Week 1: A Fresh Start: Jane Taylor

Amy Johnson Crow’s optional theme for the first week of 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks is A Fresh Start.  The ancestor who I’d like to introduce you to is my second great grandmother Jane Taylor.

Jane was born on the 19 of May, 1845 in Saffron Hill (sub-district of Hackney) near London.  Jane was most certainly not born in the lap of luxury.  In his 1938 novel, The Adventures of Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens introduces the reader to the slum of Saffron Hill:

Near to the spot on which Snow Hill and Holborn Hill meet, there opens: upon the right hand as you come out of the city: a narrow and dismal alley leading to Saffron Hill.  In its filthy shops are exposed for sale, huge bunches of second-hand silk handkerchiefs, of all sizes and patterns; for here reside the traders who purchase them from pickpockets.  Hundreds of these handkerchiefs hand dangling from pegs outside the windows or flaunting them from the door-post; ad the shelves, within, are piled with them. Confined as the limits of Field Lane are, it has its barber shop, its coffee-shop, its beer-shop, and its fried fish warehouse. It is a commercial colony of itself: the emporium of petty larceny: visited at early morning, and setting-in of dusk by silent merchants, who traffic in dark back-parlours; and who go as strangely as they come. Here, the clothesman, the shoe-vamper, and the rag merchant display their goods, as sign boards to the petty thief; here, stores of old iron and bones, and heaps of mildewy fragments of woolen stuff and linen, rust and rot in the grimy cellars. (Dickens 194)

Cunningham: Handbook of London, p436

Cunningham: Handbook of London, p436

Peter Cunningham’s 1850 Handbook of London also describes Saffron Hill as a “squalid” and poor neighborhood.

Jane’s parents were John Taylor and Elizabeth Stanley.  She was the seventh known child born into the family, two more children would be born after her.  John’s occupation is listed as laborer on both Jane’s birth certificate and later on her marriage certificate; the family likely struggled greatly to support itself.  Why they resided in Saffron Hill at the time of Jane’s birth is unclear, in both the 1841 and 1851 Censuses the family is found on Caroline Street in Stamford Hill.  However, Jane’s birth certificate clearly states that she was born at 10 Benedict Pl, Brook Street in Saffron Hill.  The informant, her father John, also states the same as his residence. Jane’s baptism, performed June 15, states Clapton.   Perhaps an unfortunate change in fortune found them on Saffron Hill for a time.

By the 1851 UK Census, the family had moved (back) out of the slum of Saffron Hill to Caroline Street in the Stamford Hill sub-district of Hackney.  Stamford Hill was a once highly-desirable area; that desirability had faded by the mid-nineteenth century, largely due to overcrowding.  Interestingly, in this census, the children are all purported to have been born in Clapton, another district of Hackney, a far more respectable area than Saffron Hill.  Parish records show that the home to be Clapton as well, adding further evidence that the time in Saffron Hill was short.  It appears that the family chose to make a fresh start and leave the slums behind, not just by moving from them, but also by ignoring the recent past connection to them.

In the 1861 census John and Elizabeth are still living on Caroline Street with 3 of their children.  Jane is among those not enumerated with the family.  There is a Jane Taylor, enumerated as a visitor in the home of John and Susan Taylor.  Although it is uncertain if this is the correct Jane, the ages for this Jane Taylor as well as for John Taylor are likely matches to be “my” Jane and her married brother John.

On the 28th of October, 1867, Jane Taylor married Alfred Wombwell.  Her residence is again listed as Caroline Street.  Jane and Alfred’s first child, Alfred John, was born about one year later in October of 1868.  Soon thereafter, they must have decided to make a new life in America.

  •  “Leaving old England for America”  Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA.  Illus. in: Harper’s weekly, v. 14, 1870 Jan. 22, p. 61.

The exact date and ship of the Wombwell’s immigration to America has not yet been found.  Jane and Alfred Wombwell are not enumerated in the 1871 England census, nor are they in the 1870 United States census.  In that decade the US census date was in June.  Although it is possible the enumerator missed this family,  it is also likely that they had not yet arrived in America as of June.  A daughter, Sophia, was born to them 27 December of 1870, in Rochester, New York, so it is likely they arrived sometime between June and December of that year.  It is also likely that Jane was pregnant when she made the trip across the Atlantic.

Why Jane and Alfred Wombwell decided to immigrate to the United States is also unknown.  Alfred’s cousin, Thomas, had come to NY a decade earlier, it appears Alfred’s father also came to NY in the years before he and Jane made the journey.  Perhaps they sent word of a new life to be had in the relatively less crowded upstate New York.  Although not quite a rags to riches story, by 1875 they were owners of land in Rochester, Monroe county, New York.  Before the end of the decade they had welcomed a second boy, George, into their family.

In 1884, Alfred died and Jane became a 39 year old widow, and a single mother to two teenagers and a young boy.  She again needed to make a new start on life.

Four years after the death of Alfred Wombwell, Jane Taylor Wombwell became Mrs Edward Concannon.  Edward moved it the home Jane had lived in for the previous thirteen years.  Within the next year, they moved to a new home around the block, where Jane will live for the rest of her life.  Jane and Edward had no children of their own, and her two eldest children were soon out of the family home to start their own families.  Youngest son, George, lived with his mother and stepfather and was enumerated with them in the 1900 United States Census.

Jane buried her second husband and became a widow again in 1907.  She lived alone for the next few years, then in 1914 she married for the third time.  At 69 years old, Jane became Mrs. Bushman, married to the widower Ward Bushman.  Ward was a widower with two grown children.  Nine years later, Jane will be a widow for the last time.  She will spend her last years living with her now grown grandchildren and with her daughter, Sophia. Another nine years will pass before Jane herself died in September 1932.  She is buried at Mt Hope Cemetery in Rochester.  Her memorial # is 31752566.

7 thoughts on “Week 1: A Fresh Start: Jane Taylor

  1. I love how you tie in Jane’s birthplace with a passage from Dickens! However, I’m also wondering if she was actually born in Saffron Hill. It sounds a LOT like Stamford Hill. Maybe someone wrote it down wrong? I have an ancestor who was born in Lees, England, which I’d found a record stating it was Leeds, England.

    Is Jane’s birth record the only record you have of them living in the slum of Saffron Hill? If so, even though it is on there twice, I’d consider the possibility that this isn’t true. It doesn’t seem to fall in line with the other evidence. Since she was the 7th of 9 children (right?), have you found the birth records of the other children? Especially the ones right before and after her? If not, I’d definitely suggest you look there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Dana! That is a good question and point about Saffron Hill. It is a good point that it could have been written wrong, especially since the names are pretty close- Saffron/ Stamford. It is the certified copy of the register of births, but even so, that could be in error, the district is typed at the top of the certificate and is not a part of the historic image from the register. The thing that makes me think that Saffron Hill may be correct is that the street address listed on Jane’s birth record is Brook Street. I am not very familiar with 19th century London areas, but doing a search on that street name – it does exist in the Saffron Hill neighborhood- about 2 blocks from the street named Saffron Hill. Jane’s birth record is the only record I have thus far that states Saffron Hill. I also suspect that they lived in the Stamford Hill district “full time”- and the address on the census is Caroline Street which is in Stamford Hill. I know that there is relatively a short distance between the two (looks like about +/- 4 miles- and in toward London center- certainly not around the corner but walkable. Again though I am not very familiar with the areas of London- this is based on contemporary map search). But it is curious why they would be in a less desirable area. Stamford Hill/Tower Hamlets was still a poor area, not the most desirable, but was a step up from Saffron Hill. I wonder how long they lived there, if they did in fact live there, or if perhaps the midwife lived there? I have not found the birth registrations of the other children, though I have found most of the baptisms. I agree with your suggestion to check for the registrations. Thanks again, for reading and your suggestions.


  2. I will watch with interest to see whether you have other English ancestors to write about in future posts. My father’s forebears were also English – mainly in in Yorkshire and the Greater London area (Lambeth, Southwark, Finsbury, Camberwell etc) plus a few in Co. Durham, Somerset, Lancashire, Kent etc. My chances of contacting living relatives will improve as more people with known British ancestry do the FamilyFinder test at FamilyTreeDNA. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I do have others! Most are from the London area (Hackney, Marylebone,etc) but there are a few others. I have done the Familyfinder test at FTDNA, as well as the Ancestry and the 23 and me tests!


      • Karen, I’ve added Diggin’ Up Dead People to my Blog Reading List within Blogger. It’s great to see more people using DNA for genealogy. I just wish they’d prepare a family tree or GEDCOM file – or at least a pedigree chart – before contacting me to ask how we might be related! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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