Mary. I also came across a second will at Ancestry, which has just made a splendid collection of London wills and probate records available online. This will, written in 1702, is for another Stepney mariner named William Greene, who was about to set sail on ‘the good ship the Burford’. He, too, had a wife named Elizabeth, but no children are mentioned.
However, a third will, also found via Ancestry, looks more promising, and I’m including my transcription of it below. The William Greene who composed this testament specifically mentions Ratcliffe as his abode, and in addition to a wife named Elizabeth, he has a son named Joseph. What’s more, this son has not yet reached the age of twenty-one, which (since the will was written in 1685) is consistent with what we know of ‘our’ Joseph, who was born in February 1677. This William Greene has two grandchildren, William and Mary: the fact that their surname is Greene suggests they are the children of another son, who is not mentioned in the will, so had probably died by the time it was written. William also has a daughter, Mary, who is married to someone by the name of White.
In his will William Greene mentions the ‘Elder Brothers of Trinity House, of which I am a member’. Trinity House was (and still is) a charitable guild of mariners which in the 17th century was granted exclusive rights to license pilots on the River Thames. The Elder Brethren constituted the ‘court’ of the corporation and were all master mariners. This suggests that Captain William Greene (if this is indeed him) was not a seafearing mariner (like the other two whose wills I’ve considered) but probably a pilot on the Thames. Unfortunately the records of Trinity House are not online, so a visit to the Guildhall may be necessary if we want to find out more about Captain Greene’s career.
The major problem with this will, however, is its date. The will was signed on 22nd October 1685, and the Latin inscription at the foot of the page indicates it was ‘proven’ a year later. This contradicts the information on the family tomb in Stepney churchyard, which claims that ‘our’ Captain William Greene died on 2 January 1682. However, the person who copied the inscription conceded that the last numeral of this date might be wrong. But even if William died in 1686 rather than 1682, would there have been a delay until October before the will was proven? On the other hand, the fact that this William was ‘weak and infirme of body’ when he wrote his will in October 1685 is consistent with him dying the following January.
Clearly, we need more information before we can confirm that this is definitely my 8 x great grandfather’s last will and testament. In the meantime, it’s thrilling to entertain even the possibility of identifying an ancestor who lived through the brief reign of England’s last Stuart monarch, James II. James came to the throne in the year this will was written, but would be driven from power within three years by the so-called ‘Glorious Revolution’ headed by William of Orange. And within a few decades my Aberdeenshire Robb ancestors would be joining the doomed struggle to restore James, and later his son the Bonnie Prince, to the throne.
As before, I’ve kept the spelling and punctuation of the original will, though I’ve removed most of the initial capital letters on words:
In the name of God Amen I William Greene of Ratcliffe in the parish of St ?? at Stepney in the County of Middx mariner being weak and infirme of body but of sound purpose and disposing (?) mind and memory (thanks be to God for the same) doe make publish and declare this to be my last will and testament in the manner and forme following (that is to say) First I commend my soule into the hands of Almighty God my Creator hoping through the merits of Christ to obtaine pardon of all my sinnes And as touching that outward estate which it hath pleased God to bestow upon me in this world I doe hereby dispose thereof as followeth viz (?) imprimis I give devise and bequeath unto my son Joseph Green all my silver plate gold rings and jewells whatsoever But in case my said son Joseph Green should happen to dye and depart this life before he attaine unto the age of one and twenty yeares that then and in such case I give and bequeath one moiety or half part of the said silver and jewells to my two grandchildren William Greene and Mary Greene equally to be divided betweene them and the other moiety or half part thereof unto my dear and loving wife Elizabeth Greene if she should be then living But in case of her death also that then my said two grandchildren shall have and enjoy the moiety or half part last mentioned to be given to her of the said promises Item I further give and bequeath unto my said son Joseph Green his executors administrators and assigns the house I now live in and all the interest and terme of years that I have therein and yet to come and unexpired after the death of his mother my said wife Elizabeth Greene But it is my expresse mind and will that she doe enjoy the same during her life and no longer att and under the ground rent payable for the same Item I further give to my said son Joseph Green all my debts and moneys whatsoever to me due and owing by bills bonds specially (?) or otherwise howsoever Item I give and bequeath unto my said loving wife Elizabeth Greene all the other houses and ?? which I had with her upon my ?? marriage with her Item I give and bequeath unto my loving daughter Mary White late Greene the sum of seventy shillings of lawfull money of England And I desire that my said wife Elizabeth Green will att my funeral give unto such and so many my worthy friends the Elder Brothers of the Trinity House (whereof I am a member) whose names are mentioned in a note under my hand delivered to my said wife to each person a ring to wear in remembrance of me and to such other of my friends and acquaintance that may be invited and be present at my funeral gloves And lastly I do hereby make and ordain my said loving wife Elizabeth Greene the full and sole executrix of this my last will and testament revoking all other former wills and testaments whatsoever by me at any time heretofore made published and declared In witness whereof I the said William Greene have to this my last will and testament contained in one sheet of paper set my hand and seale the two and twentyeth day of October in the first year of the reign of our sovereigne lord James the second by the grace of God King of England Scotland France (?) and Ireland defender of the faith or. Annoq. Dni. 1685
Signed sealed and declared by the said William Greene the testator to be his last will and testament of us who have subscribed our names in the presence of the said William Greene
Tho Rolson (?)
Barnard Glover (?)
Further to my recent update on the Ellis family of Richmond Street, Soho: I’ve now tracked down the will of Thomas Ellis (1780 – 1838). He was the father of Richard Ellis, whose life and the lives of whose children, overlap (in ways, and for reasons, that I don’t yet fully understand) with those of my Blanch and Roe ancestors. Thomas’ will contains significant new information about his family, which I’ll write about in the next post. For now, here is my transcription of the will (which is much more legible than most others that I’ve come across from the same period). As with other wills, I’ve kept the original (lack of) punctuation and used question marks where the original is unclear or uncertain:
This is the last will and testament of Thomas Ellis of Richmond Street in the parish of St James Westminster in the county of Middlesex gentleman I desire that all my just debts funeral and testamentary expenses expected be paid and satisfied as soon as convenient after my decease and I give and bequeath unto John Jones of Denmark Street Saint Giles in the county of Middlesex carpenter and my sons Charles Ellis and Richard Ellis (executors herein after named) their executors ?? and assigns all those my leasehold messuages and premises situate in Richmond Street aforesaid and Nos. respectively 2 & 3 in the said street and my leasehold premises No. 36 Princes Street Soho in the said county of Middlesex now in the occupation of William de Courcy upholsterer for all my estate term and interest therein And all my other estate and effects whatsoever and whereseover upon trust nevertheless to sell and dispose of all the aforesaid property (save and except my leasehold house No. 36 Princes Street aforesaid) either by public sale or by private contract and stand possessed of the monies to arise by any such sale in trust as to one equal seventh part or share for each of my sons Charles Ellis Edward Ellis and Richard Ellis and my daughters Sarah Ellis and Mary Ellis their executors ?? and assigns the shares of my said daughters to be for their sole and separate use independent of any husband or husbands with whom they may intermarry and their receipts alone to be a sufficient discharge to my executors and one other equal seventh part or share of my said property in trust for the children of my eldest son Thomas Ellis equally to be divided between them on their attaining the age of twenty one with benefit of survivorship between and amongst them in the meantime and the remaining equal seventh part or share for my housekeeper Sarah Jennings her executors ?? and assigns and whereas I have invested in the savings bank at Saint Martins Lane in the city of Westminster in the joint names of myself and children retain sums of money Now it is my desire and I do hereby declare my will to be that my said children shall be entitled absolutely to the respective sums of money standing in the joint names as aforesaid at my decease and as to all that my leasehold messuage No 36 Princes Street aforesaid my will is that the rents and profits of the same may be invested in the names of my executors until the expiration of five years from my decease to form a fund and be applicable to pay the expenses incident (?) to and of obtaining a renewal of that lease from the ground landlords and at the expiration of the said five years that the rents and profits of the same may be invested as aforesaid from time to time until the expiration of the lease under which the same are now holden such profits and accumulations to be divided every fourth year from the expiration of the said fifth year from my decease equally between all my children living at my death their respective executors ?? and assigns and in the event of the lease of my said house in Princes Street being renewed then I give and bequeath the same to my executors in trust to sell and dispose of the same and (as also in case of its not being renewed then the said fund and accumulations) to divide the monies arising therefrom unto and amongst all and every my children as mentioned and expressed with respect to the division of the profits of the said house after providing for the said reserved fund and I appoint the said John Jones and my sons Charles Ellis and Richard Ellis executors of this my will and I desire that my said executors shall be allowed and may retain all reasonable costs and charges which they or either of them incur in the execution of the trusts of this my will or in anywise relating thereto. In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand to the first sheet of this my will and my hand and seal to this second and last sheet this nineteenth day of July 1836 Thomas Ellis (SS) signed sealed published and declared by the testator Thomas Ellis as and for his last will and testament in the presence of Jas. Dixon 12 Denmark Street St Giles Chas. Fancutt 35 Long Acre.
Proved at London 1st February 1839 before the worshipful ?? doctor of laws by the oaths of Charles Ellis and Richard Ellis the sons two of the executors to whom ?? was granted having been first sworn duly to administer John Jones the other executor and one of the universal legatees in trust named in the will having renounced as well the probation and execution thereof as the letters of ?? with the said will annexed of the goods of the said deceased (as by acts of court appears).
I’ve written before about the Ellis family of Richmond Street, Soho, and the mystery of their connection to my Blanch and Roe ancestors (follow the links under their surname to the right of this page). I’m still trying to discover exactly why my great-great-grandparents Daniel Roe and Mary Ann Blanch named their son Daniel Ellis Roe, and why their son Joseph (my great grandfather) named one of his sons Walter Ellis Roe. We know that the Blanch and Ellis families would eventually be linked by marriage: Richard and Marianne Ellis’ daughter Frances would marry David Blanch’s son James George in 1862, and another daughter Sophia Sarah would marry James’ brother David John a year later. But these marriages didn’t directly involve Daniel and Mary Ann Roe, and some of the links between the family (as we shall see) pre-date these events by some years.
In this post, I want to set down some new information that I’ve discovered about the Ellis family. It doesn’t solve the mystery, but it provides some more context that might, in time, contribute to a solution. We know that Richard Ellis’ father was named Thomas, and we now know that the latter was born in about 1780, whereabouts unknown, though (as we shall see) it’s possible he came from Shropshire. He appears to have married Sarah Lush, born in about 1781, on 23 November 1803 at St James, Piccadilly. I’ve found two people with her name born around 1780: one in Dorset, the other in Wiltshire.
Thomas and Sarah might have had children we don’t know about in the early years of their marriage, but the first child we have definite information for is Sarah, who was born on 7 July 1808 and baptised on 16 August at St. James’. The next child for whom we have records is Richard Francis, born on 3 July 1814 in Richmond Street, Soho, and christened on 17 July, also at St James’. The record of Richard’s baptism provides our first evidence of Thomas’ occupation: he is described as a builder, though in other records he would also be described as a carpenter. A daughter, Mary Ann, was born at the same address in 1817 and christened on 11 May, and another daughter Susanna was born on 13 May 1819 and christened exactly one month later.
On 12 June 1826, 17-year-old Sarah Ellis married shoemaker Thomas Metcalf at St Martin in the Fields. They would have three children that we know of. John William Metcalf was baptised on Christmas Day 1826 at St Anne, Soho: his parents’ address is given simply as St James. Mary Ann was born in 1834 and baptised at the same church on 12 August. And Richard William was born in the last quarter of 1839, whereabouts unknown.
Sarah Ellis the elder died in 1826, the year of her daughter’s marriage, at the age of 45. Her husband Thomas Ellis died twelve years later, on 21 February 1838, at the age of 58. Both died at Richmond Street.
Richard Francis Ellis married Marianne Burbidge on 25 March 1841 at St James, Piccadilly. We know from their marriage certificate that Marianne was the daughter of victualler Robert Burbidge, and according to later census records she was born in St Clement Danes, but so far no other definite records relating to her origins or her family have come to light. The witnesses at the wedding were Richard’s sister Mary and John Blacklock, whom she would marry two months later, on 6 May, at St George in the East. John was born in about 1812 in the parish of St George in the East and worked as a stationer.
The 1841 census was taken on 7 June of that year but, as I’ve mentioned before, the records for the area which includes Richmond Street in the parish of St James are missing from the archives. This means we do not have records for this year for Richard and Marianne Ellis, who we know would be living there later that same year. Nor can I find records for the Metcalfs, possibly because they were living in the same district, perhaps even in the same house.
However, we know that at this time John and Mary Blacklock were living in Whitechapel High Street, which seems to be where John’s stationer’s shop was located. The Blacklocks’ next door neighbours included Alfred Clark and Daniel Hancock, also stationers. The 1848 Post Office Directory would include an entry for Blacklock and Hancock, stationers, at 118 Whitechapel High Street.
The birth of Frances Marianne Ellis, the first child of Richard and Marianne Ellis, was registered some time between July and September 1841. John Ellis Blacklock, the first child of John and Mary Blacklock, was born in Whitechapel in the following year.
A son, David Richard Ellis, was born to Richard and Marianne Ellis in 1844. Two years later, in July 1846, their daughter Sophia Sarah was born and, for reasons that are still unclear, was christened (on 20 August) not in her home parish of St James’ but at the church of St John, Bethnal Green. It’s worth noting, however, that this parish was home to John and Keziah Blanch and that this record is our earliest hint (so far) of a connection between the Ellis and Blanch families. The parish register clearly gives Richard and Marianne’s address as Richmond Street, and provides our first indication that Richard was, like his father, a builder.
In 1848, John and Mary Blacklock’s second son, Walter, was born in Whitechapel. However, by the time their third child, Alfred, was born in 1850, they were living in Woodford Bridge in Essex, which is where they can be found in the following year’s census. They are able to afford a servant, 14 year old Mary Ann Chumley from Chigwell.
Richard and Marianne’s daughter Mary Ann Ellis was also born in 1849 or 1850, though I’ve yet to find a record of her birth. Their son Alfred Henry Blanch Ellis was born early in 1851, though once again a record of his birth has yet to turn up. His second middle name is our first definite evidence of a close link between the Ellis and Blanch families. The second piece of evidence comes in the census taken later that year, which finds Mary Ann Ellis, then aged 2 and described as a ‘nurse child’, in the home of John and Keziah Blanch at 2 Green Street, Bethnal Green. This almost certainly indicates a pre-existing family tie between either the Blanch or Holdsworth family, and either the Ellis or Burbidge family.
A further Blanch connection is evident in the 1851 census record for Richard and Marianne’s home. Richard, 37, is now described as a builder master employing two men. With him at 3 Richmond Street are Marianne and their children Frances, 9, David, 6, and Alfred, 2 months. Sophia Sarah, who would have been 5 years old, is not mentioned, and I haven’t yet found out where she was at the time. Richard Metcalf, 12, son of Richard Ellis’ sister Sarah, is also living at the house in Richmond Street, but I’m not sure if this means that his parents had died by this point. I haven’t discovered death or burial records for either Thomas or Sarah, nor any definite evidence of them or their two older children in the 1851 census.
The other person we find at 3 Richmond Street at this time is Maryanne Harrison, a visitor and a widow of 56. We know from other records that this is in fact Mary Ann Blanch, widow of Thomas Harrison, and elder sister of both John Blanch and David Blanch. Ten years before, in 1841, she had been living with David and his family in nearby King Street, and it seems likely that this was still her permanent address.
John and Mary Ann Blacklock had apparently moved back to Whitechapel from Woodford by the time their daughter Hannah was born in 1853 and they were still there when Elizabeth was born in 1855 and their last child, Emily, in 1858. When the 1861 census was taken, the Blacklocks were at 117 Whitechapel High Street, where they employed a young general servant, Elizabeth Adams. All of the Blacklock children were still living at home, and their eldest, 18 year old John, was working as an assistant in his father’s stationer’s shop.
The Blacklocks also had a visitor: 71-year-old Mary Ellis, an unmarried lady born in Wellington, Shropshire. Given her name and age, it seems most likely that she was Mary Ann Blacklock’s aunt, the sister of her late father Thomas. As I noted earlier, this suggests that Thomas might also have been born in Shropshire, and indeed one family tree at Ancestry includes Thomas and Sarah Ellis among the children of John and Catharine Ellis of that county.
Mary Ann Blacklock nee Ellis must have died at some point in the next ten years (though I can’t find a record of her death or burial), as the 1871 census finds John, a widower of 58 living, with daughters Hannah, Elizabeth and Emily, as well as a domestic servant, at 117 Whitechapel High Street. Ten years later, he and his daughters would still be there, as they would in 1891, when 78-year-old John was assisted in his stationer’s business by his three unmarried daughters, all now in their thirties. At some point the business moved to New Road, Gravesend, which is where John Blacklock died in 1896, at the age of 84. According to the 1901 census, his eldest daughter Hannah took over as head of the business, assisted by her two younger sisters.
I won’t write here about later events in the lives of Richard and Marianne Ellis and their family, which I’ve covered exhaustively in earlier posts: again, they can be found by clicking on the ‘Ellis’ category on the right-hand side of this page.
I’ve written recently about my great-great-great-great-grandfather William Holdsworth, who was born in South Weald, Essex, in 1771 and lived for most of his adult life in Stepney. William’s daughter Eliza married Biggleswade shoemaker Daniel Roe; their son, another shoemaker named Daniel, married Mary Ann Blanch; and their youngest son Joseph Priestley Roe was the father of Minnie Louisa Roe – who was my ‘Nan’, my mother’s mother.
However, as I’ve mentioned before, William’s older brother John was also my 4 x great grandfather. This is because his daughter Keziah married Stepney shoemaker John Blanch, and it was their daughter Mary Ann who married Daniel Roe junior (her second cousin).
In this post, I want to set down what we know about John Holdsworth and his family. We know that John was born in South Weald, Essex, in 1765, the second child, and eldest son, of Joseph and Elizabeth Holdsworth. From the family trees constructed in the last decades of the 19th century by Joseph Cook and Joseph James Holdsworth, we also know that John had five children: Eliza, Keziah, Ann, Joseph and Sarah, though other family trees also mention another son, John.
I’ve seen no documentary evidence for John’s marriage, so can’t confirm the date or place, or the name of his wife. However, some family trees give her name as Eliza Ann Webb and claim that the couple were married in Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire in 1797. John would have been about 32 at the time. How he came to be in Oxfordshire, when his siblings moved from Essex to East London at around this time, is unknown.
We know from later census records that John’s daughter Eliza (not to be confused with his brother William’s daughter of the same name) was born in Chipping Norton in 1798, and apparently John junior was also born there two years later. Census records also tell us that Keziah was born in St Clement, Oxford, in 1804, and that Joseph was born in the same city in 1809. I have no information about the date or place of daughter Sarah’s birth. As for Anne, both Joseph Cook and J.J. Holdsworth write under her name, in brackets, ‘Mrs Morley, Oxford’ (at least, the name looks like Morley). However, I’ve yet to find any matching marriage or census records.
While Ann may have married and remained in Oxford, the other children of John Holdsworth appear to have moved to East London at some point. The next definite date we have for a member of the family is 1827, when Keziah married John Blanch at St Anne, Limehouse. This suggests that Keziah, and probably other members of the family, had moved to London by the mid 1820s at the latest. By this time, John Holdsworth would have been about 60.
The fact that John’s son Joseph also got married at St Anne, Limehouse, eight years later suggests that the Holdsworths might have settled in this part of East London, at least initially, on their arrival from Oxfordshire. Joseph married Elizabeth Cuzens in 1835. His brother-in-law John Blanch, who was now living with Keziah and their young family in Mile End Old Town, was a witness.
By 1837, when their son Joseph George was born, Joseph and Elizabeth were living in Devonshire Street, Mile End Old Town. Joseph, now 32, was working as a carpenter. They were still in the same street at the time of the 1841 census: Joseph was now working as a builder and Elizabeth as a haberdasher.
At the same date, Joseph’s older sister Eliza, who was 42 and unmarried, was living in Cottage Grove, Mile End Old Town, where she was a servant in the home of Rev. Joseph Fletcher, ‘dissenting minister’ of Stepney Green congregational chapel. Eliza would remain unmarried and spend most of her life as a domestic servant, much of it working for the Fletcher family.
Meanwhile, Keziah, 36, her husband John Blanch and their children were living in Wellington Street, Mile End Old Town. In the same street we find John Holdsworth, a carpenter aged 75, who seems to match some of the details of my 4 x great grandfather. However, the census record states that he was born ‘in county’, i.e. in Middlesex, when we know ‘our’ John was born in Essex. There’s also a mystery about why he’s living here, rather than with Keziah or one of his other children. The house he shares is also occupied by Sarah Elliot, a 50 year old widow and midwife, and her three children. I wondered whether this might be John’s daughter Sarah, but the age doesn’t match, and her maiden name doesn’t appear to have been Holdsworth. However, further investigation of the Elliot family is probably needed.
At any event, it would appear that John Holdsworth was a widower by this time, though I’ve yet to find any information about his wife’s death. Nor do we have a definite death or burial record for John himself, though the Cook and Holdsworth trees maintain that he died in Stepney in 1841.