The story of Frances (Fanny) Harriet Yates and her family – Part 3

This is my great grandmother – the daughter-in-law of Fanny Yates.

Priscilla Jane Yates nee Mecham

It’s been a long time since my last post – sorry about that. Various things got in the way of my finishing off what I knew of Fanny Yates story. One of the problems with investigating family history online is that it is so easy to get side-tracked. I’m afraid I’ve been spending too much time finding new information about other members of my family tree (the Mechams, Ricketts, Newmans, Vyes etc. etc. – the list goes on and on…) and not enough on writing about what I’ve already found – the possible ancestors of Edward Cavendish Yates.

Before I continue I should warn all readers that I have decided to take the reckless step of leaving out apostrophes while using family names (if the convention is that they should be there). I know this will massively offend some, but quite honestly I’d rather leave them out than get them irritatingly wrong. I thought I knew the so-called rules, but because I’m constantly referring to families by surnames, some of which end in S, I’m finding that far from getting better at using apostrophes I’m getting worse!  E.g. Jones’s, Jones’ or Jones – possessive, plural, neither or even both – Jones’s’ 😉

Feel free to comment if you want to challenge my decision – or help me out!

At least I know I won’t be heavily criticised by the likes of Stephen Fry or Michael Rosen who certainly know more about the changing nature of punctuation than I do.

So here we go with the very last part of Frances Harriet Yates and her possible maternal connection to my great grandfather Edward Cavendish Yates.

One detail I left out in the last episode of Fanny’s story was that Lucy Smart (‘funded proprietor’ of 78 years, listed as lodging at 29 Manor Street, Chelsea with Fanny, the Christies and the Tillings in the 1861 census) also had family connections. Her uncle was Priscilla Jane Mecham’s great grandfather. And if you’ve forgotten the identity of the said Priscilla – she becomes the wife of Edward Cavendish Yates in 1873 and is the woman in the picture above.

You should find all the records I refer to in this blog somewhere down the right hand side of this page.

Fanny is recorded as ‘Cousin’ in 1871

As I mentioned in the last blog, in 1871 Fanny’s relationship to the head of the household, Ann Tilling, was recorded as ‘cousin’ for the first time . At first I thought this was just an indication of the friendship that had grown between the two women. However, when I discovered that this change in relationship was recorded less than two years before Edward Cavendish Yates and Priscilla Jane Mecham got married, it seemed just a bit too much of a coincidence. If, as I was trying to prove, Fanny was the mother of Edward then she would indeed become a distant cousin by marriage to Ann Tilling once the couple had ‘tied the knot’.

So, in 1873 Edward and Priscilla got married at St John’s Parish Church, Margate.  Edward obviously decided to include a name for his father even though his birth certificate was blank for this relationship. This could mean that Edward’s father’s name really was Edward Yates but my view is that this is unlikely.

Marriage Cert of Edward C Yates and Priscilla J Mecham

Marriage solemnized at The Parish Church in the Parish of St John Thanet in the County of Kent. When Married: October 11th 1873. Name and Surname: Edward Cavendish Yates. Priscilla Jane Mecham. Age: 28 / 19. Condition: Bachelor / Spinster. Rank or Profession: Tutor. Residence at the time of Marriage: Margate. Father’s Name and Surname: Edward Yates / Thomas William Mecham. Rank or Profession of Father: Gentleman / Gentleman. Witnesses: Charles Q.(Quested) Baker, Jane Mecham, Jessie P. Last, Henry Powell Huggins.

At the time of his marriage I believe Edward Cavendish Yates provided his own first name and surname for that of his father’s.  (After all, as the first son of his fictitious father, it’s most likely he would have been named after him). He also gave ‘gentleman’ as his father’s occupation (which may or may not have been true). Why do I have these nasty suspicions? Well, on close inspection of Edward’s birth certificate his mother, Fanny, has provided only one surname, presumably her maiden name, when the document specifically asks for name, surname and maiden surname.  If Edward Cavendish Yates father really was called Edward Yates, that would mean both his parents shared the same surname at birth.  If this were the unlikely case they would probably be cousins. If they were cousins (not that I can find cousins called Fanny and Edward Yates), I think that family pressure would have ensured they married when Fanny became pregnant? That’s my theory – and if I were a bastard (a term quite freely used on birth/baptism records around this time) getting married in 1873, I think I might have faked my father’s identity too!

Of course my own family’s version of Edward’s parenthood is that his second name, Cavendish, was the real giveaway to his illegitimate ancestry and genetic connection to one of the Duke’s of Devonshire.

Did Edward’s bride-to-be Priscilla and her family know that Edward was illegitimate? I don’t know, but I have reason to believe that circumstances may have arisen within Priscilla’s own family that may have made them more accepting of Edward’s ‘condition’ than most. I’ll explain more when I move on to the Mecham family in this blog. 

Edward’s marriage in Margate gives us the first indication of where he was living after his birth in Marylebone. Priscilla, his new wife, was born and brought up in Margate so it’s possible that’s where they met. Once married I know they continued to live in the same area because the births of their first two children, Edward Cavendish and Rose Jeanette, were both registered in Thanet.

Edward and Rose Yates – Edward and Priscilla Yates’ eldest children who were born in Margate. I have created these little portraits from a larger group photograph taken at their younger sister’s wedding in Ealing.

Edward C YatesRose J R Garrard nee Yates

Sadly I don’t know exactly where the new Yates family lived in Margate. I do know, however, that before her marriage, Priscilla lived with her family in Clifton Terrace. It is possible the couple and their two young children continued to live at this same address until their third child was born in 1877, by which time, they had moved to Barnsbury, Middlesex (now part of the London Borough of Islington).

If you click on the image below, you’ll find two different images from the 1860s of Clifton Terrace, Margate.

Clifton Terrace, Margate 1860s. From the Hotspot viewer at Margate In Maps and Pictures compiled by Anthony Lee

Clifton Terrace, Margate 1860s. From Margate In Maps and Pictures compiled by Anthony Lee at Click the image to go to the website.

To find out more about Margate local history visit Margate in Maps and Pictures compiled by Anthony Lee.

By 1881 Edward and Priscilla had had three more children – Walter James Henry, Lillian Flora and Charles George and had moved once again, this time to Derby Road, Stretton in Horninglow, Staffordshire.

All this while, from 1871 to 1881, Fanny Yates (Edward’s possible mother) had continued to lodge in Manor Street, Chelsea. Ann Tilling, the head of the household, had died in 1874 and her daughter Sarah took over the occupation of House Agent. Sadly, six years later, Sarah’s husband also died. By the time of the 1881 census there were only three people registered as living in the house – Sarah Christie, her daughter Sarah A. L. Christie and Fanny Yates. Fanny was still working as a dressmaker, but was recorded in this census (for the first time since her birth) as Frances H. Yates. At last I had definite proof that the Fanny Yates I had been ‘following’ really was the same person christened Frances Harriett Yates at St Martins in the Fields Middlesex in 1828. So now I can say with some confidence that when Frances Harriett Yates went to live with her older sister in Manor Street Chelsea at the age of 23, she was known as Fanny. (Fanny is a shortening of Frances but also a name in it’s own right). This version of her name remained through her thirties and forties while she lodged with Ann Tilling’s family just down the road, possibly because they didn’t even realise her full name was Frances.  Fortunately for me and my research, once Ann Tilling had died, and by the time Fanny was in her fifties, she was once again being recorded in the censuses as Frances. She was a similar age to Sarah, Ann’s daughter, the new head of the household, so perhaps this affectionate name for Frances had only been used by Ann. Perhaps Frances H Yates was her business name? Perhaps Frances filled in the census form herself for the first time. It doesn’t really matter. What counts is that whoever filled in the census form for the household in 1881, not only provided Fanny’s full name but also her middle initial – H for Harriett (and Hip Hip Hooray!).

The young Yates family lived in Staffordshire for just a couple of years. In that time their youngest son George was born but died two years later. Whether the next move was prompted by their child’s death I don’t know, but by 1883 the family had moved to Barnet in Hertfordshire and their next child, my grandmother, May Ethel was born. Their next daughter was born in 1886 in Fulham and was given the name of Edward’s mother Fanny – she was Fanny Constance Mary Yates.

Four years later in 1891 Fanny Yates or Frances H Yates was still living in Manor Street Chelsea having reached the age of 64. A surprising detail is that her occupation is no longer dressmaker  but retired costumière. Four years before, even though Edward and Priscilla’s youngest daughter had been given Edward’s mother’s name Fanny, it appears she had had no contact with the family. Unfortunately this doesn’t really support my theory that Frances Harriett was Edward’s mother – but then maybe she had been made to stay away?

Just suppose for one moment that I am right and that this single dressmaker of 64 years (and probably the last surviving member of her own immediate family) was the mother of Edward Cavendish Yates Snr. In that case, I’m pretty certain that the Edward was separated from his mother very early in life. But where did he go? Fanny went to live at her sister’s without a baby. It doesn’t appear that they ever lived together. Who brought Edward up? Where did he reappear from in 1873? It does seem likely that Fanny knew of her son’s marriage, at least from the other family members where she lodged who chose to regard her from then on as a cousin. Did she ever see her son or her grandchildren? Did Edward know his mother was alive and living in Chelsea? He spent his working life teaching music and living like a gentleman, but when he died I think there was little or no money to support his unmarried daughters. Where had his education and money come from?

The most surprising part of the story, when I eventually found the document, was that when Fanny died the following year in 1892 she left no will. However probate records show her effects came to £1742 5s. 5d. – quite a large sum in those days. Oddly, she left this sum to the solicitor of the Treasury not to Edward or even Sarah Christie’s daughter who she must have known well. Was this money she had made working all those years as a dressmaker/costumière? If so she had obviously worked hard and been very successful (dressmakers of the time were among the poorest women as a rule). Or had she been set up in business by a secret benefactor? If she had left her money to Edward it would so neatly have ‘tied up’ all the ‘loose ends’ for me … but she didn’t! I’ve tried to find out if anyone claimed the money she left after she died but was unable to make any headway.

We will probably never know whether Frances Harriett Yates was my great great grandmother Fanny Yates – but it’s still been a fascinating story even if it’s wrong! If you happen to read this blog and can ‘shed some light’ on anything please contact me, send a photo or leave a comment. Otherwise that’s it for Fanny for now – thanks for reading.


As Edward and Priscilla’s children are my grandmother’s generation, most of my family know quite a bit about them. More detail about them from me will probably have to wait for a much later part of this blog – if I ever get that far!

 Now it’s time to find out more about the background of another of my female ancestors – my great grandmother Priscilla.

Priscilla Jane Yates nee Mecham

Who was the woman who married Edward Cavendish Yates and bore him so many children that together they rejuvenated the Yates family in one generation? Who was she before she married Edward and what happened to her after he died?

 Who was Priscilla Jane Mecham?

I’ll let you know next time.

This entry was posted in Ann Tilling, Barnet, Barnsbury, Charles George G Yates, Chelsea, Christie, Clifton Terrace, Costumiere, Derby Road, Dressmaker, Edward Cavendish Yates, Edward Cavendish Yates Jr., Family Name, Fanny Constance Mary Yates, Fanny Yates, Frances Harriett Yates, Frederick Christie, Fulham, Hertfordshire, Horninglow, Kent, Lillian Flora Yates, Lucy Smart, Manor Street Chelsea, Margate, May Ethel Yates, Mecham, Middlesex, Priscilla Jane Mecham, Rose Jeanette Yates, Sarah A. L. Christie, Sarah Chrisite, Sarah Tilling, Smart, Staffordshire, Stretton, Teacher, Thanet, Tilling, Walter James Henry Yates, Yates and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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