Searching for Emma…

I get these bees in my bonnet. Horace Colgate, né Alfred Dodd, born in London… who was his father, who exactly was his mother? I knew her name was Emma Pither Dodd and that she married Thomas Colgate. Her birth place in the census was stated as Ascot in Berkshire but I just seemed to stumble blindly around the records trying to find her. She had her son and I assumed she was a widow although I couldn’t find an Emma Pither Dodd in any records, nor a marriage between an Emma Pither and a Mr Dodd. I couldn’t find a convenient death of a Mr Pither or Mr Dodd  either.

I have just had a sudden inspiration… and how silly of me not to have thought of it before; supposing Alfred was illegitimate? Supposing her mother had been a Miss Pither who married a Mr Dodd? I looked at marriages in about 1865-70, as Emma was born in the early 1870’s. Yes! Emma Pither married Henry Dodd in 1871! It fits! I check the 1871 census and there are the two young people, unmarried but living near each other; Henry with his brothers and widower father, Emma with her widowed mother and grandmother in a pub, The Carpenters Arms.

I look at the 1881 census; young Emma should be about eight or nine… but she appears as a newborn, date of birth 1881… this is strange especially as I cannot find her birth recorded… Maybe it is an error, maybe she should have been aged 10, but when I look at the census image it clearly states she is 9 months old. What is more confusing in the 1891 census there is no Emma but two sons William and Edward. I can’t find a death record for Emma.. it is a mystery. But supposing there was an Emma in this family, maybe Emma has left home and is working somewhere else… I will check!

I’ve checked. There is an Emma Dodd, born in the right place working as a servant in Kensington, London… and London was where her little son, Alfred Dodd was born eight years later. London. But this may be jumping to conclusions because this Emma says she was born in 1869… I’m never going to know and any more is conjecture. I do know that Henry Dodd married Emma Pither and had a daughter also called Emma who had a child named Alfred.

It may be that Henry and Emma’s daughter was the young woman employed by Max and Tilley Mayer in London. No doubt Max Mayer filled in the census form and maybe he guessed at Emma’s age, or had she told them she was a few years older in order to get her position in their household? Max was a ‘merchant of precious stones’ no doubt a wealthy man. He was born in Germany and was 31 years old in 1891, his wife six years younger was also of German origin. The only other person in the household was Augusta Tuck, a young German cook. In my imagination, Max took advantage of Emma and became the father of her son, or maybe some other man did and Emma had to leave the Mayers’ employment. How ironic it would be though, if Max, born in Germany, was the father of a young man who died fighting the Germans, ironic and tragic.

My research can only take me so far… and I’ve described what I have done to show how frustrating trying to find ancestors can be. Even people with unusual names are not necessarily the only ones with that unusual name… although I am the only Lois Elsden!

There’s only one of me!

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