Book ’em, Danno

Thomas PALMER was a book seller and book binder.  I know this because of census entries, parish records and marriage certificates.

Thomas was listed as a ‘Bookseller’ on his son’s marriage certificate (1848)

The first indication of his profession was his son George Wright PALMER’s marriage certificate, where Thomas’ profession was listed as ‘Bookseller’.  George had given his place of birth as Portsea, Hampshire on the 1861 census which allowed me to locate his father Thomas in Hampshire on the 1851 and 1861 censuses despite George not being in the home (more about the 1841 later).  Like any keen family historian, I wanted to know exactly where this family lived.

Thomas was listed as ‘Bookseller’ on South Street, Gosport (1851 census)
Thomas was listed as ‘Bookseller & Binder’ on South Street (1861 census)

The censuses gave me South Street (no.53) as an address but where on South Street?   House numbering has not been consistent over time and I knew from comparing historical and modern maps that South Street, Gosport is a lot longer today than in the 1800s.  I turned to trade directories to assist me.

Kelly’s Directory of Hampshire 1867, p538

Thomas didn’t appear on the 1871 census but he DID appear in the 1867 ‘Kelly’s Directory of Hampshire’ as a secondhand bookseller in Upper South street, Gosport.  This would’ve narrowed it down a bit except I had no idea which end of the street was upper?

Post Office Directory of Hampshire, Wiltshire & Dorsetshire, 1855, p58

The 1855 ‘Post Office Directory of Hampshire, Wiltshire & Dorsetshire’ specified number 53 Upper South Street (as did the 1861 census) but I recall the street numbers of the past may not necessarily be in the same location as street numbers today.

Directory of Hampshire & the Isle of Wight, 1859, p351

However, the 1859 ‘Directory of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight’ listed Thomas at 61 South street.

There were no other appropriate directories on the Historical Directories site for me to search.  Thomas does not appear in the 1828 or 1844 Pigot’s directories of Hampshire, nor have I found him yet in the 1841 census.

So, the address list compiled so far is as follows:

  • 1851 – South street
  • 1855 – 53 Upper South street
  • 1859 – 61 South street
  • 1861 – 53 South street
  • 1867 – Upper South street

Next Steps:

  • view parish marriage record for Thomas & Ruth
  • find Thomas on the 1841 census
  • order Thomas’ death certificate


Kent, Faversham, St Mary's of Charity Church

William Henry ALLEN, son of Henry & Susanna ALLEN, was born around 1790 in Faversham, Kent.
I can state this for sure because of Bishop’s Transcripts.  Before this discovery, I only knew that William Henry ALLEN was a carpenter and the father of Mary Ann Allen since he appears on his daughter’s marriage certificate in 1848 (also seen in this post).

Marriage Certificate of George Wright PALMER & Mary Ann ALLEN

This information backs up the 1851 census record I had for the family (although the names of the visiting grandchildren made me pretty confident anyway):

1851 census entry for ALLEN family

So I now know that the family lived on Chatham Hill, Chatham between 1848 and 1851 (at least) and that Henry was a carpenter born in Faversham, Kent around 1790.  (I also know the names of a few more children but I’m focusing on William for now).  Next stop, parish records…
Unfortunately, the Medway Ancestors project doesn’t seem to have the parish registers for Faversham online but I recently did a search on Find My Past and it came up with the Bishop’s Transcript record.  Bishop’s Transcripts were a copy of the parish records, often summarised, that each church sent to the Bishop.  Information can vary from the register and the transcript so it’s always worthwhile to check out both if you can.

Canterbury Baptisms - Bishop's Transcripts
Canterbury Baptisms – Bishop’s Transcripts (St Mary’s of Charity, Faversham)

…William Henry Allen, son of Henry & Susanna Allen [May 30, 1790]…

Yay! I now know the name of William Henry’s parents and have unlocked a few more avenues of research for this family.

Next steps:

RIP Easy IGI Searches Online

I found this unfinished post just ‘laying around’ which reminded me just how much I miss the old IGI search on the Family Search website.  Not quite sure about their reasoning but in their attempt to improve, they basically made it worse.  I’m not going to moan about something that is provided for free but I just… miss it.  

Here is the old post (with a couple additions) which seemed to be a HOW TO FIND ANCESTORS BORN BEFORE 1837 or a recount of how I came to a conclusion but I’m not sure what I was trying to prove. It may be of some use to someone:

Thomas PALMER is listed on his son’s marriage certificate 1848 as a ‘Bookseller’:

A search of the IGI online (after census searches of son George’s approximate age) now identifies his wife as Ruth (and locale as Portsea):
The original baptism entry in the Saint John’s Chapel, Portsea parish registers gives further confirmation these are the correct people, as Thomas’ occupation is listed as ‘Book Binder’ (same field of work – books):
Back to the IGI to search for the marriage of Thomas and Ruth, which gives her maiden name as Ruth WRIGHT (married in Saint Mary’s Portsea):
This makes it easier to search the census records which then give me approximate birth dates for Thomas and Ruth.  Parish records can now be searched for the marriage (possibly more information); their own births/baptisms and other children of the marriage.  
Next Steps:
Find copy of Thomas & Ruth’s marriage entry in the Saint Mary’s, Portsea parish registers
Find copy of Thomas & Ruth’s baptism entries in Chichester, Sussex (church unknown)

Murder in the Family II

(See original post here.)

Another message from my husband’s aunt seems to indicate the belief that Eliza Tharm is the ancestor in question:

“this Eliza Tharm isn’t a direct ancestor but down the line from either a brother or sister of one of our direct ancestors.”

I had come across Eliza in my initial research as she was famously the maid living at Dr. Palmer’s house who became Palmer’s mistress after his wife’s death. says that Eliza gave birth to an illegitimate son in the Palmer House and this child was sent to be cared for by a ‘nurse’. It was claimed that Palmer sent for the young child saying that he wished to see that the child was well.

Sounds very much like the story originally given to me (see here) but that seems far too easy.  If Palmer really was the rogue he was rumoured to be, there was sure to be other mistresses and possibly more illegitimate children.  Google Books have available a copy of Illustrated Life and Career of William Palmer of Rugeley.  I have yet to read it but a skim through revealed this snippet on page 55:

Some time after his marriage, William Palmer had an illegitimate child by a Rugeley woman, of the name of Jane Mumford, and he had, in consequence, to pay for its keep. It is related that this child, a little girl, was brought to him that he might satisfy himself that it was still alive; he saw the child, and sent her home again. Shortly afterwards she died.

Sounds tragically familiar…

Murder in the Family

I’ve just returned from an impromptu family history journey to the midlands (which I’ll post about later) and found a message from my husband’s aunt:

I was telling Dad about the mistress of Dr Palmer the poisoner being one of our rellies. The one that had a child by him and sent him to stay with Dr Palmer and the unfortunate child was killed by him. Do you have any information on that?

I certainly do not but I’m keen to know more!

Dr. William Palmer was born in Rugeley, Staffordshire in 1824.  He was hanged for the murder of John Parsons Cook, but is also believed to have poisoned his mother-in-law, wife and four of their five children as well as many others.  He became known as “The Rugeley Poisoner” and “The Prince of Poisoners” but there is still some doubt as to whether he was guilty of any of these crimes.
When I asked my husband if he knew anything about this, he said that his grandfather told him that his grandfather was taken by his father to see the hanging but he wasn’t 100% certain.  I did some immediate checking of facts and if that story is true (about seeing the hanging), it would have been his great grandfather, Charles, who was taken by HIS father, Jonathan RICHARDS.  This Charles was born in Rugeley, February 1851 and would have been 5 years old when taken on this grisly day trip –  Dr Palmer was hanged at Stafford on the 14th June 1856.
If the ‘mistress story’ is true, then she may have been a sister of Jonathan or his wife Ann LEES but I don’t have any other information at hand so at this stage it could refer to anybody.  The Staffordshire Past-Track website seems to acknowledge that Dr Palmer was “overly fond of the ladies” so this story has some merit.

I had come across Dr Palmer before – close followers of my blog will recognise my ties to the PALMER surname and I had previously come across ‘the good doctor’ in my search but found no connection.  It would be very interesting to find a family connection after all – even through the back door (so to speak).

If you would like to know more about Dr Palmer, please visit the Staffordshire Past-Track website (also the source of the above image) and

(image on the right of Dr Palmer’s prison cell from the National Library of Medicine site).