Subtitle to this blog post: "My great-great-grandmother is a filthy hussy with little regard for Victorian moral standards"
I'm sorry to keep blogging about my family tree, but I'm having a whale of a time researching my illustrious ancestors at the moment and can't really think of anything better to write about. And yes, you can still be illustrious if you're a family of working-class peasants. Everything is relative.
So here's the puzzle I'm struggling with at the moment. It's 1841, census time, and in Star Lane, Bourne ("a star is bourne"?) lives James Pridmore, 60 years old, with a blank space in the 'occupation' column and a house full of other Pridmores. The 1841 census didn't have the oh-so-handy 'relationship to head of household' column that later censuses had, so until I splash out on buying some more birth certificates (I've bought one big batch from the General Records Office already) I just have to guess that 50-year-old Elizabeth Pridmore is James's wife, and the six other Pridmores aged from 20 down to 1 are his children and/or grandchildren. One of these children is six-year-old Eliza Pridmore, my great-great-grandma. And down at the bottom of the list is the unexplained two-year-old Abraham Stapleton.
Fast-forward ten years to 1851. Eliza is now working as a domestic servant, while twelve-year-old Abraham is now living in the household of 87-year-old John Fowler, along with John's son Thomas (40) and Thomas's wife Jane (35). The 'relationship' column has now been introduced, and Abraham Stapleton is described as John Fowler's "grandson".
In 1855, Eliza has a son, William Thomas Pridmore (my great-granddad). There's no father on the birth certificate, which just tells us that William was as illegitimate as Eliza was illiterate (her signature is an X).
In 1861, little William is now living with Thomas and Jane Fowler (John Fowler seems to have died in the meantime), and is described as their "grandson". Eliza, meanwhile, now has a home of her own, describes herself as a charwoman, and is living with another illegitimate son, John W, and her widowed grandmother Elizabeth (probably James's wife mentioned above, although her age is 74 here when it logically should be 70). There's also an 11-year-old "lodger" called Mary Mitchelson, but I'll deal with that mystery another time.
So my original thought was that the Fowlers had a son who got Eliza in the family way and left his parents to bring the kid up. But a) I can't find any trace of Thomas and Jane Fowler having children, and b) What's with Abraham Stapleton? My current working hypothesis is that the Fowler family were kindly friends of the Pridmores who took in various bastardy Pridmore brats over the years and passed them off as grandchildren for the sake of appearances. I've officially downgraded myself from one-sixteenth Fowler to one-sixteenth God-only-knows.
Eliza married William Gilbert in 1862, and I'm guessing that he was the father of her second illegitimate son, since John W Pridmore becomes John W Gilbert after the wedding. Despite the coincidence of names, William Pridmore almost certainly wasn't William Gilbert's son, since he continued to live with the Fowlers while William and Eliza went on to live a comparatively respectable life, having another couple of in-wedlock children along the way.
Nonetheless, Eliza and William clearly kept in touch - the Gilberts moved to Sheffield by 1881 (after living in Boston, Lincolnshire before that, weirdly enough! They lived on Lincoln Lane, in one of the houses that were demolished long ago to make room for the car park) and when William moved there with his wife and three small children, they lived with the Gilberts for a while before getting a place of their own. It's a big happy non-traditional family, and I think it's completely awesome! But I would like to know where Abraham Stapleton fits into it...