Monday, 23 February 2009

Stagoll verses Steggall

Frederick Vincent Brook's autobiography names his paternal grandmother as Elizabeth Steggall. Although we are fortunate enough to have a transcription of some of her diary entries we have always struggled to learn much about her origins or even her marriage to John Brooks. It now seems that the spelling of her surname could well have thrown us off the scent.

Our first inkling that something was not right was when the only marriage record we could find for the name John Brooks was for a marriage to an Elizabeth Stagoll. This wedding took place on the 10th May 1808, which is a little early considering Frederick's memory of John Brooks returning from America 'in time for the Waterloo Rejoicing' in 1815. At a time when there was only one form of contraception it is also unusual that Frederick's father, Vincent Brooks, wasn't born until the same year.

Was there any evidence to back up the 1808 marriage certificate?
We are fortunate to have a copy of the record of Vincent Brook's first marriage to Mary Ann Wybrow in 1839. Elizabeth, his mother, signed as a witness to the event. Although surnames are different (the first an unmarried Stagoll, the second a married Brooks) we can compare the signatures from the two marriage documents. Both names are abbreviated to 'Elizth' and are remarkably alike.

What else do we know about Elizabeth that might add weight to our theory?
All we know about her family comes from a snippet in her diary:

"My beloved sister Fanny married Feb 27th, 1820.
Elizabeth Matilda Clara born Dec 30th, 1820, her only child.
On the 10th of January 1826 my dear sister with her husband & child were lost off the Texel coming from Bolivia to Amsterdam".

A search of parish records for Elizabeth Steggall produces nothing.
A search for Stagoll gives us the following results:

Elizabeth Clarkson and John stagoll Married 1787 St.Botolph Without Aldgate,
Children and christening dates:
Elizabeth Stagoll, 1789 St.Olave
Mary Stagoll, 26.10.1791 St. Botolph Without Aldgate
Matilda Amelia Stagoll, 17.08.1792 St. Olave
Martha Stagoll, 09.10.1793 St.Olave Hart Street
Fanny Stagoll, 26.06.1796 St.Botolph Without Aldgate
Jonathan Stagoll, 15.05.1803 St. Botolph Without Aldgate

So here we find an Elizabeth Stagoll who would have been nineteen or twenty at the time of the 1808 marriage and who also had a younger sister called Fanny. This fits in nicely with the diary entry. In naming her child 'Elizabeth Matilda', could Fanny also have been using the names of two of her older sisters?

The chances of our Elizabeth being a Stagoll instead of a Steggall are looking more likely. However, does the real key to the mystery lie in the name of a witness on the 1808 marriage certificate?

To follow, Harriet Robinson and the Devil's Chaplain...

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