This article is an edited version of 'Carry On Eliza' written by Pauline George, great grand-daughter of Eliza Ann Smith. It is based on research by Pauline George in conjunction with the BBC Family Trees Messageboard and RootsChat and published here by kind permission of Pauline George.
Mother always said that if ever I tried to trace the family back, I would have trouble in researching my Grandmother Harriet's family, because Eliza (her mother) was 'weird'. She was right there, though in the context of the mid 19C perhaps not so unusual.
Our research began from Eliza's second wedding for which we had solid evidence, but this immediately threw up a potential problem in that it revealed her maiden name to be Smith. In fact though this was the least of our problems as the details of her birth were located with some ease. Eliza Ann Smith was born on the 26th of February 1840 at Wish Court, Wish Street (now known as King's Road), Southsea. Her father, Thomas Richard Smith was a listed as a labourer; her mother was Mary Ann Smith, formerly Byles (also spelt in the records as Baylis and Boyles).
In 1840 Wish Street was part of a growing commercial area, close to the newly expanding residential Southsea. As a labourer, Thomas Smith may well have worked on Thomas Ellis Owen's vision of a gentrified Southsea.
By the 1841 census the family had moved to Silver Street, which was south of Wish Street and part of the artisan's quarter of West Southsea or Croxton Town. By the 1851 census they had moved to Blenheim Street, which was north of Wish Street, near St. Paul's Church, a somewhat poorer area but still better than much of Portsmouth and Portsea.
On the 5th of November 1856, Eliza had her first baby, a boy, at the age of 16 years. There is no father's name on the birth certificate, but the boy was called Frederick Richard Thomas Batchelor Smith which suggests that Eliza had a way of naming and shaming by entering the absent father's name into that of her offspring. As Thomas Richard is the name of both her father and brother, perhaps there was a Frederick Batchelor about somewhere, though nothing could ever be proved.
Eliza married Henry Moore, carpenter and joiner on the 27th of June 1858. The wedding took place at All Saints Church, which, being in Landport suggests that she and/or her husband lived in that area at the time. The wedding certificate is a hotch potch of truths and half-truths and downright lies. They claim to be of 'full age' but both were only 18 years old. Henry claims that his father is Henry Moore, a carpenter when in fact he was David Moore, carpenter. It seems the wedding was not a moment too soon, for on 17th of September 1858 their first child, dutifully named Henry Moore after his father, was born, followed by George Edward Moore on the 15th of June 1860.
Then something happened to Eliza's husband Henry and we have never been able to find what. Henry Moore is not an uncommon name in the area, but none of those we have found seem the 'right' Henry.
Little Henry goes to live with his grandparents, David and Ellen Moore, and the 1861 census sees Eliza back with her parents at 8 Cottage Lane, Landport, calling herself a soldier's wife, and reunited once more with her first child Frederick Smith.
By 20th of June 1862, Eliza has moved out again, and is living at 48 Hampton Street, Landport, where tragically, baby George dies of Scarlet Fever. By the 5th of October, 1862 Eliza has moved to 30 York Street, where another son, Walter George Harmsworth is born. There is no father's name on the birth certificate. Walter George died when only 29 years old of valvular heart disease. One wonders if his mother's contact with the Scarlet Fever had affected his development.
On the 21st of May 1864 Eliza had her first daughter, Eliza Ellen. This child is registered by her father, who is calling himself William Walter Harmsworth Moore. It seems highly likely that this man was the half-brother of Henry Moore, being the son of Ellen Moore by a previous marriage. Again something happens and Eliza loses the new man in her life and moves to 35 Stone Street, West Southsea, very close to her birthplace. There she has a daughter Harriet Webb Moore who was born on 13th February 1866 and once more, no father is named.
Then suddenly there is a scene shift. On 11th July 1867 Eliza is traced to Reading in Berkshire where she gives birth to Emily Webb. The father is named as William Webb, plasterer journeyman. It took a long time to find this one for obvious reasons. So in 1867 they were in Reading and calling themselves Webb but by the 1871 census they have changed the name to Challis.
There is a record for St Giles Church, Reading, in which Eliza Ann More marries Callis Webb, but the Records Office holds no marriage certificate for this wedding. One wonders why?
All too soon the callous whatever his name was at the time, is gone, (he is registered on his birth certificate in Winchester, as Callus William Webb in 1838,) surfacing as William Challis in Nottingham with a woman called Betsy and a couple of children.
On the 6th of May 1874, Eliza had all the children christened together at Saint Giles Church, Reading. Walter William Moore, Eliza Ann Moore, Harriet Charlotte Moore and little Emily Louisa Moore, who by this time is 7 years old and must have been a really mixed up kid. The mother is Eliza Ann Moore and the named father for all the children, Henry Moore, but there are subtle changes to some of the names. Emily is now Emily Louise, Harriet is Harriet Charlotte. All these names are from the Webb family. Harriet is the name of his sister and his grandmother, Charlotte the name of his mother. Eliza was putting it on the records, without putting it on the records.
On the 15th September 1879 Samuel Wicks, labourer, (father George Wicks, labourer), married Eliza Ann Moore, widow, (father Thomas Smith, Inspector of Nuisances). One of the witnesses is Walter Wm Moore, Eliza's son.
In 1906, on the 25th of January, Eliza Ann Smith/Moore/Harmsworth/Webb/Challis/Wicks died of cancer, still with Sam in attendance.
There are probably many stories similar to this, but Eliza Ann is my Great Grandmother, and I've grown very close to her as her story was unravelled.