There were just 152 Emptages living in England in 1841 and none in the rest of the UK.
Having completed a full analysis, the origins of all of them can be traced back to three areas in Kent: the Isle of Thanet, the Isle of Sheppey and Dover.
I extracted the census information from FindMyPast.co.uk, occasionally clarifying details with Ancestry.co.uk and other sources.
I looked for phonetically similar names to Emptage and found Emtage, Empton, and Hemptage. Roger, one of our team members, discovered than one family had been listed as Eptage, which I would not have thought to look for! I checked with existing records or with the 1851 census to make sure that all these were indeed Emptages and that the names were simply noted incorrectly on the 1841 census.
I accounted for those whom I expected to show on the census but who did not, by checking that they had reappeared by 1851 or that there is another record of them post 1841. For the most part these were mariners, presumably at sea. I named these ‘missing’ Emptages as AWOLs, though strictly speaking, if they were away doing their job, they weren’t ‘absent without leave’.
Isle of Thanet origins
|Emptage||5||St Lawrence, Ramsgate||Thanet|
|Emptage||11||St Nicholas at Wade||Thanet|
|Emptage||5||St Peter’s, Broadstairs||Thanet|
|Hemptage||2||St Martin in the Fields||Middlesex|
|AWOLs||6||who reappeared later|
Isle of Sheppey origins
|Emtage||5||Grimsby||Lincolnshire||AWOL||4||who reappeared later|
|Humphrey Emptage and Catherine, married in Minster, Thanet, in 1753:||40|
|Henry Emptage and Ann Peal, married in St Nicholas at Wade, Thanet, in 1763:||74|
|William Emptage and Ann Fisher, married in Queenborough, Sheppey, in 1746:||36|
|Humphrey Emptage and Alice Horton, married in Westbere, Kent, in 1767:||2|
The total includes 27 wives, meaning that there were 125 direct descendants of the Emptages in England in 1841.
Research into Humphrey Emptage who married Alice Horton is ongoing but trees for the others can be found here.
Humphrey, Henry and William were exceedingly popular family names in the Emptages, so much so that they have driven this family historian to much muttering under the breath and tugging of hair over the years. Indeed, what hair has not been pulled out in moments of frustration is now grey, which it wasn’t before I became a family historian.
Where were the Emptages before 1841?
Frankly, I find myself confused and perplexed when comparing the 1841 census results with the data extracted from the baptism, marriage and burial parish registers up to and including 1840, as currently available on the internet.
The earliest Emptage baptisms were in Thanet, starting in 1560 and it appears that the Emptages then spread to other parts of Kent, including the Isle of Sheppey and to elsewhere in England, including the London/Surrey/Middlesex area.
[We know from the Wills Project that the earliest mention of an Emptage in Thanet was that of John Emptiach in 1489.]
Between 1560 and 1840 there were at least 513 baptisms of which 275 were males. Of the 275, 83 baptisms were outside of the Isles of Thanet and Sheppey.
From the spread of baptisms we could confidently expect to find descendants of those 83 male Emptages elsewhere in 1841 but they simply aren’t to be found anywhere.
Of course, we know that, sadly, not all of those 83 males would have survived to adulthood to carry on the name but it seems incredible that we can’t find any of their descendants on the 1841 census.
The study of family history often throws up more questions than it answers and I find myself wanting answers to the following:
Why did none of the Emptages living outside of Kent in 1841 have their origins from anywhere other than Thanet, Sheppey or Dover?
Where did the Emptages born outside of Thanet and Sheppey between 1560 and 1840 and their descendants disappear to?
What happened to them?
Variations on the spelling of Emptage
The nightmare for family historians is that in the early days there was no standard spelling of surnames. I have even seen my paternal family name of Jefferys spelt three different ways in the same will!
Couple the lack of standard spelling with perhaps vicars being new to the area and not understanding the local dialect and so writing down what they thought they heard and it is clear that there was a recipe for confusion.
So, I looked for phonetically similar names and found: Emptadge, Emptege, Emtage, Emptidge and Empthage, and added those entries to the database.
By 1841 all those alternative spellings except 10 Emtage had disappeared, 5 in Thanet and 5 in Grimsby and I proved that those were all actually Emptages and that the names were spelt correctly by 1851.
If we concentrate on the baptisms, it is not the spelling which confuses me, it is the places where those baptisms took place.
Many of the Emptages were mariners, serving in the Royal Navy or the merchant navy or as self employed fishermen and so we might expect some would migrate to other coastal areas or ports, including the port and docks of London.
Sheerness, on the Isle of Sheppey, was built to protect the River Medway from invasion and the Navy Board established a dockyard there for the provision and repair of ships though the major naval base was at Chatham, on the River Medway.
So it is possible that some of the ancestors in the Royal Navy moved between Chatham and Sheerness and also the naval base at Greenwich, on the River Thames.
James Emptage was baptised in 1795 in Queenborough, Sheppey, the grandson of William, who served in the Royal Navy. He married Charlotte Messenger in 1816 in Gillingham. James was a coastguard, and therefore had a career which was to take him around the English coast.
Their first two children were born in Queenborough, their third in Rottingdean, Sussex. By 1824 they were in Devon, where three children were born and by 1834 they were in Filey, Yorkshire, where their seventh child was born.
It was their sons James and William who married girls from Grimsby and began the Grimsby branch of the Emptage family. The first three of James children were baptised between 1837 and 1840 and it was his family which was on the 1841 census in Grimsby as Emtage.
Analysing the baptism registers (as available on the internet at 10 March 2017) shows the dates that baptisms began in the following parishes in Thanet:
1560 St John the Baptist, Margate
1581 St Lawrence, Ramsgate
1589 St Peter, Broadstairs
1603 St Nicholas at Wade
1627 St Mary the Virgin, Minster
1682 All Saints, Birchington
1717 St Mary Magdalene, Monkton
Between 1560 and 1840 there were 291 Emptage (or similar sounding) baptisms in Thanet.
People would have moved, for marriage and/or work, and so, from 1611, baptisms began appearing outside of Thanet but still in the county of Kent.
We know that Edward Emptage, born c1598, a descendant of the family at St Nicholas at Wade went to Oxford, where he trained as a vicar. His first two children were born there before he became vicar at Postling, Kent, which is about four miles inland from the coast, north of Hythe. And so we think that the 23 baptisms which began at Postling in 1628, followed by others in the nearby villages of Crundale, Stouting (Stowting), Elham, Brabourne and Monks Horton, were of his and his descendants’ children, through to 1704 at Monks Horton.
Excluding those areas, baptisms in other parts of Kent began in the following years:
1611 Oare, near Faversham, Kent
1637 Dover, Kent (not the same family as the ones in Dover in 1841)
1663 Higham, near Gravesend
1705 Milton, Sittingbourne
1726 Saltwood, Orpington
1732 Lynsted, Sittingbourne
The first baptism in the Isle of Sheppey was at Warden in 1701 and there were another 52 (at Sheerness, Queenborough or Minster) by 1840. Those from 1747 can be accounted for in the family tree of William and Ann Fisher but that leaves at least ten between 1701 and 1746 which are part of the ongoing study into the Emptages of Sheppey.
Altogether, between 1560 and 1840, in Kent there were the following baptisms:
291 Isle of Thanet
52 Isle of Sheppey
131 elsewhere in Kent
In what are now considered parts of London, baptisms began in:
1659 East London docks area of Stepney and by 1706 there had been six more
1714 Thames dock parishes in Southwark
1724 City of London, Holborn and Cripplegate
Between 1700 and 1841 baptisms began in the following places:
1701 Plymouth Devon
1733 Hull Yorkshire
1735 Lincoln Lincolnshire
1740 Melton Mowbray Leicestershire
1761 Leicester Leicestershire
1752 Nottingham Nottinghamshire
1834 Little Bealings Suffolk
The study of the Emptages who were baptised in Kent but outside of Thanet and Sheppey is ongoing and a separate study of those who lived in the London area is underway.
But what about those who were baptised outside of Kent and the London area? What do we know of them?
Our answers are dependent on what parish registers have been made available on the internet as at 10 March 2017 but, as more become available all the time, so the quest for information and answers will continue as we seek to identify the pieces of the great Emptage ‘jigsaw’ puzzle.
Anne Emptidge was baptised in Plymouth in the church of Charles the Martyr in March 1701. Her parents were noted as John and Anne. So far, there is no likely marriage for them nor do there seem to be any baptisms of other children. If Anne was the only child, there would have been nobody to carry on the family name after she married or died.
Plymouth is a port on the south Devon coast. John may have sailed there from anywhere along the coast, including the Isles of Thanet and Sheppey.
Thomas was baptised at Holy Trinity church in Hull in May 1733. His father was recorded as Humphrey Emtage.
Hull is a port on the estuary of the river Humber. Was that Humphrey one of our Humphrey mariners from Thanet?
What happened to Thomas? Where did he go?
We know that Thomas Emptidge, baptised in Lincoln in 1735, was the son of Humphrey and Sarah and the great grandson of Humphrey Emptage and Mary Fell.
It is a mystery as to why he was baptised in Lincoln when the rest of his siblings were baptised either in London or in Deal, Kent. They included John who stole the tea chest and was convicted at the Old Bailey in 1745.
His grandfather was John Emptage, the citizen of London and joyner [joiner/cabinet maker] who was charged by the parish of Deal in 1737 for providing for the welfare of Thomas, his siblings and his mother Sarah when Humphrey left home for some time.
So we know that, though Thomas was baptised in Lincoln in 1735, the family were back in Deal by 1737 but in London again by 1741 and 1745 when two more of Thomas’ siblings were baptised.
The family tree is available here.
Thomas Emptage, a Quaker, aged 30 years, was baptised in November 1740 but unfortunately, as was usual with an adult baptism, no parents were named. Thomas would have been born c1710.
Melton Mowbray is just 17 miles from Leicester. Was there any connection with Obadiah Emptage of that town?
Leicester and Nottingham
Obadiah Emptage and Sarah Drakely married in St Martin’s, Leicester, in 1749. Their children’s baptisms records all give the name as Emtage.
They evidently moved around as their first child was baptised in Leicester in 1750, then came four children who were baptised in Nottingham, between 1751 and 1756, at three different churches within the town.
By 1761 the family had moved back to Leicester, where Obadiah and Sarah had three more children, baptised in 1761, 1762 and 1766.
Of Obadiah and Sarah’s eight children, four were sons but none of them survived beyond more than four years. Two of their daughters also died in infancy. So, we know that there was nobody from Obadiah’s line to carry on the name.
Unfortunately we have no idea who Obadiah was or where he came from as, to date, we have not found a baptism record for him anywhere.
We hope that Obadiah treated his wife and children rather better than he did his young apprentice, Anne Eyre.
A newspaper cutting from the Derby Mercury 30 January 1756 refers to Obadiah Emptage, who appeared at the Quarter Sessions of the Peace of Nottingham in 22 January 1756, accused of torturing her.
Perhaps this terrible case was the reason for the family leaving the town of Nottingham and moving back to Leicester.
According to FamilySearch, Charlotte, Richard and Thomas Foote Emptage were baptised in Little Bealings between 1834 and 1836. Their parents were Richard Emptage and Susanna Gower.
Within the story of Commodore George Emptage we have mention of his daughter Elizabeth Emptage who married Richard Gower in 1802 in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire. They had several children baptised in Cheshunt, including Richard in 1804 and Charles Foote Gower in 1807. The family moved to Ipswich where they had another daughter.
Little Bealings is some six miles from Ipswich and, on seeing the names Gower, Emptage and the middle name of Foote, I immediately thought that these were descendants of Richard Gower and Elizabeth Emptage. Then I realised that the surnames were the wrong way around. It would be Richard Gower, son of Richard Gower. The surname Emptage wouldn’t enter into it. Or shouldn’t.
And indeed, the Gower family appears on the 1841 census in Little Bealings:
Richard Gower and Susanna, both aged 35, born out of Suffolk. Their daughter Charlotte, 9, was born out of county but their sons Richard, Thomas and Walter, aged 7, 5 and 3, were born in Suffolk.
It becomes clearer in the 1851 census by which time the family was in Ipswich. Richard Emptage Gower and his wife Susanna, were both aged 45, so born c1805. Richard was born in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire and his wife in Winfarthing, Norfolk.
Their daughter Charlotte was born in Kentucky, USA, and her three brothers were born in Little Bealings. Charlotte must have been baptised once they arrived in Little Bealings.
So it seems that I was right, Richard Emptage Gower was the grandson of Commodore George Emptage.
At the moment there is no image of the baptism available, only the FamilySearch transcription. All three have the father as Richard Emptage and the mother as Susanna Gower and it is unclear as to whether the error lies in the baptism register or with the transcription.
However, what is clear is that I can delete Charlotte, Richard, and Thomas Foote from my Emptage baptisms database.
That leaves us with 12 baptisms outside of Kent or London between 1701 and 1766:
1 female Plymouth
1 male Hull
1 male Lincoln, son of Humphrey and Sarah, of London and Deal
1 male Melton Mowbray, adult, born c1710
4 males Leicester & Nottingham, none of whom made it through childhood
4 females Leicester & Nottingham, only two of which survived infancy.
So, of the 12 children baptised in areas other than Kent or London (that I know of at the time of writing) there were just three males, all named Thomas, to carry on the Emptage name:
Thomas, an adult, born c1710, baptised in 1740 in Melton Mowbray,
Thomas, son of Humphrey, baptised in 1733 in Hull,
Thomas, son of Humphrey and Sarah, baptised in 1735 in Lincoln.
We can account for Thomas of Lincoln but where did the parents of the other two come from, and where did those three Thomas go to? What happened to them?
And where did Obadiah Emptage, who was found to have tortured his apprentice, come from?
In my attempts to answer the question as to why it appears that the Emptages began in Thanet, before 1560 and then spread into Kent, London and elsewhere in England but by 1841 all of the 152 Emptages had their origins in Thanet, Sheppey and Dover, I have identified the scale of the problem but, so far, have not arrived at any answers.
I hope the study of the Emptages in the rest of Kent and in the London area will give me some clues but, in the meantime, I remain as perplexed as I was when I started this exercise.