Catharine, the second child of mason John Rowe and his wife Sarah Sampson, was born in late 1843 in Penzance, Cornwall, with Queen Victoria on the throne and Robert Peel Prime Minister. It was the year which saw Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol sell out in six days after its launch on 31 December, although I’m sure not bought by anyone in her poor family. She had an sister three years older than her called Elizabeth, and a younger sister, Sarah, born when Catharine was only about a year old.
The first of her brothers, Thomas, arrived when Catharine was aged about five, but as her brother was born in Devonport [Plymouth] in neighbouring county Devon in early 1848 I suspect that the three girls would perhaps have stayed with their grandparents Sampson in Penzance; grandfather Robert Sampson was a butcher on central Market Jew Street. Catherine’s parents were back in Penzance for baby Thomas’ baptism in November 1849 and the census of March 1851 finds John, Sarah and their five children (by then baby Alice had come along) living in Market Jew Street. The following year Anne Sampson was born in early 1852.
Around 1857-58 their parents moved to Wales: Whitchurch in Pembrokeshire. There her father worked as a stone mason in Lower Solva, Prendagast. Her younger brother John Daniel was born in summer 1859. However there was scandal for the family when Catharine’s older sister Elizabeth had a daughter, Annie, out of wedlock by a local labourer, Philip Tripp, in late 1859. The family were still in Lower Solva in April 1861.
So where was 17-year-old Catharine for the 1861 census? The only record I can found is that she’s a servant in St Peter’s Port, Guernsey, in the Channel Islands, but I think that’s unlikely.
By 1862 Elizabeth was back in Penzance to get married to Philip and they had two sons before moving away and disappearing.
Their mother Sarah also died at around this time.
In July 1864 in Catharine herself got married in Madron, her bridegroom was a carpenter from neighbouring Marazion (by St Michael’s Mount) called George John Miller. One of her witnesses has the surname Alder which was her future step-mother Cecilia’s surname, so it appears by then her father at least knew his future wife and her family; John and Cecilia married in December 1865 in Penzance.
Catherine and George’s first two children George (c1867) and John (c1868) were born in Portsmouth, Hampshire, before Albert was born in early 1870 in Alton, Hampshire.
Then the family must have headed to Wales and travelled around for work for William was born (early 1875) in Pontypridd, Glamorgan (12 miles north of Cardiff), Sarah Ann (cMay 1877) in nearby Caerphilly, Glamorgan, Elizabeth c June 1880 east in Newport, Monmouthshire and Edgar (c1884) back in Glamorgan. Their final identified child, Alice, was born in late 1885, also in Glamorgan.
In April 1891 the family were living north in Vaynor, Breconshire, with George working as a carpenter and their oldest son, 15 year old William, as a carpenter’s labourer, perhaps for his father.
I haven’t found a record of George after that point – Catharine is alone for both the 1901 and 1911 census entries, yet marked as married rather than a widow. Also according to the 1911 census Catharine had 10 children, eight of whom were still alive, but I haven’t been able to find two of them, whom I suspect died young.
Her eldest child, son George, met and settled down with Somerset girl Matilda Stoaling in the Cardiff area, having 10 children together; here is Martha’s family story – a triumph of hope over experience and the desire to keep family together. Two years after that his brother John Daniel married Jane Turnbull in Penarth, Glamorgan.
In 1901 Catharine is living in Cheddar, Somerset, with three daughters who, as well as two lodgers, are working as shirt machinists. In 1911 she is visiting her eldest daughter Sarah and Sarah’s husband George Pavey – as he’s marked as Shirt Factory Manager it looks like Sarah married her boss. Sarah’s census entry indicates she’d had four children, two of whom were home: Wilfred and Lena, one who was elsewhere that night, and one had died young.
Catharine died four years later, c November 1915, back in the Cardiff area of Glamorgan, so maybe George was still based around there somewhere. It looks like their sons George and John had settled in Newport, Monmouthshire, with George and his wife Matilda having several children of their own there.
Text © Lynne Black, 31 January 2016
First published: https://starryblackness.wordpress.com/