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A single Mothers, over 100 years ago.

Updated on June 27, 2014

Uttoxeter Staffordshire

A market town in England
A market town in England

1881 Sara was born

In 1881 my Great Grandmother was born, to a family that was large and well known in the town. Two well known and prosperous families had been united by marriage, they were all business owners, butchers, inn keepers and had been living near each other for a long time. Then the son of one family and the daughter of the other, married. I imagine there was a big celebration as both families were close to start with.

This newly married couple then had a baby girl, it would have been a lovely time for both families. The small family started to grow and two other children another girl, Lizzie and a boy, George, were born into this loving family.

I actually think they were all a bit wayward. I think they must have caused their parents a lot of problems, the biggest of all was that Sara got pregnant, she was not married, she put father unknown on the birth certificate, which must have been a huge scandal in 1903.

I have found this out by researching our family tree, censuses, birth certificates and information from peoples memories.

The story I would imagine was fairly typical for the time, but how this effected the lives of all involved was quite traumatic and would never happen today.

I think about how she must have felt, being shut off from her family and having to fend for herself as a women in a world where women didn't have many rights, she would have found every thing she did very difficult. The shame she had brought on her parents was perhaps the end of her mother, did Sara regret what she had done to her family?

George was born - 1903

Sara was sent away to Leek, a small market town in Staffordshire, 20 miles away from Uttoxeter.

George was born in the Nags Head, Mill Street, Leek. He was born in a public house. I would think that it was a publican friend of the family who took her in far away from Uttoxeter, as it was not that easy to travel in those days and 20 miles was not as close as it is today.

George took his mothers name but was adopted by Sara's Uncle and his wife. From what I can gather, George must have know he was adopted by George and Betty.

I actually think it may have been fairly amicable, George's middle name was Sara's uncles last name and his surname was her name. His name became George Wigley Rogers. George Wigley was who adopted him and Rogers was the last name of Sara. This is his name on the birth certificate, so I do think it had all been arranged beforehand. Although I can't find any legal papers relating to the adoption, but in those days, it was possibly a legal agreement between the two parties.

Was it George Wigley and his wife who paid for her to stay at the Nags Head? Were they with her when the baby was born? These are thing I will never know, but can only guess.

This sort of thing would not happen today, even if there was the shame, it was not like the shame in those days. Today most girls would stay at home and have their mothers help. Father known or unknown.

It must have been a very traumatic time for Sara, but at least she knew where her baby was going and he would be looked after well, by her own family too.

Nags Head Today

This was the place George was born in 1903, it is now apartments. But in those days it was a pub with rooms
This was the place George was born in 1903, it is now apartments. But in those days it was a pub with rooms

What happened to Sara?

From what I can gather, from the censuses and talking to people who are related to us. Sara on the 1911 census was working in Stoke on Trent as a servant to a collier manager, not a very good job really, she is now 30 and still unmarried she had George at 23 and I have no real idea what happened to her in the time between 1903 and 1911.

I can only assume she left the lodgings and tried to get a job to support herself. Someone could have helped her but I will never know.

In 1912 she marries a Moses Hancock who works at the colliery as a miner, and has eight more children with him. Although there is more sadness as her first child with him dies in his first year, after this she has a girl and six more children, all of whom survive.

From starting out from a fairly reasonable family life, she worked as a milner (hat maker) then after having George she ended up being a servant to an under manager at a colliery and then a wife to a miner, then having eight children, her life must have changed dramatically. I don't think she really saw much of the rest of her family again. I am not really sure if she saw George again, but I think that maybe she did, George certainly knew his step brothers and sisters.

I have been in contact with one of her grandson's from the Hancock side and they did know that she had George and I think both families got together at times.

So although it was a scandal at the time, I don't think it was a secret afterwards. I do think however Sara came off worse of all. It also caused a lot of upset in the immediate family.

Sara died at 44, she was married 13 year and had 8 children, she must have had a very hard and life and quite sad at times too.

Of cause today her life would have been very different, for a start she would not have been shamed and forced to have her baby somewhere away so no one knew, and even if her family did not what to have any more to do with her again, she could have got help from the state, Sara would not have had any difficulty in getting a job because of what she had done, as it is not a scandal these days

Sara today, would have had choices that she could not have dreamt about 100 years ago. Having a child, and being a single is nothing in today's society, in a fairly short time, the world has changed in a way she would not have believed possible.

Who was the father of George? This is something we will never know, so I like to think it was a rich man, who could not marry her as he was promised to another, a lady he had to marry for money and family.

But I am probably wrong, it was more likely a married man who took advantage of a young girl and then walked away and left her to sort out the mess herself, while he went back to his life unscathed.

Sneyd Colliery

This is the colliery where Sara's husband worked,
This is the colliery where Sara's husband worked,

George - His Life

George I think had quite a good life, he was adopted by George and Betty Wigley. George and Betty had owned a public house in Ipstones, Staffordshire, called the Navigation Inn, at the time of his birth. In the 1911 census, they are now back in Uttoxeter and George is a cattle dealer, I would imagine he was fairly well off, George and Betty probably gave George a good life.

George Wigley's father was a publican, George had grown up living in public houses and then become a cattle dealer in Cheadle at 22, he married Betty and they then moved to Ipstones to the Navigation Inn.

I wonder if they thought a Public House is not the place to bring up a child so they moved back to where their family lived (Uttoxeter) and George went back to working as a cattle dealer.

George was Sara's Uncle, her mothers brother, so at least George would have still been in the family, he would have known his Uncles and Aunts and by accounts I have found he also knew about his step family in Stoke too.

George (adopted George) this gets complicated with all the Georges about! also works at the Cattle market, he is an Auctioneer, my Dad remembers him doing this as his job, because of cause George (adopted George) is my Granddad.

My Dad also remembers visiting George and Betty, So the family must have been fairly happy and close.

George's life worked out quite well and happy. He married and had four children of his own.

Did Sara know about her Grandchildren?, I think she probably did.

Cattle Market

Uttoxeter Cattle market is now gone, but I remember it being there when I was young
Uttoxeter Cattle market is now gone, but I remember it being there when I was young

Sara's Parents did not fair so well

Sara, as I had said, grew up in a close family, they moved about a bit in Staffordshire but ended up in Fenton and in 1901, her father was a Railway Officer and they were all living together, Sara is a Milner, Lizzie a dressmaker and her brother (another George) pattern maker, a foundry pattern maker, which was a skilled job in those days.

In 1911 her father is a widower and boarding at a house, not even his own house any more. He is working as a drapers assistant, which I think is working with fabric.

Her mother Margaret died in 1908 at 56, it must have been a great shock to the family when Sara had George, it seems to have broken up the family completely. Her father John, lost his job, and some how and ended up with no home either.

John, her father died in 1916 at the age of 62.

Her brother and sister go down to London, George (brother) marries twice, and is a bit of a drinker and likes the good life, apparently!

His first wife dies of a flu epidemic, she leaves a daughter, George then marries his wife's sister and has a son. George himself dies in 1925 aged 40 of an enlarged heart. Leaving a daughter and son, (Irene and Gordon) I have had contact with his son's son, it appears that they knew nothing of Sara until in the 1980's when they were doing research into their family tree and went to see an their Aunt, which was George's half sister she told them all about the family, that was the first time they knew anything about our line.

After George dies, his second wife marries again, but the son is adopted by Edith, the sister of the George's wives, Edith can't have children so he grows up in London with Edith.

Lizzie, Sara's sister, also marries, but a lot later in life, she seems to have a long life and dies a the age of 94!

Lizzie, who preferred to be called Isabel or Aunt Bell, took in George's daughter from his first marriage, and brought her back to Uttoxeter, she was only 9 years old, and both her parents had died. Aunt Bell looked after her and brought her up, she did know all about the family, as she had been raised in the Uttoxeter area, the family did seem to keep in touch with letters and visiting.

Family Tree

Our complicated family tree
Our complicated family tree

Family History

Have you researched your family history?

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I often think of how they all must have felt. From what I can gather even though all the children, George, Irene and Gordon, lived with people who were not their own parents they had very happy lives growing up.

All three of them did well and had children of their own.

It amazes me how complicated families can become, this part of our family is nothing unusual, this sort of thing happened often to all families and still does but in different ways.

As long as everyone is happy then it doesn't really matter.

Families seem to cope and sort things out for the best, although there will be some pain along the way, and someone somewhere often gets hurt. Hopefully Sara had a happy life with all her children, it seems to me that it was her parents that suffered the most.

© 2014 Lavender Jade


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    • Lavender Jade profile imageAUTHOR

      Lavender Jade 

      4 years ago from Derbyshire

      I am, you really can't image living in those times, can you?

    • LeslieAdrienne profile image

      Leslie A. Shields 

      4 years ago from Georgia

      Aren't you glad you were born when and where you were???? I am certainly am!

    • Lavender Jade profile imageAUTHOR

      Lavender Jade 

      4 years ago from Derbyshire

      I agree, you can get very confused!

    • LeslieAdrienne profile image

      Leslie A. Shields 

      4 years ago from Georgia

      It is amazing how the family tree can get so confusing so easily... This one marries that one, this one is taken in by another one, this one has 5 babies by different mothers... You have to take frequent breaks when researching your family history... Whew!.....


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