The Luck family from High Roding in Essex


I am writing this for all those of you who have the name Luck or Algar as your second given name. 

In the eighteenth century ordinary people commonly had just one given name, a personal name, if you like, besides their family or surname.  It was not uncommon for eight, ten or even more children to be born into one family, but infant mortality was very high.  Eighteenth century parents did not think it odd to re-use the same name again for a subsequent child, when the first named had died. 

It is easy to see how Christian names run in families - for example, the Wardens used James, William, and Robert - while the Algars favoured John.  The first son was often named after his father, the first daughter after her mother.  Thereafter, names could be chosen from either side of the family, according to the child’s gender and the personal preferences of the parents.  People seemed content with this, and originality is not often found - Parsley Bacon, and his nephew Parsley Luck are about as exciting as we can find in our own family tree. 

In the nineteenth century many people still possessed just the one given name, and managed perfectly well with that, but by the middle of the century this custom was changing.  Perhaps it was because more babies survived beyond infancy, and people in general had a longer life expectancy as the century went on.  It therefore became necessary to give a child more than one name to distinguish it from others. 

To the Victorians, this also provided an opportunity to commemorate earlier generations, and much use was made of the mother’s maiden name as a second given name for boys or girls.  Although people were indeed living longer, it was still not common for more than two generations to be alive at one time.  Grandparents did not often live to see their grand children grow up. 

And so we find that John Algar and his wife Elizabeth (Luck) named their second daughter Mary Ann Luck Algar, thus ensuring a reminder of Elizabeth’s family origins.  Maybe it was also a compliment to Elizabeth’s older unmarried sister, Mary Ann Luck.  (Perhaps she was Godmother to her little niece - but that I do not know).  In turn, James Henry Warden and Elizabeth Rosetta (Algar) named their first-born son William Luck Warden.  His younger daughter Marguerite named her son Richard Luck Demoulin.  Richard’s sister Elizabeth named her son Pierre Luc Charron - now, there’s another story. This being a French baptism, the priest refused to accept ‘Luck’ for a given name, and insisted on the substitution of ‘Luc’ instead, which Anglicized becomes ‘Luke’.  (But the Wardens all knew what was intended !)

In like manner, the Algar family name has been perpetuated via the Warden family.  You will find Ellen Algar Warden, (named for her mother, Elizabeth Rosetta Algar), who also named her daughter Beryl Lucy Algar Fletcher;  Marguerite Yvonne Algar Warden (named for her grandmother, Elizabeth Rosetta), and Philippine Algar Michel-Paulsen, one of her great-granddaughters. 

Other examples in our own family deserve a mention.  Mary Bastoe Warden (Aunty Daisy to many of us) was named for her father’s younger brother, Basstoe Warden, and he in turn bore his mother’s maiden name.  (She was Ann Elizabeth Basstoe 1821-1878). 

Alice Rodwell Warden (Auntie Lallie) was named for her great-grandmother, Sarah Rodwell, who married William Warden (1782-1844). 

This is an interesting custom, and one which obliges us to remember previous generations, and our own origins. This in turn can provide a useful perspective for one’s own life. 

The Luck Family

The Nineteenth Century 

James Luck was born in 1785 - the reason we know this is that he gave his age as 75 in the 1861 Census.  His birthplace was High Roding in Essex.  This is the modern spelling of the village name - in the last century it was written as High Roothing, which tells us something of the local dialect !  It is a small and unremarkable Essex village, straddling a Roman road. No fewer than nine villages clustered round this ancient roadway have names that end with ‘Roding’.  The Oxford Dictionary of English Place-names suggests that this was the land of the people of Hrotha or Hroda, and indeed the area immediately surrounding all these settlements is known as The Rodings. 

In April 1820 James Luck married Elizabeth Bacon (with her parents’ consent, because she was only 18).  Now Elizabeth was the youngest daughter of James Bacon, a builder and a farmer.  In 1816 her father decided to remove himself and his large family of 10 children to London, perhaps to seek better fortune - but Elizabeth remained behind with her grandparents in Hatfield Broadoak,(formerly Hatfield Regis) where she was born and brought up.  Her youngest brother was Samuel Sampson Bacon, whom some of you may already be familiar with, since my Mother once wrote a small pamphlet about him, and his independent minded and somewhat eccentric Papa, based on a story recounted in his obituary of 1876. 

Perhaps her grand parents were sad to see the family go, or maybe it was intended that Elizabeth should look after them in their old age - at this distance we can only surmise.  But for whatever reason, Elizabeth stayed behind, and it was not long after that she married James, from a village just four miles away. 

In due course James and Elizabeth raised seven children.  They were living in White Roding (and presumably not yet married) when their first-born, Harriet, arrived (1818).  The family moved back to High Roding - equidistant from Hatfield Broadoak and White Roding - and probably remained there for the rest of their lives.  Next came Mary Ann (b1821), Elizabeth (b1824), Parsley (1825-1838), Sarah (b1828) and last of all twins, Joseph and Susan (b1832) whom one suspects did not survive beyond infancy, because I can find no trace of them in the 1841 Census. 

James Luck at first proved to be very difficult for me to track down.  When his daughter Elizabeth was married in 1850, he gave his occupation as Agricultural Labourer on her marriage certificate.  For a long time I did not manage to reconcile this fact with the only James and Elizabeth Luck whom I could find in the 1841 Census in High Roding - he, the Schoolmaster, and she, the Schoolmaster’s wife.  However I now consider that this is one and the same person, since both his and his wife’s ages match all the other information which I have.  In 1841 they gave their ages as 56 and 41 respectively.  This was unusual for this Census, since all that the enumerators were required to do at this date, was to round down given ages to the nearest five years.  But I have noticed that the more educated people, and those of the upper classes, were actually more likely to give their exact age. 

By 1851 it would be reasonable to suppose that James Luck had retired from school-mastering.  Sadly, for my researches, there are no 1851 Census records available for this part of Essex, and so I cannot confirm this.  But I do know that by 1861 he was living with his youngest daughter Sarah - still in High Roding, and perhaps helping his son-in-law, William Reeve, who earned his living as an agricultural labourer.  And so, for his own reasons, the father-in-law set aside his learning, and also described himself in the same manner. 

Elizabeth Luck died in 1859 aged 58 (given age 65), which was a good age for those times.  Her husband James did better still - he died six years later in 1865, aged almost eighty. 

And what of their offspring ? 

Harriett, the eldest, married John Ansell, a coachman, and they lived for almost all their married lives in Hertford St. John.  Although Hertford lies in the next County, it is no more than fifteen miles due west of the Rodings.  They had at least nine children, born in the 1840s and 1850s, whose fortunes I have not followed, as they are not central to our story.  John Ansell died in 1886, aged 70, and Harriett died in 1895 aged 77. 

Mary Ann, who was known to the Algars as Aunt Mary Luck, was never married, as far as I know.  We get a brief glimpse of her life, when she appears in the Census for 1851 . Her occupation is given as a general servant, and her birthplace, as Roothing in Essex.  How did I find her, you may well ask.  I was searching for the Bacon family in London - and there was Mary Ann, aged 30, on a visit to her maternal uncle, Samuel Sampson Bacon, and his family.  After this I was able to trace her in all the censuses from 1841-1891. She found her niche working as cook to a succession of comfortable upper-class households in London, but by 1891 she had retired, and was living in rented accommodation in Willesden, not very far from her married sister Elizabeth. Mary Ann died in 1892 aged 72.

Elizabeth, the third daughter, has a more important role in our story, because she married John Algar (2), a gardener, in 1850, in the parish church at High Roding, Essex.  They began their married life in Hope Place, Tottenham, (1851 Census) but by 1852 they were established in Willesden, Middlesex, then a village outside London.  There were four children from this marriage - Elizabeth Rosetta, who was to marry James Henry Warden; Mary Ann Luck (named for her Aunt) and known to us as Auntie Madge; John (3); and Eliza Ann - Auntie Di. 

James Parsley Luck, the only son, was named for another maternal uncle, Parsley Bacon. He died aged 13 in 1838, and that, alas, is all that is known about him. 

Sarah, the fourth daughter, and William Reeve also raised nine children in the period between 1850 and 1870.  This pattern of a large family was still not at all uncommon for the middle of the 19th century.  However, far more of those children would now survive beyond infancy to grow up, marry, and have families of their own, in turn.  It is perhaps sufficient to note that subsequent generations often produced smaller families.  If I go into all the reasons why this should have been so, we shall have a textbook, instead of a family history.  The Reeves lived all their married life in High Roding.  Sarah died there in 1887 aged 59, and William Reeve died in 1891, aged 65. 

For the time being, that is where we must leave the Luck family. Eventually  I  hope to extend my researches back into the eighteenth century - who knows what I shall find ! 

Looking for more details? Try the Family Groups page, where you will find Census references, birth, marriage and death records.