The mystery of Ada or Alice Maud Mary Lambert
A diary of research by
Two memories remain with me that sent me out on this tortuous road of family history. The first was as a small child at 53 Rosebury Road, Smethwick, Staffordshire, my grandmother’s home. Looking at two large sepia photographs, one of a young man and a young pretty Victorian lady. I loved these photographs and remained interested in them and always hoped that one day they would be mine. As years passed by I continued to wonder who my grandfather was and why he was never mentioned. The second memory was of many years later speaking to my mother and asking her questions about my father’s family, and through that conversation I heard of a village in Northamptonshire called Potterspury and visits made there by my grandmother to see her sister Annie. The name of the village remains in my memory because it was unusual and I rather liked the sound of it. My mother also told me that she had been told by my father that when he was a small boy my grandmother had a visitor at regular intervals who arrived by horse and coach who he and his brothers were never allowed to meet. There always seemed to be more money available after these visits. It is that she received maintenance for the boys.
As I became older I had many other things to think about as every time I started to ask questions about family the conversation ceased I lost interest. For my 21st birthday my grandmother gave me a complete gold edged porcelain Wedgewood dinner service for 12 people, an antique tea caddy and a pretty Victorian brooch. She told me that someone she worked for had given them to her. She also had a very large bookcase full of books. In other words not the sort of things you would expect to find in a family having difficulty in making ends meet. She seemed very fond of this family and in fact my brother (Arnold was named after a member of this family. I remember I was encouraged by her and my mother to think of becoming a nurse. I am sure she had told me she had been a matron. I have presumed that if this was true then it was most likely in a workhouse. My curiosity kept rearing its head but I had a busy life and so unfortunately never pursued my interest in “Alice’s” lifetime but I doubt if I would have made much headway because of her secrecy and no computers.
My grandmother had three sons
1 William born in 1899
2 Alfred George born in November 1902 or 1901 (my father)
3 Frederick date not known
In the summer of 1957 I returned from college and paid my grandmother, who was very ill, a short visit, she died shortly after this. The funeral arrangements were made by Frederick, the only surviving son. I don’t remember my mother and I being asked to attend the funeral, my mother may have been asked but declined. When we started the research I tried to find details of the funeral and registration of death but there was no record of the death under the name of Alice Lambert.
I do know that “Alice” was very protective of a small box that she kept locked and I presumed contained private papers. When I visited her just before she died I think she was clutching the box in bed with her.
I have always had an interest in social history and as the years went on I kept thinking about my grandmother but did not think with so little information I could ever get started. I told a friend of mine: Eunice who is knowledgeable about such research and she and her niece Brenda who lives in Canada have been enormous help. In fact the research would not have progressed at all without their help.
It was the beginning of 2006 I told Eunice, a friend of mine, the bit of information I had and she was very interested. Shortly after this Eunice had a visit from her niece from Canada who had done quite a lot of family research and she too became interested. I had always been suspicious that my grandmother Alice had been involved in a long term relationship with someone wealthy who gave her an allowance for her three sons. This seemed very possible in that she lived in a village within close proximity to big estates. Yet, this did not seem to fit in with the rather prim and proper Alice I knew. I was suspicious that she might have had an affair she had hidden or she had left her husband and reverted to her single name. Eunice and I decided that because of the secrecy we should start with the assumption that Lambert was her family name. Soon after this Eunice found a family in Yardley Gobion: a village near Potterspury in the 1881 census which fitted in with what we knew, an Alice Lambert with a sister Annie with associations with Potterspury.
Joseph Lambert 34 Potterspury, Northamptonshire
Elizabeth Lambert 30 Yardley Gobion, Northamptonshire
Annie Lambert 9 Yardley Gobion, Northamptonshire
Alice Maud Lambert 4 Yardley Gobion, Northamptonshire
Herbert Lambert 1 Yardley Gobion, Northamptonshire
This really set me in the direction of wanting to know more.
Alice Maud Mary reappeared in the census for 1891 as 14 years old working as a servant for a family (grocers) in Stony Stratford. Eunice and Brenda then found Alice on the 1901 census married to Harry Herbert Hawgood with a son Herbert Joseph born 1st July 1899. The marriage certificate confirmed that Alice married Harry Herbert Hawgood August 1898 in the Chapel at Yardley Gobion (Alice was a Methodist). Neither Brenda nor Eunice were able to find any record of this family. I sent for Alice’s birth certificate which verified she was born August 6th 1876. I knew we had celebrated my grandmother’s birthday on the 6th August or at least during the first week of August.
When William wanted to make a career in the army he asked his father’s name and occupation and he was told that he would never know. My cousin Phyllis was moving house and found her father’s (William Lambert) army record book and this stated that William was the son of Alice Lambert living at 53 Rosebury Road and that he was born at Cornsall Cookley near Kidderminster, Worcestershire in 1899. A birth certificate could now be obtained, the place of birth was correct but the name of the mother was given as Ada Lambert, the father’s name was not given. The date of birth was 15th of August 1899 which coincided with the date celebrated by William, this convinced us it was the right William. We then found Ada’s family, she was a cousin of our Alice and 10 years older than her. As part of the information given in the army record was correct it is very likely that William was given some information regarding his birth. The boys had close contact in adult life, it would therefore be unusual if William did not share the little he knew with his younger brothers. It is not known if he shared this information with his wife, his children did not know. But should the name have been Ada on the army record? In the 1901 census Brenda found a child a year old. William, staying with Jane (Ada’s sister) and her husband Samuel. At this time I had no knowledge of where Frederick and Alfred were born and registered. Brenda found that there was only one child registered as Alfred George at the time near the birth date we knew. This certificate was sent for, and the child was born to Ada Lambert in Shepherds Bush and registered in Fulham the date of the birth given as 25th November 1901. The mother’s occupation was given as sick nurse.
The puzzle now was
1 Did Alice Hawgood (Lambert) revert to her maiden name and adopt Ada’s three sons (unlikely)?
2 Had Alice given birth to the 3 boys and used Ada’s name (possible but unlikely)?
3 What happened to Alice’s son Herbert Joseph Hawgood and the rest of the Hawgood family?
The next step was to locate Frederick’s birth. We found three Frederick Lambert’s during the period we expected, one in Potterspury and one in Fulham and one in Birmingham. Birth Certificates for the ones in Potterspury and Fulham were not the correct ones although the one in Potterspury is a cousin. The third one seemed a possibility, registered in Birmingham the name Frederick Alan, the name registering the death of “Ada” being a Frederick A Lambert.
The confusion of the names raised many questions.
Grandmother Ada or Alice?
1 Alice younger than Ada by ten years. Alice born in 1876 and Ada 1867. So William the first child was born when Alice was 24 and Ada 34.
2 Alice married Harry Herbert Hawgood and had a son just a few months before William was born. There is no trace of husband or son, it was later found that this son had died and there were no further children.. Later we found that this son was killed at the age of 18 in World War 1. Later we found through a website that Alice and Harry moved to another village.
3 Would Alice have adopted three sons of her cousin?
4 Alice’s name is on William’s army papers, had Ada been using the name Alice. Was it a cover up?
5 Ada’s name is on the birth certificate of William and Alfred George and possibly Frederick born in a district of Birmingham.
6 The grandmother I knew had brought up three boys told me she had been a nurse. On Alfred George’s birth certificate she is described as a sick nurse.
7 William as a baby on the 1901 census was staying with Jane and husband near Kidderminster, Jane was Ada’s sister.
8 The grandmother I knew used to visit Annie in Potterspury, if indeed she was Alice, this was her sister, if Ada as I think most likely, her cousin or was she really visiting someone else?
9 The grandmother I knew who died in Birmingham on July 25th 1957 was registered as Ada aged 90, which corresponds to the Ada in the family tree. Alice would have been ten years younger.
10 We celebrated the birthday of grandmother we knew the first week in August, I think the 6th. We now know that Alice ans Ada were born on the same day, August 6th but ten years apart.
Another problem to solve
In July 2006 I sent for a death certificate for the second time for Alice Maud Mary Lambert but once again no one registered. I decided to contact an undertaker Robert & Brain which I knew my family had used on several occasions and spoke to a very nice understanding girl who promised me she would try to find something for me. To my surprise 10 days later on 26th July I had a telephone call to say they had found an Ada Lambert in their records, the death recorded was 25th July 1957 of 53 Rosebury Road, Smethwick. I was now able to procure a death certificate which gave her age as 90, the death being notified by Frederick Lambert and she was a spinster. A birth certificate which verified her date of birth as 6th August, parents Richard and Mary Lambert of Potterspury of which Yardley Gobion was a part.
Definitely we now know who my grandmother was. Ada Lambert.
Richard Lambert born 1829 m Mary born 1833
Elizabeth born 1858 (This information found later)
Andrew born 1862 m Frances 1861
Jane born 1864 m Samuel
Ada born 1867
George born 1869
Arthur born 1882 or 1884 grandson
William born 1899
Alfred George born 1901
Frederick Allen born 1904
William m Lillian
Alfred George m Dorothy Candlin
Frederick m Ethel
The search for my grandfather seems impossible at this stage but having got so far with little information I will continue to try. What might help in answering this question is if we could find records of employees of any Workhouses near Yardley Gobion, Kidderminster and Fulham. Whilst finding out these details Brenda was able to build up a large family of Lambert who had stayed locally in the area of Potterspury and Yardley Gobion. This intrigued me and made me want to visit these two villages. Fortunately Eunice was so interested she wanted to come too.
On Sunday the 3rd September 2006 we left for Plum Park Hotel arriving soon after 1pm. Just before 4pm we left to go to Potterspury to meet with the Rev Michael Wray and his wife Rosemary who were welcoming and helpful. Michael drove over to Yardley Gobion and collected two registers and then collected a further pile from his own vestry. They produced sheets of paper and pencils and all four of us spent about an hour going through all the books extracting every item that included the Lambert name.
On Monday we spent the morning touring around several small villages and finished in Potterspury, later we moved on to Yardley Gobion and had a look around that village before visiting the United Reform Minister,: Rosemary Smith. She produced a plan of their burial ground and found one Lambert who proved to be a cousin of my grandmother. She took us to see the graveyard and found the grave. Unfortunately Rosemary did not have any old registers as they had all gone to Northampton to be stored. She was able to tell us that we could get local postcards at the Post Office but that was only open in the mornings.
Tuesday morning saw us at the Post Office but the cards available were very limited as the real views had been sold. I explained what we were doing and found a lady in there was very interested. On asking if she knew where the Workhouse had been, we were told that the tiny Post Office was in fact part of the old Workhouse and the house next door was the one which had been occupied by the Master of the Workhouse. We were also directed to a turning next door where there was a row of small cottages as these had originally been Workhouse accommodation. She was also able to tell us that there was a website which included information about Yardley Gobion. While we were looking at the cottages the lady from the Post Office came to find us asking if I would like to leave my telephone number and she would pass it on to Brenda Pittam who might have information about Lamberts. This she must have done as when I checked today I found an email from her and this evening had a telephone call. The telephone call was mostly to say that someone named Ada had a child and the boy was recorded as a pupil in the local school. Some school records are included on the website. Brenda P is going to see if she can find any more information about this. Later I may be able to get a birth certificate. If this Ada is in fact his mother, perhaps there are other children???
In the afternoon we thought we would spend some time going through all the information we had gathered and see if we could collate some of it. On arrival we were greeted by Moya, the hotel owner saying that she had a telephone message. This was a message from the Vicar giving the name of the website which includes Yardley Gobion and the telephone number of Brenda P who was the mastermind behind it. Soon after this we were greeted by her son’s friend who had taken the trouble to look on the website, find the list of Lamberts and to print this for us. He had also checked for more details of one name and had chosen Ada, and it was my grandmother.
In the conservatory a group of retired people were meeting, Moya asked them if by any chance anyone had the name Lambert. One lady said no but her husband had had links to a Lambert family. Unfortunately, the husband had died and this lady was unable to give much information but she asked if there was ginger hair in my family – there is.
We returned with so much information that will now have to be sifted through, it will take quite a long time to deal with it all.
During the week we were back I have not had time to go on the website but Eunice has been on several times and come up with more information.
8th September 2006
1871 YG Census Richard and Mary Lambert parents of
Andrew 8, Jane 7, Ada 4, (born 1867), George 2 (born 1859 died June 1901).
1881 YG Census Ada age 13 working at 129 Main Street as a servant at the Union Workhouse. The Master was William Brown. Later Brenda P kindly corrected this information. House numbers were not in use in the village until the 1930’s the numbers i had were schedule numbers, it now appears from this information that Ada was not a servant in the Workhouse but was working for a farmer as a domestic.
1891 YG Census Ada aged 24 shown as sick nurse (probably at the Workhouse in Yardley Gobion where William Brown was the Master) and as a visitor with Francis and Ellen Andrew at 131 Church Lane Deanshanger near Potterspury.
Also on the 1891 YG Census Richard Lambert as head of the family with George aged 22, single and grandson Arthur W. aged 3 years, there was no wife shown for George. If Arthur is George’s son perhaps his mother died in childbirth. Using Ancestry.com Eunice found Arthur on a list with parent shown as George. She found Arthur William, Yardley Gobion, died aged 5 years. Ada was named in the Parent or Guardian column when he was registered on starting school in 1890. There is no date for him leaving school. Did Ada register as parent or guardian?
(George was registered single on 1891 census. Arthur was born according to the school record 11th August 1887 – Brenda P)
1901 Census Ada aged 34 as Matron’s help at the Workhouse in Chertsey, Surrey where the master was Alfred Reed. Interesting that the two Masters indicated above are William and Alfred. (the names of her two sons.
10th September With the aid of the Yardley Gobion website (reached via Google)
Elizabeth Lambert 1858 sister to Ada, married John Atkins Sept quarter 1878 Potterspury 3b p73
Emily 11. 7. 79
Bertram A. 16. 8. 81 (would have been Bert as grandson to Richard & Mary in 1901)
Archibald 30. 9. 83
Peter . 86 (Shown as 5 years old on 1891YG Census. Only year given on schooll admittance record) )
Ethel Edith 30. 1. 91
Elsie 30. 4. 93 (born a few months after her father had died B.P.)
1901 YGCensus Elizabeth is shown as widow aged 42
It is strange that Elizabeth does not appear on 1871 census, neither with her family nor a visitor anywhere. She is on the 1861 census as 2 years old with Richard and Mary. Later information revealed that she is on the 1871 census as 12 years old living with her grandfather, Thomas Sharp. By 1881 aged 23 she has a daughter Florence. There is no further mention of Florence.
I am sorry to say Marjorie has now passed away.
If you have common relatives or you have knowledge of any of her puzzles, contact me, Brenda and I will consider adding to Marjorie’s story.