Untangling the web surrounding Henry Thomas Emptage was not easy.
I must warn you this is long and complicated, so you may wish to have a cup of tea or coffee and some biscuits to sustain you whilst working your way through it.
I’ve tried to make it as clear as possible but not only was it not easy to unravel, it was not easy to write it up and it took a long time to work out how to draw a tree which didn’t look like a spider with too many legs.
Click on the tree to see it in full size,
click again to see the full detail
and to move around the tree
using side and bottom scroll bars
My grandfather was Walter Dansy Emptage. He was born on 7th November 1895 and his birth certificate noted his parents as Henry Thomas Emptage and Malbry Jane Emptage, formerly Wilson.
Unfortunately, I could find no trace of their marriage and without the marriage certificate it would be difficult to determine who were Henry’s parents.
1911 census: Walter Dansy was a fifteen year old factory hand, living in Lambeth with his mother who was by then Malbry Jane Deamer and his step father Ernest Deamer. I found their marriage in 1902.
1901 census: Malbry Jane Emptage was a widow in Chiswick, with four children, Charles (8), Edward (8), Ellen Lucy (7) and Walter Danzy (5).
So it seemed that Malbry Jane had been widowed between Walter’s conception in 1895 and the census in 1901.
I found a death record for Henry Thomas in 1896 in Hammersmith. The certificate says that he was 35, that he was a furniture remover’s carman. He had died of pleurisy (11 days) and congestion of the lungs (2 days). His death had been reported by Malbry Jane Emptage, widow of the deceased.
Where was Henry Thomas born and who were his parents?
As there was no census showing Henry and Malbry together, I had no way of knowing where he was born.
According to the 1901 census, Malbry had been born in Canterbury and the two eldest sons in Maidstone. I searched for a birth record for Edward Emptage 1892 – 93 and found Edward Lindsey Emptage, whose birth was registered in Maidstone in 1892. His birth certificate confirmed his parents as Henry Emptage and Malbry Emptage, formerly Wilson.
As Henry was 35 when he died, I began searching for a Henry or Henry Thomas Emptage born in Kent around 1861. I had to widen the search to 1858 before I found Henry Thomas Emptage with his birth registered in Thanet. The certificate shows his parents to be Alfred Emptage and Ann Emptage, formerly Hopkins.
According to Henry’s age at time of death, he would have been born c 1861, so I wanted to be sure that I’d found the right Henry Thomas’ birth certificate. But how to do so?
In researching my father’s family I had got quite annoyed by my ancestors’ repeated use of the same first names, not only from generation to generation but several times in each generation. However, the re-use of the same names was a blessing when it came to establishing Henry’s roots.
Henry’s son was named Edward Lindsey. Surely it was a little unusual?
I found an Edward and Henry in the censuses, when they were young and living at home with their father Alfred and mother Ann. Edward was a few years older than Henry, so I searched the birth records from 1850 to 1856. There was an Edward Lindsay Emptage born in 1856 and an Edward Linsey born in 1852. I chose the 1856 one and ordered the birth certificate. And yes, his parents were Alfred Emptage and Ann Emptage, formerly Hopkins, of Margate. Evidently, Henry Thomas had named his son Edward Lindsay after his brother, the boy’s uncle.
So, I now knew that Henry Thomas Emptage was born in Margate in 1858 and that his parents were Alfred and Ann Emptage.
But, with repeated efforts to find a marriage certificate for Henry and Malbry still failing, I needed to fill in the gap between the census of 1871 when Henry was at home with his mother and siblings and the birth of his and Malbry’s twin sons in 1892.
Where was Henry Thomas in 1881?
Searching the 1881 census for a Henry born in 1858, I found a Henry T Emptage in St Lawrence, Ramsgate. He was married and his wife’s name was Martha. Martha, not Malbry.
Henry Thomas Emptage and Martha Elizabeth Walk were married in October 1880. Henry was 23, Martha was 24. His father’s name was Alfred.
I was confident I had found the right Henry Thomas. But what had happened to Martha? Had Martha died soon after the marriage and Henry then re-married or, since I still couldn’t find a marriage record, begun a relationship with Malbry whilst still married to Martha? Were the children Martha’s or Malbry’s?
The records showed that Martha had died in 1897, the year after Henry Thomas had died.
So, assuming that Edward Lindsey and Walter Danzy’s parents were truly Henry Thomas and Malbry Jane Wilson, what happened between the marriage of Henry Thomas and Martha in 1880 and the birth of Malbry’s twins, Edward and Charles, in 1892?
Getting so far had already been slow and difficult. Now I began the process of untangling the web which Henry Thomas and others had woven.
Slowly, very slowly, I uncovered the story of my great grandfather Henry Thomas and his two families.
The story of two brothers, three women and seventeen children
Henry Thomas Emptage married Martha Elizabeth Walk in 1880 in Ramsgate.
He was born in 1858 and she was born in 1856, so she was two years older than Henry Thomas.
One of Henry Thomas’ brothers was William John Emptage, born in 1864, so six years younger than him.
We know that Malbry had four children by Henry Thomas between 1892 and 1895, and was listed on the birth certificates as Malbry Jane Emptage, formerly Wilson.
William John married Blanche Jupp in 1897.
The year after Henry Thomas and Martha’ wedding, at the time of the 1881 census, they were together in Ramsgate with no children.
By the time of the 1891 census, Henry Thomas and Martha appear to be separated though, as it is only a snapshot of one night, it is impossible to know whether it was just for a few days holiday or a more permanent arrangement.
Martha was in Ramsgate with children Frederick and Ellen, noted as a visitor. Her brother in-law William was also staying at the same house as a visitor. William is noted as single and Martha as married, so there is no indication that they were anything other than brother and sister in-law.
On the same night, Henry Thomas was in Thanington, as a boarder, describing himself as a widower. With him were his sons, Henry jnr, (known as Thomas) and William.
Malberry Jane Wilson was a physician-surgeon’s live in servant in Bridge, Kent. Bridge is just 4 miles from Thanington.
From the 1891 census, it appeared that Henry Thomas and Martha had four children and I found their birth records:
Henry Thomas jnr (known as Thomas) born in 1881, baptised at St Luke’s in Ramsgate,
William Alfred born in 1882, baptised at St Luke’s in Ramsgate,
Frederick John born in 1884, baptised at St Luke’s in Ramsgate,
Ellen Lucy born in 1889, her birth registered in Bridge,
For Henry Thomas’ to have two daughters named Ellen Lucy, by two different women, was initially a source of some confusion.
For Henry to refer to himself as a widower seems to indicate that his and Martha’s separation was rather more long term than just a holiday.
And indeed, sometime between the census in April 1891 and Edward Lindsey’s birth in June 1892, Henry and Malberry Jane Wilson set up home together in Maidstone, with Malbry assuming the surname Emptage.
Edward Lindsey and Charles Frederick were born in the Maidstone district in 1892,
Ellen Lucy was born in 1894 in the Tunbridge Wells district,
Walter Danzy was born in 1895 in Hammersmith.
Henry Thomas died in Hammersmith in 1896 when he was 38, leaving four children in Ramsgate with his wife Martha (the eldest being 15) and four children in Hammersmith with Malbry (the youngest being Walter aged one).
Martha died a year later, in 1897, aged 41.
In the same year, her brother in-law William Emptage married Blanche Jupp and the 1901 census shows them as having three daughters, Ellen Lucy aged 11, Avis Mary aged 9 and Emily Edith aged 3.
Blanche was 26 at the time of the census. It was little while before the penny dropped. It was extremely unlikely for Ellen Lucy and Avis to have been her daughters.
Had William taken Martha’s daughter, recently orphaned Ellen Lucy, with him when he married Blanche and brought her up as his own daughter together with Emily Edith, his daughter with Blanche?
But, if so, who was the 9 year old Avis?
Her birth was registered in the October to December quarter of 1891. So it seems that when William John and Martha were together in Ramsgate on the night of the 1891 census, Martha was already pregnant with Avis. But was the baby Henry’s or William’s?
I found a baptismal entry for Avis 5th November 1893 at St Peter’s in Thanet. Immediately below it, is the entry for an Emily Emptage. For both girls, the parents were given as William John Emptage and Martha Elizabeth Emptage.
This Emily would have been too old to be the Emily Edith shown on the 1901 census with William and Blanche so something must have happened to her. I found her death in 1894.
So now we know:
Henry had four children with Martha and four children with Malbry,
Martha had two children with William John,
William John had three children with Blanche (two of whom were born after the 1901 census).
But then, looking at the school records for Hammersmith, my cousin David found a record for Alfred George Emptage, who went to the same school as Edward Lindsey and Charles Frederick, and with Henry Emptage as his parent/guardian.
Who was Alfred George Emptage? I could find no birth record for him.
But there was a birth record for Alfred George Wilson, born in the Bridge district in 1889, and staying with his grandparents in Petham at the time of the 1891 census. His grandparents were Malbry Jane’s parents.
Given that the boy appears in the school records in Hammersmith, it is reasonable to surmise that Alfred George was Henry Thomas and Malbry Jane’s first child and that they took him with them when they set up home together.
In the 1901 census Alfred George Emptage is shown aged 11, a shoemaker and scholar at an institution in Macclesfield. (See notes below)
On the same page is an Albert Deamer. Was there a connection between him and Malbry Jane’s marriage to Ernest Deamer in 1902?
Whilst looking for Alfred George’s birth, I came across Alfred James Emptage, born in 1887 in Canterbury. His parents were Henry Thomas Emptage and Martha Elizabeth Emptage, formerly Walk. As he doesn’t appear on the 1891 census, I looked for a death and found that he died in 1889.
1889 was an eventful year.
Not only did Alfred James die but Martha’s daughter, Ellen Lucy Emptage, was born and Malbry’s son Alfred George Wilson was born. The two births were within just a few months of each other and both were registered in the district of Bridge, just outside Canterbury.
So Henry Thomas had two children in 1889, one by his wife Martha and one by Malbry Jane, who we must now think of as his mistress.
But wait, there were two more children. Looking at the parish registers for someone else, I came across twins boys, Robert George and Charles Edward, born to Henry Thomas and Martha in 1886, in Ramsgate. Sadly, they both died within months.
Now we know that Henry and Martha had seven children, Henry and Malbry had five children, William and Martha had two children and William and Blanche had three children.
Two brothers, three women and seventeen children between them.
What a mess it all was.
I did wonder if Ellen Lucy was actually Henry Thomas’ daughter or whether Martha had already begun her affair with William. At first it seemed to me that Henry’s daughter with Malbry Jane in 1894 was named after his daughter with Martha, who had gone with Martha when their marriage broke up. However, the naming of the second daughter as Ellen Lucy was actually a mistake. Her adopted daughter says that Malbry dropped her aitches and that the name was meant to be Helen Lucy but the registrar heard Ellen.
We don’t know when the separation occurred, so there is a question as to whether Avis was Henry’s daughter or, as the baptismal record shows, William’s daughter.
It is possible that, unknowingly, Martha was already pregnant with Avis when she left Henry and that she and William brought her up together, and had her baptised together with their daughter Emily. It’s one of those question to which we’ll never know the answer and so I choose to go by the baptismal record and believe that Avis was truly William’s daughter.
It would seem that Martha found out about Henry’s affair with Malbry Jane, left the marital home near Canterbury and returned to the town of her birth, Ramsgate. And there, keeping contact with Henry’s family so that her children would know them, she met her brother in-law William John and began a relationship with him which resulted in the birth of Avis and Emily.
Martha and Henry Thomas had lost their twin boys who were born and died in 1886, and the son who was born in 1887 but lived for only two years. What effect would that have had on their marriage, their relationship?
It is evident from the birth of Alfred George Wilson that Henry had already started his relationship with Malbry before Alfred James died.
Neither of the affairs were simply one night affairs. Henry was with Malbry for six years before he died, and Martha was with William John for six years before she died. There is no reason to think that the relationships would not have continued if Henry and Martha had not died when they did.
In 1889, divorce was not really an option for most people. It cost money and was difficult to obtain. It was much easier for people to move and set up home with their new partner, referring to them as their husband or wife. There would be no reason for anyone to question what they said.
How very sad it all was.
And, oh what a tangled web they wove.
They evidently gave no thought to the poor family historian who, over 100 hundred years later, would be faced with unravelling it all and drawing a very complicated family tree as simply as she could.
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click again to see the full detail
and to move around the tree
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Henry Thomas had seven children with his wife Martha. Three died in childhood but Henry Thomas jnr, William Alfred, Frederick John and Ellen Lucy survived into adulthood. All three sons joined the army; Henry Thomas jnr died in World War One. Ellen married and had a son.
Henry Thomas had five children by Malbry Jane Wilson. We don’t know what happened to Alfred George Wilson/Emptage after 1901 but Edward Lindsey, Charles Frederick (Charley) and Walter Dansy all followed the example of their half brothers and joined the army. Charley died in World War One. Ellen Lucy (Helen/Nell) married and adopted a daughter after her husband died.
Click on the links to read the stories of the children of Henry, Martha and Malbry.
My cousin David Lindsey Emptage, son of Edward Lindsey and grandson of Henry Thomas Emptage, shared the headaches as we sought to find a way through the maze which was Henry Thomas’ life.
1. Henry Thomas’ father was Alfred Emptage. Henry was born the year following Alfred’s part in the rescue of the crew of the Northern Belle for which Alfred received a medal. Read the story here.
2. As frequently happened, there were problems with the spelling of Malbry’s name. It was not unknown for people to know how a name sounded but not how it was spelt. So both civil registration officials and census enumerators wrote what they thought they heard, which may have been difficult if a local accent was involved.
Her birth certificate records it as Malberry. The 1871 census looks more like Mallsey. The 1891 census says Malbry. Edward Lindsey’s birth certificate has her name as Malvery (!). Walter Danzy’s birth certificate has it as Malbry. Henry Thomas’ death certificate says Malbry. The 1911 Census, completed by Ernest Deamer, has his wife as Malbry but it is clear that he stumbled over the spelling of Malbry, as he did over Walter Danzy. (It looks as though he named his stepson as Walter Dansy before changing the s to a z.) On one memorable day, I found my great grandmother’s name on one of the censuses transcribed on Ancestry.co.uk as Balbinny, at which point I threw up my hands in despair.
Having considered everything, I have opted for the Malbry spelling. Regardless of the spelling, I’d love to know where the name came from.
3. The institution which Alfred George Wilson/Emptage went to in Macclesfield, was known as a Ragged School and Certified Industrial School. These schools originated in 1858 when the local vicar collected about a hundred vagrant or orphaned children and provided a school for them. In 1868 places were made available for children from the rest of the country. It provided care, education and industrial training for neglected children until the 1920s. In such schools, the children were taught reading, writing, arithmetic and bible study plus an occupation. Alfred George learnt to be a shoemaker. Sadly, after 1901, Alfred George disappeared from sight. I can find no records which seem to refer to him.