Friday, 7 October 2016

#16 Mary Temperance Sheaf & Elizabeth Sheaf - The nature of nurture.

I have been trying to round out the family of my 3 x great grandparents William Harbidge Sheaf and Mary Tomes Holland but have for a long time been unable to track down one of their younger daughters, Elizabeth. I have already written about her brothers Charles Holland Sheaf  and Jamaica George and of course the youngest family member Great Aunt Lou. I find this family particularly interesting as I am descended from two of the siblings, Jamaica George and Thomas Holland Sheaf. In the last week I have discovered the whereabouts of Elizabeth and found that her story is inextricably entwined with that of her slightly older sister Mary Temperance Sheaf.

Mary Temperance was born in 1819 and christened at Bidford on Avon. Elizabeth was born about 1825 but I have not been able to find any baptism records for her. At the time of the 1841 census both girls were still living at home, on the family farm at Bickmarsh, no doubt helping out in the house and looking after their younger siblings. By this stage their father had tragically drowned so their mother was managing quite a substantial farming enterprise.

In October 1841 Mary married a young fellow called James Price who hailed from Bushley about 20 miles away. For the first few years of their married life they were in the Welford on Avon district where they had 4 children; William Henry, Emily Martha, Timothy and Mary Jane. Some time between 1846 and 1851 they moved to Birmingham where James worked as a Corn Factor - a trader in grains. In about October 1852 another daughter was born, Fanny Elizabeth however Mary died shortly afterwards. Fanny's birth was registered in 1852 but she wasn't christened until 1854.

During this time, Elizabeth seems to have been working away from home in Cold Overton, Leicestershire as a matron in a girls orphanage. Certainly this is the most likely entry in the 1851 census.

What happened in the next couple of years is unsure, but in 1858 Elizabeth and James Price registered their marriage in Newport, Monmouthshire, Wales. Elizabeth's next younger sibling Samuel was also in Wales working as a banker, so he may have been the reason they ended up there. I can only assume that at some stage Elizabeth had been called upon to help James with his young family of five following the death of their mother.

In 1861 the family are still in Wales, at Llanfoist also in Monmouthshire. James is a farm agent and has a farm of about 148 acres. Young Timothy and Fanny Elizabeth are still living with them. Sometime during the next 10 years James dies as he does not appear to be in the 1871 census and Elizabeth has moved back to her home territory and is living in Moreton in Marsh, Gloucestershire. Emily and Fanny are living with her and they are running a small Governess School with at least 5 children boarding with them. Elizabeth describes herself as widowed.

Elizabeth and Fanny are still living there in 1881 but Elizabeth appears to have retired and calls herself a "superannuated governess." The entry for Fanny is not so easy to read but it appears to be "invalided governess" so presumably her health was not good. They are the only househoulders - there are no boarding children and no other staff.

I am sure that Elizabeth died sometime between the 1881 and 1891 census although I have not yet confirmed this through the records other than by her absence in the census. By 1891 Fanny has moved back to Wales and was living in Blaenevon with her older sister Mary Jane and her husband Edward Saunders.

Goodness knows whether Elizabeth found happiness in her marriage to James but I like to believe she found happiness and satisfaction in raising her sister's children. In every census during the time they are together she is described as their mother, not their step-mother and their relationships continued long into their adult lives. From a very young age she had responsibility for nurturing children who were not her own - her younger siblings, the orphanage girls, her sister's children and finally her young pupils. She accepted these challenges and ended up molding an independent life for herself.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting. Lives were very different in those days but it seems families strongly supported each other.