Tag Archives: Elizabeth Smith

Faden John Smith’s mystery family make their home in Ireland

On Borrow’s Gypsies family tree, published in 1910 in the Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society, there’s a small knot of people at the bottom of one page with no details attached to them.

They are Bertram [C15 in the tree], Herbert [C16], Beatrice [C17], Norah [C18] and Ambrose Smith [C19], the children of Faden John Smith [B10] and his partner Alice, a non-Gypsy whose surname, according to the tree, is ‘Penden’. Faden John Smith himself is the brother of Ambrose Smith [B8], the ‘Jasper Petulengro’ of the novels of George Borrow.

As far as I’m aware, little or no work has ever been done to trace Faden John’s family or identify the people in it. Until now, that is. For research into Faden John, Alice and the children has revealed that they left England in the late-1860s to make their home in Ireland and that they never returned to live permanently in England again. Perhaps this is the reason why their Smith relatives based in England couldn’t provide T.W. Thompson with any useful information about them when he was compiling the family tree.

John Farthing Smith – to give him the name that he is invariably recorded by in the historic documents discovered so far – married Alice Penn (rather than ‘Penden’) in Hatcham, South London, on 24 October 1857. Alice was indeed a non-Gypsy, born in a street close to Liverpool Street Station in the City of London in 1837, the daughter of a merchant’s clerk.

By the time of the 1861 census, we find the couple camped in caravans at Mile End, Bow, London. They now have one child, recorded in the census as a daughter called Bertha, aged 10 months. But a birth certificate shows that the child was in fact a son, Bertram Farthing Smith, who was born in 1860 in Old Ford Road, Bow. With John and Alice in 1861 are two more adults: John’s sister Elizabeth Smith [B9], the widow of Elijah Buckley, and her son William Smith [C13]. William gives his age as 25 and his birthplace as Great Yarmouth, Norfolk.  Both John and William give their occupations as horse dealers.

Two more children arrive in the family before they leave London: Herbert, who was baptised at St Mary’s, Stratford Le Bow, London, in 1862; and in 1864, Beatrice Alice, born in a house at 1 North Street, Poplar, London.

And then, off go the family to Ireland, possibly as adherents of the ball-giving group of Gypsies led by John’s nephew George Smith [C12], who you can read about elsewhere on this blog. George is the other son of the Elizabeth Smith mentioned above and therefore the brother of William.

In Ireland, John and Alice add two more children to their family. Leonora Eugenie Smith was born on 3 March 1869 in Strabane, County Tyrone. Ambrose – recorded as Lewis William Ambrose Smith – was baptised in Killeshin, County Carlow, on 19 June 1876.

It appears that John and his nephew William Smith may well have gone into business together as horse dealers in the Irish city in which they all eventually settled, Dublin. Either that or the two brothers William and George started up a business, perhaps with John’s help, but with George’s involvement being rather remote: he was living in Scotland in 1891 and 1901 and in Wales in 1911.

John Farthing Smith died in Dublin on 11 June 1896, according to a reference in the Irish calendar of wills. Here he was described as a ‘gentleman’ of 29 Nelson Street, Dublin. Unfortunately, most Irish wills were destroyed by fire in the early 20th century so this index reference is tantalisingly all that survives. More than that, the Irish General Register Office have been unable to trace a death certificate for a John Smith in Dublin in 1896 among their records so we have no more details about his death.

John’s widow Alice continued to live in Dublin. We find her in the 1901 census with her children Bertram, Beatrice, Leonora and Ambros [sic] living at 41 Granby Lane, Dublin. In the 1911 census she and her daughter Leonora are living alone at 12 Emor Street, Dublin. She died in 1920 in Sandford Avenue, Dublin, and the administration of her estate was granted to her son Bertram Smith, described in the calendar of wills as a ‘merchant’.

And what became of the children? Here’s a potted biography for each of them:

Bertram Smith
He became a notable horse dealer in Ireland and is recorded in newspaper reports in the late 1800s attending horse fairs and possibly owning race horses. He travelled back to England to marry, wedding Eleanor Rimmer, daughter of a joiner from Liverpool, in Egremont, Cheshire, in 1901, By the time of the 1911 census, he was back in Dublin and had two children: Bertram, born in Dublin in 1903; and Eleanor, known as Nellie, born 1909, again in Dublin. Bertram’s wife Eleanor died in 1920 in Dublin. Bertram then married for a second time, to a Jane Jenkins, a farmer’s daughter, in 1923 at St Stephen’s, Dublin. His address then is given as Lad Lane, Lower Baggot Street. It’s not known if he and Jane had any children. Bertram’s death has not yet been traced.

Beatrice Smith
She married a Londoner called William Thompson Mackey, a designer of machinery, in 1901, in Dublin North Registration District. In the 1911 census, the couple are living in Fulham, London, with no children of their own but with a niece called Alice Elizabeth Smith, aged 5, born in Dublin. But Beatrice seems to have returned to live in Ireland at some point after that. Her death, as Beatrice Alice Mackey, is recorded in Dublin South in 1945.

Herbert Smith
No reference has been found for Herbert after his 1862 baptism at St Mary’s, Stratford Le Bow, London. Perhaps he died young.

Leonora Smith – the ‘Norah’ of the family tree
Leonora didn’t marry. She continued to live with her mother Alice until Alice’s death in 1920. Her own death is recorded on 20 June 1929 at Adelaide House, Dublin, possibly a hospital, aged 60.

Ambrose Smith
Ambrose followed the profession of horse dealer like his father and cousins. He married Bridget Behan, daughter of a steward, on 22 January 1904 at St Mary’s, Dublin. Within two years, he was dead. His death is recorded on 4 June 1906 at 41 Granby Place, Dublin. It’s not known whether he and Bridget had any children but perhaps the Alice Elizabeth Smith who is living with Beatrice in London in 1911 belongs to him: she was born in about 1906.

 

 

 

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Buried at Flaybrick Cemetery, Birkenhead, Cheshire: No. 2 – the Smiths

This is the second of three items on this site about the Gypsy monuments visited by the Gypsiologist Robert Scott Macfie on 11 October 1909 at Flaybrick Cemetery in Birkenhead, Cheshire. He saw this one commemorating the Smiths, another for the Chilcot/ts and one for Mackenzie Boswell.

Here’s part of the inscription Scott Macfie took from the Smith tomb, now preserved in a document at the Gypsy Collections at the University of Liverpool Library: To the memory of | Elizabeth Smith | who died 5th January 1883 Aged 76 years  Charles Henry Smith | Born January 20th 1864 Departed this life January 12th 1897 [Here Scott Macfie has sketched a freemason’s mark that he saw cut into the stone] Also of Frederick Grandson of Elizabeth Smith | who died at Douglas, Isle of Man, 12th Septr 1889 | Aged 23 and is here interred. Robert Scott Macfie wrote: “This grave is exactly similar  [to the Chilcott grave], and is next to it.”  The description of that tomb says: “Table tomb with gable top on the surfaces of which the inscriptions are cut. Mounted on plinth: no railing. Quiet and tasteful monument without ostentation.”  Elizabeth Smith [B9 on the Borrow’s Gypsies family tree elsewhere on this site] was the widow of Elijah Buckley. Charles Henry Smith [D40] and Frederick Smith [D41] were the sons of Elizabeth’s son George Smith [C12] and his wife Corlinda Lee.

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Morella Smith, widow of Ferdinand Smith, 1854 inquest

From The Ipswich Journal, 3 June 1854:

WOODBRIDGE

INQUISITION. By Mr. Woods Coroner. – On Thursday last, at Grundisburgh, on the body of Amaryllis Smith, widow, aged 70 years. It appears that the tribe of gipsies frequenting this and the neighbouring counties, to which she had for many years been attached, arrived at Grundisburgh on Monday last, and pitched their tents in an orchard at the back of the Half Moon Inn. One of  their women being ill Mr. Acton attended her, and on that occasion saw Mrs. Smith in good health. On Wednesday afternoon, she was heard in her tent making a rattling noise in her throat; it was shortly repeated, when her daughter rushed into the tent just in time to catch her when falling. She was unable to speak and insensible. Mr. Acton was sent for and was speedily on the spot, but she died a few minutes after his arrival. His examination being to the effect that she died of serous apoplexy, the Jury were quite satisfied that her death was from natural causes; verdict accordingly.

Morella Smith – recorded here and on her death certificate as ‘Amaryllis’ – was the wife of Ferdinand (aka Faden John) Smith [reference A2 in the Borrow’s Gypsies family tree elsewhere on this site]. The couple were married in 1803 in Wells-next-the-Sea, Norfolk. She was the mother of Ambrose Smith, George Borrow’s ‘Jasper Petulengro’ (c1804-1878) [B8] and must have been known to Borrow, if his description of his first encounter with Jasper and his parents at Norman Cross near Peterborough is fact rather than fiction. The daughter mentioned in the newspaper report is Elizabeth Smith or Buckley who gave evidence at her mother’s inquest, where her surname is recorded in her statement as ‘Buckland’.

By a strange coincidence, the death of Ferdinand Smith was also subject to an inquest. He was tried for burglary at the Suffolk Assizes in March 1822, in the company of his son Ambrose Smith and Lewis Boswell. Ambrose was acquitted but Ferdinand and Lewis were both sentenced to transportation for life. Lewis was sent to New South Wales in October 1822, arriving in Australia in March 1823. But Ferdinand – perhaps because he was an older man – spent the next four years imprisoned in the convict hulk Captivity at Portsmouth, Hampshire. He ended his days as a result of the disease erysipelas, an acute skin infection, on 11 March 1826 in the Racoon hospital ship in Portsmouth Harbour where the convicts received medical treatment.

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The manslaughter of Elijah Buckley, 1832

The Essex Standard, and Colchester and County Advertiser

22 September 1832

An inquest was held on the 17th instant held at Waltham Abbey , on the body of Elijah Buckley. The deceased was one of a party of gipsies who had been at Harlow Bush fair, where a quarrel ensued between him and the wife of one of the parties named Stevens, who snatched up a pole, with which he struck him across the head. A regular skirmish followed, in which the deceased was once or twice knocked down. Buckley took to his bed in consequence, and never spoke again. He died on Saturday morning, and as it appeared, from extravasation of blood on the brain. Verdict – Manslaughter against John Stevens.

Elijah Buckley was the partner of Elizabeth Smith [B9] (the sister of Ambrose Smith, c1804-1878) and the father of George Smith [C12] (born 1832) and Leviathan Smith [C14] (born 1828) and – according to the oral history recorded in the Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society – also of Oti aka William Smith [C13]. (The latter’s baptism has not yet been traced.) Elijah was buried on 19 September 1832 at the Abbey Church of Waltham Holy Cross, Waltham Cross, Essex,  where he described as being 34 years old and a brazier from High Beech: a location within Epping Forest.

But there are two mysteries here. Firstly, on the two occasions where Oti/William Smith has been found in census returns, he gives ages that equate to a birth year somewhere between 1836 and 1840. If he is being accurate, then he obviously cannot be the son of Elijah.

Secondly, when George Smith writes about his father in his 1886 autobiography Incidents in a Gipsy’s Life (re-published by the Romany and Traveller Family History Society in 2001), he says: “House-dwellers often have remarked as to the life we lead; many have suggested it to be unhealthy. Now, to prove to the contrary, my dear old mother died at the age of 75, and my father at the age of 81.” So we have to consider: is this artistic licence to prove a point? Or did Elijah’s widow Elizabeth take up with an unknown partner after 1832 who raised George from a baby as his own son and also fathered Oti/William? I look forward to finding that missing baptism one day.

You can read more about George Smith and his wife Corlinda Lee elsewhere on this site.

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