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Q I am trying to discover more of my mother’s background. She was born Lilian ALLEN in Bromley by Bow in 1910, the daughter of Joseph ALLEN (born St George in the East 1876) and Sarah (nee HOLLINGTON, although I now believe that this should be HORIGAN, born Limehouse in 1876). She always told me that she and her sister Ellen Elizabeth (known as Nellie, born in Stepney 1905) were raised in an orphanage and mentioned other siblings: Julia (of whom I have vague memories), Esther and Thomas, who had died before I was born. Research has shown that Joseph and Sarah were married in Stepney in 1898 and later that year had a son, Joseph, and in 1901 a daughter, Sarah, who died at the age of seven months of convulsions and malnutrition. I am sure my mother never knew of the existence of these children, and who knows how many more may have been born between 1901 and 1910. Much to my surprise, research has shown that the parents of Julia, Nellie, Esther and Thomas were Thomas John (or James) ALLEN and Emily Emma (nee EARLE). I therefore concluded that Thomas and Joseph ALLEN were brothers, and that my mother Lilian and spinster aunt Nellie were cousins and not sisters as they believed. However, this does not appear to be the case as Thomas’ father was Henry, and census information tells me that Joseph’s father was also named Joseph, although this side of the family has been very difficult to trace as I have been unable to track down either a birth or death certificate for Joseph. Through research at the London Metropolitan Archives, I know my mother was in Langley House Children’s Home from June to July 1918 and then on to the Poplar Training School until she was discharged into service in April 1926 when she was 16. The name and address of her nearest relative was listed as ‘Emma ALLEN (mother)’ of the Poplar Workhouse. I have no idea what happened to her real mother Sarah as I have been unable to trace a death certificate. Nellie was transferred from Langley House to the Poplar Training School in 1915 and also discharged into service at the age of 16 in 1921. The name and address of her nearest relative was also listed as ‘Emma ALLEN (mother)’ who was then in the Poplar and Stepney Sick Asylum. I would be very grateful for any help or advice to help me discover the real relationship between these two women.

Jean Williamson

A A possible, perhaps probable scenario is that Joseph and/or Sarah died after your mother was born and that that she and her brother and sister were taken on by their uncle and aunt, Thomas and Emma ALLEN. That Joseph and Thomas were brothers is unproven so you will need to discover from their marriage certificates the name of the father of each – hopefully it will be the same. Further census research should then find them in the same household. I note that the 1901 census shows that Joseph ALLEN was born in Whitechapel. It also seems possible that Thomas ALLEN died before 1915. Unfortunately, the deaths registered for Joseph, Sarah and Thomas ALLENs in the right area are numerous, and you will need to carefully note the reported age at death to narrow the list to a reasonable number. The other solution is to wait for the release of the 1911 census return – this could be another example when that new resource may hold the answers you require.

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