In this week’s Ancestor Spotlight, we meet John Torrance, my paternal 4 x Great Grandfather.
John Torrance was born on 22 January 1800 in Walmgate, York to James Torrance and Elizabeth Johnson. As seen in his birth record below, both sets of his grandparents are recorded as well. His paternal grandparents were John Torrance (a Stone Mason from Kilmarnook, Aryshire, Scotland) and Ann Kindley. His maternal grandparents were Thomas Johnson (a Shoemaker from Sutton of Forest – now Sutton-on-the-Forest, Yorkshire) and Ann Fibb.
On 21st December 1821, John married Sarah Moorcroft at St Matthews Church, Walsall, Staffordshire.
In 1824, John had finished his Glover apprenticeship and applied for Freedom of the City papers, which would allow him to practice independently.
Over the next 16 years, John and Sarah had four children – Elizabeth Emma (1827-1853), John James (1830-1882), William (1831-1879) and Mary (1839- 1895).
In 1841, John was living in St Luke, Finsbury with his wife Sarah and their four children. In 1843, their final child Sarah was born.
In 1851, John was living with his wife, three of his children (John, Mary and Sarah) and a grandson, James. The family was living at 21 Old Street, St Luke, Finsbury, a fairly middle class area just outside the City of London. John was still working as a Glover, his son John was now a fishmonger and his daughter Mary, a Flower Maker.
Tragically, John died just a year later on October 10th 1852 aged 52. In a surprising twist, his death certificate states that he died a “Natural Death by Visitation of God”. In the early 1800s, this was a common description used for those who died young of natural causes. It was believed that when one’s time was up, that was it! From the 1840s onwards, this phrase was being phased out, but many coroners still used it up until the late 1890s.
In this week’s Ancestor Spotlight, we meet my maternal 3x Great-Grandfather James Dugdale Edghill.
James Dugdale Edghill was born 26th January 1854 to Samuel Dugdale Edghill and Pleasance Anderson. At the time of his birth, the family resided at 32 Clarence Street, Rotherhithe.
His father’s occupation is listed as Lighterman. Lightermen worked on the River Thames, carrying goods and cargo from large ships to the wharfs. They were masters of their craft and had to spend seven years as an apprentice to learn how to properly operate the barges.
In 1861, James still resided on Clarence Street, but the family appeared to have moved up several houses to number 39 to live with his grandmother, Ann Edghill. Ann was his paternal grandmother and had been widowed in 1855 when her husband James Robert Edghill died. James also resided with his father, mother and sister Sarah.
The 24th April 1868 was a big day for James. He followed in his ancestors’ footsteps and signed an agreement to become an apprentice to John William Talbot, a local shipwright.
It is interesting to note that his address was listed as 32 Clarence Street in this document, suggesting the family had moved back to their original house. The length of apprenticeships for many of the occupations on the Thames (boat building, lighterman etc) was seven years. The Talbot family owned a successful barge building business that was passed down through the generations. Talbots Bros were based at 292 Rotherhithe Road, very close to where James was living. James’ master, John William Talbot, was one of the grandsons of Robert Talbot, the founder of the Talbot Barge Building business. In 1841, James’s grandfather, James Edghill, lived on the same street (Clarence Street) as John William Talbots uncle, Thomas Talbot. Thomas Talbot worked at the barge building business with his father and siblings. This family connection may have made it easier for the younger James to have gotten an apprenticeship with the company.
In 1871, the family had moved back into 39 Clarence Street. His grandmother Ann died in 1870 and this may have been a reason they moved back to number 39. James was listed as a barge builder apprentice and would have been approximately halfway through his apprenticeship with the Talbots.
In between the number 32 and number 39 Clarence Street houses stood the Lord Nelson Pub at 35 Clarence Street. Public houses were a community hub in Victorian London and many of the dockyard workers would have spent their evenings there after a long, hard day. As of 2013, the pub still stood as the Lord Nelson, located at 68 Canon Beck Road, Rotherhithe.
As James followed in his father’s footsteps and began working in the shipyards, their home on Clarence Street was in the ideal location. As seen in the attached map from 1863, Clarence Street (marked with a red line on the left side of the map) was located between the huge Grand Surrey Docks and the banks of the Thames River.
James married Hannah Amelia ‘Annie’ Dare on 18th July 1875 at St George the Martyr in Southwark.
In 1881, James and Annie were living at 25 Beatrice Road, Bermondsey with their two children, Annie (4 years old) and James (2 years old). James was now a fully qualified Barge Builder, although it is not known if he was still working for the Talbots. As the Talbots were located right on the banks of the Thames, he may have been working at a different dockyard, closer to his home. The family were also sharing their house with another family – Albert Bentley (an Iron Merchants Yard Foreman), his wife and four children.
By 1891, the Edghills had moved again – this time to Deptford, an area just to the south of Rotherhithe. They lived at 49 Rectory Buildings, a block of flats on Crossfield Lane. The family had grown in size with the addition of four sons – William (11 years), Albert (9 years), Henry (4 years) and Samuel (1 years). James was still working as a Barge Builder and his location on Crossfield Lane would have been ideal for working at the industrial area on Deptford Creek.
According to the Booth Poverty Map (created between 1886-1903), Crossfield Street was listed as a combination of “Very poor, casual. Chronic want” (dark blue) and “Poor. 18s to 21s a week for a moderate family” (light blue). Many dock workers struggled to support their large families on meager wages.
According to Electoral records, the family lived at the Rectory Buildings until 1893. There is no electoral roll for James in 1894, however in 1895, he is registered as living at 6 Pender Street, Deptford.
In 1901, the family is still listed as living at 6 Pender Street. As shown in the map above, this was very close to their previous address, and would again be a good location for working on Deptford Creek, as James was still working as a Barge Builder. Since the last census, two more children had been born – Elizabeth (8 years) and Alice (6 years), but the couple’s two oldest children, Annie and James, had moved out. The family lived at Pender Street until 1907 when they moved to 5 Hughes Field, Deptford.
James died on 27th February 1909 of Intestinal Obstruction and Heart failure – his son Joseph William was present at his death at Guys Hospital. He was buried on 6 March 1909 in Nunhead Cemetery, Southwark.
My maternal Great-Great-Great-Grandmother Jane Hussey lived a long life in the East End of London and was happily married for 69 years.
However, it has always frustrated me that she was not in the 1901 England census with her family (seen below) and I knew she wasn’t dead, as she died in 1937.
The 1901 England census was taken on the night of 31 March/1 April. As shown below, it turns out the reason my 3x great grandmother was not at home that night, was because she was actually locked up in prison!
Although many of the Prison records for Wormwood Scrubs prison no longer exist, some still remain. Jane was sentenced to 6 months imprisonment at Wormwood beginning on 15 Jan 1901. She was found guilty of:
“Stealing a gold watch, the property of the London and North Western Railway Company. Receiving the same well knowing it to have been stolen”.
Wormwood Scrubs Prison still stands to this day and is in use. By all accounts, it was not a pleasant place to live out a custodial sentence.
Today I broke through another brick wall in my family tree! As I have been busy with work for clients, completing ProGen and DNA analysis, I have neglected my own trees.
On one of my paternal branches, I was stuck getting past my 4x great grandfather Thomas Hall (b. 1839 in Headington, Oxfordshire). Despite having him in all the censuses, I could not figure out who his mother was.
So I decided to go back and really look through the records (it has been many months since I have looked at these). I had his birth index record that stated he was born in Jul-Aug-Sep 1839 in Headington, Oxfordshire. The GRO website had his mother’s maiden name listed as ‘Clarke’.
In the 1841 census, Thomas was listed as being 9 months old and living in Garsington, Oxfordshire with his father Stephen Hall, mother Miriam, brother Edward and two older sisters Keziah and Louisa Kimber.
I had not noticed before the large age gap between the two older sisters to Edward and Thomas. As Miriam is listed as 50 years old, this is quite old to have a 9 month old son. It hit me that this could be her second marriage and that the two older girls were from her previous marriage!
This would make sense as the marriage record I had found for Stephen stated that he married a Miriam Kimber on 13 Jan 1839 in Garsington, Oxfordshire. Further look at that marriage record showed that Miriam’s father was called………James Clark! So Miriam’s maiden name was Clark.
After feeling a bit of an idiot for missing this before, I decided to push through and see where this now took me.
Stay tuned for further updates on this line!
The lesson from today is go back and look over the records – there is always something you have missed!
The mystery of where my Great-Great-Grandmother Mary Louise Bolton was when the 1891 England Census was taken has finally been solved! For years, I have struggled to locate her and her family in this record set. A sudden hunch that maybe the family weren’t all together when the census was taken inspired me to take another look and success!
Mary and her older brother James William were found to be living at 10 South Grove, Mile End Old Town. They were living with a widow, Emily Thornton and her three daughters. It is not known why the siblings were living with this particular family, although it is possible they could have been family friends.
In a moment of wonderful clarity, I realized that her future husband, Henry John Donald and his family lived in the same area in 1891. It turned out to not only be the same area, but the same block of streets!
The Booth Poverty Map was created by Charles Booth from 1889-1898. During this time, Booth travelled around London with his researchers interviewing people and characterizing the areas they visited into seven different categories ranging from Upper Class/Wealthy to Vicious, Semi Criminal. The image below is an excerpt from the Booth map. The dark blue rectangles are Grove Buildings (where Henry lived at No.117) and were classed as “Very Poor, casual. Chronic Want”. Mary lived on South Grove (the long road running vertically next to the Grove Buildings, and are classed as “Poor. 18s to 21s a week for a moderate family”.
So where were the rest of Mary’s family in 1891? That is still to be solved!
Today marks 100 years since the guns fell silent in World War 1. As we spend the day remembering the millions who died, I wanted to honor my ancestors who fought in WW1. All but one of them survived the war.
Arthur Edward Price (Great-Great-Great Uncle)
Arthur Edward Price was born in early 1880 to Thomas and Mary Ann Price, and was brother to my Great-Great-Grandfather George Frederick.
He was wounded in the right arm and thigh on 29th May 1917 in France. He was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.
Sydney Howard Stares (Great-Great-Great Uncle)
Sydney Howard Stares was born on 15th September 1884 to John and Maria Stares and was brother to my Great-Great-Grandmother May. He was baptized 17 July 1887 at Christ Church Hornsey.
He joined the Royal Navy on 6th May 1901 and served on several different ships in his almost 20 year career. He served on the HMS Southampton from 13 March 1914 to 16 July 1915, and would have most likely participated in the Battles of Heligoland Bight and Dogger Bank.
Sydney survived the war and died 13th April 1948 in Battersea, London.
Private Alfred John Thrussell (Great-Great-Great Uncle)
Alfred John Thrussell was born on 18th June 1872 to George and Sarah Thrussell and was brother to my Great-Great-Grandmother Sarah Jane. He was baptized on 29th December 1872 in Harpenden, Hertfordshire.
Alfred first enlisted in the Army in 16 October 1889 and served in several Regiments including the 97th Foot Soldiers and Royal West Kent Regiment. He served for 12.5 years.
Alfred married Harriet Elizabeth Ann Bryant on 1st Nov 1904 at Christ Church Deptford. They quickly had three children – William (1904),Arthur (1907) and Winifred May (1910).
When World War 1 broke out, he reenlisted into the Army aged 41 years old. As seen below in his Army Pension, he remained in the Army Reserve from August 1914 until his demobilization in March 1919. Although it is unknown exactly where he served during the War, he would have seen fighting during that time.
Alfred died on 18th June 1951 aged 78 years old in Watford.
Private Alfred John Bolton (Great-Great-Great Uncle)
Alfred John Bolton was born on 27th May 1881 to James and Louisa Bolton, and was the brother of my Great-Great Grandmother Mary Louisa. He was baptized on 7 August 1881 at St Mary Magdalene Church, Islington.
He joined the British Army and was sent to the Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment (Regimental No. L/10769). He was 34 years old when he killed in action on 25 September 1915 in France & Flanders. This was the first day in the bloody Battle of Loos. He is buried at the Loos Memorial in Loos-en-Gohelle, France.
After his death, he was awarded the trio of British WW1 medals – The 1914-1915 Star, the Victory Medal and the British War Medal.
Frederick Bolton (Great-Great-Great Uncle)
Frederick Bolton was born 1 March 1888 to James and Louisa Bolton, and was the younger brother to the aforementioned Alfred John Bolton. He was baptized on 28 Oct 1888 at Hackney St John.
In 1904, he joined the Army attached to the York and Lancaster Regiment. As seen his Military History Sheet, he served several times in France and the Mediterranean during the war.
Unlike his brother, Frederick survived the war and went on to marry and have children. He died in Winter 1943 in Hackney, London.
Private Benjamin Donoghue (Great-Great-Great Uncle)
Benjamin Donoghue was born in Spring 1877 to John Donoghue and Sarah Harriet Marsden, and was the brother of my Great-Great-Grandfather Frederick Donoghue. He married Bridget Linehan in 1909 in Woolwich, London.
Although details are not available of when and where he served, he did receive the Victory and British War Medal whilst serving as a Private with the Kings Royal Rifle Corps. He survived the war, but additional details of his life are unknown.
George Henry Williams (Great-Grandfather)
George Henry Williams was born on 7 September 1898 to Albert Henry and Emily Williams in Clapham, London. He was baptized on 14 Nov 1902 at Clapham Holy Trinity.
He enlisted in the Army on 2nd February 1914 aged 18. He served through the entirety of the war, although exact locations are not known.
After the war, George married and had three children. He died on 12 April 1965 in Merton.