Inherited Craziness
A place to share all the nuts found on my family tree

Sunday, 31 January 2021

Mary Wilton and Charles Prior

Shops in Great Dunmow
cc-by-sa/2.0 - © Stephen McKay -

Somehow I sensed that we hadn't finished with the family monopoly of Great Dunmow High Street and, it turns out, I was right. My goodness, we're more like the mafia! First there was Henry Wilton, uncle to HenryRichard (my 3rd great-grandfather) and Joseph, who all had their presence in this retail therapy thoroughfare, but their eldest sister, Mary, had preceded them. 

Eldest daughter of Stephen Wilton and Elizabeth Hankin, Mary Wilton married Charles Prior (b. 1812) in Great Dunmow on 24 Dec 1833. In 1841, they were in the High Street, Great Dunmow. Later records show that Charles Prior was a Basket Maker. Mary and their daughter, Elizabeth, were Straw Hat Makers.

Not only were they in the High Street, census returns reveal they were actually next door to a John and Elizabeth Prior, who, in turn, were next door to Mary's brother, Henry Wilton (who had a Henry Prior in his household, who was an apprentice tailor). The other side of them was uncle Henry Wilton. And, living the other side of Charles and Mary Prior, was my 3rd great-grandfather, Richard

Charles and Mary Prior had four children: 
  1. Henry Prior born 1835
  2. Mary Prior born 1st quarter of 1838
  3. Elizabeth Prior born 1840 - later straw bonnet maker
  4. Ann Prior born 2nd quarter of 1842
Mary Prior (née Wilton) died in the 3rd quarter of 1887, aged 83. Charles Prior died in the 4th quarter of 1891, aged 79, both in Great Dunmow.

Now, I realise they're hardly the Bennet Sisters (also from Hertfordshire), but the Wilton girls - who were born between 1804 and 1819 - will have come of age between 1825 and 1840 and it helps to look at the styles of their age.

Saturday, 23 January 2021

John Soppit: From Coal Mining to Pulling Pints and Emma Smith, Louisa Tompson and Marian Johnson

The Shortlands Tavern, Station Road, Shortlands, Bromley
cc-by-sa/2.0 - © Mike Quinn -

Two more pubs on the endless (that's not a complaint) family pub crawl ... Louisa Tompson, younger daughter of Daniel Thompson and Mary Adcock, married John Soppit, son of Joseph Soppit and Catherine Winship, who later became landlord of The Shortlands Tavern in Bromley. John Soppit had also been the licensee of the Princess Royal in Croydon, where he employed his nephew, John Benjamin Botterill, as his manager, but that was not his first marriage and his origins are very surprisingly far and away from the pubs of South London: 

Mary Smith, daughter of Emma Smith, was born in Houghton Le Spring and baptised on 11 Mar 1866 in West Rainton, Durham. 

Then on 12 Dec 1869, John Soppit married Emma Smith (23) (bap. 5 Apr 1848) - daughter of Martin Smith, Coal Miner, and Mary Picken (m. 1827) - in East Rainton. Whether Mary was his natural daughter or not, John Soppit must have brought the child up as his own as she subsequently took his surname. 

John and Emma then had a further two children, who, given the early dates in the same year, must have been twins.
  1. Joseph William Soppit was born in the 1st quarter of 1871 in Guisborough, Yorkshire and baptised in Eston, Yorkshire on 17 Apr 1871. He died in the 2nd or 3rd quarter of the same year.
  2. Catherine Emma Soppit, b. 1871, also baptised in Eston, Yorkshire on 17 Apr 1871, was buried on 30 April 1871, aged 2 weeks or months.
In 1871, John Soppitt (sic), now an Engine Fitter, was living with wife, Emma, and children; Mary (5), Joseph Wm (0) and Catherine (0), and Elizabeth Turner (15), Servant, in Princess Street, Normanby, Guisborough, Yorkshire.

But Emma Soppit (née Smith) died, aged 26, and was buried on 17 Apr 1871, in Eston, Yorkshire. It looks very likely that she had died after giving birth to the twins, who were both baptised on the same day as their mother's funeral. 

John Soppit, it would seem, must have immediately taken the babies back to the home of his father, as his residence was listed at that time as South Hetton, Durham. At just weeks old, son, Joseph William Soppit died and was buried, at St Nicholas Church, Hetton-le-Hole on 27 Apr 1871. And just three days later, on 30 Apr 1871, his presumably twin sister, Catherine Emma Soppit, was buried, also at St Nicholas Church, Hetton-le-Hole. Heartbreaking.

St Nicholas Church, Hetton-le-Hole, Graveyard
cc-by-sa/2.0 - © Alexander P Kapp -

John Soppit then married Louisa Tompson at Christ Church, Watney Street, St George in the East, in the first quarter of 1875. They had another 6 children.
  1. Catherine Sarah Winship Soppit b. 4 Apr 1876 in Greenwich
  2. Joseph Daniel Soppit, b. 23 Sep 1877 in Greenwich
  3. John Benjamin Soppit, b. 1880 in Greenwich (died in the same quarter)
  4. John Winship Soppit b. 1 Mar 1882 in Greenwich, bap. 10 Jun 1883 at Christ Church, Watney Street [Source]
  5. Benjamin Tompson Soppit b. 13 Nov 1884, bap. 1 Mar 1885 at St Mary, Shortlands, Kent
  6. Louisa Adcock Soppit b. 26 Oct 1887 in Bromley, Kent
In 1881, John Soppet (sic), 36, Engine Fitter, was a boarder in the household of Jane Granger (58) at 29, Donald Street, Stockton upon Tees. Louisa was at the pub with her brother-in-law, Daniel Bottrill, with Emma's daughter, Mary; daughter Catherine and son Joseph, while her sister was away in Devon. 

Emma's daughter, Mary, died, aged 24, in the 1st quarter of 1891, in Bromley, Kent. Then confirmed in the Kent 1891 Public House Directory Listings, by the time of the 1891 Census on 5 Apr, the family were living at The Shortlands TavernStation Road, Beckenham, Bromley. Living with John Soppett (sic) were wife Louisa (46), sons John Winship (9), Benjamin Thompson (6), daughter Louisa Adcock (3) and John Thompson (25), nephew, barman. 

The following report of The Bromley Petty Sessions appeared in the Maidstone Journal and Kentish Advertiser of 6 July 1893:
REFUSING TO QUIT. George Herbert, builder, of 19, Plaistow Lane, Bromley, was summoned by John Soppit, landlord of the Shortlands Tavern, Shortlands, for being disorderly and quarrelsome on licenced premises and refusing to quit the same, on June 27. Mr Gregory appeared for the complainant, and Mr L. Lewis for the defendant, who pleaded guilty. Mr Gregory stated that the defendant used fearful language towards the complainant. Mr Lewis stated that the defendant had not the slightest idea of having used any bad language until he received the summons. He urged that as the defendant had made this apology the magistrates should inflict a mitigated penalty. The Chairman said he had never heard such bad language. The defendant would be fined 40s with 8s costs, or 21 days' hard labour. Mr Lewis asked for time, but this was refused. 
20, Honley Road, Catford, Lewisham

The London (South) 1896 Suburban Publicans directory still lists John Soppit at the Shortlands Tavern, but by 1901, the family were residing in a quite grand double-fronted house at 20, Honley Road, Catford, Lewisham. John Soppit (56), Licenced Victualler, is listed with wife Louisa (56), sons John (19) and Benjamin (16) - who have followed their father's original trade as Joiners - daughter Louisa (13) and they can afford a General Domestic Servant. 

Louisa Soppit (née Tompson) died, aged 57, in the 3rd quarter of 1902. 

Then on 27 Jul 1903, John Soppit married for the 3rd time to Marian Johnson in Bermondsey, in the district of St Olave, Southwark. And in 1911, John Soppit (66), Retired Licenced Victualler, was still living at 20, Honley Road, with new wife Marian (46), son Benjamin (26) and daughter, Louisa (23). 

John Soppit of 20, Honley Road, Catford, died on 24 Jan 1924 at 390, High Street, Lewisham (University Lewisham Hospital, the former Lewisham Workhouse). He left £3467 18s 1d (£212,166 in 2020) to his widow, Marian Soppit and a further £2208 to son, Benjamin Tompson Soppit, engineer. 

Marian Soppit died, in 1943, in Bournemouth, Dorset.

Joseph Soppit and Catherine Winship

St Bartholomew's Church, Longbenton
cc-by-sa/2.0 - © Bill Henderson -

Joseph Soppit (bap. 19 Oct 1806 in Ovingham, Northumberland), son of Joseph Soppit and Bridget (b. 1781) [maiden name unknown] married Catherine Winship (bap. 9 Sep 1804), daughter of John Winship and Mary Daggett (m. 22 Oct 1796) on 1 Apr 1838 at All Saints' Church, Newcastle upon Tyne

Joseph and Catherine Soppit had three children, all baptised at St Bartholomew's ChurchLongbenton, Northumberland; 
  1. Bridget Soppit bap. 3 Mar 1839
  2. Winship Soppit bap. 27 Mar 1842
  3. John Soppit bap. 6 Oct 1844
Longbenton has had some notable residents, among them English physician and scientist, Thomas Addison, footballer Peter Beardsley and actor Jimmy Nail

The late wife and infant child of engineer, George Stephenson (1781 - 1848), are buried at St Bartholomew's ChurchLongbenton. George Stephenson having worked as a brakesman and later appointed as engine-wright in 1812, in 1814, Stephenson constructed his first locomotive, 'Blucher', for hauling coal at Killingworth Colliery. (See Killingworth locomotives). This may even have been an influence, as later, John Soppit became an Engine Fitter. 

In 1839, the Soppit family were living in Killingworth, with Joseph's occupation listed as Waggonman. In 1841, Joseph Sopwith (sic), Banksman, wife Catherine, daughter Bridget and Bridget Elias (with the change of name, I assume she had remarried, but found no corresponding record) were living at Killingworth, Longbenton, Tynemouth. Longbenton has a long history of coal mining. 
(Banksman: In Irish and British civil engineering, a banksman is the person who directs the operation of a crane or larger vehicle from the point near where loads are attached and detached.)
By 1851, Joseph Soppit (44), a Colliery Labourer, wife Catherine (45), daughter Bridget (12), sons Winship (9) and John (6), as well as Joseph's mother, Bridget (70), were all living at Hazbrigg, Longbenton, Tynemouth. 

They moved to Durham, as Bridget Elias, died in Houghton Le Spring in 1855. 

In 1861, Joseph Soppit (55), Labourer, wife Catherine (56) and sons Winship (19), Blacksmith at Colliery, and John (14), Joiner at Colliery were living at Four Lane Ends, Hetton Le Hole, where coal has been mined since Roman times.

Catherine Soppit died, aged 66, and was buried on 9 Jan 1871 at St NicholasHetton Le Hole. On the 1871 census, Joseph Soppitt (64), Labourer, and son Winship (29), Blacksmith, along with Isabella Hepple, Servant, were living at Lyons, Hetton-Le-Hole, Houghton Le Spring, Durham. In 1881, Joseph Soppit (74), a Retired Coal Miner, was living in Caroline Street, Hetton-Le-Hole. Joseph Soppit died, aged 76, in 1882, in Houghton Le Spring.

Wednesday, 20 January 2021

On the origins of Presidents, Pilgrims and Dissenters

Stapleford church on a winter morning. The remains of President Barack Obama’s ancestor might rest in this cemetery near St. Andrew's church in Stapleford, England. Mine certainly do.
cc-by-sa/2.0 - © John Sutton -

So here we are on very the day of the Inauguration of the 46th President of the United StatesJoe Biden, who, as we know, was Vice President to Barack Obama. Having just finished writing about the third of the three Wilton brothers, Henry, Richard (my 3rd great-grandfather) and Joseph, last night I decided to do some research into the area where their ancestors had come from. 

What's the link? Apparently, both Barack Obama and I can claim links back to the same two villages in CambridgeshireGreat Shelford and Stapleford

Barack Obama's link to Stapleford is, according to genealogists (please understand, I haven't seen or checked their research for accuracy), as a direct descendant of one Thomas Blossom, who grew up there towards the end of the 16th century before emigrating to the Plymouth Colony in 1629The Blossoms, it seems, had lived first at Great Shelford, then possibly in Little Shelford, and moved to Stapleford, probably about 1582. My Wilton ancestors may well have been there at the same time. A baptism record from 1695 shows we were in the village of Stapleford then and later ones were in Great Shelford. 

Six degrees of separation? If I have to have a claim to a celebrity connection, this one could not be better. It might even Trump (pun intended) Danny Dyer's Right Royal Family. True or not, the timing though was, frankly, eerie.

The earliest records I can find for my ancestors [so far], are for the baptisms of the children of Henry Wilton & Elizabeth (maiden name unknown) - that's 10 generations: they were my 7th great-grandparents - in Stapleford:

  1. Sarah Wilton bap. 14 Jul 1695 (presume died in infancy)
  2. Martha Wilton bap. 27 Dec 1696
  3. Sarah Wilton bap. 14 Apr 1700
  4. Henry Wilton bap. 12 Apr 1702
  5. Richard Wilton bap. 7 Oct 1705

Elizabeth Wilton died and was buried on 15 Oct 1705. (I think we can guess the cause.) Henry does not appear to remarry and there are no other children listed born to a Henry in that period with a different mother. Henry Wilton Snr died and was buried on 30 Jun 1726, in Stapleford, Cambridgeshire.

Tuesday, 19 January 2021

Joseph Wilton and Ann Thurlbourn

High Street, Great Dunmow
cc-by-sa/2.0 - © William Metcalfe -

Having often joked that I come from a long line of Essex girls (white stilettos optional), little did I know quite how much influence on 'Essex style' (stop thinking TOWIE), my relatives may have had, having served the clothing needs of the population in Great Dunmow for probably three centuries or more. 

Joseph Wilton, son of Stephen Wilton and Elizabeth Hankin, married Ann Thurlbourn, daughter of John Thurlbourn and Rhoda Poarcher, in Cambridge and brought his new wife to set up home and business in the High Street, Great Dunmow, where his uncle, eldest sister and two brothers already lived. If one could take a time-machine back to Great Dunmow in 1841, imagine how long it would take to get any shopping done after greeting all the family en route

Robert Hockley (bap. 1775), who may also have been my relative, was listed as a tailor in Pigot's Directory of Essex 1823 and still listed as a tailor and draper in the High Street in 1841. They may have been in competition, but as Robert Hockley was then 65, there also exists the possibility here that my Wilton relatives took over the business from my Hockley ones. Joseph Wilton was once again listed in White's Directory of Essex 1848, as a Tailor and Draper.

The difference between tailor and draper is that tailor makes, repairs, or alters clothes professionally, especially suits and men's clothing while draper is one who sells cloths; a dealer in cloths; as, a draper and tailor. And a clothier is a person or company that makes or sells clothes or cloth, while an outfitter is a shop selling men's clothing.

As the census returns for 1851 in Great Dunmow are missing, we have to wait until 1861 - when Joseph's occupation is described as Tailor And Clothier - to encounter them again. That census locates Joseph's premises three-doors-down, on the same side of the road, from the The Saracen's Head Hotel, with a confectioner and a clockmaker between them and a draper and grocer on the other side. We also find he and Ann have been a tad busy in the intervening two decades, with eight of the nine then surviving children still at home
  1. Sarah Ann Wilton born 1842 (died 1874)
  2. Edwin Joseph Wilton born 1843
  3. Eleanor Wilton born 1845
  4. Kate Wilton born 1846 (died 1870)
  5. Clara Jane Wilton born 1848
  6. Arthur Thurlbourn Wilton born 1851 
  7. Alice Maria Wilton born 1852 (died 1854)
  8. Lydia Ann Wilton born 1853
  9. Alice Maria Wilton born 1855
  10. Herbert Charles Wilton born 1857 (died 1858)
  11. Fanny Wilton born 1859
  12. Marion Louisa Wilton born 1860 (died 1861)
  13. Frederick John Wilton born 1862 (died 1879)
Joseph Wilton, Clothier, employing 3 men and 1 boy, in 1871, is still in the same position with the Willis brothers next door (although the clockmaker has changed career to become an insurance agent) and then the Parker family, confectioners. In the Wilton household are Joseph (56), wife Ann (50), Edwin Joseph (27), Eleanor (25), Arthur (20), Lydia Ann (17), Alice Maria (15), Fanny (12) and Frederick (8). Kate had died, aged 23, in 1870. 

Joseph Wilton died, aged 58, on 11 Aug 1873, leaving effects valued the following year of 'Under £600'. Wife Ann died three years later, in the 4th quarter of 1876. Son, Frederick John, died, aged 17, in 1879. 

The level of loss between the 1850's and 1870's is heart-breaking. 

In 1881, it fell to Edwin Joseph Wilton to carry on the Outfitters Shop, High Street, Great Dunmow. Meanwhile, there is reportedly a gents outfitters in Great Dunmow today (I haven't yet located it), still owned by the Hockleys. 

Ann Thurlbourn - the daughter of John and Rhoda Thurlbourn (née Poarcher), born on 9th September 1820, in the Parish of St Michael Cambridge, was baptised 2nd January 1821.

Sunday, 17 January 2021

Henry Wilton and Mary Barton

This pub and hotel on North Street has been closed and boarded up for some years, with signs of abandoned or postponed building work. It is grade II listed, the oldest parts from the 15th century. Conflicting reports suggest it has since been demolished or converted into flats.

Back on the family pub crawl ... Two things listed in Pigot's Directory of Essex 1823 relate to another Henry Wilton. One is a listing as a saddler, the other, under Taverns and Public Houses, is for 'Henry Wilton, King's Head'[1]. 

This Henry Wilton is clearly not Henry Wilton (1809-1890), saddler, the elder brother of my 3x great-grandfather, Richard Wilton, because that Henry Wilton would have been merely 14 years old in 1823. We have to go back another generation: this is their uncle Henry, brother of Stephen Wilton

Henry Wilton, son of Richard Wilton (b. 1737) and Mary Robinson, was baptised St Mary's Church, Sawston, Cambridgeshire on 30 Oct 1768. In 1783 he was apprenticed to Matthew Norris in Shelford, as a Collarmaker. Then on 20 Sep 1810, he married Mary Barton in Great Dunmow. Both are described as being "Of This Parish", so had been in the town since at least then. 

In 1841, Henry Wilton (73) and his wife Mary (61) are living alongside (maybe in the same premises?) his nephew, Henry Wilton, saddler, and his wife Sarah. They are one side - of Geo. Saich, ostler, and his wife Charlotte (née Thorogood) - on the other side is Robert Hockley, tailor and draper. The census records don't provide any clues as to which hostelry is in the middle of this sandwich to locate where they're all located on the High Street.

"Uncle" Henry Wilton died in the 2nd quarter or 1846. He will have been 78.

[1] Also listed in Pigot's Directory of Essex 1823 at the King's Head is William Cock, who was listed as the Licensee or Tavernkeeper from 1815 until at least 1829. It isn't clear what role Henry Wilton played in this business. (Later William Henry Hockley (b. 1833), first cousin of Robert Hockley, tailor and draper, married Charlotte Cock, who I imagine may be related to him.)

Saturday, 16 January 2021

Henry Wilton and Sarah Staines and Ann Staines

St Peter, Colchester, Essex - East end
cc-by-sa/2.0 - © John Salmon -

Henry Wilton, forth child and eldest son of Stephen Wilton and Elizabeth Hankin, married Sarah Staines, daughter of Thomas Staines and Sally Hockley on 9 Aug 1838 at St Peter's Church, Colchester, Essex.

Children from the marriage of Henry Wilton and Sarah Staines included:
  1. Henry Staines Wilton bap 27 Sep 1840
  2. Stephen Thomas Wilton bap 29 May 1842
  3. Maria Wilton b. 19 Dec 1843 bap. 24 Mar 1844 
  4. Mary Ann Wilton b. Jan 1846 bap 29 Oct 1848 (died 1873)
  5. William Hankin Wilton b 1851 (at home 1871, nothing since)
  6. Still Born buried 24 Jul 1854 (Dissenters)
  7. Infant Wilton buried 10 Jul 1856 (Dissenters)
These "Dissenters" or Non-Conformist Burials are listed at the Protestant Dissenters Burial Ground, which I assume to mean of the Independent Meeting House (Quaker Meeting House) in New Street, Great Dunmow.

In 1841, as well as White's Directory of Essex 1848, Henry Wilton is listed as a saddler in the High Street, Great Dunmow, as had been his uncle Henry.

In both 1861 and 1871 Henry Wilton, saddler, his wife Sarah and their family are still in High Street, Great Dunmow. (In 1861, Henry has two apprentices; Charles Gandey (18) and Charles Knight (14), also resident with them.)  

Then Sarah Wilton (née Staines) died, aged 56, in the 2nd quarter of 1872. 

It's what happens next that's interesting, because the widowed Henry Wilton then married Ann Staines in the 3rd quarter of 1873, in Chelmsford registration district. Without ordering the actual marriage certificate, I cannot be sure of the exact venue for this marriage, but it was presumably openly in Ann's own parish, because her parents, Thomas Staines and Sally Hockleyhad moved to Lord Peters Alms Houses, Stone Field, Ingatestone, Chelmsford by 1861. 

As you will have deduced, Ann Staines (baptised 31 Mar 1829 in at St Giles, Mountnessing) was the younger sister of Henry's deceased wife, Sarah.

In England the list of forbidden marriages was drawn up by the Church of England in 1560 and from then a marriage between a widower and his wife’s sister was valid but voidable - on the grounds of a passage in Leviticus, which suggested that such a relationship was incestuous (the same biblical extract Henry VIII had used to cast doubt on his marriage to Catherine of Aragon). 

However, it was not explicitly illegal until the passing of the Marriage Act in 1835The 1835 bill said that the marriages that had already happened could no longer be voided, but from then on, "such marriages could no longer take place in the United Kingdom and colonies at all". It went on to say that these marriages would have to take place abroad, a solution available only to the rich. Au contraire, Henry and Ann's marriage did take place in England, in 1873, thus, was not lawful. When the vicar came to the bit in the ceremony about "any lawful impediment", either they didn't know, or everybody kept schtum.

They don't seem to have made any attempt to hide it and one wonders how effectively it would be policed in any case. And in 1881, Henry Wilton, saddler, and his new wife, Annie, are living in High Street, Great Dunmow, where Henry had his business for many years. They didn't have any further children.

Henry Wilton died on 9 May 1890, leaving £180 (£23,000 in 2020) to his son, Henry Staines Wilton. Ann Wilton, widow, lived until the ripe old age of 93 and died, on 13 Apr 1922, leaving £757 19s 10d (worth £43,299 in 2020), also to Henry Staines Wilton, who was, of course, both her nephew and step-son (although, presumably, they'd not been in regular contact, or she would have known that he'd pre-deceased her in 1915 and updated her will.)

Tuesday, 12 January 2021

Mary Amalie Kritzer, Edward William Brown Todd & Frederick Croydon Melhuish

St Martin-in-the-Fields church, London
cc-by-sa/2.0 - © Jeremy Bolwell -

In the 3rd quarter of 1933, Mary A Kritzer or Christie (what the record says), daughter of Joseph Kritzer and Sarah Sophia Tompson, married Edward William Brown Todd, son of Charles Brown Todd and Mary Cole, at St Martin, London

In 1939, Mary A Todd, a hairdresser, and her husband, Edward, were living at 2 Ashford Cottages, The Tilt, Cobham, Surrey. (Her mother, 'Daisy' S S Kritzer, was then living nearby at 1 Pemry Villas, Elm Grove Road, Cobham.) We can only hope there was a divorce in the interim (although I haven't found a record of it), because Mary A Todd or Christie (again what the record says) then married Frederick Croydon Melhuish in Surrey North Eastern in 1942. 

Edward W B Todd was at that time still alive, because he died, aged 48, in 1949 in Surrey. While Frederick C Melhuish died, aged 53, also in 1949, in Birmingham (where he'd lived previously and still had family).

On 6 Jan 1992, Mary Amelia Melhuish (formerly Todd, née Kritzer and sometimes Christie), died, aged 85, in Ganges, British Columbia, Canada. The record of her death confirms her husband as Frederick Croydon Melhuish and her parents as Joseph Kritzer and Sarah Tompson. Two things spring to mind: clearly someone was around who knew and could give these details and what was she doing at what appears to be the 'wrong end' of Canada for family?

Julius and Justina Kritzer

Postcard of Karlstraße, Donaueschingen

Julius Kritzer of 26 Karlstrasse, Donaueschingen, Germany died on 12 Feb 1925. (Karlstraße, appears to be the main street. Could he have been in retail or even an innkeeper?) Probate was granted, however, in 1929, in England, to Mortimer Rooke, solicitor, attorney of Justina Kritzer, widow. It seems strange to have probate granted in England, unless they also spent time in the UK, but I can find no record of either of them having done so and no other record of Julius, nor Justina. In the UK, Julius left £468 17s 2d (£28,639 in 2020).

Amalia Kritzer

Pelham Place, South Kensington
cc-by-sa/2.0 - © Marathon -

Amalia Kritzer (27), daughter of Wilhelm Kritzer and Flora Gleichauf, in 1901, was employed as a Lady's Maid in the household of spinster sisters, Mary and Adela Rain at 20, Alexander Square, Kensington, a garden square in London's Chelsea, SW3. (Like the private communal gardens seen in Notting Hill.) 

In 1911, she's again working as Lady's Maid for a 3rd sister, Elizabeth Rain at 19 Pelham Place, Kensington. (The two older Rain sisters were born in France and the latter in Ireland, so the family don't appear on any census in England until we find them, living with their father, Stephen Rain, in the similarly upmarket Egerton Gardens, in 1891, where he was 'Living on own Means', but - I'm curious - haven't discovered from what source that wealth emanated.) 

Amalie Kritzer, spinster, of 125 Beaufort St, Chelsea, London died, aged 60, on 4 Oct 1934. She left £1267 5s 8d (worth £91,275 in 2020). Probate was granted to Mortimer Rooke and Alexander Herbert Macdonald, solicitors.

The Great Spy Peril: Enemy Aliens in Great Britain

Cathedral Road, Cardiff
cc-by-sa/2.0 - © Robin Drayton -

Karl Kritzer (25), son of Wilhelm Kritzer and Flora Gleichauf, in 1901, was employed as butler to John P Ingledew, Solicitor, at 9 Cathederal Road, St John, Cardiff. There, in the 1st Quarter of 1905, an Anglicized, Charles Kritzer married Lilian Emily Jones, daughter of Samuel and Fanny Theresa Jones. 

Karl and Lilian's daughter, Flora Theresa Lillian Kritzer was born at the end of 1905 and, in 1911, was living with her grandparents in Gloucester, while her father was employed as butler to Henry Webb (Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Henry Webb, 1st Baronet), Liberal MP for the Forest of Dean, at 2 Seymour Street, St Marylebone, London, while her mother, Lady's Maid to Lady Webb, was at the Webb's country house at Llwynarthan, Castleton, Monmouthshire.

When I saw who Karl was working for in the run up to WWI, I knew there was going to be a story. By accident of his birth and the position of his employer, Karl found himself under scrutiny. Hardly surprising, but quite shocking. 

For context, it's important also to understand that Sunday newspaper, John Bull, was at that time a platform for Horatio Bottomley's "trenchant populist views" (read gammon: clearly reactionary and given to melodrama by the style of his writing), but it had estimated sales by August 1914 in excess of three quarters of a million copies a week. Bottomley was described as an English financier, journalist, editor, newspaper proprietor, swindler, and Member of Parliament. (When exposed, he was convicted, imprisoned and expelled from parliament.) Evidently, he judged others based on his own standards. 

Secondly, as to the actual level of threat from Espionage in 1914, it was shown to be predominantly paranoia and put down to Journalistic fantasy:
"An unprecedented 'spy mania' gripped Britain. Although 21 real German spies were arrested on 4 August, thousands of imaginary acts of espionage were reported to credulous police and military authorities." 
In an article published in John Bull on October 24th, 1914, Bottomley starts off by referring to German people as "Teutons", a word that has been used - and it feels this is the intent - as a derogatory term. Mentioning Karl Kritzer by name, Bottomley tries to make something out of the observations - of him merely going about his duties - and imaginings of a cook, the so-called Mrs Stacey (having researched, I find she is single and strongly suspect that 'elevating' her status to that of a married woman was an attempt to make her seem a more reliable witness), who opines that "Kritzer was always an objectionable person." (Probably nowhere near as objectionable to someone less bigoted.) Bottomley calls her "loyal and patriotic", while referring to Karl Kritzer as "a traitor to her King and country" and "one of the Kaiser's blood". He offers no evidence for these accusations. It's not every day one's relatives are mentioned in the same breath as then Prime Minister, Herbert Henry Asquith; Home Secretary, Reginald McKennaPrince Louis of BattenbergWilhelm II, German Emperor and the House of Hohenzollern, though for all the wrong reasons. 

They have no evidence, of course, but also attempt to make an issue of Karl returning to Germany shortly before the war. The records show that Karl's father was born in 1844, which would make him 70 in 1914. An entirely plausible age then for the man to be ill or dying. It's a particularly low blow.

Another article in The Strathearn Herald, published on the very same date, October 24, 1914 - which frankly reads like Bottomley wrote it himself - praises the John Bull and Bottomley for doing "a national service in calling attention to the spy peril in our midst" and goes further, saying "Karl Kritzer, in the employment of Mr Webb, a member of His Majesty's Government, may not be a spy; neither may the humblest German barber: but there is just this - they are both alien enemies, and as such a danger to the country ..." Evidence?

We learn quite a bit about Karl Kritzer from a follow-up article in the Western Mail, on Friday October 30, 1914, where Harry Webb, MP, is given the opportunity of responding. Apparently, Karl had been in his employ since 1908 and it confirms many of the details that I have also been able to research, such as Karl's naturalisation, Certificate A21115 issued 18 October 1911, which was signed by then Home Secretary, W. S. Churchill (I have a copy). Webb's manner of defending Karl Kritizer, does indeed seem to me to be the behaviour that a "decent, honourable man ought to pursue towards his servant."

Despite all this, we know Karl kept his job long after the end of the hostilities, because the following appeared in the Western Mail of 8 January 1921:
After a lapse of six years, occasioned by the war, the annual staff dance at Llwynarthan, Castleton, Cardiff, the residence of Col. Sir Henry and Lady Webb, was revived on Thursday evening. The ball-room and smoke-rooms, originally a part of the old farmhouse, were converted into hospital wards during the war, and since being vacated by the patients, several alterations have been carried out. A happy party, numbering between 60 and 70, were entertained. Sir Henry and Lady Webb, and the members of the house party, did everything in their power to ensure the success of the function. Supper was laid in the dining-room, and after mutual expressions of esteem and goodwill, Sir Henry and Lady Webb left the staff and their friends at about midnight to their own devices. Thanks to the very admirable arrangements made by Mrs. Wynn and Mr. Charles Kritzer, a thoroughly happy and enjoyable time was spent.

Now who's the loyal servant, eh?  

The indexes of the 1921 Census show Charles Kritzer and Lillian Kritzer, both in Monmouthshire, where they'll still be in the employ of Sir Henry Webb.

Their daughter, Flora Kritzer (b. 1905) and Molly Kritzer (b. 1906), who must be Karl's brother, Joseph's daughter, Mary Amalie Kritzer, in 1921, are both listed in Totteridge, Barnet, Middlesex. Then aged 16 and 15, respectively, I imagine that the cousins are at a boarding school together, probably this one.

Flora T L Kritzer married a William B Connors, in Cardiff, in 1929. It appears they had one child, in 1939. Karl Kritzer had died in 1933, in Faversham, Kent, aged 57 and on 6 Feb 1935, Lillian Emily Kritzer departed Southampton for New York, aboard the RMS Berengaria (formerly SS Imperator) The first Cunard "Queen". The trip appears just to have been a holiday / visit. Lillian, then employed as a barmaid, was living at 20 Effingham Street, Belgravia in 1939. Retired, Lilian Emily Kritzer of 2 Cross Roads, Holywell, Wales, died, aged 75, and was buried on 13 Mar 1962 in Bagillt, Flintshire, Wales.

Wilhelm Kritzer and Flora Wilhelmina Gleichauf

The Catholic parish church of St. Johann in Donaueschingen, Germany. The building with a double tower facade in the Bohemian Baroque style was built from 1724 to 1747 to a design by the Prague architect František Maxmilián Kaňka. Photo H. HelmlechnerCC BY-SA 4.0.

Wilhelm Kritzer (b. 10 Jan 1844), son of Michael Kritzer and Maria Agatha Hall, married Flora Wilhelmina Gleichauf (b. 26 Jan 1851), daughter of Johann Nepomuk Gleichauf and Waldburga Baur, on 26 Jun 1873 at the Katholisch (The Catholic parish church of St. Johann, consecrated to John the Baptist) in DonaueschingenVillingenBaden, Germany. 

Wilhelm and Flora Kritzer had five children, all baptised in that same church:
  1. Amalia Kritzer, born 7 Oct 1873, baptised 19 Oct 1873
  2. Julius Kritzer, born 18 Aug 1874, baptised 23 Aug 1874
  3. Karl Kritzer, born 3 Nov 1875, baptised 14 Nov 1875
  4. Josef Kritzer, born 30 Oct 1877 and baptised 11 Nov 1877 
  5. Wilhelm Kritzer, born 10 Mar 1879, baptised 23 Mar 1879,
    but who sadly died on 14 Sep of the same year.

At least three of the siblings came to England to work in service in some very distinguished households and were in England at the outbreak of the First World War, where they found themselves at the epicentre of the anti-German hysteria and Spy Feverincited by the press of the time

The parallels with the present day are many.

Source of the Donaubach in Donaueschingen (historically considered the source of the Danube)
Donaueschingen, in the Schwarzwald (Black Forest) near the confluence of the two sources of the river Danube, close to the borders with Switzerland and France, is postcard perfectThis video gives us a look around the town today and the pronunciation of Doe-now-ess-shingen. 

Joseph Kritzer and Sarah Sophia Tompson

St Wilfrid's, Chelsea

Sarah Sophia Tompson, eldest surviving daughter of Dan Tompson and his second wife, Sarah Jane Baker married Josef/Joseph Kritzer, son of Wilhelm Kritzer and Flora Gleichaufon 24 May 1905 in Whittlesey, Cambridgeshire. 

Their daughter, Mary Amalie Kritzer was subsequently born on 21 Feb 1906, but she was not the couple's first child. On the census for the household of Sarah's parents, Dan and Sarah Jane Tompson, in 1911, in Whittlesey, Cambridgeshire, there appeared a 'mystery' grandchild listed as William Charles Kritzer (7) (although the surname was mis-transcribed at Findmypast as Roizen, which added much to the confusion), who it says, was born in 1904 'At Sea'.

The boy was born, actually in 1903, aboard the SS Kaiser Wilhelm II at Lat 40.45N/Long 56.52W, which is off the coast of North America, I'm informed. Launched at Stettin, Germany (now Szczecin, Poland), on 12 Aug 1902, the SS Kaiser Wilhelm II made regular trips between Germany and New York City. 

Baptised, William Karl Tompson, on 9 Dec 1903, at the church of St Matthew, Stepney, on the baptism record, his mother is listed just as Daisy (as she appears to have called herself), with their abode listed as 3 Monteagle Street, Stepney - which, interestingly, had been the address given by her half-sister (my great-grandmother), Eliza Louisa, at the time of her marriage to Job Sweeney some 10 years earlier. (This child's birth and baptism information was provided to me by Christine Miller of the wonderfully named, GIN AND GENEALOGY.)

In 1911, Joseph Kritzer (33), was employed as a butler in the household of architect, Henry Louis Florence at 9 Prince's Gate, Knightsbridge, London. In that household also was a Rosina Christie employed as a housemaid. She was listed as single, but her year of birth agrees with that of Sarah Sophia - 1876 - born in Whitechapel: Sarah Sophia's birth was registered in Mile End Old Town, which is next door, both in Stepney. (Both of Joseph and Sarah's children later use Christie as an Anglicized version of Kritzer.) Anyway, I'm inclined to believe this is Sarah (who did, after all, have an aunt Ellen Rosina, but if that's not enough circumstantial evidence for you, Joseph's aunt was also called Rosina, named after her grandmother), using this assumed name to hide the fact that she was married to Joseph, which was more than likely verboten for servants.  

Sarah Sophia / Daisy Tompson / Kritzer / Christie isn't anywhere else in 1911.

At that same time, their daughter, Mary Amalia Kritzer (5) was listed as an 'Inmate' at St Wilfrid's Convent School in Cale Street, Chelsea.

On 18 Oct 1912, listed as Willie Thompson (8), this child sailed to Montreal from Liverpool aboard the SS Corsican with his grandmother, Sarah Jane, and his aunt Ivy. On the 1921 Census of Canada, Willie Christie (18) is living at 131 Morrison Avenue, Toronto, still with his grandparents who have clearly raised him. At Ancestry, there's a note of correction on the 1921 entry suggesting he should be Critzer. I've found no further record for him [yet] under any name. 

As she had married a German, Sarah Sophia had become German and would have been subject to the restrictions of the Aliens Restriction Act 1914:
As the law was at this time, British-born women who had married foreign nationals (who had not naturalised) acquired their husband’s nationality. Many British born women therefore found themselves to be enemy aliens during the war. Except in a very few cases women were not interned. [Source]
A quick search of the indexes of the 1921 Census, in that year, in Totteridge, Barnet were Flora Krtizer (b. 1905), who was the daughter of Karl and Lillian Kritzer, as well as a Molly Kritzer (b. 1906), who must be Joseph and Sarah Kritzer's daughter, Mary Amalie. Then aged 15 and 16, my guess would be that they were at school together, perhaps even St Edward's School for Roman Catholic Girls (we'll see once I can access the original census records).

Joseph Kritzer is not listed in England in 1921. Nor is Sarah Sophia, however, there is a listing of a Daisy Christie in Margate, Kent. Wrong age (only by 6 years younger, which works), but born in Stepney, which looks promising.

In 1939 'Daisy' S S Kritzer, Housekeeper, still listed as married, was living at 1 Pemry Villas, Elm Grove Road, Cobham, Surrey. It looks like a house-share (lodging) situation as there are three other, seemingly unrelated, adults in the household and still no sign of her husband Joseph. Sarah Sophia Kritzer, then of 2 Ashford Cottages, Tilt Road, Cobham, Surrey, again listed as wife of Joseph Kritzer, died, aged 68, on 20 Feb 1945. She left £595 13s (worth £25,849 in 2020) to her daughter, Mary Amelia Melhuish, married woman.

Other than those last couple of records in 1939 and 1945 relating to Sarah alluding to Joseph Kritzer still being alive - where she's described as married and as his wife - there's no further sign of him in Britain and no trace of a record even of his death. Unlike his brother Karl, Joseph did not become naturalised British. Sister, Amalia, will have escaped detention, being a woman. However, initial enquiries suggest that Joseph Kritzer (37) - which he would have been in 1914 - was interned at the Knockaloe Internment Camp Isle of Man during WWI. As "former enemy aliens were to be deported, unless granted a licence to remain", was he perhaps returned to Germany after the war? 

UPDATE DECEMBER 2021: I've now received confirmation that Joseph Kritzer (37), was indeed interned at Knockaloe Internment Camp Isle of Man. "Joseph was interned as part of the mass internment of registered Enemy Alien men aged between 17 and 55 following the sinking of the Lusitania in May 1915." 

Joseph’s Prisoner of War Information Bureau (POWIB) Index Card (available from the ICRC website), shows that he was interned on 31 Jul 1915. We still don't know when he was released or what happened to him later, although the pointers seem to be towards him being repatriated to Germany. 

There are many questions that still need to be answered.

These pages are notes on work in progress, so please expect additions and changes as further research is done. You may like to use Follow That Page to monitor changes.