My distant cousin Ruth had a brick wall with her grandfather, William George Marchant, supposedly born 24 Sep 1856 at Croydon, London, and arrived in Western Australia in 1885 (I believe these details were from his 1938 death certificate, which I have not seen. It did not name his parents). According to Australian electoral rolls, he was a bootmaker.
I was able to confirm his arrival in Australia from the following records. “The passengers per Chiselhurst, Captain J R Beckett, from London, 17th March, for Fremantle, included Wm Marchants [sic]” (Herald, Fremantle, WA, 16 May 1885, p2); and “W Merchant [sic]” was on a manifest signed James R Beckett, master, on 16 Jun 1885.
William Marchant was said to have married Lydia Ellen Buck in 1888 at Perth, WA according to the Victorian birth certificate of one of their children, but no one has found their marriage record in Australia.
William’s wife Lydia was born in South Australia in 1861; their children were born in Victoria and Western Australia. William died at Perth in 1938.
However, there were too many candidates for the birth of a William and/or George Marchant in London circa 1856. Without further clues, identification of his birth record was not possible.
There were 20 William Marchant births in London/Middlesex 1850-1860, none of whom had a middle initial G; and 10 George Marchant births, none of whom had a middle initial W. There was only one William George Marchant birth in all of England, and that was at Newington, Surrey in the Dec 1850 quarter; and one George William Marchant at Dorchester, Dorset in the March 1851 quarter.
Recently, we were contacted by Barbara, who had a predicted second cousin DNA match with Ruth, together with Marchant ancestry. Such a close DNA match was bound to produce a justifiable candidate for our William Marchant.
I was excited by the realisation that any William or George Marchant born circa 1856 in Barbara’s tree would very likely be Ruth’s grandfather. First I identified Barbara’s ancestor, Caroline Marchant born 1855. According to Barbara’s tree, Caroline had a brother called William born 1850. While this was not a very close match age-wise to 1856, it was close enough. I decided to focus on him, by first researching Caroline Marchant. Luckily, Caroline was not as common a name as William.
Caroline’s marriage record provided her father’s name and occupation. Marriage on 2 Feb 1890 at Newington, St Saviour Southwark district, Surrey: John Richard Pool 34, widower, painter, father John Richard Pool, dead, schoolmaster; and Caroline Marchant 33, spinster, father William George Marchant, bootmaker.
This led to the family in the 1861 census at Newington, Surrey: William Marchant 43, bootmaker; Elizabeth 43, wife; children Elizabeth 15; Criss 13; William 12; George 8; Caroline 5 – all born Newington.
At this stage I discovered that many online trees have Elizabeth Redman as the wife of William Marchant senior, shoemaker, based on an 1839 marriage between George [sic] Marchant and Elizabeth Redman. However, this marriage did not seem right to me, being for George Marchant, fisherman, at Brighton, Sussex. This did not fit William Marchant, shoemaker of Newington, Surrey.
When I found the family in the 1851 census, things became clearer. Elizabeth in the 1861 census was William senior’s second wife, Elizabeth Savin. They had married in 1859, and no children were born to them. This established that the 1839 marriage for George Marchant and Elizabeth Redman was not relevant to “our” family.
In 1851 the family at Newington comprised Wm Marchant 34, shoemaker, Newington, Surrey; Mary 30, wife, Southwark; and children born at Newington: Ann 10; Mary 8; Eliz 5; Christina 3; Wm 6mo.
William senior’s first wife was named Mary, and her maiden name was Wright according to the records for her children at the free GRO birth index at gro.gov.uk. That unusual name for their daughter Christiana was key to identifying Mary’s maiden name. Mary died in 1858.
It took me a while to discover William snr and Mary’s marriage, because it happened in 1849, AFTER William and Mary had already had three daughters, all registered with the surname Marchant, mother’s maiden name Wright, as if they were legitimate.
Marriage on 25 Jun 1849 at St Mary, Lambeth, Surrey: William George Marchant, shoemaker, father George Marchant, shoemaker; and Mary Ann Wright, father John Wright, dead, carman; both full age, single, banns. Witnesses Henry Blackman & J L Gawler.
Weirdly, the banns for this marriage were recorded nine years earlier, on 6 Sep 1840 at St Mary, Lambeth, Surrey. There must be an interesting story here, if only we could discover it! William snr was 21 in Sep 1840, and he should have just completed his apprenticeship as a shoemaker (if he had undertaken one), so being bound by an apprenticeship should not have been an impediment. Mary was under-age, so her parents could have forbidden the marriage. But why would they have done so. Surely William, with a trade, was a good prospect?
Eight months later in June 1841, William snr and Mary were at Roberts Place, Stepney, London, living as man and wife: Wm Marchant 20, shoemaker; and Mary Marchant 20 – neither born Mdx.
The birth of William snr and Mary’s first child Ann Marchant was registered in the Jul-Aug 1841 quarter in the Stepney district, ie at least 11 months after the banns were published. Therefore, Mary Wright was not pregnant at the time of the banns.
Subsequent children of William snr and Mary included Caroline Marchant, mother Wright, whose birth was registered in the Oct-Dec 1855 quarter in the Lambeth district; and her brother, William George Marchant, mother Wright, whose birth was registered in the Oct-Dec 1850 quarter at the Newington district. I have not found his baptism record.
Having confirmed the parents of Caroline and William jnr, it was now time to see whether William jnr could be located in England after 1885.
In the 1871 census, William Marchant 19, single, shoe finisher, born Camberwell, Surrey; was boarding with Isaac Johnson 63, shoe maker, and his wife. No doubt William jnr was learning his trade from Isaac.
Marriage on 21 Oct 1871 at St Thomas, Stepney, Mile End Old Town district, London: William George Marchant, shoemaker; father William George Marchant, shoemaker; & Sophia Hutchings, father Richard Hutchings, shoemaker; both full age [sic], single, of Stepney, banns. Witnesses Joseph Chipchase & Alice Hutchings.
Sophia’s birth was registered as Emma Sophia Hutchings, mother Stevens, in the Apr-Jun 1853 quarter at the Whitechapel district. Emma Sophia Hutchings, born June 1853 together with her sister Anna Louisa Hutchings, born January 1855, were baptised on 31 Jan 1865 at Stepney, daughters of Richard Hutchings, shoemaker & Emma, of 26 Baker St.
William jnr and Sophia had seven children born 1872-1882, at least four of whom died young. Their first child, who survived to adulthood, was registered as William Henry Marchant, mother Hutchins [sic], in the Oct-Dec 1872 quarter at the Mile End Old Town district. However, like his father, William III was always known as William George Marchant.
In 1881 at Shoreditch: William Marchant 29, bootmaker, Newington, Surrey; Sophia 28, wife, Whitechapel, Mdx; Sophia 8mo, dau, Old St Lukes; William 8, son, Mile End, Mdx.
Youngest child Horace was born 21 Apr 1882, and William departed London for Australia 17 Mar 1885.
So it was no surprise to find Sophia in 1891 at St Luke, London as follows: Sophia Marchant 57, head (deserted wife), provision dealer, own account; William 18, son, appentice compositor – both born Whitechapel; Sophia 10, dau, scholar, born Stoke Newington, London.
*** This record of Sophia as a “deserted wife” in 1891; William jnr’s disappearance from the English records after 1885; his occupation as a shoemaker and bootmaker in England and Australia; and the predicted second cousin DNA matches with Caroline’s descendants – all confirm beyond doubt that William jnr was Ruth’s grandfather.
What happened to Sophia? Ten years after William jnr disappeared, Sophia remarried. At that time, if a spouse disappeared and nothing further was heard from them, the left-behind spouse could legally remarry after 7 years separation. So, in 1895 at the Holborn district: David Davies 58, father Evan Davies, farmer married Sophia Marchant 40, father Richard Hutchings, shoemaker; both widowed, both grocers.
David Davies died within six years of this marriage, as in 1901 at Spitalfields, London, Sophia Davis [sic] 47, born Whitechapel, was a widowed domestic servant.
In 1911 at Bromley, Kent: Sophia Davies 58, head, widow, married 15y, 7 children of whom 5 dead, needlework, Devonport, Devon [sic] & Elizabeth Marchant 10, grandau, school, Hackney, London. Elizabeth was the daughter of Sophia’s son William III.
Sophia’s claimed birthplace in 1911 at Devon was somewhat out of left-field (although the Hutchings family was living at Stoke Damerel, Devon in 1861), but the presence of her granddaughter Elizabeth Marchant makes it clear that we have the right Sophia Davies.
Sophia Davies died in 1925 at Hackney, aged 81. She was survived by her youngest child Horace Marchant, and (unknown to her) her first husband William Marchant jnr.
So here we have justification as to why William George Marchant (jnr) claimed to be younger than his real age, slightly changed his birthplace, and failed to disclose his parents’ names while in Australia. He was a married man who had deserted his English family. No wonder he was a mystery! At least he did not change his name, as another one of my mystery men did.
Interestingly, his youngest son born 1896 was named William, as was his oldest son born 1872 – although they had different middle names.
After I determined William jnr’s ancestry, I have identified several other DNA matches for Ruth, with links to this same Newington family of shoemakers.
If you are interested to know more about William jnr’s ancestry, read on.
His father, William snr, was baptised on 1 Jan 1822 at St Mary, Newington, Surrey: siblings William George Marchant born 17 Aug 1819 & Esther Elizabeth Marchant born 13 Dec 1821, parents George (shoemaker) and Ann, of Hyde Park, Walworth Common.
Another William George Marchant, son of George and Ann, was baptised in 1817 at Newington, but he must have died young.
William snr’s parents married on 5 Mar 1810 at St Mary, Newington, Southwark, Surrey: George Marchant and Ann Cranch, both single, of this parish. Witnesses Charles Cranch and Ann Broadhurst.
William snr’s siblings were:
- Mary Ann Marchant born 1811 at Deptford, Lewisham, Kent. She married Frederick Winch Cranch in 1845 at Lambeth.
- Louisa Ann Marchant born 1813 at Newington, Surrey. She married William Buckett in 1835 at Lambeth.
- Esther Elizabeth Marchant born 1821 at Newington, Surrey. She married William Collins Boyles in 1845 at Lambeth.
- Agnes Maria Marchant born in 1824 at Camberwell, Surrey. She died unmarried in 1848.
William sn’r father George Merchant, son of George and Sarah Merchant, was baptised on 17 Apr 1786 at St George the Martyr Southwark, London.
William snr’s grandfather George Marchant, a shoemaker, died aged 94, on 5 Jun 1848 at Walworth, Newington district, Surrey. He was therefore born ca 1755. I think George snr married twice, and both his brides were named Sarah.
Marriage on 12 Feb 1782 at St Mary, Newington, Surrey: George Marchant and Sarah Atkinson.
Marriage on 10 Jul 1786 at St James, Clerkenwell, London: George Marchant and Sarah Webb, both of this parish, banns.
Sarah Marchant, aged 88, wife of George Marchant, shoemaker, died 16 Jan 1844 at Walworth, Surrey.