Sunday, June 8, 2014

A romance in a grocer's shop?

I always think it would be fascinating to know how couples on the family tree met and married, but usually it's a question that can't be answered from the historical records. However, in the case of Thomas Brown Orton and Sarah Gregory, the records do provide a clue.

Midland Railway Station, Leicester
opened in 1840, the year of Sarah's birth.
Robert, her father, possibly worked here.
We know from the later census records that Sarah was born in Leicestershire in the early 1840's. In all except the 1901 census (when Husbands Bosworth is indicated by 'ditto' marks under Thomas' place of birth) her birthplace is given specifically as Leicester.

Although there are several Sarah Gregory's whose births are registered in Leicestershire between 1840 and 1843, the only birth recorded in Leicester itself about this time occurred in the first quarter of 1840.

This Sarah appears in the 1841 census as a 1 year old child. She was living with her parents, Robert and Sarah Gregory in West Leicester, along with her older siblings Mary (aged 13), Jane (12), John (10) and Robert (6) and a younger sister Ellen, who was only 3 months old.

Two years later, in 1843, Robert Gregory died at the age of 38. How he died, or how his widow Sarah survived and raised her children alone isn't clear. She seems to have been employed at the time of the next census in 1851, when only Sarah (11) and Ellen (10) remained with their mother in a household in Whetstone, near Leicester.

In the same census, young Sarah's 16 year old brother Robert was living and working with a grocer, Joseph Harvey and his wife Selena, in Loughborough, north of Leicester. This was the same grocer who employed Thomas Brown Orton a few years later. On the census Robert is described as a nephew. In fact Robert's mother was Sarah Harvey before she married the older Robert Gregory.

So it seems that Thomas Orton married his employer's niece. Their marriage certificate (viewed online) confirms that Sarah was the daughter of Robert Gregory, engine driver, deceased. Thomas was said to be living in Husbands Bosworth at the time of the marriage, so he may no longer have been employed by Joseph Harvey.

It also seems that Sarah was not completely truthful about her age when she married, since the certificate records that she was 23 year old. This would put her date of birth at 1842. Or perhaps she simply didn't know her age. In the later censuses she always underestimated her age by a year or two.

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