Why did my grandfather, Thomas Maber, have the second name Abraham? It was one of those family mysteries often discussed round the dinner table. None of my family seemed to know. I knew that my grandfather, Thomas Abraham Maber had been a hairdresser and umbrella maker. The first fact to come to light in my search was that his father, (my great -grandfather) Charles Thomas Maber traveled around the country as a journeyman wall-paper hanger. The family lived in Bethnal Green, one of the poorest parts of London. The 1861 census showed Charles Thomas Maber aged 2 years old and the other four members of his family (his father Charles Maber, a wine cooper, mother Elizabeth (nee Price), sister Elizabeth aged 5 and brother Joseph aged 2) sharing a house with another family, the Twines. An interesting fact emerged. Charles Thomas Maber, at the time of the 1861 census, was living at the same address as his future wife Jane Twine, who was 7 years old. It was Charles Thomas Maber and Jane (nee Twine) who, in 1892, named their son Thomas Abraham. I saw that Charles’s brother Joseph had a biblical name so perhaps the family just liked biblical names and that was all there was to it. However, I decided to investigate further in case there was another reason why Charles Thomas Maber named his son Abraham.
I started searching the censuses to find the Maber family in 1871 to see if any other children were born to Charles and Elizabeth (nee Price) and, if so, were they given names from the Bible. It was then, in amongst the seemingly dry documents of the past, I stumbled across a wonderful story of selfless and enduring love that was eventually to be celebrated by the naming of a child ‘Abraham’.
In the 1861 census I had found the family in Morpeth Street, Bethnal Green. I moved my search forward to the census of 1871. But, in 1871, Charles Maber (wine cooper) was nowhere to be found. Neither could I find his wife, Elizabeth (nee Price). The children, little Charles Thomas, little Elizabeth and baby Joseph had also vanished. I knew my great-grandfather Charles Thomas Maber had to be alive in 1871. He would be only 7 then and had yet to sire my grandfather. Did all the rest of the family die? I checked the Births Deaths and Marriages and found that little Joseph Maber had indeed died aged 2 in 1862. Another son, Reuben Maber (unrecorded on a census) had also died in 1855 aged 1. Finally, I discovered that, on 27th May 1867 my great-great-grandfather Charles Maber Senior (the wine cooper) passed away. But where was his wife, Elizabeth (nee Price), his daughter Elizabeth, his son (my great-grandfather) Charles Thomas Maber? I criss-crossed the records drawing blanks at every turn. Elizabeth Maber (nee Price) was an unusual name. But even that did not help me in my search. It seemed I had started with one mystery only to end up with two!
Months later, on a rainy afternoon, I sat once again in front of the computer and decided that there was one very humdrum, but hopefully foolproof, way of finding the family. I would check the names of everyone who lived in Bethnal Green in 1871. Hours passed, screens scrolled. I became an automaton, click, scroll down, search the page, click scroll down, search the page. And then, in the late afternoon, as I clicked to discard yet another page a family flashed up. Abh King(Head), Elizh King (Wife), Elizabeth Mabyer (Daughter), Charles Mabyer (son), Richard Mabyer (son), John Mabyer (son), George Mabyer (son). My brain raced. How could Mr King have a son Charles Mabyer? With pounding heart I clicked back onto the page just discarded and there they were! I pulled up the copy of the original census document and found that the family were living in the house where my great-grandfather, the wine cooper, Charles Maber had died 4 years earlier. Mabyer was an adulterated spelling of my family name ‘Maber’. Elizh was an abbreviation of Elizabeth (nee Price, formally Maber) Abh was an abbreviation of Abraham! I had found Abraham! I was so thrilled. The census showed Abraham King was a brewer’s servant, so he and Charles Maber the wine cooper may have worked together at the Bethnal Green brewery. It was the work of a moment to find out when Abraham King and Elizabeth Maber (nee Price) were married. It was in 1868. Elizabeth had been widowed for just a year. Then I looked at the ages on the census. Elizabeth was 38. Abraham was 24. The children were 14, 12, 7, 6 and 4. This young man, Abraham King, had fallen in love with the widow Maber and, at only 24 years of age, had taken into his care Elizabeth and all her children, the oldest child being only 10 years younger than himself! By checking birth records I discovered that Elizabeth had given birth to her youngest son, George, only 2 months before her husband’ Charles Maber's death. I knew now where great-grandfather Charles Thomas Maber and his family was in 1871. They were with Abraham King. I sped on to search the 1881 census and there was Abraham and Elizabeth King with the youngest son, John Maber still living with them. By now Elizabeth had buried yet another child, George aged 10. On I went to the 1891 census and Abraham and Elizabeth were still alive but yet another son, Richard had died in 1884 aged 21.
By this time my great-grandfather, Charles Thomas Maber had grown up and married his childhood sweetheart, Jane Twine and in 1892 they had a son. Charles Thomas Maber had been brought up by Abraham King, who had been his stepfather since Charles Thomas was 9 years old. Charles Thomas must have watched while Abraham struggled to bring up his 5 stepchildren, working hard to rise from being just a brewer’s servant to the responsible post of drayman in the brewery and supporting Elizabeth emotionally as, over the years, she buried four of her children. Abraham nurtured 5 young step-children but, according to the records, never fathered a child of his own. In 1891 Abraham was 45 and Elizabeth was 61. The couple must have been so thrilled when Charles Thomas called his new-born son ‘Abraham’ in honour of his remarkable stepfather. Abraham and Elizabeth were still together in 1901. Abraham was again a brewer’s servant, now aged 54. Elizabeth was 67. They had been married for thirty three years. Elizabeth lived one more year before she died of cancer and ‘exhaustion’ and, according to the death certificate, there at her side, ‘present at her death’ was ‘A R King’. Abraham was there, as he always had been, almost certainly holding her hand, at the very end of her life, . What an extraordinary man he must have been. The family mystery was solved and now I can explain with pride how my grandfather came to be called Thomas Abraham.
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