This week’s theme for #52Ancestors is Mistake and I thought I would write about my latest research into the family of David Smith. He married Emily Smith Harmer, my paternal grandmother’s aunt and they brought my grandmother up when her mother and stepfather emigrated to America in 1920. I have been looking at David’s ancestors and his mother’s family were the Sturt family from East Hoathly.
Samuel Sturt was born around 1815 in East Hoathly, no baptism found as yet. His sister Sarah was baptised in 1811 and their parents were Samuel Sturt and Sophia Ford who married in Burwash in 1810.
The 1841 census had Samuel living on Teelings Common, which now appears on the map as a housing estate Teelings Drive and Old Common Road at Ridgewood, at the northern end of Uckfield. Samuel was a 25 year old shoemaker, the same profession as his father and he was living with Ann, and Henry aged 3 and Mary aged 1. A marriage was not found before 1841, however in 1841 banns were called for a Samuel Sturt and an Ann Terry in Lewes and then in 1842 a Samuel Sturt and Ann Terry were married in St Nicholas Church, Brighton. It appears that Henry was in fact Jacob Henry Sturt, mother’s maiden name Terry on his certificate and he was registered in the 3rd quarter of 1838 in Hailsham Union. A registration has not been found for Mary ‘s birth as yet. The family was split up by the 1851 census, Ann, Turnpike Gate Keeper at Hailsham with the children and Samuel was a Turnpike Toll Gatekeeper but was lodging at the Kings Head Inn in East Hoathly. This may be due to the circumstances reported in the local newspaper The Sussex Advertiser, Surrey Gazette on the 29 April 1851.
This leads to a number of unanswered questions such as why did Ann pay his fine after such an allegation. My feeling is that maybe she knew there was no truth in the allegation, but we shall never know or maybe he was threatening her to come up with the fine but the rest of the story of his life shows no repeat of such behaviour. There was one further newspaper report in 1854 of Samuel Sturt, Toll Gate Keeper bringing Thomas Sinnock, Farmer to court for evasion of the toll. The case was thrown out.
By the 1861 census, Ann was alone with the children, described as a widow. However no death for Samuel Sturt could be found. In fact a number of family trees on Ancestry all put Samuel Sturt in New York, USA married again with another family by the 1860 census. He was described as a Shoemaker from England and aged 39 which was not quite correct but plausible. I searched for a marriage certificate for Samuel and his second wife Sabra Ploss but none has been found so far. The first child, was born about 1857 so Samuel must have moved to US between 1854 and 1857. Again no birth certificate for Ruth or the second child Mary were found. Neither were census records for Sabra before 1860 but I continue to look. A naturalisation record dated 1869 stated he was formerly of Sussex, England. There was one record that helped to prove that this was the same Samuel Sturt and that was the death certificate for Samuel’s son Samuel who died in 1945. He had been born in 1867 in New York. He stated that his father Samuel Sturt was born in East Hohley, Sussex, England. No doubt other death records or even birth records for his children would add further proof.
Samuel died in 1880 and I found a copy of his will, it did not mention any family in England, as you would expect. He left his land and appurtenances to his wife Sabra to be divided between his 7 heirs on her death. A curious story and usually, and I blame this on the years I spent working for a Child Protection Team in Social Services back in the 1990s, I have no sympathy for paedophiles but somehow this story does not resonate with me as being of a paedophile. Of course we shall never know what went on that night in the privy but to me Samuel made a mistake and then he ‘came good’. An interesting family that I continue to research. I wonder what I shall uncover next?