In the last post I wrote about the later years of John Gibson, my 6 x great grandfather, an eighteenth-century London coal factor, and about the marriages of his children. By the time John died in 1763, his daughter Jane had been married to William Coates for eleven years and had three children. My 5 x great grandmother Elizabeth had been married to John Collins for ten years and had a daughter, Frances, though shortly after her father’s death Elizabeth would marry her second husband, Joseph Holdsworth. Her sister Ann had been married to Charles Gottfried Schwartz for nine years and probably already had a son and daughter (see below). Another sister, Frances, had been married to Captain Michael Bonner for two years and had a son, John William. John Gibson’s only son, Bowes John, would marry his first wife, Elizabeth Hindley, in 1766, two years after his father’s death. The final Gibson sibling, Sarah, would remain unmarried and would live with her mother Mary, John’s widow, at the latter’s new home in Mile End Old Town.
Steelyard, London, in the eighteenth century
I’ve discovered evidence of at least two instances of intermarriage between the grandchildren and great grandchildren of John and Mary Gibson. In 1776, the year in which the American colonies declared their independence from Great Britain, two young men were apprenticed to London merchants. On 8th May, G. John Godfrey Schwartz was apprenticed to Paul Amsinck of Steelyard. Amsinck seems to have belonged to a family of prominent merchants, based in London but of German origin. I’m fairly certain that John Godfrey Schwartz (the ‘G’ is dropped in later records) was the son of Charles Gottfried Schwartz and his wife Ann Gibson, daughter of John and Mary Gibson. Later that same year, on 6th November, fourteen-year-old John William Bonner was apprenticed to a merchant based in Lime Street, London, with the curious name of ‘Other Winder’, who may also have been German by birth. John William was the son of Ann Gibson’s sister Frances and her husband Captain William Bonner, and therefore the first cousin of John Godfrey Schwartz.
John Godfrey Schwartz and Frances Collins
The next we hear of John Godfrey Schwartz is four years later, when, on 17th May 1780, the wedding took place at the church of St Botolph, Bishopsgate, between a man of that name and a certain Frances Collins. I believe that Frances, who would have been twenty-one years old at the time, was the daughter of my 5 x great grandmother Elizabeth Gibson and her first husband John Collins. If I’m correct, then John Godfrey Schwartz and Frances Collins were first cousins. In an earlier post, I expressed my puzzlement at the fact that some of the records for the John Gibson who was imprisoned for defrauding the Crown in 1742, claimed that he was resident in West Ham, and thus cast doubt on my theory these records related to my ancestor. However, it’s possible that the Gibsons did in fact own property in the West Ham area, and it may explain a curious detail in the parish record for the wedding of John Godfrey Schwartz and Frances Collins. The parish register describes Frances as ‘of the parish of Romford in the County of Essex’. Romford, then a quiet country town, was only ten miles from West Ham. Did the Gibsons still have a home in the area, and was Frances living there before she married John Godfrey Schwartz? An alternative explanation might be that Romford is only six or seven miles in the other direction from another Essex village – South Weald – which is where Frances’ mother Elizabeth would live following her marriage to Joseph Holdsworth in 1763. It’s entirely plausible that Frances lived with her mother and stepfather in South Weald before her marriage, and that Romford was the parish clerk’s lazy approximation for her address. A further alternative is that relatives of Frances’ late father, John Collins, had a house in Romford (they seem to have owned property throughout the eastern part of Essex) and that she lived with them after his death and her mother’s remarriage.
As I noted in the last post, records for the Schwartz family are difficult to come by, and we know nothing of the lives of John Godfrey and Frances Schwartz after their marriage, except when their names, or those of their offspring, occur in the records for other families. On the other hand, we have excellent records for the Bonner family, with whom the story of the Schwartz family would be intertwined in the next generation.
John William Bonner and Sarah Ford
A little over a year after the marriage of John Godfrey Schwartz and Frances Collins, their cousin John William Bonner, eldest son of Captain Michael Bonner and his wife Frances Gibson, was married at the church of St Mary Whitechapel, the home parish of his bride, Sarah Ford. Another cousin, Bowes John Gibson, was one of the witnesses. John William and Sarah Bonner lived initially in Bermondsey, the part of London where John William had grown up, and their first two children were baptised at the parish church of St Magdalene (where his aunt and uncle, my 5 x great grandparents Elizabeth Collins née Gibson and Joseph Holdsworth, had been married two decades before). John Harker Bonner was born at Bermondsey Buildings in New Road in September 1782, and his brother George at the same address in January 1784. As the map shows, Bermondsey was at this time a growing, but still semi-rural suburb of London. By the time the Bonners’ third child, their daughter Mary Ann, was born in September 1783, they had moved back across the river and joined other family members in Mile End Old Town. It’s possible that John William Bonner’s work for the Royal Ordnance, which was based at the Tower of London, began around this time: the inscription on the family vault after his death would describe him as ‘late of His Majesty’s Ordinance Office, Tower’.
Part of Fairbairn’s London map of 1801, showing Bermondsey
Michael Bonner and Eleanor Tranton Sayle
Meanwhile, John William Bonner’s younger brother Michael, born in 1768, had followed in the footsteps of his father and namesake, Captain Michael Bonner, and had become a mariner. He married Eleanor Tranton Sayle in Bermondsey in August 1792, but they then lived in neighbouring Rotherhithe, where their twins Charles and Frances (1794) and their other children William George (1796), Michael (1800), Henry (1801), Eleanor (1803), Mary Ann (1807) and Susan (1808) were all born. Michael Bonner died at Paradise Street, Rotherhithe, in December 1811, while his widow Eleanor survived until 1844.
Before going on with the Bonners’ story, it’s worth pausing to note other events in the wider Gibson family from around this time. In April 1788 Mary Gibson, widow of John Gibson, and grandmother to John William Bonner and his cousins, made her will. She died just over two years later, in October 1790, at the age of ninety, at her home in Mile End Old Town. In November 1789 Mary’s unmarried daughter Sarah had made her own will, and in the event she predeceased her mother by a matter of days, dying at the age of forty-four after a ‘decline’.
Mile End Old Town, from Greenwood’s London map of 1827
Returning to the Bonners, I’ll note in passing that I suspect that George, the younger son of John William and Sarah Bonner, may have died in infancy. As for their other son John Harker Bonner, he married Mary Knight Christopher, the daughter of a London gunmaker, in February 1809. The Christophers appear to have been Dissenters, and John Harker and Mary Bonner would themselves be associated with the Stepney Independent Meeting, where two of their children were christened, and which I wrote about in an earlier post in connection with my seventeenth-century Greene ancestors.
John Godfrey Schwartz the younger and Mary Ann Bonner
And so we come to the Bonners’ only daughter, Mary Ann, who was married on 26th September 1813 at the church of St George the Martyr, Southwark. When I first came across this record, and saw that the name of the groom was John Godfrey Schwartz, I assumed that this was the same person who had married Frances Collins in 1780, and that this was his second marriage, Frances having died in the interim. However, that John Godfrey Schwartz would have been in his early fifties by the time he married Mary Ann Bonner, who was about twenty. More to the point, he would have been Mary Ann’s uncle.
However, I now think it likely that the John Godfrey Schwartz who married Mary Ann Bonner was actually the son of the John Godfrey Schwartz who married Frances Collins thirty-three years earlier, especially as the parish register describes him as a bachelor, rather than a widower. It would mean that bride and groom were second cousins. Mary Ann’s father John William Bonner was actually the cousin of both of John Godfrey Schwartz the younger’s parents.
The first of John and Mary Ann Schwartz’s children for whom we have a definite record is Marianne Frances, who was christened at St Mary, Whitechapel, on 5 August 1814. In the parish register John Schwartz is described as a clerk and the family is said to be living at ‘Roadside’, which I believe was a term used for (part of?) Whitechapel Road.
By the time their daughter Sarah was born two years later, John and Mary Ann Schwartz had moved to Limehouse: she was christened in St Anne’s church on 17 May 1816. The parish register has now upgraded John Schwartz’ status to ‘gentleman’. Another move, to Graham Street in Walworth, preceded the birth of a son, John Edward, in 1818: he was baptised at St Mary, Newington, on 14 June of that year. By the time their daughter Emma was born in 1820, John and Mary Ann had moved back across the river, to Patriot Square, Bethnal Green: the christening took place at the parish church of St Matthew’s. Their youngest child, as far as I can tell, was Francis Daniel, born in Mile End Old Town in 1822 and baptised at St Dunstan’s, Stepney, on 15 September. Emma Schwartz died two years later, aged 4, and was buried at St Dunstan’s.
As these records show, John and Mary Ann Schwartz moved house frequently during their marriage, and one gets the impression that they have may have been strapped for cash, albeit in a genteel way. John is variously described in the records as a gentleman, a clerk, and as an ‘interpreter of languages’. One of their daughters worked as a governness, while another married a Lancashire weaver and emigrated to Utah. One son was apprenticed to a loriner while another, Francis, worked variously as a painter, cellarman and port messenger. This decline in the family’s status and fortunes mirrors that of my own direct ancestors, the family of Elizabeth Holdsworth, formerly Collins, née Gibson, about whom I’ll write in another post.
Mary Ann Schwartz née Bonner, died in Mile End Old Town in 1829, aged 36, and was buried at St Dunstan’s church on 5th October. I’ve been unable to discover when her husband John Godfrey Schwartz died, though he was certainly dead by 1834, when his son John Edward’s apprenticeship certificate describes him as the son of the late John Godfrey Schwarts (sic), ‘late of 17 Swan Street, Minories, dec’d’.