Alfred was born in 1854 to parents, Alfred Burnett Emptage, a mariner age 23, and mother, Ann Phoebe Hopkins in Margate, Isle of Thanet, Kent. The eldest of eleven children, by the age of thirteen, Alfred had witnessed the death of four of his siblings.
Alfred was born into a family descended from a long line of ancestors who made their living from the sea. At the age of 16 Alfred was working with his father as a boatman but perhaps having witnessed not only that it was a difficult life but a dangerous one too, he and his four surviving brothers turned their backs on the sea and sought other means of making a living.
Alfred’s father had died in the Barming Heath Lunatic Asylum on the 6 April 1875 aged just 44, after suffering a brain haemorrhage and so, in 1881, at the age of 26, Alfred was living with his widowed mother at 2, Naivesink Villas, Mays Road in Margate. He was working as an assurance agent.
Just a year later, tragedy struck the family once again when their mother Ann died from an abdominal tumour on the 18 June 1882 age 49.
Alfred had married just four months earlier. The marriage certificate gives the bride’s name as Ellen Harriet Bryant but she signed the register as Eleanor Harriett Bryant.
No longer being required to provide for his mother, Alfred must have felt free from any obligation to remain in England and decided to emigrate to America.
He and Eleanor arrived in New York in 1882 to start a new life leaving behind his siblings, Edward Lindsey aged 26, Henry Thomas, who was 24 and married with a child, William John, a labourer aged 16, Rose aged 13, Frances aged 11 and George aged just 7. They had lost both their parents and now it must have felt that their eldest brother was deserting them. We can’t help but wonder who looked after the children. Perhaps it was Edward but sadly they would lose him too, as he died in 1886.
However, within seven years, Rose, Frances and George had followed Alfred to America, their fares presumably funded by Alfred, so perhaps he had always seen his emigration as a way of providing a better life for his youngest siblings.
Alfred secured work as an assurance agent with the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company in New York, but before long his job sent him around America and he could be found working in Ontario, Nebraska, Washington State, Iowa and Pennsylvania.
Returning to New York and, having worked his way up the ladder, Alfred became a Vice President of the company.
In 1907, Alfred was appointed a Commissioner of Deeds, for a term of two years, having qualified in the office of the county clerk of Rochester, in the state of New York.
Alfred James Emptage passed away on the 8 July 1910, at his home 16, Normandy Avenue, Rochester, New York age 55. Alfred and Eleanor were married for 28 years and remained childless. Eleanor outlived Alfred by two years and died in 1912 age 49.
The medal is held by the American Numismatic Society and we think it quite likely that Alfred took his father’s medal to America with him.