Alice by the seaside

Eastbourne beach and seafront hotels.
Alice Griffiths, the grandmother of my dna match, was born in Eastbourne, Sussex, on the south coast of England in 1873. While still awaiting contact from my match I found a family tree at which showed that she had married Emanuel Beeney in Eastbourne in 1895.  This allowed me to find her in the 1901 Census where she was residing at 11 Hanover St, Eastbourne with Emanuel, a cab driver, their child Matthew, aged 2, and her mother Mary Griffiths, a widow.  Both Alice and Mary were working as laundresses.   Mary Griffith, hallelujah, was recorded as having been born in Liverpool, Lancashire.  That took that family line back to the very area where I needed them to be.

Eastbourne, in the latter part of the 19th century, was no seaside village.  The railway arrived in 1849, and thereafter the major landowner in the area had developed the seafront as a tourist destination with lavish hotels dominating the seafront, and an enticing pier devoted to entertainment.

Eastbourne Pier

The development of the resort provided work, though some of it must have been seasonal.  The Beeneys were a family of Travellers, though Emanuel seems to have settled happily enough in Eastbourne. I will need further advice on that.

But what were the Griffiths gals doing in Eastbourne?  Tracing them back through the censuses was a bit trickier than you would think, even with their age and birthplaces, but with persistence I found Mary and Alice together in the 1891 Census, Mary a widow, and both working as laundresses.  In the 1881 census another bonus occurred in the shape of an older sister for Alice called Emily. They were located in Eastbourne, but Emily had been born in Woolwich, Kent.  I wouldn't have been able to identify Mary in the 1871 census without that clue, seeing that Alice hadn't been born yet.  I was hoping to find Mary with her husband.

I found Mary aged 33 and Emily aged 1 in the 1871 census.  Mary was a Wife, so her husband was still alive though not with them on the night.  They were recorded living in the Sheerness Barracks, Kent.  Emily had been born in 1869 in Woolwich, another military town, so it looked like Mary's husband was a soldier.  My dna contact later confirmed that Alice's 1897 marriage record showed her father as Michael Griffiths, Corporal (deceased).

Trying to locate Emily and Alice in the General Register Office index of births was again not as straightforward as you would think - probably because I had a too narrow time range in trying to identify them from all the other Griffiths with the same names.  Their ages given in the census tended to skew their birth years - presumably late in the year, after the census.  I had some help with that from other folk with Emily as their Ancestry tree starting point, and along with their correct birth year was able to pinpoint Mary's maiden name as TAYLOR.

Before following that up I looked for the death a male Griffith in Eastbourne between 1871 and 1881, and found only one,  Michael Griffith, who died in 1875 aged 38.  By putting his age and death place into the Ancestry search engine, and then narrowing the results down to Military, I found a Royal Hospital Chelsea Pensioner Admissions and Discharges, 1715-1925 entry for Michael Griffith.  He was examined on 6 Apr 1875, and was attached to the Royal Artillery Coast Brigade.

In 1793, following a survey of coastal defences in the southeast, approval was given for the positioning of infantry and artillery to defend the bay between Beachy Head and Hastings from attack by the French. Fourteen Martello Towers were constructed along the western shore of Pevensey Bay, continuing as far as Tower 73, the Wish Tower at Eastbourne. ("Eastbourne", Wikipedia: accessed 12/7/2017).
At the time of his retirement from the army, Michael Griffith was  a part of the coastal defence.  

The Eastbourne Wish Tower, 1890s. The name 'Wish' comes from the  marshy area called the 'wish' or 'wash' where the old Shomer Dyke entered the sea. The Tower was built in 1804 to counter the threat of invasion by Napoleon.  After the Peninsula war ended in 1815 it was disused until 1830 when coastguards occupied it for a period.   Courtesy of Prof Robert Pearl, Old UK Photos

At this point I did a search for the marriage record of Mary Taylor and a Mr Griffith. The only one that popped up was a marriage which occurred in Liverpool in 1856.  Both parties were minors.  As it was so long prior to the birth of Emily in 1869, and no other births apparent (though not necessarily non-existent) I went to bed thinking that couldn't be it.  I woke up thinking, "That could be it", and from that point it was a very short path to Ancestry trees with a Michael Griffith born in 1838 - but not George.

The marriage record shows that Michael Griffith was a bookkeeper residing at Gay St, Liverpool, father's name Michael Griffith, boot maker.  Mary was the daughter of William Taylor, watch maker, residing at Lionel St.  They married at St Nicholas Church in the Parish of Liverpool.  Mary signed with her mark.   (Liverpool Registers; Reference Number: 283 NIC/3/51)

So now we have my dna match's Griffith family back in Liverpool. Exactly where I want him to be.


  1. The puzzle pieces are fitting together. You're on a roll.

    1. Back to walking pace at the moment while I work out a few details. But more on the way.

  2. Great detective work Lenore. It is fascinating to see the story unfold. I wonder if you will find a direct line ancestor named Alice?

    1. I already have one. My paternal gt grandma was Alice Emma - and what's more, her maiden name was Taylor - but they are not in the same line.


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