Friday, 27 April 2012

Frances Merzaler Mallery (c1811-1899)

Frances Merzaler Mallery is believed to have been born in 1811 but since no baptism record has so far been located this date is based on the evidence of her entries in the Census for 1841 to 1891. What is more certain is that she was born in Springfield, Essex. 

Her father was Essex Mallery and her mother was probably Sarah, although we do not know her surname. It is unlikely that her parents were married as Essex had a wife in Bedford (Mary Godfrey) who did not die until 1838. What is known is that Essex and Sarah had a daughter, Mary, who was baptised in Fordham, Cambridgeshire in 1808 and another, Sarah, baptised in Chatham, Kent in 1813.

It is also likely that Frances had a brother, George, who may have been her twin. Again no baptism record has been found but given the baptism dates of Mary and Sarah this does seem to be a reasonable assumption.

The first recorded event that we have so far discovered for Frances is her marriage to John Edmund Joseph Newnham in Chatham in 1833. This is also the first time that we see her name in writing and discover her very unusual middle name - Merzaler. (This spelling is also based on the birth certificate of her granddaughter, who bore the same middle name. Some sources give Mezaler and this alternative may have been used as well.) One of the marriage witnesses was a Sarah whose surname is very difficult to decipher.

She may be Frances' mother or sister or just a friend. If the surname can be deciphered this would open up more lines of research:

Frances and John had ten children - 7 boys and 3 girls. All appear to have survived until adulthood, which is quite remarkable in itself, but her second child, Robert George, died at the ripe old age of 97 in 1933. The first three children were born in Chatham (although only two of the baptisms have been located). The remainder of the children were born in Woolwich and Plumstead and were baptised at St Mary Magdalen in Woolwich.

Frances outlived her husband, John, by nearly 5 years but, like her husband, died in the Infirmary of the  Woolwich Union and was buried in Plumstead Cemetery. Unlike John, she had a private grave, purchased by her daughter-in-law, Agnes Julia Newnham (nee Tillett), although there was no gravestone until the late 1930's, when her grand-daughter, Mary Ann Syndercombe and her husband, Alfred William Alsford, was buried in the same plot.

I am very grateful to a cousin for sending me a copy of the photograph of Frances. It appears to date from around 1870 (when Frances would have been in her 60s) but may be earlier. As the original is obviously in very poor condition it is difficult to see much of the detail.


  1. Hi there! I love old photographs like this one. Welcome to the GeneaBloggers gang! I look forward to what you have to share about your family.


  2. You do have a mystery on your hands with Frances. that middle name is so unique - possibly a surname?
    Regarding the mystery Sarah - at first glance I thought the cryptic surname was maybe Slusse but a quick search on came back blank, but there is a Slurse family listed in the 1881 census. Good luck!
    Theresa (Tangled Trees)

    1. Hi Theresa. Yes, I think Merzaler/Mezaler could well be a surname but have so far drawn a blank! Thanks for your suggestions for Sarah's surname - apart from the first letter - obviously an "S" - the rest of the word is difficult to interpret. Best wishes. Gerry