52 Ancestors: Newsworthy

The parish and village of Easton Royal is close to my heart as it is where I was born (well, actually I was born in Swindon, but I think you know what I’m saying …) and where I spent the first seven years of my life. So when looking for newsworthy events for this week’s 52 Ancestors post I thought I’d take a look through the British Newspaper Archive for Easton Royal events.

And I found one from 1894 (admittedly quite a long time before my family was living there) which made me smile.

From Wiltshire Times and Trowbridge Advertiser – Saturday 28 July 1894

Although the article has somewhat of a jolly air to it, what with the “merry peal” of the church bells, knowing small villages as I do I can imagine that there were a few raised eyebrows and looks passed between the other married ladies up and down the street!

Whilst multiple marriages certainly weren’t uncommon historically, five was perhaps considered a little too much! But I knew that I had to find out more about Mary Jane and her previous husbands. I’m used to tracking people through the twists and turns of their lives, but Mary took a little weaselling out of the records! However, here she is:

Mary Jane King was baptised in the village of Burbage, Wiltshire, on 16 October 1842. She was the daughter of Thomas, a cooper (ie a barrel maker), and his wife Rebecca. They lived at Eastcott (actualy Eastcourt, a street to the east of Burbage high street).

Mary’s baptism

By 1861 she was the last one of the family to be living at home with her widowed father. She supplemented the household income via dressmaking, but after her father’s death in 1862 she – I would imagine – went into service and ended up in Acton, Middlesex, where she met and married Husband No. 1 – William John Tomlinson in the Spring of 1869.

Marriage 1: William John Tomlinson

In the 1871 census, they are living in Chiswick and Mary is still utilising her dressmaking skills to supplement their income.

1871 census, Chiswick

However, this was not to last and William died later that same year aged just 25. What is a poor widow to do? Find herself Husband No. 2, which she did under the name of Robert Richardson. He describes himself as a “gentleman” on his marriage certificate.

Marriage 2: Robert Richardson

This marriage, too, was doomed to be parted by death. By 1881 Mary was alone once more, this time the census finding her employed as a draper’s housekeeper in Richmond, Surrey.

1881 census, Richmond upon Thames

It was here in Richmond that she married Husband No. 3, Henry Smith. 20 years her senior and also widowed, Henry was from her home county of Wiltshire.

Marriage 3: Henry Smith

It was to his home parish of Collingbourne Ducis that they retired, but – yet again – it wasn’t to last. Henry died on 23 January 1885.

1891 census, Collingbourne Ducis

Unperturbed, Mary Jane threw herself yet again onto the jagged rocks of matrimony. In March 1892 she married Husband No. 4, another widower, Jeremiah Kingstone. He was – as Henry had been – over 20 years her senior.

Marriage 4: Jeremiah Kingstone

However, by the end of year Jeremiah was dead, and along came Husband No. 5, William Edward Smith …

Marriage 5: William Edward Smith

Sadly this marriage wasn’t to last either. Mary Jane was buried on 14 December 1895 in her home parish of Burbage. (It is interesting to note that in her last two marriages she had shaved two years off her age, a choice that followed her onto the burial register.)

Mary Jane had no children with any of her husbands so left no legacy that way. Orphaned at 20, widowed by 29, did she lurch or leap from marriage to marriage? Did she feel that she had no other choice, economically, but to marry again and again? Was her life a string of bad luck, or did she have a hand in any of the deaths?

Who’s to say? But her life was anything but boring …


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