Finding Elizabeth Fleming

For the last few weeks I have been putting together a biography of a Fleming in my tree, one of my London ancestors but I can’t discover what became of his mother, my great great-great-grandmother Elizabeth Fleming. She is still a mystery!

Elizabeth was born at Portsea, Hampshire, England in 1820 one of several children to Robert King a master mariner and Sarah (Dowling). In 1838 at Bermondsey Elizabeth married George Fleming a corn factor and together they had seven children: Elizabeth Mary (1839-1844), Robert George (1840-1906), George Warren (1841-1864), Isabella Ann Wales (1843-1926), Katherine Mary (1848- ), Alfred (1850-1894) and William Fleming (1852- ).

The last record I had in Elizabeth’s life line was the birth certificate for her youngest son William in 1852.  Her brothers were master mariners and I wondered if she maybe ran off to the West Indies because two years later, as soon as he was old enough (14), her eldest son Robert George Fleming signed on as a ‘boy’ or trainee on the Zephyr for a voyage to St Vincent.

 Eleven years later in 1863 she wasn’t mentioned in her husband’s will and the only other clue was the 1861 census when Elizabeth wasn’t at home with her husband and children in Peckham. Had she run away? Had she passed away?  The 1861 census enumerator wasn’t sure either. Click the image to see he recorded George’s marital status as “Mar ?”

1961 census entry for Elizabeth's family
1861 census entry for Elizabeth’s family in Peckham, Surrey. (RG9/383/127 page 35)

My starting point to find her death was a list of possible deaths registrations south of the river in London using the General Register Office index of deaths which also lists ages for the deceased  (
Elizabeth Fleming 1852 Q4 St Saviour RD 1d/28 age 25
Eliza Fleming 1855 Q1 Isle of Thanet RD 2a/490 age 91
Eliza Fleming 1855 Q2 Lambeth 2d/233 age 28
Finding the relevant burial records on Ancestry and FindMyPast eliminated both the 1855 entries and a death certificate for the other one confirmed she hadn’t died after the birth of William in 1852.

As they had only ever lived south of the river I extended the search at to find a real possibility! Elizabeth Fleming buried 26 August 1865, aged 45 of New Church St, Bermondsey – – her mother and sister had lived in this street for over ten years in the 1840s.

The digital image of her death certificate confirmed she was indeed the widow of George Fleming, corn factor. Very pleased to find her! (click the certificate image below for a larger view)

Maybe one day I’ll understand why she wasn’t remembered in her husband’s will and why she was buried as far away as possible from the family plot in the enormous West Norwood Cemetery in Surrey.

1865 Elizabeth Fleming death certificate.
 Death certificate for Elizabeth Fleming (1865 Q3 St Mary Magdalene Bermondsey District 1d/54)