Surname Saturday: GILBERT

Surname Saturday: GILBERT – The Gilbert family of Huntingdonshire and Cambridgeshire are the focus of this week’s meme day.

This week’s Surname Saturday post is that of my paternal Gilbert family. My connection is through my paternal Great Grandmother, who was born in 1884, in Littleport, Cambridgeshire.

With the help of the research of distant relative Colin Tabeart, the tree has been found to stretch back through time as far as 1694 when the family turns up in Abbotsley, Huntingdonshire (now part of Cambridgeshire). It is here that they are noted in the parish records and taxation records.

It appears that the earliest Gilbert I’ve found (with, as yet, an unproven connection) was in Abbotsley, Huntingdonshire in 1605, when a John Gilbert takes his daughter Maria to be baptised in the parish church of St Margaret on 24th February.

Abbotsley Church
St Margaret’s church at Abbotsley, Cambridgeshire.

By the beginning of the 18th century, the Gilbert families in Abbotsley were booming with each seemingly having at least 9 children, and up to as many as 13 children over a 24 year period – as was the case of James and Anne Gilbert between 1752 and 1776.

In 1767 at Abbotsley, Elizabeth Gilbert (née Hale) – the widow of James Gilbert – is noted as paying a Land Tax of £1, 19 shillings to a Mr Robert Edsope.

In 1828, the son of my Gilbert line – William – leaves Abbotsley and heads about 40 miles North East to Littleport in Cambridgeshire, where he married Elizabeth Brightly. The couple settle down in Burnt Chimney Drove – an area of rich agricultural fenland just to the North West of Littleport, where William becomes a farmer. The couple bear 12 children, although sadly a few of these don’t survive their early years.

Whilst William’s relocation may well have been because of his love for Elizabeth, his parents – Edward and Susan Gilbert have fallen on hard times –  by 1851 they are both noted as ‘paupers’ and are living with their daughter Mary and her husband Thomas Cade. Susan has become blind, but goes on to live another 8 years. Edward only lived until 1852.

Elizabeth Howlett and James Gilbert
Elizabeth Howlett and James Gilbert

Despite this hardship, William and Elizabeth were making progress for themselves and managing to live outside of poverty thanks to farming. Their 9th child (also Edward and Susan’s grandson), James, was my Great Great Grandfather, and he survived his two older brothers. In doing so, and in an act not unusual or unlike primogeniture, he inherited his father’s farm in 1879, which by 1871 had grown to 40 acres and employed one family.

By this time, James had got married to Elizabeth Howlett – and they had already bore two of their eventual family of nine children.

The family still lives and farms in the area today.

The Gilbert family at Littleport

Earlier this year I was given this incredible photograph showing three generations of my Gilbert family outside their house at Burnt Chimney Drove, Littleport, Cambridgeshire.

Second from the right (not counting the dog!) is my Gt Gt Grandfather, James Gilbert – farmer of Littleport. His wife, Elizabeth (née Howlett) stands proudly next to him. My Great Grandmother, Clara Gilbert is 6th from the right, with at least two of her sisters next to her.

Third from the left, is Caroline Coe – my Gt Gt Gt Grandmother – Elizabeth Gilbert (Howlett)’s mother. She married Thomas Howlett in nearby Mildenhall, Suffolk but when Elizabeth was at most, 2yrs old, he died in his mid 20s. Caroline re-married to a Robert Coe and they lived next door to the Gilbert family in this photo.

I’m identifying the photo as being about 1910-1916. It has to be before 1916 as this is when both James Gilbert and his wife Elizabeth died. Caroline Coe died shortly afterwards.

It’s impressive to find a photo with so many relatives in it AND outside their house. I previously had no photographs of any of these people with the exception of my own Gt Grandmother.