Her life story is full of unanswered questions and intriguing hints. I haven't been able to find out much about William and Betty, nor about Esther's oldest sister Betty (born July1802). Her other sister, Hannah (born 23 March 1805) seems to have had two children while she was still unmarried and living in Garstang - Daniel in April 1829 and Esther in 1831.
In May 1831 an Esther Lambert and a Matthew Cragg were witnesses at the wedding of Grace Lambert and John Singleton at St John's church in Preston, Lancashire. It seems likely, but it would be fascinating to know for sure if this is the same Esther and Matthew who were later to marry in the same church. I haven't been able to find any connection between Grace Lambert (born about 1801) and William and Betty, or with the other members of the family. Unfortunately although Grace and John appear in the 1841 census with their two children, Grace had died before the 1851 census when her place of birth would have been recorded. She remains an enigma.
William and Betty both died within a few weeks of each other in June 1833, aged in their sixties. A few months later, in October, Esther married Matthew Cragg at St John's, Preston. The witnesses were Samuel Smails and Margaret Beesley, neither of whom seem to have any family connection.
In 1834 another son, James, was born to Hannah Lambert, who was now living in Accrington. She married a widower, James Cronkshaw, in 1834 and the whole family was living in Accrington at the time of the 1841 census. Whether she had any further contact with Esther is unknown.
Esther and Matthew's first son, William, was born in 1835 and Richard followed in 1839. At the time of the 1841 census the family were living in Cabbage Row, Radcliffe, Lancashire. A nephew, William Newsham, aged 9, was also living with them. Mary Ann came along in December 1843. As mentioned previously, tragedy struck in February 1847 when the two boys, William and Richard, died.
It looks as though Esther and Matthew continued to provide accommodation for William Newsham, along with his older sister Mary Newsham. They were living with Esther, Matthew and Mary Ann, still in Radcliffe, at the time of the 1851 census.
Who were William and Mary's parents? One possibility is that they were the children of William Newsham and Anne Lambert, who married at St John's Preston in 1829. Anne died in 1832 (aged 37) and William senior in 1835. I haven't been able to discover what the connection was between Esther and Anne, although Mary and William Newsham are described as niece and nephew in the census, suggesting that Anne may have been a sister. There is a baptism record for an Anne Lambert, daughter of William and Elizabeth Lambert, in Warton, near Lancaster, in May 1795, which could fit.
By 1861 Esther and Matthew had moved to Walton le Dale. William and Mary Newsham were gone, but another child, Nancy Heap, was living with them. Here is another puzzle - who was Nancy? Matthew had a sister Mary who married a William Heap, but they don't seem to have had any children name Nancy or Anne (Nancy being the diminutive form of Ann.)
It's possible that Nancy was the daughter of Mary Newsham. A Nancy Heap was born in Radcliffe in 1852 whose mother's name was Newsham. A Mary Newsham (father's name William) married Joseph Heap in 1851. This is all rather tentative evidence, but seems to be confirmed later, as we'll see.
The 1871 census records that Nancy was still living with Esther and Matthew Cragg in Ribblesdale Place, Walton le Dale. By this time Mary Ann had married John Ward and they had 3 children (John Willie, Matthew and Esther). John and Mary Ann moved to Littleborough sometime between 1874 and 1877, leaving Esther and Matthew and John's father Richard behind. Why did they move? It's one of those questions I'd love to know the answer to, but probably never will.
Matthew died in August 1878. Now Esther had no immediate family in Walton le Dale. However, it seems that Nancy had become very much part of the family. In 1881 Esther was living with Annie and John Parkinson and their three children in Walton le Dale, and she's described as "mother in law". My guess is that Annie is Nancy. An Annie Heaps, daughter of Joseph Heaps, married John Parkinson, clogger, in Walton le Dale on Christmas Day 1875. Annie Heaps' address on the marriage record is Ribblesdale Place, the same as Matthew and Esther's address in the previous census. Perhaps Nancy and her children filled the place left in Esther's life when her grandchildren moved away.