17 September 2012

The Grants of Margate, Kent

Rachel Wickham, matriarch of the Australian Wickhams from my family, was born Rachel Grant, in Margate, Kent, England in about 1813. She was baptised at St John the Baptist Margate on 7 Nov 1813. Her parents were Robert Grant and Rachel Solly.

Little is known about the Grant family. Certainly the surname Grant seems to be a long-standing one in Kent, and many members of the family seem to have been boat builders and mariners.

Robert Grant married Rachel Solly on 2 January 1806 by licence at St John the Baptist Margate, according to FamilySearch and the Kent, England, Tyler Index to Parish Registers, 1538-1874 on Ancestry. However, Ancestry also has a record in the Extracted Parish Records for Kent, England, based on the Canterbury Marriage Licences, 1781-1809, for a Robert Grant and Rachel Solly, dated 26 December 1805. It records "Rob Grant of St John Margate shipwright wid & Rachel Solley of the s sp." I suspect this is my Robert Grant and Rachel Solly, and discrepancy in the dates is due to the date of issue for the licence as opposed to the date of the actual marriage.

So this means that Robert Grant was a widower. I can find two contenders for Robert's first wife: Elizabeth Watler, married at St John the Baptist Margate on 29 April 1787, or Sarah Fagg married at St Peter Thanet on 9 Nov 1803 (Rob Grant of St John Thanet shipwright bach & Sarah Fagg of St Pet Thanet sp, at St Pet T. 09 Nov 1803). The marriage between Robert Grant and Elizabeth Watler produced a number of children, the last of which was born in 1807. Considering my Robert Grant was widowed and remarrying by 1806, I don't think this is the right Robert Grant. Which leaves us with Sarah Fagg being the likely first wife. There is a burial record for a Sarah Grant, wife of Robert, aged 23 years, on 27 June 1804. This fits well with the date of Robert remarrying.

Looking into Robert's job as a shipwright, there is a listing for "Robert Grant shipwright Fort Margate" in the 1824 Pigots Directory, and also in the 1839 Pigots Directory. Although I have not been able to work out when Robert Grant died (or in fact was born), it is possible that this is him. The 1840 Pigots Directory lists a Robert Grant, shipwright, in Paradise Street. This article mentions Grants and Solleys in relation to boat building in Margate.

Of Rachel's seven siblings, apart from the two who died very young, I can only trace Elizabeth, born in about 1815. In 1851 she was recorded in the English Census, living with Rachel, Rachel's husband Thomas, and their children. On a hunch I searched the NSW Birth Deaths and Marriages, to see if she had followed them out to Australia - yes! She died in Redfern, Sydney, in 1891, and was buried in Rookwood Independent Cemetery on 3 September 1891. I haven't found a shipping record for her emigrating to Australia, but she did get here somehow - perhaps she was a good swimmer!

This website has assisted me greatly in the research of the Grant family.

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