Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Mystery surrounding George Washington Gibbs of Aylesbury, St Albans and Liverpool

The St Albans Clock Tower in 1826
 showing George Washington Gibbs' shop
When Robert Gibbs (1766-1808) died at Aylesbury he left a family of five sons and one daughter. He appointed two trustees, Thomas Dawney and Jasper Jackson, to administer his affairs and as each of the sons became 21 they were set up in business. The first was my great great grandfather, John Gibbs, who became an auctioneer and pawnbroker. The fourth was George Washington Gibbs and shortly after he became 21 he (assisted by his brother John) leased a shop at the bottom of the Clock Tower in St Albans in 1824. This was the beginning of the Gibbs family involvement in the life of St Albans, leading to the publication of the St Albans Times and Herts Advertiser in 1855.

Liverpool Customs House - built 1839
For some reason George left St Albans circa 1830 and the printing business was continued by George's youngest brother, Richard, who later became Mayor of St Albans. George ended up as a landing waiter for the Customs service at Liverpool, where he oversaw the unloading of ships' cargoes. Why did he go there? Had he run into financial difficulties and been bailed out by the family? I am still looking for clues.

Recently Andrew contacted me about another mystery. In the 1841 census George was living in Liverpool with a woman called Elizabeth Gibbs, his two daughter's by his wife Ann (who died in 1838) and an infant Alfred Gibbs. However both Elizabeth and baby Alfred vanish from the records without trace, and neither are mentioned in George's will when he died in 1865.

What appears to have happened is that George has never married Elizabeth Pearson, although the child was registered as Alfred Gibbs, and they split up after the 1841 census. Something then happened to Elizabeth and Alfred Pearson ended up in the workhouse in 1851. He later grew up and raised a family. The key clues to the link between the missing Alfred Gibbs and Alfred Pearson are that Alfred's death in 1912 was registered as Alfred Washington Pearson, and in 1884 he named one of his children Alfred Washington Gibbs Pearson. Excellent circumstantial evidence - but will we ever find any surviving documentary evidence.

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