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Elizabeth Wilson Tier  Marriage no.2

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Portsmouth 1865-1887

Until I started writing this ‘story’ I had paid very little attention to Elizabeth’s second husband and her second family.  He is not a direct ancestor after all (my line descends from Elizabeth’s first daughter Annie), and when you have an intriguing event like a marriage to an uncle, you get a bit distracted.  But this is Elizabeth’s story, and Henry is a very important component of it - they were married for more than twenty years, and those years were Elizabeth’s prime of life - and there were three surviving children - so I looked into it a bit more.  Inevitably there are gaps.

To begin at the beginning (as I know it) - on Thursday, August 17th 1865 Elizabeth married Henry Joseph Tee, a sailor, in the Parish Church of Portsea, which is St. Mary’s and the St. Mary’s Church shown in this old engraving.  There had been an old church but this one replaced it.  However, it was woefully inadequate apparently and was eventually replaced by the current, rather more substantial, building.  However, this of course is not the beginning.  How did they meet?  Had they known each other a long time?  Why did they marry?  I will come back to some of these questions, but let’s begin with the marriage itself as we have an actual document recording it .

There are a couple of odd things about the marriage certificate which caused me further pause for thought about Elizabeth’s first marriage.  Most notably Elizabeth gives her name as Elizabeth Wilson Wolfe (which is correct) - but then she goes on to say she is a spinster and that her father is James Wolfe, master mariner.  At first I thought I should check whether I had it all wrong, and she was really Elizabeth Wilson Wolfe - but no such person seems to exist.  So I guess she was not wanting to admit to her previous marriage and decided to give her father the same surname just in case.  Who was she trying to deceive though?  Henry must surely have known she was married before because she had the two children, Annie and Agnes, both, at that time, with the surname Wolfe.  Apparently if one had been in a forbidden relationship, that marriage could be voided, without really doing anything official to achieve this.  I suppose in a way it does confirm that she had known that her first marriage was not right - otherwise why go to such elaborate lengths to disguise it - presumably from the clergyman.  Though to do this one would think that the two girls would have had to be absent from the proceedings.  I guess it also implies that William Harfield Wolfe was still alive - otherwise it would surely have been simpler to say that she was a widow.  The witnesses were Henry’s sister Jessy and Jessy’s husband Henry, neither of whom could write.  There are no witnesses from Elizabeth’s side of the family.  Had she been disowned?

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Elizabeth was 28 and Henry was 25.  Her two girls were 9 and 7 years old.  They were not living at the same address when they were married - He was in Church Path, where he had lived all his life with his parents and siblings, in his grandfather’s house.  Church Path no longer exists as it was.  It is now just two short sections that are distinctly separated.  Henry’s father was a general dealer, so maybe Elizabeth shopped at his store.  Maybe they had some acquaintances in common, because Elizabeth who lived in Chapel St. (shown in Google’s street view at left), did not really live that close by.  For a while I was undecided, because of the handwriting, whether Henry was a sailor or a tailor, but later in life Elizabeth describes herself as a seaman’s wife (and widow), so I am assuming it is sailor.  Now Elizabeth does mention later in life that he was in the Royal Navy, but the National Archives does not have a record of a Henry Tee prior to their marriage.  There is a Henry Tee who joins in 1867, two years after the marriage, so maybe he switched from the merchant to the royal navy.  Maybe he knew Elizabeth’s husband/uncle who was a mate of a coasting vessel, or her father, of course.  One could speculate endlessly about whether she had had enough of the marriage, whether William was dead, whether William had left her but unless I eventually find evidence of William’s death or a later life for William, then we shall just have to guess.

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Whether he was in the Royal or the Merchant Navy, he was obviously away a lot.  In the 1871 census he is not at home, and Elizabeth first writes that she is the wife of a seaman who is abroad, and then decides to be more assertive, crosses this out and puts dressmaker as her occupation.  So once again, she is largely fending for herself, but most likely not pining away like the sailor’s wife in the sentimental engraving below.  I think it is likely that she had virtually  been on her own for some time and so had established a small business as a dressmaker, which she continued throughout her marriage.  

So Elizabeth was at last a respectable married woman, albeit with two young children whose father(s) are at best unknown, and at worst are the offspring of an incestuous relationship with her uncle.  But Henry obviously accepts them, because by the 1871 census they are using his name. 


The first known child of the marriage is Henry James, born in 1870.  Now this is some time after the marriage in 1865, and so I went to the indexes to see if there are any earlier children.  And possibly there is a daughter Rosina born in September 1866, just a year or so after their marriage.  But alas, in December, she died.  Without finding a baptism record, or sending for the birth certificate, I cannot tell whether this poor baby is theirs, but in support there is the fact that Henry had a sister called Rosina.  There is also an Alfred Thomas, born in December 1868 who died the following September, but again, there is no way of telling whether he is their child.  These names are not obvious family names though.  Nevertheless given the long gap between their marriage and the birth of Henry James Tee, one could fairly expect that one or both of these sad children were theirs.  Not an auspicious start to the marriage.  Maybe it was a contributing factor in Henry joining the navy as he appears to have done.

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After Henry James there were two more children that we know about, Herbert, born in 1872 and Ada Alice A., born in 1874.  When Ada was born, Annie, her oldest child was eighteen and Agnes was sixteen.  They must have seemed rather more like aunts to their little sister than sisters, and most likely were working girls themselves.  Even when Henry had been born they were fourteen and twelve, respectively, so probably a great help to their mother in running the household, at least when they were home from school.  Elizabeth was not quite forty when Ada was born, so still able to have children theoretically, but for some reason a line was drawn and there were no more.  Which must have meant a better quality of life all round, unless, of course, Elizabeth had a miscarriage or two.

And so for twenty or so years she led a life of wife, mother and worker.  They moved around a bit but in much the same area, because my guess is that they were renting.  They probably lived in small houses like those in Chapel Street in the picture above left.  But then Henry died in 1887.  I do not know why he died and he was not very old - a mere forty seven years old.  At least Elizabeth was not left with a tribe of young children - Ada, the youngest, was thirteen, so almost independent.  Annie had married in 1878 and Agnes in 1881.  And Henry had lived to see the first of Elizabeth’s grandchildren and by then they must have seemed like his own.  Alas he was too young to see his own grandchildren.  Elizabeth herself was only fifty one, so I guess she could have married again.  But she never did.

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