#52Ancestors – Favourite Name

2018 Week 6

It’s week 6 of #52ancestors and this week’s theme is ‘Favourite Name’. I mentioned my favourite name in Week 3 – Longevity. It’s Repentance O’BRIANT – however as she is a major brick wall there isn’t much more to write about her. Therefore I’m going to talk about what is often the most frustrating surname – SMITH – but which for me was a favourite name for the combination of names with my SMITHs – or rather it should be but mysteries still remain.

My great-grandmother was Ethel Hudson SMITH (1883-1957). This middle name made her much easier to find when I first started to research. Ethel was the mother of my father’s mother Joan Ethel Blanche LEGGATT (1914-1993). I love this photograph of Ethel with her two children (Bill and Joan). Their brother Charles Edward Barry LEGGATT (1912-1913) sadly died young.

Ethel with Bill and Joan

Ethel SMITH was born on 23 August 1883 at 20 Cranswick Road, Rotherhithe, Surrey. Her parents were Frederick William Norman SMITH (more about him later) and Caroline LAGEU (and I imagine there will be a LAGEU family blog at some point soon as there are lots of stories). In the 1891 and 1901 census, she was living with her family at 136 Southwark Park Road. Ethel was the eldest of seven children. Her siblings were:

  • Amy Anna Rolfe SMITH (her father’s mother’s surname was ROLFE) – she was born in about 1885 and married James Garfield MITCHELL and ended up living in Shropshire.
  • Carrie Lageu SMITH who sadly only lived for seven months and is buried with her grandparents (Caroline’s parents) in Nunhead Cemetery (see my guest blog for Deceased Online for more information).
  • Frederick Alfred Lageu SMITH – he was born on 17 September 1888 and moved to British Columbia, Canada.
  • Clarice SMITH – she was born in 1890 and married twice, first to John PATTRICK then to Frederick Percival CATTLIN. She ended up living in Sussex near Hove.
  • Hugh Norman SMITH – he was born 1892 however, other than marrying Annie WHITTINGTON in 1920 near Marylebone, I have not been able to find out anything about his adult life. It may be time to order his marriage certificate to hunt for clues.
  • Edna Georgina Wells SMITH – she was born in 1899 and died as a spinster in 1968 near Brighton, Sussex. However interestingly she chose to change her name to Edna Georgina Wells HEALEY in 1948. It is not clear why she made this decision and that remains yet another mystery from this family.

Ethel Hudson SMITH married James LEGGATT on 4 July 1908 in Margate, Kent. She is pictured here sitting with her husband and family as well as friends (we think rather than family) where they regularly went sailing on the Norfolk Broads.

Leggatts and ‘friends’ on holiday on Norfolk Broads

She lived a privileged life and enjoyed many parties and events as the wife of a stock broker. Here is me wearing her cloak from the 1920s at a recent 1920s ball.

Amelia wearing her great grandmother Ethel’s cloak

Ethel LEGGATT (nee SMITH) died on 4 January 1957 in Birmingham where she had been living with her daughter Joan and her family including my father who remembers her well.

The mystery for a number of years was where the Hudson came from. I had researched back a couple of generations but there was no paper trail to a Hudson. Then her autograph book (which had become Joan’s) was passed on to me. In the book was the inscription ‘Love from your affectionate grandmother A. Hudson’. However I had no record of a grandmother of either Ethel or Joan that had the surname HUDSON. The mystery was solved when I discovered that Ethel’s mother Caroline LAGEU was adopted (via legal guardianship papers) following her parents’ deaths. Her guardians were Alfred and Ann (nee HURST) HUDSON and hence Ann (who lived until 1917) who signed the autograph book would have known to Ethel as her grandmother throughout her childhood and into her early adulthood.

Ethel’s father was Frederick William Norman SMITH (1852-1934). It would appear that Norman is likely to be a family surname passed through the family. Frederick was born on 8 November 1852 in St Mary Elms, Ipswich, Suffolk. His parents were Frederick William Keane SMITH (1816-1901) (are you seeing a pattern?) and Martha Charlotte ROLFE (c. 1818-1887). Both of Frederick’s parents hold a mystery in our family. Frederick William Keane SMITH was baptised on 5 January 1817 in East Ilsley, Berkshire and his mother was given as Sarah SMITH, a servant. No father was mentioned. On his marriage certificate to Martha, Frederick’s father is given as William SMITH, a gentleman. As you can imagine this leaves a nice big brickwall – however I am hoping at some point with the naming convention that the surname KEANE will help solve the brick wall. The naming convention a generation down still poses a mystery too. NORMAN is Martha Charlotte ROLFE’s great grandmother’s surname however she was also illegitimate (her father was given as Thomas HILLS on her marriage certificate and one of the two possible Thomas HILLS had a mother whose surname was NORMAN). Basically this is a mystery with lots of things to solve – any ideas more than welcome.

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