The name Gertrude Conconi has bewildered numerous researchers into the life and times of James Maybrick. Her name first appears in the 1881 census as living with Christiana Conconi and Sarah Robertson. Strangely, she is listed as Christiana’s daughter whilst Sarah Robertson remains listed as a niece. We now know that Christiana was, in fact, Sarah Robertson’s mother.
The suspicion here (by Paul Feldman at least) was that Gertrude might have been one of the illusive illegitimate children of James Maybrick and Sarah Ann Robertson. Hence, the further investigation.
The 1881 census listing is strange for other reasons too. The enumerator misspells their surname as Corcous. However, we can be confident they are the right people as the birthplaces and birthdates match other sources for both Christiana and Sarah Robertson.
The strangest thing on the record is the claim that Christiana is Gertrude’s mother. If this were true, she would have had to have given birth to her when she was around 50 years old. The average age of menopause in the Victorian era was around 40 years old. Immediate red flag. Also, why claim Gertrude is her daughter but continue claiming Sarah is a niece? Did Sarah ever know the truth about her mother?
The other curious thing about this record is that Gertrude’s birthplace is listed as Portsmouth, Hampshire – and there was no known connection between this family and Portsmouth. The other interesting things on this record relate to Sarah Ann, who has reverted to her maiden name, changed her birth year and listed her marital status as Widow. Coincidentally, James Maybrick was firmly engaged to Florence Chandler by April 1881, when this census was taken. Perhaps she did not take the news too well.
A BRIDGE TOO FAR?
There is a marriage record for Gertrude Conconi in 1895 to a George Bridge, in Greenwich, London – the area in which our Gertrude grew up (from the age of 8 at least). Interestingly, another variant of that name appears on that civil marriage search. Gertrude Emily Blackiston (with a C). A search against that name finds Emily Gertrude Blakiston (without a C), born in Portsea Island, Portsmouth, in 1872.
A BRIDGE NOT SO FAR
The 1891 census shows George Bridge living with his mother and sisters in a pub called ‘The Montague Arms’ – a one-minute walk from Gertrude Conconi’s residence of 237 Queen’s Road, Deptford.
THE BLAKISTON SAGA
In the 1871 census, we can see that George F Blakiston, his wife Emily Blakiston and their three sons are all residing in Portsea, Portsmouth. This was just prior to Emily Gertrude’s birth. This record suggests George was born in Hammersmith in 1843 and worked as a clerk in the dockyard.
LOST AT PORTSEA?
We know that George Frederic Blakiston was relatively new to the area of Portsea in 1871, as just three years prior, he had bankruptcy proceedings filed against him with an address in Charlton in what is now known as South-East London, but then was in the county of Kent.
His sons Norman and Duncan were both born in Lewisham in 1867 and 1869, respectively. The civil marriage records show that he married Emily Foster in Hanover Square, London, in 1866. A rather eventful five years until the 1871 census.
There are no other official records of Emily Blakiston (nee Foster) after the 1871 census. At least, not as Emily Blakiston, with or without a C.
DEATH BECOMES HIM
In January 1875, George Blakiston filed for liquidation in Sheerness, Kent. Money problems seemed to be a consistent issue in his life. He was listed as a Clerk in the Sheerness Docks. Since Emily Gertrude’s birth, we now know he made his way back north to the more familiar surroundings of Kent and was again in financial dire straits.
In May of that year, he was dead at just 33 years old. It appears he suffered some kind of brain haemorrhage whilst at work. Special thanks to ‘Gary Barnett’ on JTR Forums for providing me this info.
His personal effects were worth less than £120, which was left to Emma Fletcher of the same address. The probate record claims George Frederic Blakiston was a widower.
BAPTISM OF HOPE?
Mis-spellings seem to be a common theme in tracing the life of Emily Gertrude Blakiston. There is a parish baptism record in Sheerness, Kent, at the Holy Trinity Church on 13th October 1875. The record is transcribed as Blackiston, but the actual register shows the correct spelling. We can see that Gertrude and her brother Duncan were baptised at the same time. Their father is listed as ‘Deceased’ and as a Clerk in HM Dockyard. Holy Trinity was an Anglican Church. Why the baptism into that faith just five months after the death of their father?
THE BAND OF BROTHERS
What became of the brothers? Norman Blakiston was listed as a Banker’s Clerk living in lodgings on Store Street in Bloomsbury, London, in the 1891 census at the age of 24. A year later, he married Agnes Revell in the same parish as his parents, St George Hanover Square. Like his father, he died at a young age. In 1902 at just 34, he was dead. He was then a caretaker and left behind one child, a son called Harold.
Duncan George Blakiston appears on the 1881 census in Eton, Buckinghamshire. However, it is as a resident of the orphanage there -The British Orphan Asylum Slough. A Duncan George Blakiston is recorded as applying for US naturalization in 1888. In July 1903, Duncan George Blakiston entered the United States with a wife called Edith and a son called Charles. They go on to have a further son called Howard. Duncan died in San Francisco, California, in 1931 at around 61 years of age.
Records are sparse of Sydney Frederic Blakiston. He only appears on the census again in 1911 in Brighton, Sussex as a guest at ‘The Queens Hotel’. He is listed as single and a Professor of Music. Later that year, he marries Violet Pomeroy in Marylebone. In 1917 his civil death was recorded in Lewes, Sussex but his home address was Eaton Square in London, according to his probate record.
My assumption is that the brothers were most likely separated after the death of their father and possibly put into different orphanages. My guess is they most likely never crossed paths again after being separated as children.
HOW DID GERTRUDE END UP AS A CONCONI?
I believe Gertrude was taken in by Thomas David Conconi in late 1875 / early 1876. At that time, he was on the electoral register as living at 5 Neptune Terrace in Sheerness, Kent. He was born just a little further down the road in Margate.
There is just a mile between this address and Edward Street, where the Blakiston’s resided. Upon learning of the death of the parents of these children, my assumption is either Thomas or Christiana offered to take in the girl. When Thomas died in August 1876 in Lewisham, Christiana then continued her role as an adoptive mother for Gertrude. The Conconis moved back to London around the spring/summer of 1876.
CONCONI CONNECTION CONFIRMED
It took a month for a copy of the marriage certificate of Gertrude Conconi and George Bridge to come through the post. However, it was worth waiting for.
Not only do we see that Gertrude Blackiston was indeed Gertrude Conconi (clearly displayed), but also, her address matches the 1891 census record. The cherry on the cake? One of the witnesses was none other than S.A. Maybrick.
Gertrude went on to appear just once more on the census in 1901, living in Lewisham with her husband. However, sadly just four years later, it appears she died at around 31 years old. Her burial record below from 1905 suggests she had been living in Mitcham at that point.
If Thomas and Christiana Conconi did take in Gertrude when she was orphaned as a small child, it shows a level of compassion I was not expecting from Christiana. At some point in her life, this woman decided to hide the fact her own daughter was exactly that. It is apparent, however, that Christiana was a supporting force in Sarah Ann’s life right up until her own death. Why she chose not to declare her own daughter beyond the 1841 census publicly remains a mystery.
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