Elizabeth FENN 
- Born: 1846, Somersham SFK
- Christened: 23 Aug 1846, Somersham SFK
- Unmarried (1): Unknown
- Partnership (2): John Alexander (William) FOX 
- Marriage (3): Edward HANCOCK  on 29 Nov 1885 in Ipswich Registry Office, Suffolk
Elizabeth appeared on the 1851 census living with her family in Somersham.
In 1861 she was at 3 Fonnereau Road Ipswich, the only servant in the household of George Smyth, confectioner and possibly still in service there six years later at the time of the birth of her illigitimate child.
In 1867 she was a witness, when some 3 months pregnant, at her brother George's wedding to Margaret Jarman. Six months later in March 1868 at the age of 22 she gave birth to an illigitimate child named Oscar at 13 Mount St Mary Elms Ipswich and registered his birth herself one month in April 1868 without naming the father. Interestingly we know from the 1861 census that there was a Thomas Fenn, malt agent from Halesworth married to Hephzibah, living at 8 Mount St.
Elizabeth was a young girl used to her independence and living away from home. Yet she was still vulnerable and, unlike the biggest households, there was no "Mrs Bridges" to keep her in check. It was a big scandal for a servant to have a child. She was not happy enough to come clean and name the father and nor was she happy to have the child with her parents. If the father wasn't a member of her employer's household she was probably going to lose her job, unless she could hide the fact or find someone else to look after the baby. Oscar, therefore gets sent to Somersham and grows up with his grandparents, and young Aunt Annie Eliza. It is interesting that on the 1871 census Oscar is declared as the grandparents son even though Eliza at that time was 66 years of age! Annie becomes like a big sister to Oscar, and a boon to her mother, who probably appreciated the help. Her father Thomas' appreciation of this never dims - even when she, the baby of his family, herself becomes a single mother.
My 'cousin' Colin Fenn provided the first real clue as to what became of Elizabeth. He noticed a strange entry in the 1881 census:
Albert Street, Ipswich St Clement, Suffolk
Elizabeth FOX Head U Female 34 Somersham, Suffolk, Stay Maker
Frank FERN Son U Male 9 Ipswich, Suffolk, Scholar
Catherine FOX Daur U Female 7 Bury St Edmunds Scholar
Polly FOX Daur U Female 6 Ipswich Scholar
Jane HANCOCK Visitor U Female 6 Ipswich Scholar
Just how can an unmarried woman have a son with a different surname?
Further research confirmed that there was no Elizabeth Fox born in Somersham and the finding of the birth of a Frank Fenn Dec Quarter in Ipswich in 1871 who, like Oscar, had joined the Royal Artillery by 1891 seemed too much of a coincidence.
It soon became clear that in 1881 the enumerator has recorded Frank Fenn NOT Fern. Elizabeth had given birth to another illegitimate child in 1872, five years after Oscar. The 1881 census cover sheet suggests Frank was born in St Clement Ipswich. However the 1891 census shows both Frank and Oscar in the artillery in Great Yarmouth both born in St Mary Elm Ipswich. We know that Oscar was born at 13 Mount St Mary Elm Ipswich in 1868.
No sign of Elizabeth Fox, Jane Hancock or the Fox children in census after 1881 nor in Free BDM in Suffolk. Perhaps the birth certificates would provide a clue?
Another interesting conundrum was Jane Hancock aged 6 visitor staying with Elizabeth 'Fox' and Frank 'Fern' at the time of the 1881 Census. This was to turn out to be non other than the Jessie Hancock niece of William Fenn and Elizabeth's brother living at Richmond Road Ipswich in 1891.
A marriage for Elizabeth: an Elizabeth Fenn=Edward Hancock in Ipswich Dec Qtr 1885. Her husband Edward born in 1853 was 7 years younger than 'our' Elizabeth (1846).
On the 1891 census he was Master of a ship 'The Fairy' with one crew and in 1901 Master of a barge called 'The Swan' with two crew
There is no sign of Elizabeth in 1891 but in 1901 she living in Mistley Essex aged 55 husband Master Mariner. Children Nettie Hancock aged 24.
An Edward Hancock possibly = Sarah Emily Byford March Qtr 1874. Only two listed. No sign of her death. However Nettie would be too old to be a product of this marriage.
However I think the evidence to support the path of Elizabeth Fenn of Somersham has now been established:-
Oscar and Frank illegitimate by unknown father
Catherine Fox and 'Polly' Fox illegitimate by unknown father but presumably named Fox
Married Edward Hancock
To go back to Jane and Jessie Hancock I think they must be children of Edward by his first wife as going back to the 1871 census Edward appears to have been an only child
Matthews Part 2 (Fiche 65 onwards)
1873 Catherine Elizabeth Fenn, born 29 September and baptised 7 October 1898 Mother Elizabeth Fenn of Mistley Dress Maker No husband1875
1875 Nettie Fenn, born 27 February and baptised 7 October 1898. Mother Elizabeth Fenn of Mistley Dress Maker No husband
Interestingly in 1898 she was married to Edward Hancock!!
On the 1881 census there was a Catherine Elizabeth Fox and a Polly Fox both of which would correspond with the above dates and in 1901 we have Nettie Hancock! Nettie and Polly must be the same person.
I am now beginning to think that Oscar 1868, Frank 1872, Catherine Elizabeth 1873 and Nettie 1875 were brothers and sisters of the same father, a man called Fox.
A marriage certificate for 1) Elizabeth and Edward Hancock and June Qtr 1913, 2) Catherine E Fox who married Albert R Fowler Ipswich 4a 1766 (Ancestry) - Free BDM shows ref 176 and the three children after Oscar seems the best way forward. The Catherine marriage would appear to be her acknowledging her real father - could prove to be an interesting certificate
Interestingly Nettie used her step-fathers name at her wedding
1871 Birth Frank Fenn - Tower Terrace Ipswich. In 1881 he was with his mother in Albert Street Ipswich albeit she had changed her name to Fox and living with daughters Catherine Elizabeth Fox and Polly Fox. Looking at the census carefully it could well be Nettie rather than Polly and there is a birth of a Nettie Fox in Ipswich in 1875. Interestingly Elizabeth had them both girls baptised in St Matthews under the name of Fenn on 7th October 1898. I have as yet to find a baptism for Frank.
1873 Catherine Elizabeth Fox - Whiting Street Bury St Edmunds. It seems likely that Elizabeth had a lover by the name of Fox as she declared that name on the 1881 census. Catherine's birth certificate shows the father as John Alexander Fox. Note Elizabeth used the maiden name of Dickman!! I have yet to trace John Alexander Fox.
1885 Edward Hancock=Elizabeth Fenn (Not Fox!!) Elizabeth shown as spinster, father correctly declared as Thomas and now living in William Street. Incidentally Edward was on board a barge in Ipswich in 1891 and 1901 when Elizabeth was in Mistley. I had assumed that he went from the Orwell to the Stour and back, but I like your thought that he may have worked on Stour Navigation.
1897 Frank Fenn=Sarah Neale Corporal RA residence Dover. Interestingly one of the witnesses was his brother Oscar Frederick Fenn as also the fathers name!!! No sign of Elizabeth.
1903 John Mead=Nettie Hancock father given as Edward Hancock. Interesting that she married as a Hancock despite birth being registered as Fox and shown as such on the 1881 census and a Fenn when baptised in 1898. Father is declared as Edward Hancock. Again no sign of Elizabeth.
Other Marriage Certificates. Catherine E Fox turned out to be a Catherine Ellen Fox and William Thomas Jacobs does not seem to gel with William Thomas Jacobs Fenn.
Jane Hancock and Polly Fox are both shown on the 1881 census (both aged 6) as living with Elizabeth, Frank Fern and Catherine Fox, so not the same person. The enumerators writing looks like Pelly and not Polly. I suspect that Jane Hancock is a child of Edward Hancocks first marriage as on the marriage certificate to Elizabeth he is shown as a widower. Probably Edward Hancock=Sarah Emily Byford March Qtr 1874 Ipswich. Also a death of Sarah Emily Hancock in June Qtr 1879 in Ipswich aged 26 which ties in nicely. There is also a birth of a Jessie Florence Hancock in Dec Qtr 1874 Ipswich but no sign of a Jane Hancock. On the 1891 census there is a Jessie Hancock aged 16 living with William Fenn and shown as niece. I think that Jane and Jessie are one and the same. Janet is a form of Jessie and Janet and Jane are linked! Again age and year of birth tie in.
I think the Nettie mentioned on the certificate is not actually Polly
but Jane. (a little unusual but Janet or Jeanette are sometimes called
Nettie) This would be consistent with the young "Jane Hancock" in the
I found Elizabeth on the Mistley census for 1891 by trawling through the sheets
Elizabeth Hancock Mar 44 wife
Catherine Hancock Dau 17
Nettie Hancock Dau 15 Elementary teacher
Catherine were the two baptised in Ipswich as Fenn in 1898
Also found Nettie's future husband John Mead on the 1891 Mistley census. Nettie was clearly known in Mistley as Hancock so no surprise at her using that name on her marriage. I still suspect that Catherine & Nettie were christened in their 20s at St Matthews in 1898 as an attempt at reconciliation with Alderman George.
We also know that in 1901 Elizabeth & Nettie were still in Mistley and that in 1891 a Jessie Hancock was with William Fenn in Richmond Road Ipswich.
I can find no trace of Jessie Florence Hancock in 1901 and therefore remain convinced that Jane Hancock of 1881 and Jessie Hancock 1901 are one and the same person.
I might have some information about Edward's occupation that you might find interesting given your predilection for river boats. . . . .
Manningtree and Mistley were the places where upstream traffic got loaded onto sea-going boats. Being the master of a barge there implies one thing to me; he would be a Stour lighterman. Coincidentally there is a pub called the Henny Swan <www.hennyswan.com>
The River Stour was an 'improved' river created by the first Parliamentary Navigation act of c 1700. In other words, it was the precursor to the national canal network that you frequent with your canal boat! Lighters worked up and down the river until WW2; unusually they would be coupled in pairs, steered by a master with a boy walking a horse. See "Stour lighters" here: <www.riverstourtrust.org> and here: <www.chelmercanaltrust.co.uk/nl17.htm#2>
The lighters were constructed at Flatford, as immortalised by John Constable in numerous paintings of the Stour valley. <www.artrenewal.org/asp/database/art.asp?aid=782&page=2>
Downstream would go fertilizer and Xylonite plastics from Brantham, or wheat, oats, beans, flour, peas, barley, malt, bran and clover seed, oil, pitch, soap, vinegar, paper, tallow, iron, lead, sugar, coal and bricks from Sudbury. And grindstones for the mills. Traffic upstream for Brantham would include Guano and Urea!
And now for the curious coincidence:
John Fenn, saymaker of Sudbury, was one of the founders of the River Stour Navigation company. His son Thomas (d.1787) was JP, General Receiver of Land Tax and a political agent for Sudbury, and was related to Thomas Gainsborough. The name Burkitt is associated with this family, who had retail and wholesale shops in Cornhill, London. It seems later generations stayed in London.
We have another interesting conundrum. You will have spotted the Jane
Hancock aged 6 visitor with Elizabeth ?Fox? and Frank ?Fern? 1881 Census
Also do you remember there was a Jessie Hancock niece of William Fenn
Richmond Road in 1891.
1. Census: England, 1851, Somersham SFK. Elizabeth is recorded as aged 4 born Somersham, SFK
2. Census: England, 1861, Somersham SFK. Ipswich St Margaret 1165 f143p1 "Elizabeth Fenn Servant Unm 15 General Servant Somersham"
Elizabeth had a relationship with.
Elizabeth had a relationship with John Alexander (William) FOX  [MRIN: 2888]. (John Alexander (William) FOX  was born about 1846.)
Elizabeth next married Edward HANCOCK  [MRIN: 2887] on 29 Nov 1885 in Ipswich Registry Office, Suffolk. (Edward HANCOCK  was born in 1853 in Ipswich, SFK.)