9 August 2015

#52Ancestors - Week 30 - Challenging

Week 30 (July 23-29) – Challenging: It’s a good time to take a look at another challenging-to-research ancestor.

I wrote a while ago about my great-great-grandmother Ellen Steward and her multiple names which made her a challenge, but she wasn't the only Steward family member who has provided me with difficulty. Today, let me introduce you to her younger sister Margaret.

Born about 1843 in Sunderland, Margaret is the youngest known child of Edward Steward and Margaret Clark Garrett.

We meet Margaret for the 1st time in the 1851 census, as there does not seem to be any record of her baptism - even though her 2 eldest siblings, Isabella and Edward were baptised. (Edward died within a few months of birth).



The family is living at 27 Numbers Garth in Sunderland. Numbers Garth is a location my family seems to be well connected with as numerous family members lived there over many, many years as recorded in census records from 1851 all the way to 1881.

Numbers Garth was one of many small streets or Courts packed into a small area off the lower part of the High Street West. The houses would have been highly overcrowded and the buildings nothing more than slums. In the 1881 Census there were 23 inhabited houses with 311 people. One house had 30 occupants. Those places were mostly swept away in slum clearance schemes in the early 20th century. Numbers Garth was parallel to and between Sunderland Street and Russell Street north of High Street West. Sunderland Street and Russell Street are still there on the modern map which you can access on Multimap or Streetmap, the A1018 runs now through the area.


Here's another snippet about Numbers Garth from 1848 just before family started living there. As you will read, it was not a nice place to live:
Appointed by the Sanitary Association to inspect the Sanitary condition of the Town the deputation learn that the Lanes and Alleys are in the most disgraceful state from the want of drains and the bad conditions of the pavement. That many of those Lanes and Alleys are never cleaned by the Scavengers and others, the sweepings are not removed, and that the footpaths (except in the High Street) are not properly swept.
That contrary to the By Laws Nos. 2 and 8 persons are in the habit emptying Blood, refuse from Butcher’s Killing shops, Night Soil and other offensive matters into opened, uncovered places in several of the alleys and lanes particularly in the East and Sunderland Ward of Sunderland Parish.  Part of Bridge Ward, called Numbers Garth, Bishopwearmouth. 

We meet Margaret again in the 1861 census at age 17 - still living in Numbers Garth with her parents - this time at 11 1/2 Numbers Garth. Also there with the family are 2 of Margaret's nephews (son's of Margaret's oldest sister Isabella)



Right next door at 10 Numbers Garth is Margaret's sister Ellen who is living as the "housekeeper" of Thomas Dobson (you can read about Ellen's life with Thomas here)

Margaret marries John Metcalf in 1865.

In the 1871 census John and Margaret and 3 of their children (Mary, Margaret and John) are living with Thomas and Ellen Dobson along with their daughter, Thomas' father and 2 of Thomas' siblings. A cosy family of 11 all squeezed in to 12 Numbers Garth



It took me forever to find the family in 1881 - I couldn't find them anywhere in Durham at all, and I lost track of them.

But in the 1901 census I found a Caroline Metcalf, aged 16 listed as a servant living with Ellen Dobson.



I "figured" it couldn't be a coincidence that Ellen had a Metcalf girl working for her when she had a sister married to a Metcalf, so I knew I could start following Caroline and see if I could back track to find Margaret and her family in the 2 previous censuses.

I also noticed that Caroline had been born in Cumberland.

Backwards then to 1891 to find the 1st census Caroline should be listed in.


What I got was a big Whoa!

Margaret Steward was no longer a Metcalf, she was now a Hopper and there are 7 children who seemed to be originally listed as Hopper with a change to Metcalf in this census.

The mystery, to me, was were they Metcalfs or Hoppers? What happened to John, Margaret's first husband? Where were Mary, Margaret and John the eldest children?

I was convinced that the children listed here were really Hoppers known as Metcalfs and tried my darnedest to try and find this out.

I thought I had found Thomas and Margaret in the 1881 census - but I couldn't make the children work in any way shape or form. But I left them on my tree as Hoppers anyway.

Then through serendipity, I met someone who was doing some research on Caroline Metcalf on behalf of one of Caroline's grandsons. She introduced me, online, to the grandson and we exchanged quite a bit of communication.

When I travelled to England in 2010, I was able to meet him and some of his family for a few hours one afternoon. He showed me the information he had on the Metcalfs, but I was unable to get a copy of it. But he did help me understand that my assumptions about the 7 children on the 1891 census being Thomas Hopper's was wrong - John Metcalf only passed away in 1889 and Margaret had married Thomas in 1890. 

Once back in Australia, I kept looking. Armed with the information about where the Metcalfs were in the 1881 census, I finally found them living in Brampton Cumberland:


Margaret, John, Edward, Elizabeth, David, Isabella and Joseph (Edward and David being new names).

I then was able to put together the full list of John and Margaret's children as recorded in the Census records from 1871 - 1891

Mary, Margaret, John, Edward, Elizabeth, David, Isabella, Joseph, William, Dorothy (Dora), Caroline and Nicholas - 12 children in all.

Finally I could move on to the 1901 census


There is my family - Thomas and Margaret with Dora and Nicholas. But the census brings a new mystery. Henry Lawndes age 12 is living with the family listed as Grandson. But who does he belong to? Is he Margaret or Thomas's grandson? If Margaret's, which daughter does he belong to?

I haven't been able to find a Henry Lawndes or Lowndes that makes sense in the 1891 census, so the family is going to continue to bring me challenges for many years to come.

Lastly we find Thomas, Margaret and daughter Caroline in the 1911 census. It lists Thomas and Margaret as having been married for 20 years and having no children from that marriage.




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