Here is a summary of the information I have on my Coombs (or Combs, or Coombes or Combes) ancestors from Worcester, and, more specifically, the mystery of my 3G Grandmother Elizabeth.

HOT NEWS 2015: The mystery described below is no longer a mystery ... all mysteries have been solved! Elizabeth, her brother George and other siblings were born and baptised in Weedon Bec, where their father was working as a bricklayer building the fort referred to below. Now ... read on to see what the mystery was ...

Elizabeth COOMBS married Richard HOWES in 1829 in Chelsea. They had 9 children in Fulham, where Richard worked as a Milkman. After living most of their lives in Fulham, Elizabeth and her Richard moved to Scarborough, where they both died.

In the 1851 Census Elizabeth’s place of birth is given as Fulham, and it would seem that the same assumption has been made in 1841, where she is marked as being born in her county of residence (ie. Middlesex). In 1861, however, she is recorded as coming from Worcester, and in the 1871 census, when she is widowed and living in Scarborough, she also says she is from Worcester. I have taken it that she – or at least her family – are from Worcester, but I guess that whoever reported the family’s details to the earlier census-takers thought of her as having been in Fulham all her life.

In the 1871 Census she is a widowed head of household, but, conveniently, her brother George is staying with her in Scarborough. They are both listed as having been born in Worcester.

Elizabeth’s ages in the censuses are:

·        1841: 34  (The census taker in this district seems to have disregarded the instruction to round ages up or down, and has consistently put actual ages)

·        1851: 43

·        1861: 51

·        1871: 64

She died in March 1873 and her death certificate gives her age as 67.

The consensus of all these sources would seem to suggest that she was born around 1807

In 1871, George is listed as also born in Worcester and aged 62. His profession is given  as ‘Greenwich Pensioner’ which suggests that he had a Naval connection of some kind.

In the 1881 census someone who appears to be the same George is living in Silver Street, Worcester, now aged 71. Being in Worcester, his place of birth is now given more specifically as St. Nicholas Worcester. His profession is listed as Pensioner (Greenwich).

Searching the 1851 census of Worcester, I believe I have found the same gentleman again – but this is where things begin to get a little more conjectural.

In 1851 there is a member of staff at Worcester Gaol listed as George COOMBS, aged 40. His place of birth is listed as Weedon, Northants, and his job is given as “in the marines” – which seems a slightly odd job for a member of staff of Worcester Gaol!

He is listed as married, but there are no family members listed at the Gaol.

On looking for a ‘spare’ family of Coombes’ who may be missing a head of household, I found a Lettice COOMBS, born in Pembroke Dock, and her two children John Henry and Emily Jessie born in Pembroke Dock and Pembroke respectively.

I am aware, from further investigations that the Royal Military Depot was located at Weedon Bec in Northants, and part of the site was a military prison at one time, so it may be that this was where he was based if he was a marine. And Pembroke Dock, of course, was host to a naval dockyard.

I checked potential marriages between a George COOMBS and a ‘Lettice’ and found that George married Lettice LEWIS in Pembroke in Oct 1840. The writing on the certificate is a little unclear in places, so I cannot say with certainty whether George is described as a ‘mariner’ or ‘marines’, but his Father – who is, of course, who I am really interested in – is given as Joseph COOMBS, bricklayer.

At this point, of course, I have a George COOMBS who was probably in the Navy, who definitely married Lettice LEWIS, and who later moved to Worcester to work at the Gaol under the auspices of the Marines. His father was definitely a bricklayer called Joseph COOMBS, and he claims to come from Weedon and to be aged 40 on 30th March 1851 – therefore born around 1810 to 1811.

I also have a Greenwich pensioner called George COOMBS who claims to come from Worcester and to be 62 on 2nd April 1871 – therefore born around 1808 to 1809. He is definitely the brother of my ancestor, Elizabeth.

One (or both!) of these gentlemen was also in Worcester in 1881 living in Silver Street as a Greenwich pensioner.

I have not found any point where both these chaps are both present at the same time as separate individuals, and my instinct is that they are actually the same person.

The location of Silver Street, Worcester now becomes very relevant because I also have a will left by a Benjamin COOMBS, a bricklayer of Worcester. This will was written in 1877, and Benjamin actually died 1878. He leaves Sarah COOMBS “of the Infirmary-walk Spinster the Sister” as his sole Executrix.  In addition he leaves “Thirty pounds sterling to my Brother George COOMBS Pensioner now residing at Silver Street in the said City of Worcester” and the same to: “my sister Mary the Wife of Thomas MILLARDS”. So, in 1877 George was one of at least four siblings (this was, of course, four years after the death of my ancestor Elizabeth HOWES, née COOMBS, who had died in 1873.)

I have traced the baptisms of Benjamin and Sarah, the spinster sister who became his executor. Their father was Joseph COOMBS, a bricklayer from Worcester. Unfortunately I am not able to find the baptisms of George, Elizabeth or Mary in Worcester – even after extensive searching of Worcester parish records in Worcester Record Office - but the will seems to make it abundantly clear that they were siblings.

Benjamin was baptised in the parish of Claines, just to the North of Worcester in 1804. The next child to be baptised by Joseph and his wife Ann is William, who was baptised in the parish of St. Nicholas in Worcester in 1817, and died two years later, and then Sarah in 1820. What happened in the intervening years between 1804 and 1817, when Elizabeth, George and Mary were born, I do not know. The family could have moved away from Worcester for a time, or may have joined a different religious denomination (although I have found no trace of this in the Worcester Record Office.)

All this seems to tie my Elizabeth firmly in with the family of Joseph COMBS of Worcester, although not beyond all conceivable doubt.

Joseph COMBS died in 1825 at the age of 48, and it does not seem that his widow, Ann, remarried. In the 1841 and 1851 censuses she is living with her son Benjamin – the chap who later left the will. In the 1851 census she is 72 and described as a nurse.

I have not yet established Ann’s maiden name, or where and when she married Joseph.

It would appear, however, that Joseph was the son of Joseph COOMB and his wife Elizabeth TOMBES. According to the IGI, he was baptised in Claines on 26th July 1778.

Joseph and Elizabeth married in Claines on 16th August 1773. Elizabeth probably died in 1806 – her husband was granted administration of her estate in 1806.

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Created and maintained by Chris Porter. (
Last updated: 04 February 2005