The Four Wives of James Knaggs

At the end of March 1851, James was at the Pigeon Pie Inn, Sherburn, with older sister Jane and her husband, William SAWDEN. He was 25-years-old, working as a joiner and single. It would be three years before he found a wife. For reasons unknown, he crossed the Humber to Lincolnshire, wooed Sophia MARSHALL and married her in Winteringham on 15 August 1854. In early summer the following year she gave birth to William, their only child, in Filey. When the boy was five months old she died. The family is minimally represented on the FamilySearch Tree.

Sophia’s headstone in St Oswald’s churchyard has fine letter forms that have withstood 164 years of weather quite well.

A year later, James married Ann REYNOLDS in North Frodingham. There is a Scarborough birth registration in the September Quarter of 1859 that could mark the entry of daughter Anne into the world but the child then disappears from view. Mother Ann vanishes too. I cannot find a record of her death but on census night 1861 James is with his third wife, Isabella née BROWN, at 10 Pembroke Cottages, Islington.

James has given up his trade and become a Lay Missionary. His firstborn, William, is living in Winteringham with grandfather William Marshall and “step grandmother” Catherine. (Sophia’s father has married for the third time.)

In 1871 James is the Minister at Stratford Congregational Church and a widower, but young William, 15, is with him and the three children born to Isabella. Ten years later James is a widower still and now an “Independent Minister”. William is working as a grocer’s clerk and the other boy, Cornelius, has a similar position in a chemist’s shop. James’ daughter Isabella Margaret, 18, is listed as “housekeeper” and there are two other servants. Fourth child, Caroline Mary, now 14, is a boarder at Milton Mount College, Gravesend.

By 1891, James is back with the Congregationalists – and has found a fourth wife, Eliza, fourteen years his junior. If this is Eliza Mary WOOLFE, they are in the eighth year of their marriage. Margaret seems to have dropped both her first name (Isabella) and skivvying for her father. At 28 years of age she is now a “Professor of Music”.

In 1901 James is 75 and retired but his house in Hampstead rings with the voices of two native South Africans – Marjorie Knaggs, 9, and her sister Isabel, 7. I must seek out their parents.

James Knaggs is the first fellow I have happened upon who married four times. I haven’t found appropriate statistics for Victorian Britain but in 21st century America 3% of men and women have married three or more times.

I will flesh out James and Sophia’s thin pedigree on the Shared Tree when I can. Quite a few of the people mentioned above have IDs already but they are scattered all over the place. Dots to be connected – and a lot of merges to be done.

Found Object 46 · Filey Sands

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