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WHITAKER, Isabella

b.1876 – d.1917

Isabella was quite hard to find – was she married or single? Once I found a record, I worked around it and found her birth registered in 1876.

Tracing her family back, her parents, Ruth Kimberley and James Scuffham Whitaker were married at St George Southwark in June 1862. The marriage lasted until James’ death.

The 1861 census shows they already had a family of 3 – a not uncommon occurrence at the time. James’ father was a fish monger and he was a fish porter so the family worked hard – Ruth was a needlewoman, both parents seemingly doing their best to provide for an increasing family.

In 1871 Ruth and James have six children between 16 and 7months.

Interestingly, both Isabella and her sister Lydia (born 1872) were baptised at the same time in 1881 at St John’s Walworth – the record shows their father, James, had died.

It was not uncommon for children to be baptised with siblings and at a much later date after birth.

In the 1881 census, Ruth is widowed and by 1891 she still has the family at home and Isabella, now 16, is noted as ‘crippled from birth’. Ruth was a ‘monthly nurse’ (who attended wealthy women for a month after confinement) but is noted as ‘sick’, Charles is a labourer and Lydia a buttonholer. Ruth has also taken in a lodger. It would seem that the family have done their best to care for Isabella but it must have been hard.

1891 census

Isabella is not recorded in the 1911 census of Long Grove, but was in the Southwark Poor Law and Board of Guardians register at Southwark Hospitals and described as ‘imbecile’.

1911 census Southwark Infirmary

Maybe she went from here to Long Grove, but proof will have to wait for more records to be examined as during the pandemic record offices cannot be visited in person. Isabella’s story is still a work in progress.


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