Emma Turner Before marriage
Emma Turner was the seventh child of a ten children family, almost all of whom survived into adulthood. Her parernts were William - a sailor - and Ruth Wareham. She was born in 1826 and christened at St. Mary's Church in Portsea on August 16th. As the seventh child I doubt her birth was much celebrated, and although I have not been able to fully research her older siblings, I do think that most of them were still alive. And even if she had a period of being spoilt by them as the new baby this didn't last very long - the next baby of the last three was born a couple of years later. It's interesting to contemplate what this familial position does for one's personality. Did it make one tough and assertive - fighting for the little bit of attention on offer? Or did one learn to get attention by being helpful, kind, useful? Or did it make one completely withdraw into oneself to escape from the hurly burly around one? There's probably no one answer and we do not know what path Emma took.
So back to Emma - aged fourteen in the charge of her fifteen year old sister. But I guess this is probably Ok for the times. Children grew up much faster in those days - in the sense of taking on responsibilities anyway. The address is Montagu Row, which I am sure no longer exists - many of Portsmouth's older streets no longer exist, having either been bombed out of existence in the second world war, or cleared for redevelopment. In 1851 they are in Montague Street, which is probably close by and father is at home, as are two sailor brothers and baby Alfred who is now 16 and has no occupation, which is a little strange. Emma and Hannah are the only two girls left at home and making their contribution to the family coffers by being dressmakers. So the family, you would think, would be relatively prosperous by now with at least four incomes coming into the house. And then in 1853 at the age of 27 she marries.
There were six girls and four boys, so a fairly even split, considering that boys probably claim more attention than girls, but it would have been a household dominated by the mother rather than the father, for father would mostly just not have been there. And when he was he was probably so pleased to see them and for such a short time (well my own merchant seaman father was), that he may well have been a sugar daddy rather than the usual head of the household type. But again, who knows? William was a master mariner which would have meant that he either earned a good wage, or else owned his own ship and therefore reaped the profits for himself. So, although not wealthy by any means, I would expect that the Turner family were not on the poverty line. Just a little above, like the good folk depicted in these paintings and photographs from the time. Lots of farewells and anxiety though, for going to sea is a dangerous thing to do.
As Emma grew, her older sisters married, her brothers went to sea as well and so the family would have shrunk in size. So the next thing we know of her is the 1841 census which is one of the very small mysteries of her life. For the census records that Emma, aged 14 is alone in the house with her older sister Hannah (15) and her younger brother Alfred (6). One assumes that her father is at sea and that her older brothers and sisters have left home, but where is her mother? I cannot find her - and where is her younger brother Edmund? Surely he too was not at sea already, for he did become a sailor too. He was only twelve years old. I do know that her little sister Eliza had died at the age of four and I also think that her older sister Ruth died in the year of the census, indeed just before the census was taken I think. Does this death have anything to do with the disappearance of her mother and little brother? I do know that sometimes wives went to sea with their husbands, so maybe Ruth had taken Edmund with her on a voyage with William. But I guess this is more Ruth's story than Emma's.
William John Richards
Willie/William John Richards