Looking for the family of Sarah George

The second newspaper cutting that arrived last week reports the inquest into the death of Mary Ann Kirkby, daughter of Sarah George of Chitterne and Samuel Barker Kirkby, a gentleman’s servant, of London. Why is this of interest to us? Because this cutting helps solve a George family mystery we had earmarked for further investigation: What happened to the family of Sarah George after she died in 1859? We are hoping that by posting this story someone with more information will come forward.

First a bit of background: Sarah George was born on the 12th March 1824 at Chitterne. Her parents were James George of Chitterne St Mary (1787-1852) and Mary Snow of Teffont (1785-1853). Sara was working in Marylebone when she met and married widower, Samuel Barker Kirkby, on the 25th January 1850. They lived in Colchester, Essex and had several children before Sarah sadly died on the 26th January 1859 after giving birth to twin daughters. After that the family was very hard to trace, we don’t know what happened to the father Samuel, the children were scattered, the girls put into orphanages and the boys in the army. The eldest son James came to live at the White Hart in Chitterne with his uncle Thomas George (1815-1889) and then joined the Royal Artillery. One child, Mary Ann Kirkby born 1855, mysteriously died before she could be shipped off to the orphanage, hence the inquest. Unlike the last cutting this is not a brief tale so brace yourself! Scroll down for the beginning in the left-hand column.

Kirkby, Mary Ann inquest small
Essex Standard dated 3 March 1869

I’m going to let researchers J&RR tell the story from now on (it’s also an interesting insight into how a researcher’s mind works!):

Right, it seems that there is a fair bit more to this girl’s death than I originally thought. It does, I think, reinforce my view that her death was a suicide, but it does raise rather more questions regarding the circumstances surrounding her death. Here, it seems as if Mary Ann had been caught stealing money and this might have been the prime mover in whatever actions she took that ended up in her being discovered in the river, and that may well be true. I did think, however, that the planned move to an orphanage was, while touched upon, almost disregarded as a factor in her death. I also felt that there was an underlying current, something touched upon a few times in an oblique way, that all might not have been well between Mary Ann and the Norman family, who were looking after her – the often asked questions regarding whether she had complained in that respect left me wondering. Possibly I am reading too much into things here, but it does intrigue me – I am still of the opinion that there is more, much more to this than meets the eye. However, at this distance from the event, we have to live with what we can find.

There is one other thing that the inquest does raise, and that is the question of Mary Ann’s aunt and her visit to Wiltshire at this time. This aunt would seem to me to be the one mentioned above, the sister of Samuel Barker Kirkby, as I cannot think of anyone else it might be. The interesting point here is that if this visit took place, then surely it must have been to Chitterne to discuss the children with the George family, Sarah George’s relatives – I wonder if this was to see if they, the Georges that is, would take over the raising of Sarah’s children. We shall never know now, of course.

While sorting all this out and updating Mary Ann’s record on our family tree, I did notice another thing that I was not aware of, until now. The Sarah Norman who appears at the inquest, the daughter of the woman who was looking after Mary Ann, was also the woman who reported the death of her mother Sarah, in 1859! I have previously always been unable to trace the address where Sarah died, Lion Walk in Colchester, as it didn’t appear on the 1861 census as far as I could see. I did look further with the Norman family, in case they were related in any way to the Kirkby family, but it appears not. However, when I looked back on the 1851 and then 1841 censuses for the Normans, they were still living in Colchester – and their address was Lion Walk! This must have been a very small road, cul-de-sac, whatever, as it consisted of very few houses. I had hoped to maybe find Samuel Barker Kirkby himself there, but not so, I’m afraid, so his whereabouts still remain a mystery to me. However, I do wonder now, were Sarah and possibly her children, even her husband Samuel, actually lodging with the Normans at the time of Sarah’s death, in the same Lion Walk? Again, lost in the mists of time, I think – but interesting to me, anyway.

I wonder if posting the inquest report might get noticed by anyone else researching this family? Might be nice to get some sort of reaction – perhaps someone, somewhere knows a bit more to add to all this. I do hope so!

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Looking for the family of Sarah George

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