Sunday, 27 January 2019

An Ordinary Life

My prompt for this week is “Would like to meet”; well I would like to meet any and all of my ancestors.  To be honest, the ancestors I would like to meet most are the stuff of history books (and Wikipedia entries) rather than blogs posts, being royalty and nobility.  If I met Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham, I could ask him what happened to the Princes in the Tower and maybe solve a 500 year old mystery.  However, in my blog I am revealing the lives of "ordinary" people from the past who otherwise would remain unknown.  So for this post I am writing about Eliza Roberts.  I would like to meet her to ask her who her mother was because I am not sure; not quite as big a mystery as lost princes but still something I would like to know.

Eliza Robert was born about 1831 in Hendon according to most records, now part of London and not far from where I used to live, or Highgate, London, according to her baptism record.  She was the daughter of George Roberts and Charlotte (maybe nee Hollingsworth).  I have found a possible marriage record for Eliza’s parents but nothing further about her mother’s past.  George Roberts was a shoe maker who belonged to a family of prominent blacksmiths and iron founders in Deanshanger, Northamptonshire.  I am not sure what brought him to London but perhaps it was an apprenticeship?  Eliza Roberts was baptised on 22 January 1832 at Highgate Chapel in the parish of Hornsey.

In 1833, Eliza’s brother George was born in Hendon.  He was followed a couple of years later by Frances Elizabeth Roberts, born around December 1834 in Hendon.  Sadly, mother Charlotte died in December 1835, aged just 24.  She is buried at St John’s, Hampstead; a picturesque grave yard that is the last resting place of a number of famous people.  Sister Frances died in a few months later in 1836, in Hendon, when she was only 16 months old.  It must have been a very difficult time for George Roberts (senior) who was left a widower aged only 25, with two young children. 

The young family returned to Deanshanger, where George married Susannah Harding in 1838.  He also seems to have taken up work at the family iron foundry. Susannah had a son from a previous relationship, Frederick, who was aged 7 in 1838.  This created a blended family and gave Eliza an older brother.  George and Susannah had two more children that I know of, William, born 1839 and probably died before 1851, and Elizabeth, born in 1841.  In August 1841, Eliza’s brother George died, leaving Eliza as the only surviving child of Charlotte.  Eliza’s paternal grandmother, Elizabeth Robert nee Davies also died in 1841.  It must have been a traumatic year for the family.

Ten years later, at the time of the 1851 census, Eliza was living with her step-mother Susannah in Bicester, Oxfordshire.  I am not sure what took them there as George was in Deansahnger at the time, although maybe he was just visiting his family on the night of the census.  In any case, this explains how Eliza Roberts met John Smith, her future husband and a carpenter from Bicester, whose biography I wrote a couple of years ago.  Eliza married John Smith on 17 April 1854, in Oxfordshire.  Eliza signed the marriage register with a very shaky signature, so it seems that she was educated but perhaps wasn’t used to writing much.  

The story of John and Eliza’s family together is recorded in detail in his story.  In summary, Eliza and John had four children: Emily, Harry (my great great Grandfather), Mary Ann and Elizabeth Ann.  The family travelled and lived in various places around South East England before ending up in Woolwich, Kent.
Eliza died in Woolwich in 1904, aged 72.  By this time she was grandmother of at least 14 children, four of whom lived in Australia.

Eliza had a turbulent childhood, as many have had throughout history.  She lived in London and around South East England, moving frequently.  She must have seen a lot of changes in the world between 1831 and 1904.  When Eliza was born, Hendon was a little village a day trip from London.  In 1904, it would have been a short train ride from the city centre.  In many ways, her life was nothing special but with all she experienced and saw, I am sure Eliza Roberts would have been an interesting person to meet with lots of stories to tell to fill in the bare bones that I have discovered so far.

Notes on lineage: Me > Mum > Daphne Madge Smith > John Henry Smith > Harry Smith > Eliza Roberts

See 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks regarding the prompts.

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