27 August 2014

Robert Morpeth

Today’s photo is unusual in that Robert Morpeth was known by two names.



There were a few Robert Morpeths to choose from but after finding the right one, living at the same address as on the back of the photo, in the 1911 census, I followed him backwards to the earlier census. I found him living at 12 Murray St, Stanley, Durham in 1901 also and in Tanfield, Durham in 1891 & 1881.

In 1861 there was a Robert Morpeth of the right age living in Usworth, Durham & his parents were William & Elizabeth but after that I just could not find him in the 1851 when he should have been at home with them aged about 3. According to the age of his eldest child I ascertained that he had married his wife Jane in or about 1869 but there was no marriage registered for them either.

I kept getting mixed up with another Robert Morpeth who was about the same age but his parents were William & Mary so I needed to go back one or more generations to work it out.

I couldn’t find a marriage for Robert’s parents either which was very frustrating but I soldiered on! I found a William Morpeth of the right age (17) in the 1841 census living in Walker, Northumberland (where he said he’d been born in a later census) with a Mary Morpeth aged 37 and two other Morpeth children:- Jane aged 9 & Nicholas aged 4. Also living in the same house was a John Vest aged 32.

After further investigation I found five Morpeth baptisms for parents Robinson & Mary Morpeth at Longbenton, Northumberland, two of them being Jane & Nicholas, there was also Margaret, Sarah & Mary. If this was the right family where were the three other girls in 1841? Luckily the Longbenton parish records are available on FindMyPast so I was able to find two burials, for Margaret & Sarah, both on the same day, Margaret aged 1 and Sarah aged 5. Mary had been born/baptised in 1828 so she was probably old enough to have been living away from home as a servant.

So that left son William, but where was his baptism, nowhere that I could find!! After finding the marriage of Robinson Morpeth to Mary Vest at Newcastle upon Tyne in 1827 it all started falling into place – remember the John Vest living with Mary Morpeth and her three children in 1841? He was her brother and subsequently I found that husband Robinson had died in 1838.

When I noticed that William had been born about 1824, before his mother was married, I then looked for a William Vest baptism and found it on familysearch.org but strangely he was the son of John & Mary Vest instead of just Mary as I was expecting. Luckily, most of the original Durham & Northumberland parish registers are available to search on familysearch.org and this is what I found (Wallsend is where William said he was born in the 1861 census):-


This was the EXACT same baptism that was on familysearch.org except they had given him a father! How that happened I’ll never know because none of the father’s names on the baptisms on that page were John so the transcriber hadn’t made the mistake of looking at the wrong baptism when transcribing it.

So now I was able to find them all in the census plus marriages etc under the name of Vest when I couldn’t find them under Morpeth. I do know that children who were born illegitimately were more often known as the name they were baptised with, what I don’t understand is why they used both names variously throughout their lives, probably just to confuse us!

Here we have the baptism of Robert Vest son of William & Elizabeth Vest, baptised at Walker, on the same day as his cousin Sarah Morpeth the illegitimate daughter of William’s sister Mary Morpeth – or  half-sister as I don’t know if Robinson Morpeth was William’s father or not, I suspect not, but who knows as William did use both surnames during his married life:-


William Vest had married Elizabeth Parkinson in the 4qtr of 1845, and Robert married Jane Atkinson in the 4qtr of 1869, both at Newcastle upon Tyne, Robert was married as Robert Vest. Robert & Jane had four children, one of them also named Robert born in 1890 – which begs the question ‘which Robert is the one in the photo’? I think he’s the father but others may have a different opinion.


If anyone knows anything about or is connected to the VEST or MORPETH families please do contact me, I would love to pass the photo onto a family member, even a distant one. Contact by email is preferable but if you are going to leave a comment please don’t forget to include your email address.

Dawn Scotting

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