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Roger James Magee

Van Gogh’s peasant gardener Patience Escalier represents very well how I see Roger.  A hard life that I particularly see in old age for some reason.  Maybe because I first found him in his midyears as father of my great-grandfather, John James, and then followed him through his later years.  Only much later did I discover his more mysterious early life.


By the time I discovered that he was born in Norwich I had realised that the Mollett family also came from there, so it was quite a coincidence to find that both sides of my father’s family had been simultaneously in Norwich.  The Magees only passed through Norwich though, essentially being Irish in origin and like vast numbers of the population of nineteenth century England, they ended up in London.


I now find, as I write his story that he was a simple labourer most of his life.  My image of him as a gardener comes from the first mention I found of him - his son’s marriage certificate which says he is a gardener.  Until his old age though, he was simply a labourer - well that what the records state.  It just shows how it pays to look at these things closely.  The image still fits my vision of him though, even if I now find it is not quite right.


A slightly confused man or did he deliberately set out to confuse?  His name varies between James, Roger and Roger James, and his birthplace also changes from Norwich and Shotley Tower to Woolwich.  Was he simple, did he suffer from memory loss, or was he just cantankerous?  We shall never know of course.



Roger James Magee

born 15 July 1814 Norwich

married Elizabeth Chattleborough 26 December 1838 Norwich

married Ann Berry 19 October 1845 Norwich

died 31 October 1897 Lewisham Workhouse


Children

James (1838-?)

John (1841-1845)

John James (1847-1915)

James (1849-?)

Sarah (1852-?)

Elizabeth (1852-?)

Charlotte Eliza (1854-1855)



Documentation

Parish records for baptisms

Marriage certificates

Censuses for the years 1841-1891

Son John James’ birth and marriage certificates

Death certificate




Roger

origins

Old English from the Teutonic meaning ‘fame’ and ‘spear’.  Quite where it came from I do not know.  It was not his father’s name.  Maybe a grandfather?

variations

Rodger, Rutger

abbreviations

Rog, Hodge, Podge

James

origins

Hebrew, from the same root as Jacob, meaning ‘supplanter’  Another all time favourite name, but I am not at all sure where it comes from in the Magee line.  

variations

Seamus

abbreviations

Jim, Jimmy, Jimbo, Jamey


Before marriage     Marriage no. 1     Marriage no. 2     Old age   The children

Magee    John James Magee   Ann Berry

Norwich     Deptford     Lewisham     Labourers     Gardeners     The Workhouse