Sunday, 19 October 2014

A Very Kind Soul

James Jesse Blake, my great great Grandfather, said of his mother-in-law, Elizabeth Todd nee Macro:
I liked her very much then, and still think her to be a very kind Soul. I regretted her death (and she outlived my wife) very much, quite as much as the loss of my own mother. She was a good woman, was Mrs Todd, my mother in Law.
How I know he said this will be the subject of another post.
So who was Elizabeth Macro?
Betsey Macro (AKA Elizabeth) was baptised at the parish church of Denham near Bury in Suffolk on 27 Aug 1820.  She was the fourth of five children of Charles Macro and Ann Ashman.  Charles also had a daughter from a previous marriage and Ann had lost an illegitimate infant not long before she married Charles.  So they were a blended family who had experienced some tragedy. 
Just to make things a little confusing, there are two Denhams in Suffolk.  The Macro family lived in the hamlet of Dunstall Green near the Denham that is near Bury St Edmunds and not the one near Eye.  The area was, and is, farmland.
Elizabeth Macro fell pregnant to a Thomas Smith in 1839, possibly a scandal in a small village where everyone would have known everyone.  At the end of that year, their daughter Emma Macro was born.  Emma grew up in her mother’s family and was well known to her brother-in-law, James Jesse Blake as Mrs Ginn.  As for Thomas Smith, in the 1841 Census, there is a Thomas Smith living in Denham who was a married young man with two very young children – he seems to be the most likely candidate.
In 1841, Elizabeth Macro and young Emma were living with Charles and Ann.  Charles was working as an agricultural labourer.  Listed on the same census page, as few houses away, was one James Todd, also an agricultural labourer.
Agricultural labourers did seasonal work on farms.  It is likely that all of Elizabeth’s family did this work, not just her father.  Children could be employed from a very young age doing things like collecting twigs for kindling.  It wasn’t an easy life.
Elizabeth Macro married James Todd on 11 February 1843, in the parish church in Denham.   Their first child, William, was born in August that year.  I will leave the reader to do the maths… James and Elizabeth had seven more children, the last born in 1861: Ann, Eliza (my ancestor), James, Arthur, Selina, Charles and Albert, who all survived to adulthood.  I am not aware of any children who died and at a time when it was normal to loose children, Elizabeth and James did well to successfully raised nine.  While Elizabeth and her family continued to live in Dunstall Green, they changed to attending the church in the neighbouring parish of Dalham.  Eliza and all of the younger children were baptised there. 
Sadly, the 1851 census is missing for this area, which has left a frustrating gap in the history.
In 1861, all of the Todd family were living together in Dunstall Green, according to the census.  The 1860’s was a tumultuous time for Elizabeth and her family.  Her husband, James, died in 1866 and daughter Ann died in 1868.  By the time of the 1871 census, only Charles and Albert were living at home with their mother.  Emma and Eliza had both moved to London, and Selina to Newmarket, to work as servants.  William and James had moved to Horningsea near Cambridge, while Arthur may have been living elsewhere and suffering from small pox.  It must have been a hard time for the family. 
Another ten year later, in 1881, Elizabeth was once again surrounded by her family and four of her children were married.  The census lists four sons and three grandchildren living with her.  The grandchildren included Elizabeth Blake, daughter of James Jesse Blake, who was born deaf.  Perhaps her helping with a difficult child was one of the reasons why James thought a lot of his mother-in-law.  James noted that during his marriage, his family often went to Dunstall Green to spend Christmas with his wife’s family.  I wonder if it was anything like the current Blake family’s Christmas gatherings; I hope so.  I like to imagine Elizabeth as the beloved matriarch surrounded by her many children and grandchildren.
Elizabeth Todd nee Marco died in 1895.
NOTE on lineage: Me > Dad > John Edward Blake > James William Blake > Eliza Todd > Elizabeth Macro