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published by daveerasmus on Wed, 30/06/2021 - 20:44

As posts on here have largely dried up of late, I thought that I would take the opportunity to seek help with a brick wall which I have been attempting to break down for the best part of 20 years. The connection to Weston is real, but a few steps removed. So, I’m taking a bit of a liberty….


On 22 November 1915 Frances Mary SAMBAY married William Leslie ALLEN at the Register Office in Kensington, London. William was born in Australia and had enlisted in the Australian Imperial Expeditionary Force at the start of World War 1. Following his discharge at the end of the war, he re-enlisted in the Royal Air Force.


William and Frances had 4 daughters. The family lived in Kensington until the start of World War 2 when they were evacuated to Weston. They set up home in Bridge Road.


Frances’ paternal grandfather is my brick wall. He married Sarah Harriett PAGE on 28 May 1855 at the Parish Church, Kensington, London. According to the marriage certificate his name was Mergia SAMBAY. He gave his occupation as Indian Cook and that of his father (whose first name was not given) as “Gentleman”. He gave his age as 50 and his address as 9 St George’s Terrace. (Note: At the time of the 1851 census the occupants of that property were: Eliza Mellis born Scotland. Her son William born Scotland 1825. Her daughter Catherine born London 1829. Isabella Ashmead (Servant) born Norfolk 1827. Jessie Smith (Cook) born Scotland 1813.) The witnesses were Harriot Waite and Maria Page.

Mergia and Frances had 3 children all of whom were born in Kensington. 2 of them died in infancy from Whooping Cough. Although Sarah has been found in Kensington in censuses from 1841 onwards no trace has been found of her husband. To complicate matters his first name has been recorded (on the birth and death certificates of their children) in various different forms:

    • ·       Mergia
    • ·       Mergengee
    • ·       Mugagee
    • ·      Messinger
    • ·      Minngay

“Mergia” apparently died sometime between January 1863 (approximately when his son John was conceived) and 11 March 1864 when his daughter Catherine Amelia died, but no trace has yet been found of his death. His children Catherine and John both died of Whooping Cough within 4 months of each other so it is possible that he also contracted and died from the same condition. No death or burial record for “Mergia” has been found.

I’m looking for any information at all regarding “Mergia”. The contents of his marriage certificate suggest that he was born in India. Was he? Who were his parents? When did he come to this country? Was he here at the time of the 1851 census? If so, where? He must have been here in 1861, but where? When and where did he die? Where is he buried?

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Comments ..

Submitted by Pat Hase on Fri, 02/07/2021 - 23:13

Have you seen this in the West London Observer of Sat 28th Feb 1857?


"The Indian Cook and his Wife.— On Saturday, Mirgu Sambay, native of India, who was dressed in the costume of his country, and who appeared to be a man about fifty years of age, was placed in the dock before Mr. Dayman, charged with neglecting to maintain his wife Sarah, and her child, seven months old, whereby they had become chargeable to the parish of Kensington. The wife stood in the witness box, and her youth contrasted strangely with the age of the prisoner. She was Englishwoman about twenty-five years of age, and was dressed in the workhouse clothes.


Mr. T. Madden, the relieving officer, said the prisoner was cook in the service of Indian prince, residing at 31, Sussex Place, Kensington New Town. He had 5s. per week and his board and lodging. In April last, the prisoner was taken before the local Justices, and at that time the wife was in the family way with her present child, and the magistrates ordered him to pay 1s. 6d. per week towards his wife support, they believing that he could not afford any more. Since that there had been an increase in the family, the birth of the child, and the guardians thought 1s. 6d. not sufficient to support mother and child, and that ought to pay 3s. The wife said her husband could pay that, got a great deal more than 5s. per week, had no clothes to buy, not even his shoe strings. (Laughter.) Mr. Madden said he had applied to the prisoner for increase in his payments, but he always showed by signs that he did not understand him. The wife, indignantly : he can speak English, I must know, I knew him twelve months before I married him. Mr. Marlin, who was present, said defended the prisoner on the last occasion, and letters were produced from the wife showing that she had many doubts about her own religion and much good of his (the prisoner’s) that she was ready to embrace his religion and follow the Koran. (Laughter.) The wife said it was all untrue. It was her husband’s deceit, Mr. Dayman asked her where she was married. The wile said she was married by license in Kensington Church. Mr. Dayman said she ought to have known better than to have married him. He could not understand whv the mother did not interfere. The mother said she did interfere, but her daughter was determined to have a black husband. (Increased laughter.) Mr. Martin said the prince had been in this country since 1851, and was engaged in settling dispute respecting his claim upon the East India Company. Mr. Dayman thought the prisoner could afford pay the 3s, per week, and if he did not, should certainly send him to prison. The prisoner made signs that he did not understand. Mr. Dayman told him did not believe him, and the prisoner then left the court without casting one glance upon either his wife or child. "


Not sure that this answers your question but it makes for some interesting reading!



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Submitted by gricharduk on Sat, 03/07/2021 - 11:19

Fascinating and funny! From Pat's post, I can work out that the prince was Raja Tuckt Singh of Jodhpur (Takht Singh). His staff, Syed Uckbur Ally and Khirat Ali Khan Bangash, had been in London since 1851 and worked out of 31 Sussex Place, Kensington (see The Multiple Meanings of 1857 for Indians in Britain by Michael H. Fisher, Danforth Professor of History - It opens a PDF and gives an insight into Indians living in Britain in the mid-1850s). From the same reference, when word of the Indian Rebellion of 1857 reached Indians in Britain: "virtually all recognised that they had to make visible choice, whatever their private sentiments. Most of those supportive of the insurrection dared not express that sentiment in the face of an almost uniformly hostile host society. Some publicly professed their loyalty to Britain and opposition to the "mutineers," hoping to use this crisis to their own political or personal advantage, or at least to mitigate its disadvantages. Of those who returned to India, some faced accusations of treason, arrest, and interrogation by British authorities".

Fisher continues: "These diplomats [Syed Uckbur Ally and Khirat Ali Khan Bangash], however, left London for Bombay at end of 1857, where they and their English attorney was arrested on charges of treason. The British ship captain testified against them:

the Mahommedan secretary [Khirat Ali Khan Bangash], in my presence and in the presence of the passengers, said that he could murder [Governor-General] Lord Dalhousie without remorse, and throw his body to the vultures, or something to that effect.... He frequently expressed his sympathy with the rebels and mutineers, and expressed his wishes for their success. He frequently stated that the country would be much better governed under native princes and rulers than by the English. The Syed vakeel [Syed Uckbur Ally] never expressed himself. He spoke English indifferently, and had little to say.... I now produce a book, entitled, "Oude, its Princes and its Government Vindicated." It was given to me by one of the passengers, Mrs. Fellows, who told me that Mr. Hudson [their British lawyer] had sent it to her, and that he had assisted in its compilation. I understand that a case of these books is on board intended for circulation here...

The ship captain added for good measure that one of their servants, Mirjan, had abandoned his English wife back in London."

So it looks like Mergia/Mirjan returned to Bombay in 1857, though, perhaps not arrested unlike his fellow civil servants.


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Submitted by daveerasmus on Sat, 03/07/2021 - 12:43

Thank you to both of you. Just shows the value of posting queries on this site. I am very grateful.

As Pat says, it doesn't really answer my questions, but it does raise some new ones which I will follow up. The 7 month old daughter is not in my tree, so I need to find her. The link to the Indian Prince is intriguing. As is the possible link to the East India Company which I have looked at in the past without success.

I agree that it is possible that "Mergia" returned to India or Pakistan. That is something I have looked at previously but another look is needed. As is a review of prison records. Interestingly, Sarah's father was a policeman who died on Kensington High Street.


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Submitted by gricharduk on Sat, 03/07/2021 - 13:00

The reference [61] used by Professor Fisher is linked here - Pages 15-16 in "MR . HUDSON , & c . IN BOMBAY" in Parliamentary Papers (Sessionals) Commons 1859 session I vol. 18 p.73- , no. 125 Return 4 March 1859. The sessional papers spell his name "Meerjan". He sailed on the "Bombay Castle, arriving in Bombay on the 4 February 1858, the steamer being captained by George Taylor.


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Submitted by daveerasmus on Sat, 03/07/2021 - 13:02

Fantastic. I had planned to spend the afternoon building up to a certain football match. Not now...

Very grateful yet again.

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Submitted by gricharduk on Sat, 03/07/2021 - 13:07

:) I was looking at it now so it wouldn't intrude on the football match!

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Submitted by Pat Hase on Sat, 03/07/2021 - 13:29

What match?!! 

This has all the makings of a fascinating and intriguing story.  As Sarah was wearing Workhouse clothing when she appeared in court you might try Workhouse Records for her as well - perhaps she was an inmate when one of the children was born?  

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Submitted by daveerasmus on Sat, 03/07/2021 - 13:54

Yes, I agree. She was living with her (long suffering?) mother in 1861. But in Fulham Union Infirmary in 1891. In between times she seems to have had a child by someone called Reynolds...

Thanks, Pat.

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Submitted by gricharduk on Sat, 03/07/2021 - 15:30

This Reynolds chap doesn't sound too nice - This is what you get when you drink all-day!!

p. 3, West London Observer, Saturday 25 June 1870
"Assaulting a Woman. James Montague Reynolds, engineer, no home, was charged with assaulting Charlotte Vernon, an ironer, of 6, John Street, Fulham New Town.

The complainant said this morning she heard a cry of murder, and on going out she saw the prisoner dragging a woman about. She went up with other persons and saw a pistol in his pocket. She attempted to extricate the woman from him, when the prisoner struck her.

Mr. Ingham.-Where is the woman you talk about?

Mr. Page (the usher).-She took out a summons against him yesterday.

The woman was called in, when she said her name was Sarah Sambay. She had been living with the prisoner and sorry she was to say so. Yesterday came into the place and ill-used her because she refused to give up some things, but she bought them. He was a married man, and she told him that she did not want to have anything to do with him. He said he would have her life, but he did not use the pistol. He had been drinking for some time.

The prisoner said all his things had been removed and he had nothing left but what stood up in.

The witness said he gave them her for breaking her things.

The prisoner said she knew that he was a married man.

Witness.-Oh Jem, I did not. I have freely given him up. I had an interview with his wife last night.

The prisoner, in answer to the charge, said that he told her that be would not leave her debt. While he was away paying the debts she removed all his things. He denied the assault and asked for an adjournment.

Mr. Ingham consented, and remanded the prisoner for a week."

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Submitted by daveerasmus on Sat, 03/07/2021 - 19:27

Another great piece of research. Thank you again. It does look as if this might be the right Reynolds. The fact that he was married (to someone else) explains why I couldn't find a marriage to Sarah. I'll see what else I can find out about him.

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