Monday, 1 September 2008

Will the real Dr George Fitzhenry please stand up?

Here's an interesting situation. It may be entirely coincidental that I've found two Dr George Fitzhenrys born in London at the same time in the early 1800s ... or there may be an elaborate double life going on.

June 1839. George Fitzhenry (bachelor of full age, surgeon, father "Arthur Fitzhenry of the Civilian ECS" which I believe is the East India Company Service) marries Eliza Heather (spinster, of full age) in St Giles in the Fields London.

September 1839. Eliza registers the birth (in London) of their daughter Eliza Harriett. She gives her own name as "Eliza Fitzhenry, late Parslow, formerly Heather". For the uninitiated, this implies that she has been married to a chap called Mr. Parslow before she married George FH ... although she said she was a spinster.

December 1839. George and Eliza have Eliza Harriett christened at St Mary's Church in Worthing, Sussex. It is noted that they also live in St George Hanover Square in London. George is an "assistant surgeon".

1841 census. Eliza (aged 30) and Eliza Harriett (aged 1) are living in Worthing, Sussex. Unfortunately, marital status wasn't recorded in this census. Eliza the elder's birthplace is Sussex and she is of independent means.
The only adult George FH in this census is living in the house of a Dr William Havins Pope, a surgeon in Wellingborough Northamptonshire. George is aged 25 (born about 1816), a surgeon by trade and wasn't born in Northamptonshire

1846. Eliza the elder marries again to a man called Charles Hersey in Kensington (Third quarter 1846). There have been no deaths registered for a George Fitzhenry in the England and Wales indexes in the meantime.

1851 census. Charles and Eliza Hersey are living in Hampstead, London. Eliza is aged 36 born Worthing Sussex. Eliza Harriett is named as Eliza H. F. Hersey aged 11.
I can't find George FH (but I've only got the Ancestry index to the 1851 census and they missed him in the 1841 census as well.)

1853. A George Fitzhenry, surgeon, bachelor aged 36 (father George Arthur Fitzhenry of the East India Company Service) marries Jane Thomas (spinster aged 23) in the Register Office at Abergavenny in Wales. They have no children. George continues his medical practice in this area of Wales until his death in 1893. In every census his birthplace is given as London, Middlesex.

1864 Eliza Harriett Fitzhenry marries in the third quarter 1864 in Marylebone, London. (GRO indexes)

1893. George FH dies. His obituary in the British Medical Journal says that he was 80 (born in 1813) and gained his Membership of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1844. Jane remarries the following year.

I know I'm one for a good tale, but I can't see any way around this being one and the same George Fitzhenry. Did George and Eliza in the pre-divorce era decide that they just couldn't stand the sight of each other any more, and decided to start again in opposite ends of the country?

And where does Mr Parslow (the alleged first husband of Eliza senior) fit into this tale?

Unfortunately, all the interesting activity is happening just as registration started in 1837 so there is no way to check back further to George FH's birth records to see if there was one or two of them.
There's only one thing for it - to send off for Eliza Heather's second (or even third!) marriage certificate and see what she had to say about her marital status that time ....

Amendment made 5th September: Lesley has pointed out that Eliza married Henry Hersey in 1846. Where did I get the name Charles from?

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