Emily Alice Palmer

When does a member of the family become a ‘black sheep’? When they commit a serious crime? Adultery? Murder? A simple elopement? Somehow rebelling against the standards the family has set or the morals they live by? When does not behaving within the bounds of society turn into becoming a black sheep? Its a tough one to call – and not a label that I can easily tag onto one of my paternal great-grandmothers, Emily Alice Palmer, pictured below at the wedding of her daughter, Norah (my paternal grandmother).

Norah & Eddie's Wedding, 1949
Norah & Eddie’s Wedding, 1949

Emily was born on 26 June 1876 in the Wiltshire parish of Collingbourne Kingston, probably within the village of Brunton (now considered part of Collingbourne Kingston as a whole, Brunton, Aughton and Sunton were all separate villages alongside the village of Collingbourne Kingston). Her parents, Frederick Palmer and Mary Jane Fisher had married in October 1875, and she had an older sister, Sarah Ann Fisher, who had been born in 1874. Frederick and Mary Jane went on to have a further 8 children, all of whom survived to adulthood.

Frosty Collingbourne Kingston (by Anguskirk on Flickr)
Frosty Collingbourne Kingston (by Anguskirk on Flickr)

The majority of Emily’s siblings remained in Collingbourne Kingston, with a few scattering to other areas of the UK. The youngest, Dulcima Lillian May, emigrated to Australia with her husband, John Bagot Percival, and son, John Sydney Percival, in 1921.

Map of Collingbourne Kingston parish (http://www.british-history.ac.uk/)
Map of Collingbourne Kingston parish (http://www.british-history.ac.uk/)

Emily first crops up in the 1881 UK census, living at Tinkerbarn, Brunton, with her parents and 3 siblings. Frederick is listed as an agricultural labourer and no doubt worked on the Tinkerbarn farmstead.

1881 Census
1881 Census

In 1891, Emily is still living with her parents and siblings in Brunton:

1891 Census
1891 Census

The next year, 1892, sees the birth of Emily Alice’s first child – Edward Sidney Palmer – on 23 May. (In some later records he is referenced as Sidney Edward, and his family knew him as Sid, but his birth and baptism were both registered as Edward Sidney.) Three years later, Emily has another child, this time a daughter called Kate.

On October 22, 1898, Emily married Arthur Tom Bowley in Collingbourne Kingston. He was a carter on a nearby farm, although born in the village of Ham in the nearby parish of Shalbourne. Between 1900 and 1904 Emily and Arthur would have three daughters – Avaline Ada, Hilda Violet and Winifred Jessie.

On the 1901 census Arthur, Emily, her first two children Edward and Kate (interestingly, although Edward was enumerated with the surname Palmer, Kate was entered with the surname Bowley – was Kate, in fact, Arthur’s daughter despite her birth being registered as Kate Palmer?), and their daughter Avaline are living in the hamlet of Gallowood in Shalbourne.

1901 Census
1901 Census

It is after this point that things get a bit … complicated.

I knew at some point Emily Alice must have married somebody with the surname Murray – but could never find a marriage between a Murray and a Bowley (or a Palmer). Searching for my grandmother in the 1911 census I tracked down the family living in Marnhull, Dorset – and there was Emily Alice living with Joshua Murray.

1911 Census
1911 Census

Immediately, several things leapt out at me:

  • they stated they were married and had been for 18 years – Emily Alice’s eldest son, Edward, would have been roughly 18 at this time, but in no way had Joshua and her been together this long
  • various children with the Murray surname – Kate was a Palmer (possibly Bowley, as mentioned above), Hilda & Winifred were both Bowley
  • Avaline was missing – although the return states Emily had lost two children, and one may have been Avaline
  • Joshua’s occupation (threshing machine driver) fit with family lore

Using the FreeBMD website, I was able to find 7 children in addition to my grandmother born to Joshua and Emily, and the family settled in the Parkstone area of Poole, Dorset. Norah had actually been born in Collingbourne Kingston, and it was here where she made her home, having her children and then marrying Edward William Taplin in 1949.

Whilst I will come back to the Murray/Morey family in a later post, I should point out here that Joshua Locke Morey (as the name was spelled when he was baptised) was married at the time of … taking up with Emily Alice. He had married Mary Adela Blackmore in 1885, and they had seven children together – the youngest born in 1903. His eldest child with Emily was born in 1906 (her youngest child with Arthur Bowley was born in 1904).

The 1911 census for Mary clearly states she is married (i.e. not ‘Widowed’ or anything similar). I have not made contact with any descendants of Joshua’s ‘first’ family – something that I’ve put off for many years.

Descendant Chart for Emily Alice Palmer
Descendant Chart for Emily Alice Palmer

That wasn’t the end for Emily Alice, however. Following Joshua’s death in 1933, she married again in the same year to a naturalised Italian. Camillo Antonio Ciotti changed his name to Camillo Antonio Collins in 1941, the following announcement appearing in The London Gazette:

The London Gazette, 24 October 1941.

I, Camillo Antonio Collins of No. 182 Bournemouth Road, Parkstone, Poole in the county of Dorset, Labourer, formerly a head waiter, a naturalised British subject, heretofore called and known by Camillo Antonio Ciotti and that I have assumed and intend henceforth on all occasions whatsoever and at all times to sign and use and to be called and known by the name of Camillo Antonio Collins in lieu of and in substitution for my former name of Camillo Antonio Ciotti. And I also hereby give notice that such change of name is formally declared and evidenced by a deed poll under my hand and seal dated the 8th day of October 1941 duly executed and attested, and that such Deed Poll was enrolled in the Central Office of the Supreme Court of Judicature on the 21st day of October, 1941.

They had no children together and, following Emily’s death in 1949, Camillo married for his third time in 1952 to Winifred Dixon.

(But what of Arthur Tom Bowley? What happened to him? Research suggests that he married again in 1920 and had a further six children with his second wife, dying in Salisbury in 1940.)

Family Group ...
Family Group …


  1. I, too, have been intrigued by the black sheep syndrome – notably in relation to my paternal grandfather, Camillo Antono Ciotti (Collins). It was fascinating to discover that he married Emily Palmer in 1933! According to my father, she had lived with him for many years before the marriage, and had brought up my father and his siblings after the death of their mother and their subsequent stay in residential care. Presumably they were able to marry in 1933 because Joshua Morey had died…?
    I remember her from my early years as a cuddly, kind woman and missed her after her death although I was still quite young.


    1. Hi Viv. Do you know, I hadn’t twigged that Emily and Camillo’s marriage was only after Joshua died! I don’t know how long they were together before their official marriage … I would love to have met her. She certainly had a life that was unconventional in many ways! To find out what really happened between her and Tom and then her and Joshua would be fantastic! Thank you so much for getting in touch.


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