My fourth great grandmother was Elizabeth Crawley, born 1791, probably in London. She married William Stretch in 1819 in Whitechapel. The witnesses to their marriage were D. Rogers and Mary Rogers, who I think are Demetrius Rogers and his wife Mary. Demetrius married Mary Crawley in 1810 in St Mary Islington. I suspect that Mary and Elizabeth were sisters, but I cannot yet prove it. And that's really the heart of this question: how were Mary and Elizabeth related? And can I get back to Elizabeth's parents, who are as yet unknown?

(My apologies for any confusion in the text below. There are several each of Mary, Elizabeth, Penelope etc: nominative innovation was not a family tradition. I've tried to make it clear enough by including surnames for most; where surnames are missing they are the principal actors from the opening paragraph.)

After Demetrius died in 1850, Mary lived alone for a while, and later with Elizabeth's descendants (Richard Hill and family) until her own death in 1871. In her will, Mary left a reasonable legacy, "effects under £4000". Much of that was probably inherited from Demetrius, who had left her "public stocks and funds", among other assets.

The principal beneficiaries (with equal shares of "two thousand pounds new three pounds per cent annuities ... and the dividends interest and annual proceeds arising and accruing therefrom") of Mary's will were Mary Elizabeth Hill (my 2nd great grandmother) and her sister Penelope Hill. Mary's will refers to them as her "nieces", and also as the daughters of Richard Hill and her "niece" Penelope (Stretch) Hill, so they were actually her grand-nieces (I assume that such distinctions were unimportant). That might suggest that Mary and Elizabeth were sisters, but Mary also left money to other "nieces" and a "nephew", who certainly were not descendants of William and Elizabeth. The pre-eminence of Mary Elizabeth Hill and Penelope Hill might support that direct sibling relationship, or may simply reflect that Mary had lived in the girls' home and been close to them since their birth.

Mary also left some money to Demetrius Stretch and Matthew Stretch, William's sons from his second marriage, but she does not describe them as "nephews". This confirms, I think, that she relates to the family through Elizabeth Crawley, and not through William Stretch.

I have managed to trace back all of these nieces and nephews, each reaching a Crawley ancestor somewhere around London in the 1780s-90s. So it's likely that they all are blood relatives of Mary somehow, rather than in-law relatives. But what I haven't been able to do is connect those Crawleys together. Records at this time (mostly pre-1820) are somewhat scarce, after all. (Sadly, I have failed to connect them to the Downton Abbey Crawleys too, but that is perhaps less surprising.)

The main named beneficiaries were:

  • Mary Elizabeth Hill (niece)
  • Penelope Hill (niece, sister of Mary Elizabeth Hill)
  • Elizabeth Tucker (niece, widow of William Tucker, Coachsmith)
  • Phoebe Hales (niece, wife of Joseph Hales, Silversmith)
  • Mary Ann Allen (niece, wife of Thomas Allen, Silversmith)
  • William Williams (nephew)

This is what I have so far. Individuals in red boxes are primary beneficiaries in Mary's will, while those in blue boxes are otherwise mentioned (relative, executor, minor benefits, forgiven debts etc). The green boxes appear to be a common generation of Crawleys. Some dates are approximate, and only relevant individuals are included.

Beneficiaries of the 1872 Will of Mary Rogers

As you can see, all of the beneficiaries descend from Crawleys of a similar age: Mary, Elizabeth, Phoebe and Lydia. Phoebe did her best to muddy the waters by marrying three times. For Mary to refer to the red individuals as nieces and nephews strongly suggests that they are part of the same extended Crawley family. The implication (and my assumption) is that Mary, Elizabeth, Phoebe and Lydia are all related as siblings or cousins. The only entries I have found for the previous generation are Phoebe's parents John Crawley and Penelope Lunt. The four could all be John Crawley and Penelope Lunt's daughters, but I can't find records to (dis)prove it. The use of the uncommon name "Penelope" for Elizabeth's daughter is somewhat suggestive but circumstantial. The age gaps of ~8 years between Lydia, Mary+Elizabeth and Phoebe are large, but not implausible.

So my question is, what should I be looking for next, to try to link these four Crawley women (Mary, Elizabeth, Phoebe and Lydia) together. I've looked on FamilySearch, Ancestry, FindMyPast and TheGenealogist, and not yet found anything to connect them to each other or to a previous generation. For clarity, I can't find any birth/baptism record for Lydia Crawley, and there are multiples for Elizabeth and Mary but none that I can select with confidence.

I can accept that the current state is enough to demonstrate familial relationships, but I'd really like to find Elizabeth's parents - that's been a roadblock for years now, and this is the first time I've had any real insight into the Crawley family.

As an aside, Mary's will primarily benefitted female relatives, and explicitly states that the funds

"shall not be subject or liable to the debts, controul or engagements of any husband or husbands she or they may hereafter intermarry, but that the same shall be for her or their own separate and inalienable use and benefit, and her or their receipt or receipts alone to my said trustees notwithstanding her or their coverture".

That's basically legal-speak for "hers and hers alone".

(My transcription of the will is here, for anyone who really enjoys ploughing through Victorian legalese.)

On first reading, this seemed (to me) rather progressive for the time, albeit acknowledging that coverture could override Mary's wishes. On further reading, there had been campaigns against coverture (the right of a husband to most of the wife's assets, ultimately because she was not legally considered a separate entity after marriage!) since at least the mid-19th century. The Married Women's Property Act of 1870 finally allowed married women to be the legal owners of earned and inherited money, thereby negating much of coverture. That was enacted after Mary's will was written (1867), but before it was proved (1872). And there was clearly a great deal of social pressure leading up to that Act, so Mary's intentions were at least up-to-date, rather than futuristic. Even so, I wonder how typical such wording was at the time. I found this an interesting little insight into a Victorian social transformation.

  • 1
    +1 for the Downton Abbey reference :) No, actually for the quality of t question. I shall have to return to peruse it in more detail when I have more time.
    – user104
    Commented Aug 16, 2016 at 15:52

1 Answer 1


I'll self-answer, as I've made some progress, although not reached a complete conclusion yet.

I've learned a couple of things along the way, too:

1) Ancestry's default search doesn't work the way I'd assumed - I thought it would include Soundex matching, but it doesn't. To get thorough "inexact" matching, you have to use the "exact" checkbox - rather Microsoftian! This meant that I'd missed things that I thought I'd searched for. Some inexact records do appear in the search, but many pages in. Ancestry appears to prioritise [wrong forename][right surname] over [right forename][variant surname].

2) I'm an idiot (ok, I actually learned that a long time ago). I "know" I've explicitly searched for alternative spellings many times before but didn't find any of these new records. And yet, there they are. So clearly I didn't search very well, or in the right places. Ah well, it's all learnin', right?

I started by going back to all the documents I had for the Crawleys and anyone who appears related. I understand that a FAN study usually starts at the bottom and works up, but starting at the top, with John Crawley and Penelope Lunt, seemed more appropriate here, as the few traceable later generations seemed to disperse quite rapidly, losing obvious ties.

I went back to baptism records for the known children, which were all from St Giles, Cripplegate, or St Luke, Old Street. Most referred to the parents as variations of "John Crawley, Brewers Servant, and Penelope". I found that I had record images for most, but not for Robert - his baptism date came from one of Ancestry's transcription-only "Select" records, despite the St Giles records being available for that year. Going back to the images yielded the correct entry, but it had been transcribed as "Robert, son of Crawley Brewer and Penelope". No wonder the search missed it! I've looked for other variants, but found no more such errors.

Searching multiple sites with the fuzziest matching bore more fruit, and a few more likely children of John and Penelope Crawley/Crowley/Crolle/Crowleg (!) turned up. The later children were baptised at either St Giles or St Luke's, but the earliest were at St George in the East, which is where John and Penelope were married. A manual review of images for these churches' records didn't bring out any more candidates.

So I have a more thorough list of baptisms of John and Penelope's children: Baptisms to John and Penelope Crawley (Birth dates were included in most of the records, and all such were within 20 days of the baptism.)

The table suggests that John and Penelope lived at St George in the East for several years after marriage, but moved to Cripplegate before 1788. The apparent shuttling between St Giles and St Luke's for baptisms seems a little strange, but a look at the map helps explain it: Whitecross Street between the churches
This is a current Google map. It shows that St Giles and St Luke's are rather close (~0.5 miles) to each other. Moreover, Whitecross Street, which runs south from St Luke's, originally extended to Fore Street very close to St Giles, so the churches were simply at opposite ends of that road. St Luke's was in fact established in 1733 as relief for St Giles, which had become rather busy, so it seems quite reasonable that parishioners might have been asked to baptise at one or the other depending on availability. Whitecross Street was home to at least two breweries in this period, and there were a few more in adjacent streets, so it's a reasonable location for a "Brewer's Servant".

Mary and Demetrius Rogers lived on Whitecross Street in the 1830s, though that is probably coincidental, and may be linked to Demetrius' time at Whitecross Debtors Prison.

The baptism for Lydia Crowley is a good match to Lydia [Crawley] Hince in my tree, and the name is rare enough that I'm confident in that identification.

The baptism for Elizabeth Crowley is a good match to my 4th GGM who married William Stretch, but I'm not quite so confident, as there were multiple Elizabeth Crawleys in London then.

But I have no match so far for Mary. Mary's birth date, from census records, was roughly 1790, similar to Elizabeth's, but there is nothing in the St Giles or St Luke's records around that year. There's a 15 month gap between the births of Elizabeth and Penelope, which isn't enough of a gap for another child. Also, Mary married in 1810, and if she was 21 at the time must have been born before 1790. The 25 and 49 month gaps between Joseph & Elizabeth and Lydia & Joseph respectively do allow for at least one additional child. A child born in the former gap would likely have been born/baptised in Cripplegate, but that's not the case in the latter period.

Mary's 1871 census and death certificate from the same year put her age as 86, which suggests a birth year of 1785. Those records, being so late in her life, may be less accurate. But this does fit in the gap between Lydia and Joseph, and it's worth further investigation. Lydia was born in St George in the East, and Joseph was born in Cripplegate, so this period is when John and Penelope moved across London. They could easily have spent time at one or more other locations in between those two baptisms.

Mary's 1851 and 1861 census records give her birthplace as "Bloomsbury" and "St Martin in the Fields" respectively (1871 just states "London"). The former does not unambiguously identify a particular parish or church, but St George's, Bloomsbury is a good starting point. Nothing relevant appears in a search in either location. I've looked through the images for St Martin's, found nothing, and moved onto St George's. Some of the pages look like someone sat on spiders, so it's slow going.

The map below shows that St Martin in the Fields and Bloomsbury are somewhat beyond Cripplegate when moving from St George in the East, but not so far as to present a major problem. It's still under 5 miles to walk between all of them, and that's without all the little alleyways that riddled 18th century London. Possible locations of Crawley family in London

So my updated and extended tree for the Crawley family looks like this: Extended Crawley family tree

In summary, I've extended the tree with more of Mary's relatives, but I have not been able to place Mary herself in that tree, either as a sibling or a cousin to those already there. I have found a promising candidate for my direct ancestor Elizabeth, but I want to find a link to Mary before reaching any conclusions.

I'll update further when (if!) I make more progress. Any suggestions are of course welcome!

  • 1
    I like the way you have incorporated maps into your hypotheses.
    – PolyGeo
    Commented Dec 23, 2016 at 11:01

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