Mary Jane Kirk – the girls that were left behind.
Ada Pye, whom I wrote about in the previous article, was the daughter of Mary Jane Pye née Kirk.
My first assumption when I saw the 1861 and 1871 census records of West Bromwich, was that it was possible that Mary Jane Kirk and her younger sister, Eliza Kirk, were orphans because they were residing with their maternal grandfather and a maiden aunt. The 1861 census recorded Mary Jane Kirk as 8 years of age and Eliza as 7 years of age. By the time of the 1871, Eliza Kirk was 18 years of age and Mary Jane, now married to Timothy Pye, was recorded as being 21 years of age and still living with their grandfather, James Hodgkis.
I was later apprised of the fact that Mary Jane Kirk was listed as a 2 year old on the 1851 census with her parents, James and Martha Kirk and older sister, Sarah Ann, 5 years, plus the aunt, Mary Hodgkis, in the house of grandfather, James Hodgkis. And I was informed that James, Martha, Sarah Ann and a further three children born to them had moved to Kelloe, Durham where more children were born; leaving Mary Jane and Eliza behind with their grandfather (as the records showed).
Why were these two children left behind? Their widowed grandfather had his unmarried daughter, Mary Hodgkis, to care for him. Was he able to provide some financial relief to the Kirk family by raising the two girls? James Kirk was a coal miner and was possibly short of funds.
Did they ever see their parents and siblings again? It would appear from future census records that Mary Jane did not. It is possible that Eliza did as the 1861 census record listed an “Elizabeth Kirk” as the daughter of James and Martha and this Elizabeth’s age of 8 years corresponded closely with Eliza’s age of 7 years (Elizabeth with her parents in Coxhoe, Durham and Eliza with her grandfather in West Bromwich, Staffordshire). It is possible they were two separate children.
Census records are good for building a family tree but they do not tell the personal stories of the householders and this is one such case where the records leave questions unanswered.