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RUDKIN, Elizabeth Jane

b.1849 – d.1910


Sometimes the loose ends of family history research do not tie up neatly and that can leave doubt in mind. As a research subject, Elizabeth leaves some questions unanswered and despite repeated research there remains some doubt.

When this research began, a very early clue was the fact that her estate went to probate and her money was left to an Edwin Burgess, a gardener. We could assume that Elizabeth was therefore quite comfortably off and randomly left her money to her gardener, but it is not that straightforward.

The question with Elizabeth Jane Rudkin nee Burgess is how does the daughter of a tin miner and the wife of a jobbing gardener manage to leave £6000 in today’s money in her will in 1910? This sounds like a sizeable sum.

1840s/ 1850s

Based on the Long Grove record and her marriage certificate, Elizabeth was purportedly born about 1855, but she is in the 1851 census in Calstock, Cornwall aged 2, living with her parents Richard and Elizabeth. Luckily, there are no other Elizabeths with a father called Richard. Elizabeth was actually born on October 7th 1849.

In the 1851 census, she is living with her parents in Calstock, with one sibling, Susan Jane who was born in 1851. There are other Burgess people in the same area, notably a cousin called Edwin Burgess who might be relevant later.


The family is the same group in the census in 1861 as in 1851 and Elizabeth Jane is 12 years old.


In 1871, the census records there is an Elizabeth Jane Burgess living with her grandmother, a widow aged 70 years old, of no profession and a pauper. Elizabeth is a servant with no employ. There is however another Elizabeth living in Calstock with a Ramsey family, as a servant. It is the latter which feels more likely to be her. Elizabeth’s father Richard is now a widower and is living with the daughter Susan.


There is a servant called Elizabeth Burgess in 1881 census in Cripplegate, London. She was born in Penzance, Cornwall, which is not close to Colstock, but this could be her.

In 1889, Elizabeth Jane Burgess marries John Henry Rudkin at St. James, Paddington. This is the pivotal piece of information for our research. However, she says she is 35 years old but the evidence suggests she is 41. He is 28 and is a gardener. Her father is recorded in the record as a miner which confirms her as our research subject.

Her husband, John Henry Rudkin was born April 22nd 1860, the son of Henry and Mary Rudkin. He was baptised in Eaton Socon, Bedford.

In 1881, Elizabeth Jane’s father Richard is living next door to a Thomas Burgess, potentially his brother, who is father to an 11-year-old Edwin Burgess. This is again relevant information as our story unfolds.


In 1891, husband John is living as a boarder in Kensington and is described as a jobbing gardener. He is married but Elizabeth is not present and cannot be traced so far.


In 1901, John and Elizabeth Jane are living  at 46 St James’s Square London. He is a gardener and caretaker. This is definitely our Elizabeth as it gives her place of birth as Calstock, Cornwall.

John Henry, her husband dies in 1908. Perhaps this had an impact on Elizabeth because on May 14th 1909, Elizabeth is admitted to Long Grove hospital. We can only speculate that perhaps she was emotionally unable to cope with his death which consequently led to her admission to the hospital.


On March 8th 1910, Elizabeth dies and is buried at the Horton Cemetery in grave reference.

Elizabeth’s probate is settled in 1911 and she leaves her estate of £63 3s 5d to the gardener Edwin Burgess, perhaps her cousin. As a widow, we might assume that her gardener husband had left her some capital.

The cousin Edwin who we met earlier appears to be the beneficiary of the will. However, the census records shows that he is still living in Calstock in 1911 and is an engine driver, not a gardener.

Elizabeth’s life remains a mystery in many respects. She travels far from home, and the bustle of London after the relatively peaceful life of Calstock in Cornwall would have brought many new experiences her way. There may be unfinished research here, where a fresh pair of eyes might discern new routes.

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