|Census record 1891 Kate Palmer and grandparents|
My birth grandmother, Kate Elizabeth Palmer (1881-1970) grew up in Ightham, Kent, England and her birth was unfortunate. Her mother was Annie Ashby (1855-1935), herself born outside of marriage and it was some time before I discovered that Kate had been baptised in the name of Ashby with her mother named as a field worker and her father's name left blank. However, Kate was always told her father was John Stephen Palmer whose records suggest he was Annie's half-nephew. The Palmer and Ashby families in Ightham were intertwined with baptismal and census surnames being changed seemingly willy-nilly over the second half of the 19th century.
Annie Ashby's mother was Elizabeth Ashby who by age 14 in 1841 had become the housekeeper/servant to local widower Cornelius Palmer and bore him five children prior to his death in 1861 when he was described as a pauper. Annie was one of them.
In 1869, Elizabeth Ashby married Reuben Holtrop (baptised in Ightham in 1816 as Reuben Haltrup). Reuben appears to have been part of the Ashby family for many years. In 1841 and 1851, he was living with Elizabeth Ashby’s parents, Henry and Elizabeth Ashby and her siblings.
In 1891, my birth grandmother Kate Palmer, aged 10 was living with her grandmother Elizabeth and her step-grandfather Reuben on the Ightham Common. They were probably squatting in one of the former mining employees' houses, deserted since the mining company pulled out years before. Her mother Annie, newly married had moved to a neighbouring village, Seal and was establishing a growing family. No doubt Kate moved there later because she was close to her younger half-siblings.
On Kate's marriage certificate in Sydney in 1918, she states her mother's name as Annie Altroupe, obviously one of many corruptions of Reuben's surname.
Reuben’s surname was recorded in many different forms throughout his life:
· Haltrup – christening, 13 April, 1817 – son of Harriet Haltrup
· Ashby – 1841 census boarding with the Ashbys (see below)
· Holdrop – 1851 census (boarding with Henry & Elizabeth Ashby (senior) & family) – agricultural labourer
· Alhoupe – 1861 census (original image looks more like Altroupe) – soldier/ lodger – with Elizabeth Ashby (Henry & Elizabeth’s daughter)
· Hartrup – marriage to Elizabeth Ashby on 15 January, 1869 at Ightham – father named as William Hartrup
· Hartop – 1871 census (Ruebin)
· Hartrop – 1881 census
· Alerop – 1891 census (although more likely Altrop – wrongly transcribed)
· Holtrop – death certificate 1891
Certainly, Reuben must have been illiterate. Neither he nor Elizabeth signed their marriage certificate in 1969 – it was left to the rector.