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Archive for February, 2014

Franklin Lyman Olds was born on 16 February 1810, the first child of Gideon and Elizabeth “Betsey” (Lyman) Olds of Jericho, Chittendon County, Vermont. His parents were both children of families who had moved up New England to colonial western Vermont. There is no known previous usage of the given name Franklin in his family and it is possible he was named in honor of Benjamin Franklin by his parents, whose fathers had both fought in the American Revolution. It was a given name that would carry on down the generations.

Franklin’s family had moved to Norwich, Windsor County, Vermont, on the eastern edge of the state, by 1830, when his mother Betsey died there and was buried in Norwich’s cemetery. Life for the family went on without Betsey. Franklin may have initially been involved in a Norwich-area company called Burton Olds & Co. On 3 October 1833 Franklin was amongst many citizens of Norwich to petition the Vermont legislature to create a law to prevent cattle from running at large, or as they put it:

We the undersigned would humbly represent to your Honorable body, that great difficulties and damages are incurred by the Farming interest in this State in consequence of the prevailing custom of turning cattle except Yearlings to run at large in the Highways during the Summer and Autumn. And as the laws of the State are considered insufficient to restrain such cattle from so running at large, We do therefore pray your Honorable body that an act may be passed effectually to produce such restraint . . .

In 1834 he was again one of many petitioners; this time they asked for the legislature to allow an educational facility that would become Norwich University.

Norwich was a small town, so Franklin could have met Lucy Blood at almost any activity or location around the mostly rural town. On 26 November 1835, Lucy and Franklin were married in Norwich by Samuel Goddard. Lucy’s mother had also died prior to their wedding, but both their fathers were still alive. To date I have been unable to locate them on the 1840 federal census, and since it only enumerates each head-of-household, the young couple may have been living with a relative.

Franklin opened a general store in Norwich with his brother Erastus William Olds. They were known as F L & E W Olds.

F L & E W Olds listed in the Merchants and Traders section of Waltons Vermont Register and Farmers Almanac for 1849

F L & E W Olds are listed in the “Merchants and Traders” section of the 1849 Walton’s Vermont Register and Farmers’ Almanac. I purchased this copy on eBay a few years ago.

Franklin was elected a Representative to Vermont’s General Assembly for 1856-57.

Franklin Olds elected for Windsor County

An article on election results (excerpted here) lists Franklin Olds as one of the Representatives from Windsor County. From the 14 September 1855 issue of the Vermont Watchman and State Journal of Montpelier, page 2. (Image courtesy of Chronicling America.)

Through a digitized Journal of the House of the State of Vermont, I know he filed a report as part of the Committee on State Prisons. He was also a Representative while the Vermont legislature was considering moving the capital of Vermont from Montpelier to Rutland, as shown in the newspaper excerpt below.

Franklin Olds mentioned in an article over the debate to move the Vermont state legislature from Montpelier to Rutland

Franklin Olds is mentioned in an article (an excerpt is shown here) over the debate to move the Vermont state legislature from Montpelier to Rutland. From the 27 February 1857 issue of the Vermont Watchman and State Journal of Montpelier, page 2. (Image courtesy of Chronicling America.)

As the general store in a small, mostly rural community, their fortunes boomed. On the 1850 census, Franklin was listed with real estate worth $570 and Erastus with real estate worth $1,000. By the 1860 federal census, Franklin was listed as having real estate worth $1,250 and “personal estate” worth $5,000. Younger brother Erastus’s real estate was a bit less expensive – still listed at $1,000, he was probably living in the same place as a decade prior – but Erastus was listed with the exact same personal estate as Franklin, $5,000. With personal estates together totaling $10,000, Franklin and Erastus made up the majority of the wealth on their census page, the entire total of personal estates only being $13,300.

As was common then amongst merchants and others who owned businesses that many people frequented, Franklin shortly became the postmaster of Norwich.

Franklin L. Olds in the postmasters register

The top entries in a page of the postmaster appointments register, the first entry being for Franklin L. Olds, who was appointed postmaster of Norwich on 20 June 1861 and served until around 1885 (the last number of the year Lewis Partridge was appointed is difficult to read due to the binding tape). The register also lists (not pictured here) that Erastus Olds became postmaster in 1889, after two others briefly served as postmasters. Seema Kenney retrieved this record for me from NARA, but the record set has since been added to Ancestry.com.

A storm was brewing in the divided nation, and the Civil War shortly broke out. As the war did not end in a few months as many in the Union thought, and then turned ever more bloody and expensive, the Union turned to new ways to fund the war and get soldiers to fight it. An increasing array of taxes were introduced and a draft was instituted. Too old to be drafted, Franklin and Erastus chose not to voluntarily enlist. But as merchants who were relatively wealthy for a small community, they were subject to a variety of taxes. They were taxed as “Retail Dealers” and individually taxed for the incomes from their business.

Franklin and Erastus Olds on IRS tax list for Vermont Division 7 of District 2 in 1863

Franklin and Erastus Olds were taxed as both a business and individuals in 1863. The business is listed as owning a horse and carriage, probably for the general store to be able to transport goods to those that could not take them home on their own. Franklin and Erastus were both also taxed for their individual incomes. They are shown in the middle of this excerpt from the 1863 Internal Revenue Service tax list for Vermont’s Division 7 of District 2. (Image courtesy of Ancestry.com; the record set is part of NARA’s holdings.)

After the war ended, the taxes initially continued as the Union side tried to recoup some of the financial devastation war had wrought on the federal government. An increasing number of items were taxed, and that’s how I know that Franklin’s household owned a piano. As head-of-household, Franklin was the one who was taxed for it, but since it was a musical instrument, I have no way of knowing which member(s) of the household actually played it. I’ve always found this interesting, as I always enjoy learning more about the day-to-day lives of the people I research, but have found it especially so since I recently began learning to play the piano myself. It is nice to imagine a household filled with music.

Franklin and Erastus Olds on IRS tax list for Vermont Division 7 of District 2 in May 1866

Franklin and Erastus Olds are again taxed as both a business and individuals. Franklin was taxed for a “Piano Forte” and Erastus for a “Gold Watch.” The carriage, formerly listed as joint property of F L & E W Olds, is now listed as Franklin’s property. They are shown in the middle of this excerpt from the May 1866 Internal Revenue Service tax list for Vermont’s Division 7 of District 2. (Image courtesy of Ancestry.com; the original record set is part of NARA’s holdings.)

On 8 November 1867, the Norwich Classical and English Boarding School was incorporated by the Vermont State Legislature, and it opened the following year. Franklin was on the Board of Trustees starting in 1868, listed with the honorific of “Esq.” (short for “Esquire”).  The school created a rather melodramatic advertisement about its wonderful staff, perfect building, idyllic location, and specialization in classical instruction. However, the school did not last very long, closing in 1877; this was apparently at least partially due to regular staff turnover.

In the 1870’s, the general store caught fire. Erastus and his wife, who lived above the store, were wakened by a daughter who had spotted the fire and escaped. The store was rebuilt, but according to a local history of the area, Erastus ran it on his own from that point forward. By this time Franklin was at least in his 60’s, but continued on as postmaster for several more years. Under a federal act of 3 March 1883, c. 142, (22 St. pp. 600, 602,), first to third class postmasters were allowed to put in claims for readjusted pay if they had been postmasters certain years. (See a partial quote of the act in this transcript of a Supreme Court case regarding it.) Judging by the Serial Sets, a large number of postmasters did; Franklin was one of them. It took a long time for the federal government to go through all the claims, and while many of them appear to have been rejected, Franklin’s was one of the ones eventually accepted (see 1886’s Serial Set Vol. 2401 [House Executive Document 225], p. 73). He received an additional $92.80 in pay for having served as Norwich’s postmaster in 1873 and 1874.

Just a handful of years after retiring as postmaster, Franklin died in his beloved Norwich, on 4 January 1890. His widow Lucy died nearly exactly four years later, on 27 January 1894, in Norwich.

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NOTES

Original copies of the petitions mentioned early in this blog post are held by the Vermont State Archives.

The American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Massachusetts, has a collection of school-related materials. An online list of schools represented in their collection is over here.

The NARA-Waltham branch (in Massachusetts) contains the original volumes of the 1860’s IRS tax lists for Vermont.

Ancestry.com has an extensive collection of scanned printed school materials that (at least for me) generally do not show up in my regular searches. Only by going to the category for school materials do I generally get any hits. Materials pertaining to the Norwich Classical and English Boarding School are amongst its holdings.

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Isobel Aitchison Honeyman was born in South Callenge, Ceres, Fife, Scotland, on 21 December 1883, the youngest known child of James Toddie Honeyman and Agnes (Pearson) Honeyman. Isobel was named after her paternal grandmother. James, who reported the birth, listed his residence as Portobello; at the time James and Agnes were living in the Portobello area of Edinburgh with their children, and Agnes’s parents were living in South Callenge, so Isobel was probably born at her maternal grandparents’ farm. Isobel’s father was a mechanical engineer specializing in paper mill machinery and he travelled a lot for work, but he reported that he was present at Isobel’s birth. Agnes and the children were living alone on some of the censuses as James travelled around the UK plying his engineering trade.

Isobel’s life appears to have started out ordinarily enough; she is listed as a scholar on the 1891 census. By 1900 the family had moved to 22 Parsons Green Terrace in the Canongate district of Edinburgh, and Agnes’s mother Catharine (Wilson) Philp Pearson died there that January. The following January Catharine’s much younger husband, David Pearson, died there as well. In April the family was enumerated as a full family unit for the only time: James, Agnes, and their four surviving children – Catharine Wilson Honeyman, William Pearson Honeyman, David Pearson Honeyman, and Isobel Aitchison Honeyman – were all enumerated at 22 Parsons Green Terrace. The children’s occupations are an interesting look at opportunities for young people at the turn of the last century in Edinburgh: Catharine was working as a dressmaker, William as a clerk, David as a porter, and 17-year-old Isobel had already begun her career as a “Costume-maker.”

The following year Isobel’s oldest siblings, Catharine and William, both married in Edinburgh and started families of their own. In 1911 Isobel and David were still living with James and Agnes. James, now 63, was still a practicing mechanical engineer, and David had found a career as a Blacksmith’s Striker. Isobel was now enumerated as  a Dressmaker, as Catharine had been a decade earlier, but I suspect Isobel was doing costume work whenever she could, and making dresses to help with her income. In 1913 the family was irrevocably altered by James’s death. The death record reveals that a cerebral embolism was his immediate cause of death, but that he had been ill for six months, though he seems to have still been working as a mechanical engineer, as he is not listed as retired. Isobel’s brother William had returned from Fife, as he reported the death and that he was present at it. In 1915 and 1920 Agnes was listed on the valuation rolls at 22 Parsons Green Terrace, and in 1930 Agnes died of acute bronchitis, still listed as residing at 22 Parsons Green Terrace. Again, William returned for a parent’s death and then reported it to the government.

Isobel seems to have continued her costume-related occupations, though I have yet to locate any records that directly name her between 1911 and 1932. On 16 July 1932, 48-year-old Isobel (reporting her age as 49) married 49-year-old Matthew Waterson Gilbert at 11 Royal Terrace in Edinburgh. Isobel is listed as a “Costume Fitter” and a Spinster. Matthew is listed as a “Motor Mechanic” and a widower. Isobel’s address is listed as the familiar 22 Parsons Green Terrace, and Matthew’s as 5 High Street in Portobello. Had Isobel been living with and caring for her widowed mother until Agnes had died two years before Isobel’s late marriage? The records I have reviewed to date are silent on the subject. Their marriage occurred late enough in their lives that only one of their parents, Matthew’s father John, was still living at the time. The minister of Abbey Church in Edinburgh officiated, and their witnesses were James P. Honeyman of 6 Jubilee Terrace, Markinch, Fife, and Frances Stephen of 14 Hamilton Place, Edinburgh. The James P. Honeyman in question was almost surely Isobel’s nephew James Pearson Honeyman, one of the sons of her brother William, as William had listed his own address as 6 Jubilee Terrace when he reported his mother’s death two years prior to the wedding.

Assuming that the street numbering remains the same from 1932 to today, the wedding’s site of 11 Royal Terrace was, and remains, the Adria House in Edinburgh’s New Town, a building which is nearly 200 years old and is now a small hotel. Their website does not indicate how long it has been a hotel, but it does say, “The cobbled Royal Terrace is the longest continuous terrace in the New Town. The houses are only built on one side of the street and there is a generous amount of open space with private gardens to the rear of the property and a treelined park at the front.”

Costume fitter is an occupation that continues to the present day. It is the person in a production (be it theater or film) who fits costumes and, if needed, tailors them. Isobel was part of a changing production scene; as the Victoria and Albert Museum’s site puts it, “The idea of visual unity and a production as a total concept was established in the early 1900s, and the director evolved to fuse the disparate elements – text, concept, performance, design, lighting – into a seamless whole.” The Victoria and Albert Museum states in their page “Designing Stage Costumes,” “The 20th century saw the emergence of the career designer, and then the setting up of training courses. But stage design is still an uncertain job and even today, designers often combine theatre work with a career as a painter or teacher.” Isobel entered the world of costume early enough in the 20th century and early enough in her life that she probably never took a training course and may have learned by, for example, initially working with a more experienced costumer.

Isobel’s late marriage could be at least partly attributed to caring for her mother if she was doing so, but it also speaks to a deficit of younger single men in the UK which began in Victorian times and was accelerated after World War I killed so many young British men. Isobel would have been prime 19th-century marrying age while World War I raged, and she turned 33 at the end of 1918. Many British women died elderly and still single in the 20th century.

Matthew has been more difficult to locate in records than a typical turn-of-the-20th-century Scot. On censuses he was reported to have been born in Cowdenbeath, Fife, around 1883, yet I have thus far been unable to locate a record of his birth anywhere in Scotland on ScotlandsPeople, despite his younger sisters’ births being registered in Midlothian after Matthew and his parents John and Jane (Waterson) Gilbert moved there from Fife. Though Matthew reports being a widower upon his marriage to Isobel, so far I have also been unable to locate any prior marriage(s) for him in Scotland, and wonder if perhaps he married in England. It is possible he is the “M. W. Gilbert” who was in the Royal Scots Fusiliers in World War I, not least because he would have been about the right age to be in the War, but so far I don’t have enough evidence to say for sure one way or the other.

Isobel died on 11 April 1952 of acute pneumonia at “Hospital for Women, Whitehouse Loan, Edinburgh (Usual residence 22 Parsons Green Terrace, Edinburgh).” Matthew survived her and reported her death. He died in 1967, too recently for his death record to be digitized; he would have been about 84 years old when he died. Isobel and Matthew lived through two World Wars – one apart, one together – and saw their country change a tremendous amount in their long lives. I often wonder if they enjoyed going to the theater and/or films together and discussing the costumes afterwards.

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NOTE

I have searched in a number of digitized newspapers and city directories, as well as the general web, for Isobel, so far without success. I would like to know what types of productions she worked on and more about her life as an adult. Hopefully someday I will successfully locate records that can tell me more. The options for a costumer in the early 20th century were very wide, from old-fashioned shows all the way to elaborate fantasies where the main point of the show was to show off the elaborate costumes, not to have a coherent production.

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Thus far I have used my “52 Ancestors” posts to highlight people about whom I already know a lot. This week I want to take a look at someone whose origins remain a mystery. Elizabeth Fletcher lived in Chemung County, New York, which was carved from Tioga County, New York. Her town of residence was similarly carved: Horseheads was originally considered a part of Elmira, then carved out from Elmira into its own town, and the small village (in New York it’s technically a “hamlet”) where they lived, Breesport, has always been a subset of Horseheads. So Elizabeth lived in a subset of a second subset of a town. The earliest event I have for Elizabeth is her marriage to Charles Pierson Brees/Breese on 28 Feb 1829 in Veteran, Tioga County, New York, performed by Justice of the Peace Nathaniel Smith. Like Elmira, Veteran was in the part of Tioga County that would subsequently become Chemung County; Veteran was on the northern edge of the area that would become Chemung County, and the town from which it had been formed in 1823, Catharine, would become part of Schuyler County when the new counties were formed from Tioga County. All of this shows how important it is to know precisely where someone lived – always in my opinion but most especially in any area where boundaries changed over time.

Elizabeth and Charles had six sons. I know her maiden name because of an enumerator who included more information than he was required to do, and I know their marriage date and location because their youngest son, Sylvester Fletcher Brees/Breese (usually known as Fletcher), enlisted in the 50th New York Engineers of the Union Army during the Civil War and died of disease at the hospital in City Point, Virginia, less than three months after enlisting. Fletcher was only 19 years old when he died. Elizabeth applied for a parent’s pension, for which parents who were financially dependent on a child who died serving in the Union Army during the war were eligible. As you may already know, most parents’ pensions were proved by the parent sending letters from their child in with the pension, where the child said, for example, that they were sending part of their Union Army pay back to the parent with the letter; the letters were never returned, even though it may have been the last letter the parent ever received from their dead child, and they remain in the pension files today, now held at NARA in Washington, D. C.

Elizabeth & Charles's household on the 1865 NY state census

Elizabeth and Charles’s household on the 1865 New York state census, followed by the household of their married son John. The enumerator for this part of Chemung County, New York, took the unusual step of listing the maiden names of married women. Also note that Fletcher is enumerated here though he was dead by this time; this was so that his Civil War service could be enumerated (see the other image in this post). From ED 01, p. 17, of the Chemung County, New York, state census; in the FamilySearch images, it is image 9 of 24. (Image courtesy of FamilySearch.)

Elizabeth presumably didn’t have letters from Fletcher – I’m not even sure if Fletcher knew how to write – as she took the more unusual tack of soliciting testimony from neighbors and others, which were given as affidavits and are in her file. The testimony paints a dire picture of Elizabeth and Charles’s life on the margins of society. Charles had trained as a blacksmith, like his father before him, and Elizabeth and Charles lived on a very small farm. According to testimony, Charles’s physical and mental health problems had made it increasingly difficult for him to practice his smithing trade, and the tiny farm was on marginal land that barely produced enough to minimally feed the couple. Elizabeth’s testimony says she “has also been obligated to provide for the support of the father (i.e. her husband) ever since the enlistment of said Sylvester…” Unfortunately her testimony does not provide specifics on how she did this. Elizabeth’s and her neighbors’ testimony says that Fletcher had started working as a farm hand on other farms when he was about twelve years old and had used the money to support his parents before enlisting. Whether we as historians can believe testimony is always a question; even in modern courts some people believe testimony they hear “live” and others don’t. What I can say for sure is that the Pension Bureau believed the testimony, because Elizabeth was awarded a parents’ pension.

Civil War service of men living in ED01 of Chemung County, New York

Like many state censuses taken in Union states during the Civil War, enumerators in New York were asked to collect information on the service of people in their district for the 1865 New York state census. This is one of two blanks for reports of service of those in this part of the enumeration, and as instructed, the enumerator included information on which people were taken prisoner and/or had died. Sylvester and Corydon are the second and third people listed here. The listing for Sylvester says he died of Malaria Fever, which is different than what his Compiled Military Service Record says. The listing for Corydon reports his experience as a prisoner of war; Corydon was still serving at the time of the enumeration. (Image courtesy of FamilySearch.)

The pension file story doesn’t end there, though. Elizabeth died in 1876 and Charles, widowed and living alone, applied for a parent’s pension of his own. For his application to be approved, he had to prove his relationships – that he was married to Elizabeth and the father of the child through which Elizabeth had drawn a pension. That’s where Elizabeth’s marriage details show up in the pension file – not in her own application, but in her widower Charles’s. His testimony also includes that he had a “family Record” which was “in the hand writing of Elizabeth Brees wife of deponent and mother of said soldier who died,” and the Notary Public copied information about Sylvester from this record to send to the Pension Bureau. The current whereabouts of this family record, if it exists at all, are unknown.

Charles’s application also provides the detail that they had been married by Justice of the Peace Nathaniel Smith and that as far as they knew, there was no written record of the marriage. Nathaniel Smith had moved away long ago, and Charles had attempted to locate his whereabouts. The pension file includes an affidavit from someone who knew Elizabeth, Charles, and Nathaniel and who reported that Nathaniel had “removed from the said town of Veteran according to deponent best recollection about the year 1840 to one of the Western States (Illinois),” and that Nathaniel had died many years prior to Charles’s application. So Charles got someone else to give testimony that she had attended Elizabeth and Charles’s wedding. I always like when an application for something like a pension hits a snafu, as it generates additional records which provide additional details.

Most records list Elizabeth’s birth location as “Vermont” if they list it at all; at least one adult child lists her birth place as Montpelier, Vermont, on a record. However, so far I have not found Elizabeth in Montpelier or elsewhere in Vermont, and her birth family remains a mystery.

The information in this post illustrates very well how researching American women in the past generally primarily involves researching records regarding the men in their lives – such as their fathers and brothers, and their husband(s) and/or son(s) if they were married and/or had children. Most of what I know about Elizabeth comes from records generated by the actions of her youngest son and her husband/widower. This is not to suggest that Elizabeth was a passive participant in circumstance, simply that, for example, she applied for a pension because Fletcher made the ultimate sacrifice of his life; without his actions, she would not have been able to apply and there would be no pension file. However, it was Elizabeth’s choice to apply, and given that it was more difficult for an application to be successful without written letters from the financially supportive son, the fact that her pension was approved says something about Elizabeth’s application and the perceived credibility of Elizabeth and of the witnesses she chose to speak on her behalf.

The children of Elizabeth and Charles Brees/Breese:

  1. Erasmus Darwin (1831-1914) [went by Darwin], m. Amanda ___
  2. John P. (1833-1907), m. Harriet [Dean?]
  3. Charles F. (1836-1887), m. Sarah ___
  4. William Henry (1839-1855)
  5. Corydon (1841-1938), m. 1st Ann Tanner, m. 2nd Elizabeth (___) Daugherty
  6. Sylvester Fletcher (1845-1864)

Elizabeth and Charles are buried at Breesport Baptist Church Cemetery in Breesport, Chemung County, New York, but some of their family is buried at Hilltop Cemetery, also in Breesport, New York.

Further Research

  • A document compiled by Pension Bureau staff says that Elizabeth had recently purchased a small lot with money left to her by a deceased brother. Unfortunately it does not list the brother’s name nor where he had lived. So far the probate in question has not been located, but the search continues.
  • Evidence garnered to date suggests that Elizabeth’s husband Charles’s family moved from New Jersey directly to the Horseheads area. Thus, their marriage in Veteran could have been due to Elizabeth’s ties to the town rather than Charles’s, since as far as I have been able to determine so far, Charles does not appear to have had any connections to Veteran at the time. There were three Fletcher households enumerated in Tioga County on the 1820 U. S. federal census, though none were enumerated in Catharine. Since Elizabeth did not marry until 1829 in Veteran, it is quite possible that she and/or one or more relatives moved to the area after the 1820 census. So far nothing conclusive has been found, but research is continuing. However, Nathaniel Smith, who married them, lived in Veteran according to the pension file, so that could have been the reason they married there.
  • Regardless of the above, Elizabeth must have moved to Chemung County for some reason, and investigations into possible family connections to the area continue.
  • Presuming Elizabeth correctly self-reported a birth place of Vermont, investigation into what would have made someone go from Vermont to southern New York – whether she did so as a child with her family or a young woman on her own – may provide clues to her family and/or exactly where in Vermont she would have been most likely to have originated.
  • Hope remains that someday the family record mentioned in the testimony will surface intact.

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NOTES

My 2011 post “Civil War court martials” is about Elizabeth and Charles’s son Corydon, though I didn’t mention him by name in the post.

Another researcher has listed at various sites online that Fletcher died at Gettysburg. Not only did he die over a year after the Battle of Gettysburg, but he hadn’t even enlisted yet when the 50th NY Engineers were at the Battle of Gettysburg, completely refuting any possible argument that he belatedly died of injuries sustained at Gettysburg. Please check original sources yourself whenever they are extant – don’t take anyone’s word for anything!

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Sarah Ann Mathews, generally called “Annie,” was born to Edward Isaac Mathews and Maria (Bray) Mathews of Limehouse in Greater London on 24 March 1864, the fourth of their five known children. Annie’s parents had been part of the story of the changing landscape of England: Her father had been born in the Bermondsey area of Surrey while her mother had been born in rural Devon. Annie’s mother had migrated to London, but exactly when is not clear, as the first London-area record in which I have found Maria is her marriage to Edward at St. Jude’s in Whitechapel in 1857. According to this blog post, St. Jude’s was just 9 years old when Maria and Edward married there, but by 1873 it would be neglected and abandoned. Taken over and rescued by the area reformers Samuel and Henrietta Barnett at that time, who had requested the assignment, St. Jude’s would one day be destroyed in the London Blitz.

According to their marriage record, Edward, a widower, was a carpenter living at what looks somewhat like “Alis Street,” and Maria was a spinster living at the “same place.” As with Edward’s first marriage, both witnesses were members of the Mathews family. While Maria gave the correct father’s name, the occupation is wildly wrong; whether she did not know the correct occupation of the father who had abandoned her family when she was a child or lied about it, there is no way to know. Either way, Maria was part of the early wave of people moving from rural England to urban areas. Was Maria one of the many who saw a move to the big city as a as a chance to consciously reinvent herself? Regardless of whether her reinvention was a conscious choice or not, Maria’s move dramatically improved her lot in life.

Edward had at least one surviving child, Mary Jane Mathews, born to his first wife, Elisabeth (Godwin) Mathews, and baptized at St. Peter’s in Walworth, Surrey. Edward and Maria stayed within the Tower Hamlets area, initially settling in Poplar, then moving to Limehouse between the 1861 census and Annie’s 1864 birth. At Limehouse the family lived within easy walking distance of one of the busiest waterfronts in London. The East India Company had docks very close by. The nearest Church of England church, St. Anne’s, had the highest church clock in London, and rang its bell every 15 minutes in a long tradition to help merchant mariners and Royal Navy seamen orient themselves as they neared the docks. It is estimated that 6,000 ships docked daily. There were also a large number of factories, warehouses, and other industrial buildings in the neighborhood. I imagine it must have been a noisy, bustling place to live. On the well-known Booth Poverty Maps of London, where the criteria used means that the ranking can change dramatically from block to block, their block was ranked fairly well-off. While the family was living in Limehouse, some buildings at the dead-end of their tiny Aston-street were knocked down and Aston-street was expanded.

By 1890 Annie’s father Edward had gained the right to vote through his residence at their 67 Aston-street home. He continued to appear on the voter rolls until 1897, the year after his death. In 1898 Annie’s widowed mother Maria appeared on the voter roll in his place. What happened to Maria after this is not yet known, but in her lifetime she had gone from working as a servant as a desperately poor young teen in rural England to being on the voter roll of London.

Maria’s family had been non-conformist when she was a child, so whether Maria and Edward’s children do not appear in the local Church of England baptismal registers as infants because they were non-conformists or because Maria and Edward did not baptize them anywhere is unclear so far. Annie chose adult baptism in the Church of England church St. Anthony’s at Stepney on 21 May 1884, with “(Adult baptism)” scrawled in large letters above the entry. The register lists her as still living at her family’s 67 Aston-street home in Limehouse, so it is interesting that she chose to be baptized at a church in Stepney.

On 17 February 1889, Annie married fellow local John Crowley, a clerk, at St. Matthew’s in Limehouse Fields. Both single, Annie and John were listed on the record as both living at 67 Aston-street at the time they married. Annie’s father and one of John’s relatives witnessed the marriage. Annie’s father remained a carpenter and her new husband’s father was an engineer. Maria had signed her marriage record in the childlike writing of someone who may have only known how to write their own name, while Annie signed her full name Sarah Ann Mathews in the confident hand of someone who was probably fully literate.

On the 1891 census Annie and John and their oldest child, a son named Victor John Edward Crowley, were living at 67 Aston-street, as were Annie’s parents; the address is divided into two separate households by the enumerator. Had John moved into the other half of 67 Aston-street and then literally married the girl next door? Or had he moved there because he already knew and liked Annie? These are the kinds of questions it is difficult to answer in the types of records typically left for posterity. Regardless, in 1891 John was still working as a clerk and Edward was still working as a carpenter.

In June 1896 the Crowleys’ oldest child Victor was listed in a register for school, part of a large group of children in the register for Garden-street Temporary School in Tower Hamlets. The family’s address was listed as “67 Ashton St.”

By 1901 Annie and John’s family had expanded, now with three living daughters in addition to their still-living oldest son: Gladys Annie Lizzie Crowley, Eva Rose Irene Crowley, and Hilda Iris Crowley. Their family was now listed first at 67 Aston-street while a single working woman was listed as the resident of the other half of the building. John was still working as a commercial clerk.

By 1911 the family had left both Aston-street and Limehouse behind. They had moved to Forest Gate in the West Ham area of County Essex. All four children I’ve mentioned in this post were still alive, but the enumeration says that Annie had a fifth child who had died. Annie and John had been married for 23 years. For the first time a record gives a more detailed glimpse of John’s working life than “commercial clerk”; he is listed as a Ledger Clerk in the industry “Oil, Gas, & Electric Heating Apparatus.” Their son Victor was enumerated as working as a Stockkeeper’s Clerk in the same industry, and their oldest daughter Gladys as a Vest Machinist in the industry “Gentleman’s Underwear and Vest Manufacturer.” Their two younger daughters were listed as still attending school.

Like millions of other mothers, Annie watched her son Victor go off to war in what would later come to be called World War I. Victor served in the Royal West Kent Regiment. Luckily for their family, Victor survived the war; he was discharged on 24 January 1919 after over 3 years of service, having enlisted on 23 November 1915. Someone scanned and posted a photo of Victor in his uniform, listing the year as 1914, and I am grateful they gave me the opportunity to see the photo.

Annie died on 23 February 1935 at Queen Marys Hospital in Stratford, Essex. Though she died in hospital, she was still living in Forest Gate in the West Ham area. While she was a widow when she died, I have yet to find the correct death record for her husband John. Annie did not leave a will, and her small estate was administered by her son Victor, who by then was working as a commercial traveller.

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