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August 12, 2015

No. 7 of My Top 10 Genealogy Mysteries: Who is Lionel?

A Facebook friend recently posted her top 10 Genealogy Mysteries.  They aren't brick walls because there is probably an answer somewhere, just waiting to be found.

I thought this was a great idea and I am following suit with my Top 10 Genealogy Mysteries. Of course any help or suggestions for further research are welcome. You can read my other Genealogy Mysteries at Top 10 Genealogy Mysteries

Here is my Number 7 of 10 Genealogy Mysteries:

Edith Winnifred Finch's father is a mystery. Edith was born 16 September 1870 in the St. Pancras Workhouse in Brighton, Sussex England to Martha Finch

The 1871 census for Sussex > Cuckfield > District Cuckfield Union Workhouse finds Martha and her daughter:
Martha Finch, pauper, not md, domestic cook, 32, b West Houghly, Sussex
Edith Finch, pauper child of 6 mos, b. Brighton Sussex

There were two possible birth registrations for little Edith but neither provided a father's name. Searching for her marriage record to Albert Charles Markham was more successful as it showed her father as "Lionel Finch" (mother's surname given?) 

12 Aug. 1895. Albert Charles Markham, 29, bachelor, sailor son of Henry John Markham, deceased, publican & Edith Winifred Finch, 25, spinster, d/o Lionel Finch, deceased, commerical traveller. Witnesses: Frederick James Markham, Alice Smith.

I was able to trace Martha, her mother, but with no clues as to the mysterious Lionel. Edith and her husband Albert both died in 1898 in London England, leaving 3 children under the age of 8. The youngest, Elsie Phyllis Markham was only 8 months old. The children were sent to Orphanages - Albert Finch, an illegitimate child born to Edith, was sent to Barnardos, Frederick Markham to Miller's Orphanage and baby Elsie to an older couple who had no children. With their unsettled lives and losing their parents at young ages, they had no family stories or knowledge to pass on to descendants.

We have young Albert Finch's records from Barnardos and details on his life in St. Mary's Ontario Canada. Albert was able to save his money and eventually he brought his sister Elsie (my husband's great-grandmother) and his brother Frederick to St. Mary's to join him.

Martha Finch, Edith's mother, had two more illegitimate children: Esther born 1859 in the St. Pancras Workhouse and John born 1863 in Horsted Keyes, Sussex. Esther was living with her grandparents in the 1861 census, then she herself ended up in the Race Hill Workhouse having 2 illegitimate children, Arthur and Ruth. 

I found it intriguing that Esther was given the middle name of "Martin". Perhaps this was her father's first name or surname?

Little John was raised by his grandparents and is last found in 1891 as a boarder at Hollycombe Stables, living on his own means.

Martha never married and is last seen in 1901 in Portsmouth, Hampshire where she is a servant in a household and listed as a widow. Her death was registered in Sussex in 1918. 

I am no closer to solving the mystery of Lionel than I was 15 years ago. I welcome any suggestions! 


Anonymous said...

I think Lionel could be a "pretend" name; a name she liked, or, a clue to the name of the children's father who was probably married. Maybe it's the name of the street he lived on?

Unknown said...

I'm not very familiar with British records but is there any way you could find out who Edith's mother was working for nine months before Edith's birth? It might provide a clue especially if an entire family could be listed via records. So many out-of-wedlock children borne by women who worked as domestic servants were the result of liaisons - consensual or not - with a male employer or employee, men with whom a young woman had to cross paths on more or less a daily basis. Combine sexual ignorance with fear of losing her job and it was a recipe for abuse of power.

If such information can be found and no Lionel or other likely candidate shows up, it's certainly possible she fell for some vendor or deliveryman who frequented the house.

I've found a number of American poorhouse records from the 1800s online over the years and the huge percentage of inmates who were teenaged single immigrant girls with infants tells a sad story ignored by the history books. Invariably these girls are listed as servants or domestics. Depending on location often they are overwhelmingly Irish Catholics and far too often they and their babies died in the poorhouses before the age of 20, which were excellent places to catch diseases back then. Not to mention the fact they sometimes died of giving birth without whatever passed for medical help at the time, due to the beliefs of some poorhouse managers that they had "deserved" to suffer whatever pain and consequences childbirth caused.

Lorine McGinnis Schulze said...

Yes it would be good to know if Edith went out from the Workhouse or worked in it. She could indeed have been seduced by her employer but also quite likely it was another inmate in the workhouse. I haven't given up but it will be quite challenging!

Corina Mitchell said...

Wow!!So interesting-I have no answers to your question but found this when Googling my Grandmother's and Great Uncle's names-Elsie Markham was my Grandmother-who came to Canada around 1914 to join her 1/2 brother Albert Finch.Nice to learn some of the names of Great Grandparents etc.
Corina (Ontario)Canada

Lorine McGinnis Schulze said...

Hi Corina - I know your mom Cora :-) I met her at the funeral of her brother Bert Holden. Bert was my husband's grandfather.

I have traced the Markham and Finch lines back quite far and would be happy to share that with you. Just write me at olivetreegenealogy AT gmail DOT com