Not so Plain Jane

and the French Connection

Whilst trying to identify females who possess the same mtDNA as I do, this lifestory shows how easy, yet fascinating it is to get sidetracked whilst researching family history.

I have been looking into the family – of the first wife, – of the husband of my – (great great grandmother’s cousin / who was also sister of my great great great grandmother/and granddaughter of my 4x gt Grandmother).

Whilst many of the people mentioned here do not have any ancestral ties with me, some of them may hold clues to my ancestors. They also add the human story to my ancestors lives at the time, and perhaps how some of them managed to escape from poverty.

The story begins with the older sister of my ancestor Elizabeth Shepherd, called Jane Shepherd and born 1794. She was the oldest child, of Daniel and Mary Shepherd. Although both Daniel and Mary lived well into old age, perhaps Jane took it upon her self to be a ‘matriarch’ in the family. She married John Cole at Hanwell 1815, and her name appears on quite a number of ‘witness’ documents in the family. Some of which, show she could write.

As with many of the females in the family, she was a laundress. This was a common occupation for women in the area, some women operated small scale from home, others made a business out of it and others went out to work in one of the larger establishments. Male employment (or perhaps the males generally), could not be relied upon, and it was the laundry businesses which bought in regular income, and kept the families afloat.

The first reference I had, to ‘John and Jane Cole’, was as witnesses at the marriage of my ancestors, Betsy Rogers and Joseph Lovell Raine in 1846 (Betsy was the niece of Jane). At this point, their names meant nothing to me. But surprisingly both John and Jane Cole could sign their names.

1846 Marriage certificate of Betsy Rogers and Joseph Lovell Raine.

Further documentation revealed a Jane Cole present at the death of this Joseph Lovell in 1857, and at the death of Joseph Rogers in 1845, (husband of Elizabeth Shepherd), also as a witness at the second marriage of Elizabeth (Shepherd – Rogers) to Thomas Harris. Perhaps she was witness at other life events of the people she knew, but as yet I haven’t found them.

Both Jane (and her sister, my ancestor Elizabeth), were married at Hanwell, and baptised their first children at West Twyford, further children at St. George’s, Old Brentford, then moving on to St Paul’s at Hammersmith. Most likely, this was as new churches were built, which were more convenient.

According to parish records, the following children were baptised to Jane and John Cole; (at West Twyford), William born 5th February 1816, Henry born 27 November 1817, Daniel born 1st July 1827. Then Drucilla born 10th April 1833, and Harriet 18th November 1834 at Brentford St George. On 4th February 1838, Jane was baptised at St Paul’s Hammersmith. John was a labourer.

(There was also another couple named John and Jane Cole, baptising children at the same time, at Twickenham, occupation Basket maker).

As with most other members of this family, our John and Jane, cannot be found in the 1841 census, but by 1851, they were living at The Potteries, Nottingdale, Kensington. John aged 54, Jane 55, daughter Jane 13, and grandson John Allum aged 8. (Next door was Jane’s brother William Sheppard and family).

John and Jane must have had other children, as the mother of John Allum, was ‘Sarah’ (Cole) who married Alfred Allum.

It appears that Jane Cole senior died in 1855 in the infirmary and was buried at St Marylebone. Home address, 8 Charles Street, Lisson Grove. Therefore it couldn’t have been her present at the death of Joseph Lovell who died 1857. It must have been her daughter, Jane Cole born 1838 (making Joseph, her cousins husband).

It is Jane Cole born 1838, who I am researching here. Another researcher on also appeared to be interested in this family, and unusual ‘tips’, kept popping up, but as I don’t like to take anything at face value, I did my own checking.

At this point, I was still trying to trace women who might share my mtDNA, but was finding it difficult with any daughters of John and Jane Cole, as they didn’t all appear to be baptised, and the 1841 census which might link them together was missing.

Then I discovered something unusual. There was a marriage for a Jane Cole to a John Clement Leggatt (JCL) 6th March 1880, at St Marks Church Notting Hill. This was rather late for Jane to be getting married, her age given as 43. John Clement Leggatt was an unusual name, which I hoped would be useful with identification. I recognised Leggatt as an East Anglian name. JCL was a widower aged 49, perhaps this had something to do with the lateness of marriage. However, the more interesting fact, was that JCL gave his occupation as Engineer, and his father, also John Clement Leggatt as ‘Gentleman’. How did Jane Cole, the daughter of a brickmaker from The Potteries, Nottingdale, come to marry the son of a gentleman?

Marriage record for Jane Cole and John Clement Leggatt 1880.

Sometimes, the description ‘Gentleman’, may have been a little liberal with the truth, but we might presume that JCL, was either a cut above the rest, or a con-man. He gave his age as 49 (so born around 1831). At the time of marriage addresses given were 6 Rockingham Place for JCL, and 11 Walmar Road for Jane Cole.

Jane was able to sign her name on the certificate, (and I would suggest with confidence). Witnesses Frederick Cole could not write, and I believe this to be Jane’s brother. Elizabeth Leggatt (her daughter), could sign her name.

1881 Census entry

The following year, Jane and John Leggatt were living with their family at 33, Little Carlisle Street, Marylebone. John aged 50, born Shoreditch, and working as ‘Brewery Mills’. Jane aged 44 says she was born at Paddington, and six children. Elizabeth 14, William 12, Thomas 10, Alfred 8, George 6, Emma 4, and Ernest 2. All of these children were born before their marriage.

1871 census entry

Ten years earlier in 1871, John Clement Leggatt and Jane Cole, were living together as husband and wife, although they were not married. Their address 20 Little Grove, Marylebone. With children Matilda 10, Elizabeth 5, William 2 and Thomas 1 month. John’s occupation was Engine Driver, and Jane declares she was born in Kensington, which ties in with other censuses except 1881.

In 1861 a Jane Cole was living as a 23 year old servant to a draper Eliza Smith, at (2) Park Street , St Mary Abbotts Kensington. It is hard to know if this is the correct entry for our Jane Cole, as it is not easy to qualify it. No entry has been found as yet for John Leggatt.

1861 Census

Whilst searching the baptism records for the children of John Leggatt, some unusual entries became apparent.

To John Clement Leggatt and Mary Clementine Leggatt, a son, John Edward born 13 November and baptised December 1854 at St John the baptist Hoxton. They lived at Haberdasher Street and JCL was a Labourer.

Marie Eliza, born 7th May 1856 and baptised 15 June at St Mary Bryanston Square. The family lived at 7 Perry Street and JCL was a Labourer.

Elizabeth, Born 30 December 1857 and baptised 3 June 1859 at St John Shoreditch, living at Mount Row and JCL a Porter.

Matilda Josephine was born 1861.

According to the GRO the birth records for Mary, Elizabeth and Matilda, the mothers surname was BECQUEL or BECQUEREL.

GRO Reference: 1856  J Quarter in SAINT PANCRAS  Volume 01B  Page 123
GRO Reference: 1858  M Quarter in SHOREDITCH  Volume 01C  Page 139
GRO Reference: 1861  J Quarter in SHOREDITCH  Volume 01C  Page 134

Although we don’t know where JCL was in 1861, and we aren’t completely certain about Jane Cole, we do know where JCL’s first wife and family were.

1861 Census entry for Clementine Leggatt

She was living at 12 Charles Place Hoxton with three children. John, Mary and Matilda Josephine. Perhaps it was some kind of boarding house, as there appears to be three families, but only one ‘male’ Head. Clementine was born in France (as was oldest son John), and she is described as blind, deaf or dumb. Perhaps she couldn’t speak English very well, and so described as ‘dumb’, being a florist, it is unlikely she was blind. The third child is named as ‘MJ’ Leggatt, presumably because the enumerator, could not understand Clementine’s accent. The child was called Matilda Josephine.

Further investigation shows Clementine arriving in England in 1854, she was on the list of ‘Aliens’ ie non British subjects. She is listed as number 11, a number 12 is crossed out. Perhaps this was for baby son John, who was actually a British subject in the name of his father.

Arrival in UK of Clementine Leggatt

This was just 12 days after the birth in Paris of her son John Edward Leggatt on 13th November, and he was baptised on 17th December at St John Hoxton. It is difficult to imagine such a trip from Paris to London, so soon after childbirth. What was JCL doing in Paris.

Other researchers on have Clementine dying in 1863, although I have not found any evidence for this, but by 1871, JCL and Jane Cole were living together as man and wife. With Matilda and three of their own children.

John Edward joined the Navy in April 1873 for ten years. He married Grace Jones in 1887. It appears Elizabeth died as a child. Marie Eliza married Ernest Wil(t)shire in 1879.

Matilda Josephine worked as a cook in several households before marrying Isaac Buck a farmer in 1891. By 1901, they were living at Hoveton near Wroxham, Norfolk, and JCL was with them at the time of the census.

In 1873, John Clement Leggatt (senior) died at Kirkley Suffolk. His will detailed that he had been a lodging house keeper and was living at 7 Marine Parade Lowestoft in the 1861 census, and Victoria Esplanade, in 1871, with wife Elizabeth. He had been a warehouseman in 1851, at St Botolph’s Bishopgate. Presumably, the family considered lodging house keeper to be the occupation of a ‘Gentleman’. He had married Elizabeth Walls in 1822 and had four children, including John Clement and Thomas Hubbard Leggatt, born Shoreditch 1835. Thomas Hubbard was the executor of the will. Perhaps money left to JCL junior in 1873, helped him set up in business.

In 1891, Jane and John were living at 135 Carlisle Street with their seven children, Elizabeth 24, William 22, Thomas 20, George 16, Emma 14, Ernest 12, and Maud 5. By now Jane is entered as a laundress employer, with daughter Elizabeth also working for her. Son William is a ‘Brewers labourer’, perhaps working for John, although John does not give his occupation.

In 1901, Jane was still at 135 Carlisle Street, as an employer Laundress, with two daughters also laundresses, Emma 23 and Violet Maud 15. In the same street were families of Italian ice cream makers and sellers.

1901 Census Jane Leggatt

On 31st July 1903, John Clement Leggatt died, at 135 Carlisle Street, aged 72. He left a will, with his effects (value £941 3s 3d), (approx. equivalent in 2021 £118, 000) to wife Jane.

Jane died in 1911, shortly after the 1911 census. She had been living with her oldest daughter Elizabeth, now a widow herself, and her three sons, also lodger, Alfred Harris, who Elizabeth would marry in 1915. They were living at 18 Charlbert Street.

Jane claimed to have been married 45 years (a year more than Elizabeth’s age, although, in fact it would be 31 years), and said that she had nine children, with five still living. Her occupation, that she was an old age pensioner. Pensions had only recently been bought in in 1909, by the government.

1911 Census entry Jane Leggatt

It appears that Jane’s hard work and help from JCL inheritances enabled them to set up a laundry business. Whilst JCL may not be what we would naturally describe as ‘Gentleman’, his inheritance and subsequent employment upgrade, gave the impression of one.

As yet, we haven’t discovered why and how JCL managed to be in Paris, to marry Mary Clementine. Or how he went from labourer, then porter to engineer and brewers miller. At first I had considered that JCL was married to Clementine, whilst living with Jane Cole. This now seems unfounded. It seems most likely that following Clementine’s death in 1863, he set up home with Jane, and their first child Elizabeth was born 1867. Perhaps by 1880, he wanted to ensure there would be care for Jane and their large family should he die.


This story has revealed that Jane Cole had three daughters, to carry on the mtDNA trail.

Elizabeth Leggett married Robert William Read 1893, and had one daughter Rosa Valentine Read, who married Thomas William Swift 12 August 1917 an Air Mechanic RNAS, later transferring to the Royal Air Force). Children?

Emma Leggett married Arthur Knowles 1902, and moved to Wales. Daughters, Edith May 1905, and Beryl Gwendoline 1909.

Violet Maud Leggett married William Nye 1904 and had two daughters Violet May Nye1905 and Rose Margaret Nye1907.

Although, very distantly related, we would be most interested in hearing from anyone connected to this family.

Angela Weatherill and Cynthia Sanderson 2021