Friday, October 5, 2012

Before the Creeksea Ferry

I have already discussed in some detail the lives of George and Elizabeth AMOS after their marriage, when they were living on Wallasea Island at the Creeksea Ferry. However, I have only alluded to their lives before that.

A few years ago I was able to trace Elizabeth’s parents and siblings, but only within the past month have I made the breakthrough that allows me to identify with conviction the previous family of George. But let us begin where I did: with the 1881 British census.

1881 finds the AMOS family residing in the “Ferry House” on Wallasea Island. It identifies George’s birthplace as Dover, Kent, and Elizabeth’s as Maldon, Essex. Fortunately for us, a niece by the name of Esther FILBY is staying with them. Of course, she may be the daughter of a sister of either spouse, but there is the hope that she is the daughter of a brother of Elizabeth. That gives us the first hint of a possible maiden name for Elizabeth. Perhaps her name had been Elizabeth FILBY.

This surmise holds up when examining the 1891 census. By an even more fortuitous circumstance (from the point of view of the genealogist), George’s mother-in-law is now living with them. To state the obvious, that can only be Elizabeth’s mother. And what is her name? Mary A. FILBY. She is listed as a widow, and her birthplace as Stow, Essex—which, however, cannot be found on any map. George’s birthplace is now identified as East Langdon, a village near Dover, and Elizabeth’s is still identified as Maldon.

Armed with the information gleaned from these censuses, I was able to find a marriage record of sorts at FamilySearch. As a transcription of an index, it could hardly be considered the best possible evidence, but it did yield some valuable information. According to this record, a George AMOS and an Elizabeth TILBY were married at Christ Church in Southwark on 7 Nov 1875. Considering how easily Ts and Fs can be confounded in older handwriting (and being unable to examine the original handwriting myself), the name TILBY is a good match for FILBY. The date is also a good match, being just far enough before the birth of their oldest child. The location surprised me a little, but was not far enough out of the way to be improbable. The record, of course, contained a source microfilm number which I could have ordered at my local Family History Center, but I never quite got around to it.

Elizabeth FILBY

From here, knowing her birthplace to be Maldon, estimating her birth date as 1855, and knowing her mother to be Mary A. FILBY born c. 1812, it was not particularly hard to find Elizabeth living with her parents before her marriage. An entry with all the requisite particulars (excepting that her mother’s birthplace is recorded as Purleigh instead of Stow) appears in 1871 in Latchingdon, Essex. It is the household of John FILBY, a shoemaker, born c. 1814 in Purleigh. Living with him are Mary his wife and Elizabeth his daughter. No other family members are mentioned.

Tracing them back a little father, we find that Elizabeth was not an only child. In 1861, in Snoreham, Essex, the household contains a son, William, born c. 1849 in Snoreham, a daughter, Mary Ann, born c. 1853 also in Snoreham, and Elizabeth, still born in Maldon. This time the enumerator reports that their mother Mary was born in Stowe Maries, Essex, which is phonetically close to the “Stow” of 1891 and finally furnishes a location that can be found on a map.

Now that we know the proper household, we can go back even farther. The 1851 census reveals yet two more children: Henry FILBY, born c. 1835 in Purleigh, and Samuel FILBY, born c. 1850 in Latchingdon. These are in addition to William FILBY, to whom we have already been introduced.

Going back farther yet, to the earliest British census that lists the names of inhabitants, namely the 1841 census, brings us a little bit of a surprise. John FILBY, shoemaker, lives in Purleigh, Essex with his son Henry FILBY—and his housekeeper Mary HOWARD. This Mary HOWARD is approximately the age that Mrs. Mary FILBY would have been in that year: 24 is only three years from the expected 27. This page of the 1841 census also gives a clue as to Mary’s parents. The previous household is headed by a John HOWARD, age 60. Given their close proximity and identical surnames, it is a credible guess that John HOWARD is Mary’s father.

From this census we can deduce that Henry FILBY is John’s son from a previous marriage, and we can guess that Mary HOWARD was soon to become Mrs. Mary FILBY. The latter guess is backed up by the FreeBMD Marriage Index, which reveals that in the Oct-Dec quarter of 1842 there was indeed a marriage between a John FILBY and a Mary HOWARD.

Since we have reached the earliest possible census in our search, let us leap forward in time to the period between when we last saw Mary with her husband in 1871 and when we see her as a widow living with her daughter Elizabeth in 1891.

John FILBY is still alive and apparently making shoes at the time of the 1881 census. He and his wife are living together in an empty nest in Latchingdon. They are both reported as having been born in Purleigh, and for the first time since she was a housekeeper for her future husband, Mary has a recognized occupation of her own. She is identified as a “Nurse Sub Med,” which seems to be a sort of acknowledged nurse, but without formal training as such.

The best possibility for when Mary (HOWARD) FILBY became a widow is found in the FreeBMD death index. There is a record in the Oct-Dec quarter of 1882 for the death of a John FILBY in the Maldon district. This is the best match both because of his age and his location.

I have also done some research on Elizabeth’s siblings, especially her brother William, but we will leave that for another time.

George AMOS

As for George AMOS’ ancestry… that has been a little more difficult to trace. Taking East Langdon, near Dover, Kent as his birthplace, and searching the censuses for a George AMOS born c. 1853 brings multiple results, none of them an obvious match. There were, however, other researchers on this line, and I tentatively accepted their claim that he was the son of Edward AMOS and Sarah CONSTABLE.

Last month I returned to George AMOS’ profile on Ancestry and did another search for records. Ancestry is always updating and adding new databases, so periodic searches are essential. And this time my search was well rewarded. Remember that transcribed marriage index record that I found and never got around to ordering? There was the original, in all its handwritten glory, digitally scanned and appearing on my computer screen through the wonder of modern technology.

I have become more or less inured to disappointment in marriage records (outside of Luxembourg), seldom finding much in them beyond what is already known. That, at least, has been my experience of American marriage records, some of which contain no more than names and a date. This, however, was not to be my experience in the marriage of George AMOS and Elizabeth FILBY—FILBY, indeed, now that I could see it with my own eyes and distinguish the letter F. (The difficulty had arisen with her signature, in which the line crossing the F seems instead to be dotting the i.)

Most notable of the information contained within this record is the names and professions of the fathers of both the bride and the groom. The bride’s father, as anticipated, is John FILBY, a shoemaker. Although not new information, it is helpful in that it shows that we do have the correct marriage record. And now—if only there were a way to print a drum roll!—we come to the groom’s father. Strictly speaking, he appears on the record before the bride’s, but I have taken the liberty of creating a little suspense. The groom’s father is stated to be Abraham AMOS, labourer. So we can discard (or at least set aside, as they could turn out to be related more distantly than previously thought) the family of Edward AMOS and Sarah CONSTABLE.

Finding an alternate George AMOS, given the superfluity of the name, has not been hard. In fact, a George AMOS of the proper age and approximate birthplace is found the son of an Abraham AMOS in 1861. Conveniently, several of the details contained in this census fit what we know of the Creeksea Ferry’s George AMOS better than the formerly accepted household of Edward AMOS. Firstly, the location of the household is East Langdon, claimed as George’s birthplace in 1891. The birthplace of this 1861 George AMOS is said to be West Langdon, but he is only eight years old; perhaps he was raised in East Langdon. In any event, the two villages are within a couple miles from one another, and share noticeably similar names.

Secondly, Abraham AMOS’ wife is named Isabella, which would be a likely source for the name of our George’s eldest daughter. Such a supposition would be consistent with common Victorian naming practices, although they don’t seem to have strictly adhered to any such practice. (The origin of their eldest son Arthur’s first name remains a mystery.)

Thirdly, although this is admittedly rather slim evidence, we can amend the parenthetical observation about George and Elizabeth AMOS’ eldest son. Despite the fact that the source of his first name is unknown, this household at least gives a possible source for his middle name. There is a son of Abraham AMOS named Thomas, which is known to be Arthur’s middle name.

Working forward with this household, we find Abraham AMOS again heading his family in East Langdon in 1871. This time, however, the only child still living with them is Thomas. Once again we are faced with the question of where George could be. Since he is not residing with his parents, and since we can eliminate the George AMOS known to be the son of Edward AMOS as well as any listed as the son of other parents, the most feasible candidate (but certainly not the only possibility) appears in the William PIERCE household of Saltwood, Kent. This George AMOS, listed as a servant, is the right age. He is said to have been born in Saltwood, but that is within twenty miles of East Langdon, near enough for an error to be plausible. That is the extent of the case for him, so acceptance of this as our George AMOS can be only on the most tentative basis.

Reversing direction, we can work backward through the censuses with the Abraham AMOS family. But first we must take another glance at their household in 1861. Way down at the bottom of their household, where visitors and servants are usually found, appears the name William COCK, age 21. Servant he is not, nor is he a visitor or a lodger. Curiously, he is a “son.” The fact that his surname is not the same as that of his father suggests that he is not the son of Abraham AMOS, but rather his stepson. Such a hypothesis would imply that Isabella had either had him by a previous marriage or illegitimately before she was married. Therefore, we can presume that her name when she married Abraham had been Isabella COCK.

In 1851, we find Abraham and Isabella in West Langdon. This time the household includes a son William the same age as William COCK would be. It is probably the same person, but this time styled an AMOS. It is not uncommon to find a stepchild enumerated in a census with a technically inaccurate surname. Thomas AMOS is also included in the household, but his line contains no surprises. He is three years old and said to have been born in Eythorne, Kent. In fact, so far as I have discovered, his birthplace is recorded so consistently that the only part of it that varies from census to census is the spelling.

The FreeBMD marriage index discloses a marriage between Abraham AMOS and Isabella COCK in the Apr-June quarter of 1847 in the Eastry district of Kent. Therefore they were not yet married to one another at the time of the 1841 census, and at this time the paucity of information on their lives before their marriage makes it impossible to locate them with certainty in that census.


1841 England Census, Essex, Purleigh, page 23, How Green, John Filby household. GSU roll:  241366. Digital images, Ancestry.

1851 England Census, Essex, Snoreham, page 30 (stamped 301), no. 23, John Filby household. GSU roll:  207425-207426. Digital images, Ancestry.

1851 England Census, Kent, West Langdon, District 7, page 20-21 (stamped 57-58), no. 22, house 3, Abraham Amos household. GSU roll:  193534-193535. Digital images, Ancestry. Accessed 21 Sept 2012.

1861 England Census, Essex, Snoreham, District 3, page 23-24 (stamped 48A), no. 30, John Filby household. GSU roll:  542751. Digital images, Ancestry.

1861 England Census, Kent, East Langdon, page 11 (stamped 20), no. 48 Martin Langdon, Abraham Amos household. GSU roll:  542659. Digital images, Ancestry. Accessed 21 Sept 2012.

1871 England Census, Essex, Parish of Latchingdon, page 16, no. 93, John Filby household. GSU roll:  829959. Digital images, Ancestry.

1871 England Census, Kent, East Langdon, Martin, page 7 (stamped 21), no. 42, Abraham Amos household. GSU roll:  827259. Digital images, Ancestry. Accessed 21 Sept 2012.

1871 England Census, Kent, Saltwood, page 27-28 (stamped 38), no. 130, house no. 127, William Pierce household. GSU roll:  827265. Digital images, Ancestry. Accessed 21 Sept 2012.

1881 England Census, Essex, Wallasea Island, Rural Sanitary District of Rochford, page 1, no. 2, Ferry House, George Amos household. GSU roll:  1341427. Digital images, Ancestry.

1891 England Census, Essex, Canewdon, Rural Sanitary District of Rochford, page 1, no. 1, Cricksea Ferry Rd (Ferry Boat), George Amos household. GSU roll:  6096503. Digital images, Ancestry.

England, Marriages, 1538–1973 , index, FamilySearch. Previous version accessed 31 July 2003, George Amos and Elizabeth Tilby, 07 Nov 1875; citing reference , FHL microfilm 384912, 384913, 384914, 384915, 6026046.

FreeBMD. England & Wales, FreeBMD Death Index:1837-1915 [database on-line]. Citing entry for John Filby, Oct-Nov-Dec 1882, Maldon, Essex, vol. 4A, page 211. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2006. Original data: General Register Office. England and Wales Civil Registration Indexes. London, England: General Register Office.

FreeBMD. England & Wales, FreeBMD Marriage Index:1837-1915 [database on-line]. Citing entries for Abraham Amos and Isabella Cock, Apr-May-Jun 1847, Eastry, Kent, vol. 5, page 195. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2006. Accessed 21 Sept 2012. Original data: General Register Office. England and Wales Civil Registration Indexes. London, England: General Register Office.

FreeBMD. England & Wales, FreeBMD Marriage Index:1837-1915 [database on-line]. Citing entries for John Filby and Mary Howard, Oct-Nov-Dec 1842, Maldon, Essex, vol. 12, page 283. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2006. Original data: General Register Office. England and Wales Civil Registration Indexes. London, England: General Register Office.

Gaskin, Joan. Nurse or SMS. DEVON-L Archives. RootsWeb, 13 Aug. 2001. Web. Accessed 3 Oct 2012.

London, England, Marriages and Banns, 1754-1921 [database on-line]. Citing marriage record for George Amos and Elizabeth Filby, Southwark, Southwark Christ Church, page 106, 1875, No. 212, 7 Nov 1875. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010. Accessed 21 Sept 2012. Original data: Church of England Parish Registers, 1754-1921. London Metropolitan Archives, London.


  1. I LOVE when I find a mother-in-law in the census records. A fabulous find when researching the family tree.
    Theresa (Tangled Trees)

    1. It sure makes research easier! Sometimes I wish that everyone's mother-in-law lived with them.