A Family Crisis in 1890?

This post is about something that is very much a work-in-progress. I’m researching the family of Martha Ann BEAN, who married Ottiwell H S BUTLER in Nottingham in 1914.

Martha Ann BEAN & Ottiwell HS BUTLER marriage register Nottingham 1914 - Copy

Using the information from their marriage certificate (Martha Ann was 26 and her father was the late George William BEAN), it is possible to work backwards through the sources to trace her family.

In the 1911 Census, Martha Ann is a 23-year-old housemaid in Nottingham with her place of birth recorded as Sheffield, Yorkshire. She is living with her older sister Florence (28 years old and born in Lincoln) and brother-in-law. Baptismal records can then been found on FamilySearch for both sisters (Martha and Florence), giving their parents as George William and Eliza BEAN. Using the GRO‘s new and very helpful Births Index for both births, Eliza’s maiden name is shown to be POUCHER, and George William BEAN and Eliza POUCHER married in Lincoln in 1877 (records here and here).  The couple had two more children, George William junior (b. 1880 in Lincoln), who appears with his parents in the 1881 Census, and Arthur (b.1885 in Sheffield).

Some sort of crisis appears to have hit the family about 1890. In the 1891 Census, Eliza is the head of her household in Woolwich, London, with her two youngest children, and is described as a widow and a charwoman. George jr is living with his maternal great-aunt in the Lincolnshire village his mother came from, and Florence is still living in Lincoln but with her maternal grandparents.

If the sources finished there, the obvious interpretation would be that George William had died, precipitating the break-up and scattering of his family (a George William BEAN died in Sheffield in 1890, but the Deaths Index gives his age alternatively as 83 (FreeBMD) and 33 (GRO)). However, the 1901 Census shows Eliza, Arthur and Martha Ann now in South Manchester, and George restored to the head of the family. There is no indication that Eliza has married again, so has she included her dead husband in the Census return for some reason, or is she now living with another man and the enumerator has just assumed the whole family is called BEAN?

If this is the original George, where was he in 1891? Was he working away? Did he abandon his family? Was he in prison? There are no obvious entries for him in the 1891 Census, but if he were in an institution there is a good chance his details would have been recorded incorrectly. Looking outside the UK, there is an Englishman called George BEAM matching his description recorded in the 1891 Canadian Census, but the information recorded about him is too vague to be conclusive [image].

After 1901, there are no obvious traces of George William in the records. Eliza died in 1904 in the workhouse in South Manchester (records from FindMyPast). George jr remained in his Lincolnshire village, where he married a widow and had a family. Florence married a railway worker in 1900, and travelled around the country with his work. Arthur appears to have stayed in Manchester, where he became a street musician. In the 1911 Census he is married to (or more likely living with) an Italian widow, and they went on to have a large family.

I haven’t been able to find out much yet about Martha Ann’s life after she was widowed in 1917, but hopefully unpicking her family a bit further might shed some light on what happened to her next.


Image of marriage register (detail): (c) Crown Copyright


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