Roger James Magee

Elizabeth Chattleborough  Ann Berry


Roger had two separate families - well the first tragically did not last long.  The first was of his youth, the second of his middle years.  I guess neither of the pictures above is quite right - the baby in the first was probably already dead, and the order of the sexes is not quite right in the second - let alone being from not quite the right period.  Interestingly though, the poor seem to have dressed more or less the same until modern times.  As always the pictures and photographs I have chosen to illustrate this page are representative of who I think they were, rather than who they actually were.  The photographs are of real people of course - I do hope that they do not mind me using their beautiful images.  

If you know any more about these people, or if you want me to remove any of the images, do get in touch.  Send us an email.

JAMES 1838-1850

Roger seems to have initially been named James, so perhaps this is where the name comes from and he certainly retained it as a middle name, sometimes his first name.  Both grandfathers were called John, so that is not the source.  He may have been the reason for his parents’ marriage.  They were married in 1838 and he was born in 1838, or maybe even 1837.  His mother was very young - only 17 at the most, possibly 16 when James was conceived.  A love match or a tumble in the hay, let us at least hope that when he was born he was welcome.  At the age of seven he lost his mother to smallpox and his little brother too - which left him with a father who most probably had no time to look after him.  A lonely child perhaps - no brothers or sisters for virtually all of his short life.  Maybe his grandmother cared for him for a while, until Roger found a new wife.  Was his stepmother kind to him?   She certainly didn’t rush into having her own children when she married. He seems to have lived his short life in Norwich - on the outskirts so may well have enjoyed running and playing in the countryside.    But a new life was tragically not to be, for at the age of 12, in 1850, (I think) he died.  I do not know why.  This is, I think, one of the saddest stories in my family history and there have been many.  On closer looking at the only death that I have found - I realise that, yes, it is in Norwich, and that his father had moved to London sometime around 1846/1847.  So had he been abandoned too?  Let us hope that he had been left in the care of loving grandparents.  Because I have no certificates I cannot say with certainty what happened to him, but I do think the most likely thing is that he died, as he cannot be found in the 1851 census or beyond.  A sad, forgotten, lonely child.

jJOHN 1841-1845

Named for both of his grandfathers, they were probably delighted.  Elizabeth and Roger had now been married for a few years and were settling into domesticity.  James was probably most delighted of all as he now had a new playmate.  But then, just as his baby brother was becoming a real little boy with whom he could play, he died.  His mother died at the same time, so a double blow to the heart.  Elizabeth died of smallpox after a vaccination.  I do not know if John died of smallpox too - very probably.  At first, because of the proximity of the deaths I thought it was the usual childbirth double whammy, but no - the death certificate showed otherwise.  I do not know who died first - the mother or the child.

jJOHN JAMES 1847-1915

My great-grandfather.  His story is told elsewhere.   Named for his grandfathers, his dead brother and Roger too.  At this stage of his life Roger is not showing a great deal of originality when it comes to naming his children.  John James was not born early in the marriage - Roger and Ann had been married for two years before he was born.  Maybe she was busy with little James and a traumatised husband, maybe there were miscarriages - I can’t find any dead babies though.  

JAMES 1848-1911?

There seems to be a definite when you’re on to a good thing stick to it, theme going with names.  To be less flippant I wonder whether this child was named James in tribute to his half-brother who, it seems had either been left behind in Norwich or had died.  Whatever the reason, this James lived on into adulthood, although I am not absolutely sure how long for.  In 1851 - with a typical bit of confusion, Roger (calling himself James) switches the children - James is said to be 4 and John is said to be 2, when really it is the other way round.  In 1861 their positions in the family have been reversed.  Interestingly, although both boys are of an age to be able to work (12 and 14) neither of them are shown to have an occupation, so maybe they did have some sort of schooling.   And certainly both of them went on to have ‘proper’ careers.

At some point James must have undertaken an apprenticeship or else found work as a carpenter, for carpenter and joiner is what he became - by 1901 he was an employer not just an employee, so  he did well for himself.  But in 1871, although recently (1871) married to Sarah Apps he was still living at home with his parents.  About a year later their first child, Rosina was born, whilst still living with their parents.  But alas, like so many stories in this family history, this little baby died at the age of around 14 months in the early part of 1873.  I do think this is worse than a baby dying, because at this age the personality is just beginning to develop.  In their grief perhaps, James and Sarah conceived their next child - Sarah jane who was born in November of the same year.  The sensible thing to do perhaps.  They went on to have only two more children - James born in 1876 and Elizabeth in 1880.   Again, there is that lack of originality in names.  It is possible that there were other births and deaths between the censuses but really there are too many Magees to choose from in the BMDs and I cannot find any baptisms, so I cannot guess why Sarah died - for die she seems to have done because on May 26 1890 James marries again - his wife is Elizabeth Slack who is eleven years younger than him.  The only death for Sarah I can find is for a Sarah Jane Mcgee in 1885 which would fit with the facts.  The only other thing to say about this second marriage though is that James does not say he is a widower when he remarries, which is curious.  Maybe the fact that Elizabeth was so much younger than he had something to do with it - but how did he explain his children, for they were still alive?  Very curious.

This second marriage seems to have been childless - another curious thing.  But then, if Sarah had died, one of the reasons for the marriage would have been the usual one of needing someone to look after the children.  And there they are in 1891 - Sarah out at work as a housemaid, James a shopboy and Elizabeth still at school.  In 1901 the children are still at home.  Well James is now married - and therefore, the Elizabeth Magee in the household, who is married is his wife (though I cannot find a marriage to an Elizabeth).  Let us assume, however that daughter Elizabeth has married.  I certainly think her sister Sarah Jane was married soon after.

The 1901 census is the last time I can definitely say I have a record of James.  I think there is an electoral roll listing in 1905 - still in Deptford.  The only death I can find is in Paddington in early 1911 - probably just before the census, and maybe, confirming this, is a death for an Elizabeth Magee in Islingtion in 1910 - but this is all very disputable.  What I can say is that James seems to have had a successful career as a carpenter/joiner, and that, with a relatively small family he would have been rather more prosperous than his poor parents.  So why did he not help them in their old age one wonders?

SARAH JANE 1851-1927

Sarah Jane is one of the girl twins - named after her grandmother Sarah.  I do not know where the Jane comes from, as I do not know much about her mother’s family.  No doubt the two girls grew up helping their mother around the house with all the household chores.  A normal poor girl’s life.  And to continue the ‘normal’ story in 1871 at the age of 20 she is working as a servant in Deptford.  Near enough to home to visit occasionally, but far enough away to live an independent life, which she did for some time, before eventually marrying at the age of 29.  Her husband to be was Thomas Miller, from Norfolk - a labourer like her father and it took place in the registration district of Lewisham in 1880.  By 1881 the couple were lodging in somebody else’s house.  By the end of that year their first child, Maud, was born.  There may have been another child, Thomas, born in 1882 who died at the age of two in 1884, but this is pure guesswork.

The most interesting thing about Sarah Jane’s life is what happened to her husband Thomas.  For in the 1891 census she is living with Amos Seldon as his wife.  Now Amos, who is a sailor from Devon is some ten or eleven years older than Sarah Jane.  Moreover his first wife, Susanna, is also a Miller.  Is she Thomas’s sister?  Or is it merely a coincidence of names?  I suspect the latter as Sarah’s husband was born in Norfolk, and Amos’ wife in Devon.   I am also pretty sure that Susannah died in the 80s, possibly away from her husband - the burial record says she was taken away by friends.  But search as I may, I cannot find a marriage for Sarah Jane and Amos, even though it looks as if there was no real reason why they could not marry.  So let’s just assume that somehow the marriage record has been lost.  These two bereaved people married - each with a child from their previous marriages.   They went on to have two more little girls - Florence and Dorothy.  Amos retired from the sea some time in the 90s and then worked as a nightwatchman at the port.  Both of his daughters, however, give his occupation as storekeeper which is a little strange.  He died in 1905 leaving Sarah with three daughters - Amos, his son from his first marriage had left home years ago.  I would think that Sarah would not have had the means to assist her parents, but nevertheless it is she who is with Roger when he dies.  She died, herself, in 1927 at the age of 75, having married off two of her daughters, and therefore having no doubt many of her last years doing the grandmother thing.


Elizabeth Ann was an independent woman.  She never married and seems to have kept boarding houses for most of her adult life - though where she found the initial setup money it is hard to imagine.  I can follow her up until 1901 but after that I lose her - although there are several Elizabeth Ann Magees listed in the electoral rolls right up until the 30s.  I cannot say if any of them are she, and I cannot say when she died either, although my guess is that she lived well into the twentieth century.  Again, the name is too common.  Her significance in my own family history is that in 1901, my grandmother Maud was living with her, with her sister Annie, at one of her boarding houses - populated mostly by young clerks.  Maud and Annie may have been helping her run the place.  And we think that it may well have been here that Maud met her future husband, my grandfather, who came from an altogether more salubrious background.  So it may be thanks to Elizabeth Ann, that I am here!

The picture at right is a painting entitled My Landlady.  She looks to be reasonably comfortable - let us hope that Elizabeth Ann was.  She must certainly have had a strong personality to be able to follow such a career, from such modest beginnings.  Her presence in Maud’s life also demonstrates that Roger’s children did remain in touch with each other.


I do have a baptism record for this child, but it is not conclusive in deciding whether this was a last tragic child for Roger and Ann.  The baptism record says her father is James and a labourer - so it could be Roger, but then again it could be somebody else.  It is all academic really because this little girl died at the age of 8 months and was buried at St. Mary’s Lewisham.

Dearman     Mollett     Merrick/Meyrick     Ellis     Jenkins     Magee     Nason     Richards