Finding Family

One woman's obsession with family history.

The keys to patience are acceptance and faith. Accept things as they are, and look realistically at the world around you. Have faith in yourself and in the direction you have chosen. [Ralph Marston]

Matilda Elizabeth Crosbe (the wife of Christopher Edwin Theakston) had the unfortunate luck (for both me and her) of dying in 1850 at the relatively young age of 42. Having missed the 1851 Census, she was however recorded in 1841 and it was from this Census that I first obtained a few scanty details about her life.

When the Census was taken on 7 June 1841, Matilda would’ve been heavily pregnant with her third child and was living at Landpost Terrace in Portsea, Hampshire with her husband and two sons, Arthur and Edwin. She was listed as being 30 years of age (born around the year 1811) and despite living in the county of Hampshire, she was recorded as having not been born there.

Since the very first time I added Matilda to my tree the next step has always been to find her parents. Though I had an approximate birth year, the absence of a birth place meant that I’d be searching very widely.

I took to the challenge and searched everywhere; trying the spellings Crosbe, Crosbie and Crosby. Lots of records popped up but none that matched Matilda. I was frustrated and I was disappointed so I did what I always do when something’s not going quite right. I put it aside for another day to be looked at with fresh eyes.

When I eventually did come back to Matilda it was because I’d found a new determination to finally discover the answer once and for all. I came across a baptism record (one that I’d originally discounted) which stated a Matilda Elizabeth Crosbe was baptised on 9 July 1827 and this time, instead of thinking “can’t be it”, I looked closer.


If only I’d done so earlier. Matilda may have been baptised in 1827 but the record itself states she was born on 25 April 1808. It was most certainly an ‘oh my God’, gasp inducing moment. Even more exciting, I finally had the possible names of her parents: George Vandeput Crosbe (a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy) and Leonora.

As tempting as it was to declare that this was my Matilda, I decided to keep digging. After all, the birth year I had was 1811 and this was 1808. Close, but I wanted to be sure.

The unusual middle name ‘Vandeput’ meant that I had a much easier time finding information for George. A quick search on Ancestry and there it was, the marriage record belonging to George Vandeput Crosbe and Leonora Ann Stroud. They had married on 26 November 1803 in St Peter’s Church in Ash, Surrey.

St Peter's

Their signatures (especially George’s rather elaborate one) was a source of much delight and with fingers firmly crossed, I decided to try and find a Will for George.


It is here that I must wholeheartedly thank the State Library of Western Australia who have signed up to trial the eresource, ‘Discovery’ through The National Archives (UK). Although the trial was supposed to end on 22 May 2013, it appears to still be running ( Signing in using my Library card ID, it was through Discovery that I searched the National Archives collection and downloaded George Vandeput Crosbe’s Will…for free!

My initial elated response soon went cold however when I transcribed the Will and read that he’d left property to his daughter, Matilda Elizabeth Crosbe in the event of his wife’s death but that the name of the said wife was, Elizabeth Crosbe born Stroud. Where was Leonora?

A quick search on Family Search revealed that George had married Elizabeth Stroud on 21 September 1815 in Portsea. What had happened to Leonora? Was Elizabeth Leonora’s sister?

Curiosity suitably piqued, I followed Elizabeth Crosbe nee Stroud. She’d died on 17 August 1840 age 52 in Lower Belgrave Street, Pimlico. Even more interesting, it was on this street that Christopher Edwin Theakston’s father, Joseph also lived.


Feeling ever more confident that this was my family, I used Discovery once again and downloaded another document which provided notes on an Executor’s application relating to Elizabeth’s death. It was in this document that I finally found the smoking gun.


Name and Address of the Claimant, Mrs Matilda Elizth Theakston (wife of C. E. Theakston). Niece.

Matilda was listed as Elizabeth’s niece which meant that George did remarry and in fact married Leonora’s sister. Matilda also gave her address as 7 Landpost Terrace in Hampshire; the same street she was living on when the 1841 Census was taken.



  • Matilda Elizabeth Theakston; Oct-Nov-Dec 1850; Portsea Island; Hampshire; Volume 7; Page 97 (FreeBMD. England & Wales, FreeBMD Death Index, 1837-1915 [database on-line]).
  • Matilda Theakston – 1841 Census [Class: HO107; Piece: 414; Book: 2; Civil Parish: Portsea Town; County: Hampshire; Enumeration District: 5; Folio: 24; Page: 1; Line: 25; GSU roll: 288811].
  • Matilda Elizabeth Crosbe – Dorset, England, Births and Baptisms, 1813-1906 [Dorset History Centre; Dorset Parish Registers; Reference: PE/SPY: RE 1/1, 2/1-2, 3/1-2].
  • Photo of St Peter’s Church courtesy of Michael FORD (
  • George Crosbe Esquire; Ref. AS/1/5 [ Surrey, England, Marriages, 1754-1937 [database on-line].
  • Will of George Vandeput Crosbe, Lieutenant in His Majesty’s Royal Navy of Island of Guernsey [National Archives UK; Ref: PROB 11/1712/268].
  • “England Marriages, 1538–1973 ,” index, FamilySearch ( : accessed 04 Oct 2013), George Vandeput and Elizabeth Stroud, 21 Sep 1815.
  • Number: 877 Elizabeth Crosbe, Widow of Lieutenant, who died: 17 August 1840. Notes on executor’s application for money owed by the Royal Navy [National Archives UK; Ref: ADM 45/12/877].

7 thoughts on “Playing Detective

  1. njsresearch6 says:

    Great story, great work!

    1. Jess says:

      Thanks Neville! 🙂

  2. sandra says:

    Good research well written Jessica

    1. Jess says:

      Thanks Mum! Glad you liked it. 🙂

  3. Heather says:

    Beautifully written and excellent research. Another triumph Jess!

    1. Jess says:

      Thanks Heather! There was definitely a happy dance going on when I finally made that breakthrough. It was such a loooong time coming but worth it in the end. 🙂

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