Ann Phoebe Hopkins was brought up in Canterbury, inland from the Kent coast. So the life she experienced in Margate after she married Alfred Burnett Emptage, a mariner and lifeboat man, was quite different from anything she had experienced previously or could even have imagined.
Henry Thomas Emptage lied about his age when he enlisted at only 16. He had already lost both his parents and no doubt saw a life in the Army as a way out of poverty and an opportunity for travel and excitement and it may have helped him deal with an very tragic personal life. His career in the army saw him serve in two wars before being called up to serve again at the outbreak of WW1.
Alfred was born into a long line of mariners but, perhaps realising not only that it was a difficult life but also a dangerous one, he and his four brothers turned their back on the sea and sought other means of making a living.
An assurance agent in Margate, Thanet, Alfred rose to the position of a Vice President of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company (pictured) in New York.
A difficult childhood and an army career in which he obtained three good conduct badges. But his conduct as a civilian was questionable, as one young lady was to find out. But was there a happy ending?
Alfred’s father and grandfather were mariners, as were his six brothers. Together with three of his brothers, he took part in saving the crew of the Northern Belle. They were considered heroes and received a medals. But Alfred was to die a difficult death, aged just 45, in a mental asylum.
There is a well used but nevertheless very apt saying in family history research, that it raises more questions than it answers.
And that is so true of the story of two brothers, three women and seventeen children.