Of all the ancestors I have discovered in my research so far, Mary Jane Carroll (previously Wright, previously Freeth, formerly Clark) is the one whom I’d most like to meet.  She comes across as an incredibly strong and loving mother, full of life and spirit.

In a recent post I showed a newspaper clipping with her and her children around her.  Apart from her eldest daughter Mary1, they were all born in England, but Mary Jane’s strong Irish roots apparently ensured a very Irish household.

So where in Ireland is she from?  Good question!  And one which has many answers…

First off, a brief run down of what I know about her life.  She was born in Ireland, the daughter of John Clark2.  At some point she married James Freeth and had at least two children with him – Mary (known as Mollie) born in Meath, Ireland around 1877, and Percy born in “South Camp, Aldershot, Hants” on August 31st, 1878.3 In the newspaper clipping I have it says “she had for her first husband Colour Sergt…” – this I am assuming is James Freeth, and it sounds likely he was in the military. (I have not found a service record for him yet.)

Mary Jane and Ephraim Wright (probably wedding photo, 1882)

Mary Jane and Ephraim Wright (probably wedding photo, 1882)

Something happened to James, because on March 13th 1882, Mary Jane Freeth, widow,  married Ephraim Wright, bachelor.2 They go on to have five children1:

  • Lavinia born around 1883 in Deptford, Kent
  • James Arthur born around 1885 in Deptford, Kent
  • Joseph William born around 1887 in Rotherhithe, Surrey
  • Ephraim George born around 1889 in Deptford, Kent
  • Alexander (my great grandfather) born June 27th 1891 in Deptford, now London5

On November 26th 1894, Ephraim (senior) died of “Enteric Fever”, otherwise known as typhoid.6 He was thirty three years old and left his widow Mary Jane destitute.  According to my (first, twice removed) cousin Lally7, the local Catholic priests helped place Lavinia into a girls school, and two of the boys – James and (Ephraim) George – into St Joseph’s Orphanage in Orpington.  Joseph was brought up by Mary Jane’s sister Annie and her husband Joseph Sullivan.  And wee baby Alec was kept by Mary Jane.  Such hard times, having to let your children go.

In 1901 “Mary Clark Wright”, widow, is living in Deptford with two of her sons: James 16, who is a messenger, and Alexander, 9, a school boy.8 However, in the June quarter of 1901, she marries John Carroll9, and it was as “Grandma Carroll” that my cousin Lally knew her.

John and Mary Jane Carroll (previously Wright, previously Freeth, formerly Clark), Nov 1917

John and Mary Jane Carroll (previously Wright, previously Freeth, formerly Clark), Nov 1917

On February 12th 1932, Mary Jane died of cerebal thrombosis at 2A Woolwich Road.  She had been living at 180 Evelyn Street, the “widow of John Carroll, General Labourer”.  The informant was her son, George Wright.10

Tomorrow I’ll tackle the mystery of her birthplace.

  1. “1891 England Census, Ephraim Wright (age 30) household, St Paul Deptford, London,” Ancestry.com, (http://www.ancestry.co.uk/, accessed 01 Oct 2010), citing PRO RG12/494, folio 67, p 63, GSU roll: 6095604, Greenwich registration district, St Paul Deptford sub-registration district, ED 2, household 323, 05 Apr 1891.
  2. England, marriage certificate for Ephraim Wright and Mary Jane Freeth; 13 Mar 1882, Lewisham; citing Mar 1882 [quarter] 01d [vol] 1019 [page], General Register Office, Stockport.
  3. England, birth certificate for Percy Freeth; 31 Aug 1878, Farnham; citing Sep 1878 [quarter] 2a [vol] 111 [page], General Register Office, Stockport.
  4. “An Imperial Service Family”, undated clipping from unidentified newspaper; digital image, scanned May 2009 from original held by [NAME AND ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE]; inherited from Audrey Dearness, Gisborne, NZ.
  5. England, birth certificate for Alexander Wright; 27 Jun 1891, St Paul Deptford; digital image, scanned May 2009 from original held by [NAME AND ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE]; inherited from Audrey Dearness, Gisborne, NZ, daughter of Alexander.
  6. England, death certificate for Ephraim Wright; 26 Nov 1894, Greenwich; citing Dec 1894 [quarter] 01d [vol] 552 [page], General Register Office, Stockport.
  7. Alice (Lally) Coppinger (Lomita, California), interviewed Dec 1991; audiotape privately held by author.  Coppinger, now deceased, was granddaughter of Mary Jane.
  8. “1901 England Census, Mary Clark Wright (age 45) household, St Nicholas Deptford, London,” Ancestry.com, (http://www.ancestry.co.uk/, accessed 2010), citing PRO RG13/526, folio 118, p 60, Greenwich registration district, North Deptford sub-registration district, ED 18, household 300, 31 Mar 1901.
  9. “England & Wales, FreeBMD Index: 1837-1983,” database, FreeBMD (http://www.freebmd.org.uk/cgi/search.pl : accessed 2010), marriage entry for John Carroll and Mary Jane Wright; citing Jun 1901 [quarter] Greenwich 1d [vol] 1817 [page].
  10. England, death certificate for Mary Jane Carroll; 12 Feb 1932, Greenwich; citing 1932 Mar [quarter] 01d [vol] 1231 [page], General Register Office, Stockport.