CHILDS, Hertford Heath, 1860-64

May, 2008

Caroline Wheeler (herbalist121 @t of Suffolk writes: I am researching my great great grandmother Rebecca Childs, born in 1843 to Edward and Emma Childs in Great Amwell, Hertford Heath. Edward Childs was an agricultural labourer.

Rebecca is recorded in the 1861 census, aged 18, working as a domestic servant and living at Little Amwell with her parents and 8 siblings.

In September 1862 Rebecca gave birth to my great grandmother Emma. Emma was illegitimate (I have her birth certificate from my mother). Rebecca married Frederick Raw two years later in 1864 (I have ordered their marriage certificate). Although Frederick is recorded as being born in Hertford, the marriage took place in London.

By 1871 Frederick, Rebecca and Emma were living in Hertford and had 3 more children. Frederick's occupation is recorded as a fruiterer.

It is possible that Frederick was Emma's father and that he delayed marrying Rebecca because he already had a wife (I am researching this). However, my mother believes that Emma's father was of higher status and that he was 'sent abroad'. I have been inclined to dismiss this as delusions of grandeur and a reluctance to accept that we are descended from agricultural labourers and shopkeepers. However, I was interested to read that Hailey Bury College in Great Amwell trained young men to work for the East India Company and was a major employer of people in the village of Great Amwell. However, according to the information on your site, the College was closed by 1858, two years before Emma was conceived (December 1861). It re-opened as a public school in 1862.

Caroline asked three related questions:

Who employed Rebecca as a domestic servant?

So what did Rebecca do at the time of the 1861 census? Each household was given a form to fill in, but in many homes there was either no-one who could read and write - or the only people who could fill in the form was one of the children. If the form was not filled in by a member of the household the census enumerator would have had to do it by asking questions, and there are plenty of opportunities for ambiguity in how an occupation was recorded. If Rebecca, as the eldest daughter in a large family, helped her mother to run the household she may well have said "domestic duties" when asked what she did - and this could have been been entered as "domestic service". You may never be able to determine whether Rebecca helped her mother full time at the time of the census - or worked for a separate employer. If she worked for a separate employer there may be no surviving documentation to record who it was.

What happened to Rebecca and Emma between Emma's birth in September 1862 and Rebecca's marriage two years later?

Quite often one comes across large families in the census with children covering a period of 15-25 years where mother of the youngest child is actually one of the older daughters. In some cases one is suspicious that a child who is described as a "daughter" is actually a "granddaughter" but the family didn't want to tell the enumerator that the child was illegitimate. It seems likely that Rebecca and Emma remained with Rebecca's parents. However you don't say where Emma was born and the address on the birth certificate may provide information on where Rebecca was working at the time.

However you mention that Rebecca married in London, and her marriage certificate should give her occupation and address at the time. If she was being employed in London her address may have been that of her employer, and it may even be that her employer acted as a witness at the wedding. You should therefore check who the witnesses were - and try and find out who was living at the address given in the 1861 and/or 1871 census - and possibly also a London directory of the period. After all, a friendly employer may well have arranged to have her married from their house. However, if there was any complications about the legality of the marriage the couple may have married in London so there would be no one at the wedding to raise an objection. In such a case the address given may turn out to be a lodging house.

Who occupied Hailey Bury College between 1858 and 1862?

If you check the 1861 census for Great Amwell you will find that the East India College consisted of 5 unoccupied buildings and half a dozen occupied houses. One was occupied by the Rev. Henry Melville (former head of the East India College) and two by military families. They may have been associated with the college and remained in their homes when the college closed. The remaining three included two porter's lodges which still had porters in residence and they were presumably kept on to look after the vacant property. There was no sign of any randy young men at the College who might have led Rebecca down the garden path ....

There are web pages for Great Amwell, Little Amwell and Haileybury

If you can add to the information given above tell me.


Page created May 2008