On my trail to find more about my family tree I came across the delightful name of Moonlight! Yes, it is an actual name. John and William Moonlight appear in the 1851 census, both born in Scotland, one living in Withyham, East Grinstead, the other was visiting Portsea Island where my husband’s family came from. John was an agricultural labourer born in 1829, and William was a tailor born in 1827.
By 1861, William is recorded s lodging in Harlow, still a tailor, and no mention on the census of being married. In this census there is a John Moonlight recorded, probably the same man as his birth is recorded as 1830 – and some people were very hazy over their age in those days. John is a dock worker now, has a wife, Alice who is nine years younger than him, and a baby boy Thomas, not even a year old. Also lodging in the same house is a young woman who I guess is his sister, Elizabeth, who was also born in Scotland.
There are another family of Moonlights, all born in Ainsworth, Lancashire, and all cotton weavers; Henry 44, his wife Martha 45, and children John, 24, Levi, 19, and Henry junior, 15. (What a great name Levi Moonlight – and people complain I have extraordinary names in my novels!) Another family, this time in Chorlton-upon-Medlock in Manchester, have children Sarah, 4, and baby Edward, but the parents surname is written as Mannios… now they are born in Ireland and I’m guessing that the enumerator couldn’t understand their accent. The father is William aged 29 and a leather worker, his wife’s name is difficult to read but maybe Helen or it maybe an Irish name that the enumerator couldn’t work out. It doesn’t say where in Ireland they come from… maybe I can find out more on the 1871 census, if they are still in England!
Well… 1871 census… the only Moonlights are the Liverpool family, John, Alice, Thomas and now little Agnes aged 6. Where have the others gone? Back to Ireland or Scotland? Who knows?! By 1881 only young Thomas, still living in the Mount Pleasant area of Liverpool, now a butcher with a young wife Catherine, only Thomas appears on the census.
Until I look at death records I won’t know for sure, but looking at the 1891 census, Catherine Moonlight, wife of Thomas the butcher is alone as a lodger… where is Thomas? Gone to Ireland to see his family? Joined the navy? Died? Meanwhile, up in Sunderland a new family of Moonlights have appeared: Isabella born in 1856 in Scotland, and her children George, 23, William, 21, Isabella, 19, and Jane, 14, also born in Scotland, and their young brother, Charles aged 12 and born in Durhamshire. The oder boys are tailors, Isabella is a milliner and the younger two are at school. I wonder if Alexander H.S. Moonlight, also a tailor and living not far away in Durham is another brother? he has a wife, Mary, who at 20 is five years younger than he is.
I was worrying about the absence of Thomas, husband of Catherine when I looked up the 1891 census. Well here he is, bold as brass in 1901, still a butcher… but now with a different wife, Mary! There is a Catherine Moonlight, a laundress and lodge living somewhere else, but her date of birth is different from Thomas’s original wife… however that doesn’t necessarily mean anything as people, especially poorly educated people were not always sure of their dates of birth. This is a mystery that needs exploring!
Up in Sunderland Isabella and her family are flourishing. She is living alone with her son Charles who, like his brothers is a tailor. Alexander, who may or may not be Isabella’ son, because now his place of birth is noted as Ireland is married to Mary. Thee is a new piece of information on the record, infirmity… and both Alexander and Mary are deaf and dumb and have been from childhood. They have two little children, Ernest,8, and Elizabeth, 3, neither of whom has a mention of any infirmity…. however, in another family, Elizabeth Crozier and her grown up children, Frederick, Stanley and Sally, who are all mentioned as being deaf and dumb, there is a little granddaughter Violet Moonlight, aged 3… Frederick is a plater, Stanley is a ship’s joiner, Sally is a laundress,
Isabella’s other son, William is now married to Annie and they have children too, Elizabeth and Norman Lyndsay, aged 1 and 5.
The last census I can access, 1911 and here are 17 Moonlights recorded. Isabella is still alive up in the north-east, now aged 76; she is living with her daughter Jane and two grandchildren Linda aged 6 and little 5 month-old Sheila. Isabella’s son and daughter-in-law William and Annie have experienced some sadness; two of their five children died, however Norman is now working as an office boy for a ship brokers and coal exporter, Elizabeth is at school and Isabella named after her grandmother and aunty is aged 5.
Alexander, who might be Isabella’s son, has his full name revealed in this census, Alexander Horatio Smart Moonlight! Another grand name! They have also lost a child, but Ernest Horatio is an apprentice electrician and Elizabeth Violet is at school. Isabella’s son George is now living in Bolton, Lancashire, still a tailor and married to a Scots girl, Janet; they have two children, George and Marion.
I could write so much more about the family with the beautiful name, maybe another time, but what is interesting is the way the occupations and names have changed over the years. Agricultural and dock labourers, cotton spinners, platers, ships’ joiners, coal exporters’ apprentice electrician,… it reflects nearly a century of change. The names too, from William and John and George, Mary and Martha to Ernest, Sally, Norman, Marian, Sheila and Linda; however if you look at birth announcements today it has gone full circle, now we have George and William Thomas, and Mary and Martha and Isabella! Plus ça change!