Who was Sarah Read? 
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Sarah Read

18th January 1845 - 19th January 1917


Sarah Read was my maternal great-grandmother. She was born in Bethnal Green, London, and moved to Weymouth sometime before 1871. She married William George Orchard (more about him here) on 22nd May 1871 at Wyke Regis.


However, her own ancestry and those of the rest of her family, and also what happened to many of them remain something of a mystery. The information that I have about them, and where I have searched, are presented here.


Sarah's origins.


On 22 May 1871, at Wyke Regis, William George Orchard, seaman, aged 22 married Sarah Read, also aged 22. Fathers John Orchard, labourer, and John Read, labourer.
The 1871 Census shows Sarah Read living with John & Ann Orchard (William George's parents) in Silver Street, Weymouth. She was aged 22, a visitor, House Maid, born London.
In the 1881 Census, living at 6 Cornish Row, Chickerell, were William Orchard, head, and Sarah Orchard, wife aged 32, born London.
Sarah’s birthday, according to her daughter-in-law, was 18th January, 1845, but Census returns and age at marriage suggested the year 1849. Also, according to the details recorded on the Marriage Certificate, Sarah's father was John Read.

However, her Birth Certificate tells a different story:

52 Hare Marsh, Bethnal Green, 18th January 1845, Sarah Read born, father John Miller, weaver, mother Maria Read.

The 1851 Census for Bethnal Green shows the family:

62 Hare Street, Bethnal Green:
John Millar Head 56 Silk Weaver [born]  Bethnal Green
Maria "Millar" Wife 41 Hand Loom Weaver - Silk Shoreditch
Charles Millar Son 16 labourer Shoreditch
John Read Son 12 errand boy Bethnal Green
Maria Read Dau 10   Bethnal Green
Sarah Read Dau 6 scholar Bethnal Green
Alfred Read Son 4 scholar Bethnal Green
Walter Read Son 1 scholar Bethnal Green

Note: “Millar” has been written over the top of Maria’s original surname entry; close examination suggests it was almost certainly “Read”.


John Miller's origins.


The IGI has the following information:


Children of William and Sarah Miller:

Elizabeth, 17th May 1785; Samuel, 10th January 1787; William, 9th February 1788; Joseph, 25th February 1789; James, 2th January 1791; Sarah, 10th April 1792; John, 8th March 1795; Sarah Elizabeth, 27th April 1798.

All these baptisms were in Bethnal Green.


Also, William Miller married Sarah Hansard, 23rd October 1784, in Bethnal Green.


The 1841 Census for 44 Hare Street, Bethnal Green has the following:

                                                                                John Millar, 45, Silk weaver

                                                                                Ann Reid, 25

                                                                                Edwin Millar, (age undecipherable)

                                                                                Charles Reed (corrected from Reid), 6 (?)

                                                                                John Reed (corrected from Reid), 2

                                                                                Maria Reed, 7 months

                                                                                All born in Middlesex.


I have not found an entry for 44 Hare Street in 1851, nor 62 Hare Street in 1841. Ann  could (must?) be Maria. Charles Reed ties in with Charles Miller in the 1851 census.  To date I have still found no birth/baptism of a Maria Read in 1810 or an Ann  Read around 1815 which would fit.

Sarah's siblings.

CHARLES (Reid or Millar) born 1835 according to the 1841 census in Middlesex, and the 1851 Census in Shoreditch. No other evidence for birth (or surname) found yet.
JOHN, born 1839 according to the 1841 census in Middlesex, and the 1851 census, in Bethnal Green. No matching registration of a birth can be found in the GRO indexes.

MARIA, born November 1840 according to the 1841 census in Middlesex (age 7 months) and the 1851 census in Bethnal Green. No matching registration of a birth can be found in the GRO indexes.


ALFRED born 1847 according to the 1851 Census, in Bethnal Green. His Birth Certificate records Date of Birth 1st March 1847; Mother Maria Read, no father; Address 62 Hare Street, Bethnal Green.


WALTER, born 1849 according to the 1851 Census, in Bethnal Green. His Birth Certificate records Date of Birth 28th November 1849; Mother Maria Read, no father; Address 62 Hare Street, Bethnal Green.


What happened after 1851?


I have found no certain entries for John Miller, Charles Miller, Ann or Maria Read, John Read or Alfred Read after the 1851 census, having checked all the UK Censuses.


It is possible that some of the family emigrated; at about this time the silk industry in the area was in decline.


It may be that several members of the family died at about the same time; cholera was rife in London at this time. However, searches of the GRO Indexes have not shown any evidence for this.


Maria and Walter Read.


Maria married George Taylor on 3rd September 1861. She named her father as John Reed, deceased.


Walter married Christine Retallick 14th June 1874. He said his father was John Read, a weaver (which John Miller was). The Marriage Certificate does not indicate that John was deceased.


(Remember that when she married in 1871 Sarah said her father was John Read, a labourer. Again no indication was given that he was deceased.)


To date Walter has not been positively identified in the 1861 Census. However, in the 1871 Census, Stepney, at 10 Luke Street, Maria and George now have 2 children, George and Sarah. Walter Read aged 21, unmarried, Table maker, is living with them.
By 1881 George and Maria have another child, Rebecca. Living with them is a 5 year old nephew, Walter Read. Walter and Catherine Read had one son, born 6th May 1875. This boy was the nephew living with Maria and George. Catherine Read’s death was recorded in the 3rd quarter of 1876 in Shoreditch.
In 1891 Maria and George are living in Mile End New Town. Living with them is their 26 year old son, George A Taylor. Also in the house are three grandchildren, Eliza Smith aged 10, George Smith aged 7 and Alfred Smith aged 5. Apparently these are the children of Maria and George’s eldest daughter, Eliza. In 1879 she married a George Smith in Whitechapel. However, by 1891 she had ‘run off’ with a Joseph Carr, leaving her children behind.
Also in 1891 Walter, now shown as a widower, and his son were boarders in a house in Bethnal Green. Walter has not been traced in the 1901 Census. The only death recorded for a Walter Read which fits other details was on 14th April 1896. The death occurred in Charing Cross Hospital. However, the address (Kensington) and occupation (Mercantile Clerk) do not fit.

Maria died on 16th June 1897.


Maria’s son George Taylor married Sarah’s daughter Ada Orchard, in Weymouth on 21st October 1893. It is possible they may not have realised their true relationship.


Outstanding Questions.

  1. What were the origins of Maria (Ann) Read senior?


  2. Did she and John Miller ever marry?


  3. What happened to most of the family after 1851?

  4. Where was Walter Read in 1861 and 1901?
  5. I do not know who the Jane Read, witness at Walter’s marriage was.
  6. In the 1881 Census, recorded with William and Sarah Orchard in Weymouth, was Elizabeth Miller, visitor, unmarried, aged 36, domestic servant, born Weymouth, Dorset.
    1. Could this be another of Sarah’s relatives? I can find no record of anyone fitting that description in earlier censuses or the GRO. Nor does anyone born in Middlesex fit for certain.

Any help in answering these questions would be much appreciated!

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