Ancestry 12

The Birth Certificate and the Blank Space

The youngest of seven children, my 2 x great grandmother, Margaret Jones, was born on 15 October 1871 in the village of Laleston, Glamorgan. Her parents, James and Margaret, had moved east from Carmarthen to Laleston to work on the land.

Initially, Margaret found employment as a maid. Then she married coal miner Thomas Jones (in Wales it’s very common for a number of intertwining branches to carry the surname Jones). The couple moved to North Corneli where Thomas worked in the nearby newly opened Newlands Colliery. The couple had ten children and family legend states that each week when the working members of her family returned home from the coal mines Margaret told them to place their wages on the living room table so that she could control the finances.

In many respects, Thomas and Margaret were a typical working class couple. However, Margaret harboured a secret. When she left Laleston to begin her family with Thomas, she left behind a son, Edward Robert Jones.

Throughout his childhood, Edward Robert Jones lived in Laleston with his aunt and uncle. Born before Thomas and Margaret married, it’s clear that Edward Robert was not Thomas’ son. So, who was his father? The mystery deepens because the space on Edward Robert’s birth certificate for his father’s name was left blank.

Margaret gave birth to Edward Robert out of wedlock, a scandalous thing for a woman to do in the Victorian era. Throughout my ancestry, I’ve discovered many pregnant brides and ‘shotgun weddings’. On every occasion, apart from this one, the father married the illegitimate child’s mother or at least acknowledged the child. 

As well as the psychological factor, it was important for the mother to identify the father so that she could receive maintenance for her child. The blank space on this birth certificate suggests that the father refused to acknowledge the child. That happened on occasion, but the mother could always challenge him. In Edward Robert’s case, the father remained anonymous. For what reason? Did he have something to hide?

The story, repeated throughout the generations, is that Margaret worked as a maid for John Picton Warlow in Laleston House, the ‘Big House’ in the village. That seems logical because in 1891 John Picton Warlow employed two housemaids along with a cook and a nurse. Furthermore, when Margaret moved to Corneli she named her home ‘Laleston House’.

Laleston House, Laleston.

Everything points to the family stories being true – Margaret worked for John Picton Warlow as a maid in Laleston House. But who was John Picton Warlow?

The son of Captain Thomas Warlow of the Bengal Engineers and Mary Prudence Ord, John Picton Warlow was born on 6 November 1837 in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, British India. When John was two years old his father died and the family returned to Britain. 

As a teenager, in 1854 John joined the East India Company in Madras, India. A successful career involving regular international travel followed. This included spells in India, South Africa and Turkey. 

John married three times and fathered at least twelve children. In 1865, a year after the death of his first wife, Josephine, John suffered a breakdown while in India and returned to Britain where he stayed with his cousin, Miss Turbervill, at Ewenny Priory. The Turbervill’s have a long lineage in Glamorgan dating back to medieval times and they are, incidentally, my direct ancestors. 

Ewenny Priory from ewennypriory.co.uk

In 1891, John inherited the Turbervill Estate of Ewenny Priory and changed his name to Picton-Turbervill. He served as High Sheriff of Glamorgan and as a Justice of the Peace. It’s often been recorded that privileged Victorians took advantage of their servants. Did John take advantage of Margaret?

During the time Margaret worked for John, he lost his second wife, Eleanor. However, by the time Margaret gave birth to Edward Robert, John had married his third wife, Caroline. Would a husband cheat on his new wife?

Margaret died in 1945 and the gossip within my family, amongst ancestors who knew her, suggests that Edward Robert’s father resided at Laleston House in Laleston. If John was not the father, is there another candidate? All the servants at the ‘Big House’ in Laleston were female, so that leaves John’s three of age sons, one of whom was named Robert…