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Q Can you please help me to demolish a brick wall which is blocking the roots of my family tree and preventing the growth of the CHESTER branch? The brick wall concerns my great-great-grandfather Robert CHESTER, who is a man of great mystery who has baffled me and several other members of our family. We cannot find his place or date of birth, details of his first marriage, or even the date and place of his death despite searching all the usual records. On 9th June 1835 he was married to Priscilla SOAR at Barking Parish Church, Suffolk, and was described as a widower in the parish records. He appears on the 1841 census at Rattlesden, Suffolk, aged 36, born Suffolk and employed as a journeyman tailor. He is living with his wife Priscilla, aged 26, Jane CHESTER, aged 11, Charles CHESTER, aged seven, Henry CHESTER, aged five, and William CHESTER, aged five months. I presume that Jane was a daughter from his first marriage, although I cannot find any further information about her. Charles (born 7th November 1833 at Barham) was probably an illegitimate son of Priscilla because he later called himself SOAR as well as CHESTER. Henry (born 9th February 1836 at Needham Market), William (born 10th September 1837 and died 24th August 1843 at Rattlesden), John (born 14th October 1839 and died 24th February 1840 at Rattlesden), William (born 5th January 1841 at Rattlesden), John (born 16th March 1843 at Rattlesden), and George (born 30th March 1845 at Needham Market) were all children of Robert and Priscilla. Priscilla was born c1815 at Barham workhouse; the illegitimate daughter of Priscilla SOAR, a pauper. Priscilla’s last child was Maurice CHESTER, born 18th May 1849 at Needham Market, but there are no details of the father on the birth certificate. Was Robert the father, and was he alive and around at that time? Robert does not appear on the 1851 census and Priscilla is shown as a widow living as a pauper at Needham Market, Suffolk, with her children. When their son George CHESTER died aged seven on 14th September 1852 Priscilla was described as a widow on the death certificate, and she remarried on 20th August 1854 at Barking. It would appear that Robert died at some time between 1845 and 1851, but despite intensive searches we have been unable to find a death certificate or any burial details for him. The nearest we have found so far is for a Robert CHESTER who died of typhus fever 16th September 1847 at Whitechapel Workhouse, aged 47, but no occupation is recorded. As Robert was a tailor, and I believe that at that time there were lots of tailors in the Whitechapel area (an occupation on the death certificate would have been useful), perhaps he moved to Whitechapel for work and fell ill and died in the workhouse.

Alan Jones

A It seems that your query boils down to this: where can I locate the death of Robert CHESTER, probably between 1845 and 1849? He was last known to have been living in Needham Market, Suffolk in 1845. In spite of the evidence you have, there is always the possibility that Robert and Priscilla may have separated, or that he did a runner. Perhaps he joined the army and was overseas in 1851. There are a number of possible alternative scenarios, but the most likely must be that he did die in England between 1845 and 1849. The Indexes to Deaths for that period include around eight entries for Robert CHESTER, including the Whitechapel entry you have mentioned. Have all the others been investigated? Unfortunately it was not until 1866 that the index includes the age at death. The National Burial Index on FindMyPast ( includes two Robert CHESTER entries in this period: the first was born about 1803 and was buried in Owston, Lincolnshire in April 1851; the second was born about 1868 and can therefore be discounted. The records of the Whitechapel Union are held at the London Metropolitan Archives (40 Northampton Road, London EC1R 0HB; tel: 020 7332 3820; These may contain additional information to that on the death certificate you have already obtained.

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