Friday, 3 October 2008

Eliza and George Fitzhenry (Part 2)

About a month ago, I wrote about the strange parallel lives of George and Eliza Fitzhenry.
At the time, I had a theory that they had married in haste as Eliza was pregnant, they parted shortly afterwards their daughter Eliza Harriett was born, and then both made further (presumably bigamous) marriages.

I already had George's second marriage certificate which, although he claimed to be a bachelor, had enough details to confirm he was the same man as married Eliza.

Eliza's second marriage certificate had a couple of surprises.
Here are the bare facts:
September 7 1846

St Mary's parish church of Paddington

Henry Hersey of full age, bachelor, gardener, Harrow Road, father Henry Hersey Toll collector

Eliza Fitzhenry of full age, spinster, Harrow Road, father Samuel Heather Fitzhenry, fisherman.

Eliza had a daughter Eliza Harriett, and in the 1851 census she was part of this family. So Henry Hersey must have known that Eliza senior had had a previous relationship to produce Eliza junior. Did he know that she was previously married and that Fitzhenry wasn't her maiden name?
And if Henry was in league with Eliza's deception, why didn't they take the option of telling the vicar that she was a respectable widow with a daughter, instead of a spinster?

The second surprise was how she styled herself and her father. Why didn't Eliza revert to calling herself Eliza Heather instead of Eliza Fitzhenry once she had parted from George?

If I had started my research into this family group with this particular certificate, I would have been looking in vain for Eliza's family as Fitzhenrys rather than Heathers. I wonder how many more of my unlinked Fitzhenrys have a story like this lying behind them?

Here's an interesting fact - according to the Encyclopaedia Britannica (1911), bigamy was a felony until 1828 and was reinstated as a felony in 1861... which was convenient for George and Eliza should they have ever been found out.

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  1. So true Re: Bigamy...and authorities were not loathe to use the laws either!! A friend's grandfather had a lengthy sojourn in England (his grandparents were Irish).It wass explained to the children that 'daddy's in England working and he sends us money from there'. You can imagine the shock (and later, the wry smile) when my friend located his grandfather in an English prisoners database..crime, bigamy!! He was incarcerated for several years, and on release returned to Ireland and his original family. None of the children ever knew about the incarceration or bigamy. This was in the 1920 -30 period.

    Melbourne Australia

  2. I wonder if little Eliza was told to call her mother "auntie" or something. A spinster with a child? Scandalous!

    In the meantime, what happened to George?

  3. George was busy studying for the Membership of the Royal College of Surgeons, which he passed in 1844. I have found him in the medical directory of 1845 living in Blackheath, a suburb of South London.
    He then disappeared from view until he married Jane Thomas in 1853 in Wales, when he also claimed to be unmarried, just like Eliza.