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Thomas Roberts & Mary Ann Walder. A Story.


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I thought that I'd post my own success story surrounding how my great, great, great grandparents Thomas Roberts and Mary Ann Walder met. When I first started researching them, all I knew was Thomas was a servant and wed Mary Ann in July 1864 in London, 6 months after she gave birth to an illegitimate child, my great, great grandmother, 50 miles away in mid Sussex.

Mary Ann Walder was born in 1839 in Slaugham in rural Sussex, near the London/Brighton Road to John & Mary Walder, a middle class wheelwright family. Aged 24, on 31st December 1863, she gave birth to an illegitimate child, Mary Ann Walder Jnr, in Slaugham, Sussex. The birth was registered on 28th January 1864 in the Cuckfield reg district, the district that Slaugham came under.

Mary Ann Walder then suddenly moved to Stoke Newington in North London and wed a 50 year old servant called Thomas Roberts on 25th July 1864 at West Hackney Church. Thomas's father was Thomas Roberts also a servant, and Mary's father was John Walder, a wheelwright. The baby was then baptised as "Mary Ann Kate, Daughter of Thomas & Mary Ann Roberts" on 6 November 1864 at West Hackney Church. I knew that he probably was the father of the baby if, after marrying the mother he then had actually baptised the baby as his daughter in that case.

A new lead then. Could it be that they moved to London together? I couldnt find Thomas in the 1851 or 1861 censuses in London. I did need to find out more on him in that case if he had admitted paternity of Mary Ann Walder's illegitimate child. They stayed in London for good afterwards.

In the 1861 census, I then found a matching Thomas Roberts in Sussex, living in Brighton, Sussex, a few miles from Mary Ann's village of Slaugham, aged 47, a Servant, born in Kent, married to Esther and had one child, Ann aged 9 a scholar. All his details tallied with the one who wed Mary Ann. This suggested that they had actually met in Sussex and probably went to London together 3 years later in 1864. Could he have met Mary Ann in Sussex, Esther died, and they went on to meet in London? Thomas probably travelled a bit if he was a servant and footman.

Mary Ann Walder would have fallen pregnant in about April 1863 if she had her baby on 31 December that year. I then found a death ref for an Esther Roberts in Brighton in Dec Qtr 1863 in the GRO indexes. I sent for the cert and it said she died on 14 November 1863 and was the wife of Thomas Roberts, a domestic servant. The cause of death and length of her illness was very eye catching. It said "Phthisis (TB) for years, certified". It appears that Thomas knew Mary Ann and was having an affair with her while Esther was really ill. This also occurred to me why the baby was born illegitimate, because it was born only 6 weeks after Esther Roberts death, 5 weeks after her burial. The father had only just lost his wife when the babe was born.

TB (phthisis) symptoms werent nice. Lung cavities were involved. Thomas would have had to stay away from her for most of the time as it was contageous. No wonder why he sought comfort in a younger woman.

On 31 January 1864, Mary Ann Walder's grandad John died aged 73 after a knee abscess for 1 year and pneumonia 1 month certified. He was buried on the 8th February 1864 in Slaugham Church. Mary had lived in the same house as him all her life. Mary probably stuck around to grieve after his death so this indicates that she moved to London with Thomas inbetween say March and early June 1864 if they wed on 25 July.

I reckon their move was to escape a scandal back in Sussex because he fathered a child out of wedlock, and she went with a married man who has a dying wife. Everything just fell into place once I had collated all the evidence together. Thomas admitted paternity which was the right thing.

Thomas's eldest daughter, his only other child, 12 year old Ann went to live with her aunty Elizabeth in Bermondsey. Maybe she didnt approve?


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