Alan March’s Family History

This site is a work-in-progress. There is a massive amount to cover. I have included both male and female lines, and some go back many generations. Keep coming back for more.
I have numbered the generations working backwards from Alan’s as (1)(1)

March Tree


 JAMES WILLIAM MARCH was the son of the house painter James March senior and Emma Rodway. He was born in Croydon on 27 Aug 1869.

In the 1871 census he is a one-year-old living in Brighton Road, Croydon, with his parents and 3-month-old sister.

In the 1881 census he is the oldest of six children living with his parents at 10 St Peter’s Street, Croydon. He is then a schoolboy.

At the time of his marriage at the age of 19 he was working as a greengrocer.


EMMA ROFFEY. In two censuses after her marriage, Emma’s birthplace is said to be Croydon, like the rest of the family. In the 1901 census, it is correctly given as Chipstead, Surrey.

She was born in the village of Chipstead on 21 Aug 1868. Her birth certificate says that her father was the farm labourer James Roffey and her mother Caroline Roffey. In fact, Caroline, née Ladd, was the wife of Francis Studdle. Their marriage had broken down, and Caroline was living with the unmarried James Roffey. She was said in the next census to be his housekeeper. This was probably a euphemism for the fact that the couple were living together as man and wife. Francis Studdle outlived Caroline. Since divorce was unaffordable for working-class people, Emma’s parents were never able to marry.

Chipstead is a village on the North Downs in north-east Surrey. It is bounded on one side by Banstead Wood. The neighbouring village of Banstead was the birthplace of Emma’s mother Caroline Studdle.

In the next two censuses Emma’s surname is mistakenly given as Studdle, though she was registered as Emma Roffey.

Emma’s father had started work as an agricultural labourer, and then become a fettler, doing maintenance work on the railway track. Here, he is again working on a farm. He returned to work on the railway, and seems to have stayed with this until he retired.

In 1871 we find James Roffey, fetler on the railway, living at Croydon Road, Chipstead. He is said to be 31 years old and married, though he was, in fact, single. With him is his “housekeeper”, 46-year-old Caroline Studdle, with her daughters, 7-year-old Kate Louisa and 2-year-old Emma. Both girls’ surnames are given as Studdle.

In 1881 Emma is living at Hooley Lane, Merstham, 3 miles south of Chipstead, with her parents, who have still not married. Her half-sister, Kate Louisa has left home. Instead, there are two male boarders and two child visitors aged 4 and 1.

We do not know how Emma, from rural Chipstead, met the Croydon greengrocer James March. At the time of their marriage they were both living at 29 Junction Road. We do not know whether they had anticipated their marriage, or whether they were boarding at the same house.


James William March married Emma Roffey on 23 Sep 1888 at St Peter’s church, Croydon.

The witnesses were George ?Hollow and Alice Jane March. Alice was James’s younger sister.

James moved on from the greengrocer’s shop to become a groom.

He and Emma had seven children, two of whom died in infancy.

1889 Jul   William James
1891 Sidney Percy. Sidney died in the second quarter of 1893
1893 Frederick.  Frederick died not long after Sidney, in the 4th quarter of 1893
1895 Jan 2  Thomas Harvey
1896 Jul 27  Mabel
1901 Dec 3  Emma
1905 June 25  Charles Henry

1891 Census. St Elves, Sussex Road, Croydon
James W March      Head      M      21      Groom                 Croydon
Emma March           Wife       M      22                                  Croydon
William March          Son                   1                                   Croydon
George Thorman       Lodger   S        25      Carman                Hangford, Berks

Horse transport was giving way to the internal combustion engine. James’s occupation changed from looking after horses to driving a lorry.

In 1897 the family were living at 29 Junction Road when William James was enrolled in Archbishop Tenison’s Boys School. He had previously been at school at the parish church school of St Peter’s. The following year he transferred to Brighton Road Junior School. The family had moved to 4 Magdala Road, and the new school would have been nearer.

There is a family tradition that one of the March ancestors drove a beer lorry between Croydon and London and that he was a bigamist with a family in both towns. The evidence tends to support much of this. Croydon was famous for the number of its breweries.

James’s occupation had some similarities with that of his grandfather, another James March, who was a Post Boy. That meant he was either delivering mail between towns, or riding postillion with a stage coach. The Croydon to Brighton road was a major stage coach route. James may have been travelling over the same road as his grandfather.

James is missing from the next census. He is not at home with Emma, nor has he been found elsewhere. Even if he was away from home, he should have been included in the census at the address where he was at midnight on 31 March 1901. It is possible that he spent the night sleeping in the cab of his lorry and so missed being counted. But a more likely explanation is that he was at the home of his partner in Brighton, and that she did not wish to make this public by including him in the census return.

Emma was left to bring up the children largely on her own. She supplemented the family income by taking in washing.

1901 Census. 27 Napier Road, Croydon.
Emma March      Wife  M    32     Laundress Wash                   Chipstead, Surrey
William J March   Son    S     11                                                  Croydon
Thomas H March Son           6                                                   Croydon
Mabel March        Daur         4                                                   Croydon
Emma March       Daur         4 mths                                            Croydon

Emma is working on her own account at home

The marriage had not completely broken down. In 1906, Thomas was enrolled in Brighton Road Boys School and Mabel was enrolled in Purley Oaks Primary School, part of the Brighton Road Schools group. In both cases James is named as the parent. The family are now living at 1 Magdala Road.

The following year, at the age of 18, William James enlisted in the Royal Navy, serving first as a seaman on the Impregnable. He rose to become a petty officer and served through the First World War.

In 1911, Emma is still working as a laundress and James is again absent.

1911 Census. 1 Alma Cottages, Magdala Road, Croydon
Emma March      Wife              M    42   Laundress                               Croydon
Thomas March     Son               S     16   Milk Boy                                 Croydon
Charlie March    Son                       5    School                                     Croydon
Clara March         Daur in law   M    23   General Work Domestic          Croydon
William March     Grandson             3                                                   Croydon

Further information in this census tells us that Emma had had 9 children, of whom only five were still alive. She was now a worker, instead of self-employed. The name Mills has been crossed out. This may be the name of her employer.

Clara March was formerly Clara Elizabeth Sullivan. She had married the March’s eldest son William in 1908. They had had two children of whom one was still alive. This must be 3-year-old William junior. She is working outside the home for Mr Wilson.

Neither of Emma’s daughter is with her. Mabel was a 14-year-old general domestic servant with Charles Springman, grain salesman, and his family at 66 Mayfield Road, Sanderstead, South Croydon.

Emma junior, born in 1901, is also no longer with them. We do not have a record of her being admitted to school in Croydon, nor did she die young, In the 1911 census, 10-year-old Emma March, born in Croydon, is a resident scholar at Victoria Road, Margate. Like the majority of her schoolmates, she is totally deaf, though a few are simply deaf. We can imagine the difficulty Emma senior would have had in raising such a child at home.

The London Asylum for the Education of the Deaf and Dumb Children of the Poor was founded in 1792. It was the first public institution to provide a free education for such children. The Margate branch was opened in 1876 and the school moved there from London in 1905 so that the pupils could benefit from the sea air.

Emma was lucky to get a place there. The school was hugely oversubscribed, with applications from across the country.

A conference in Milan in 1880, however, decided that the Oral method of teaching deaf children was better than sign language, and the school followed this lead. Ninety years later it was realised that the suppression of sign language had significantly damaged the education of these children.

School for the Deaf, Margate [1]

This time we do know where James was for this census.

1911 Census. 31 John Street, Brighton.
James March           Head        41   Widower     Bus driver            Croydon
William Hollamby    Border      40   Single         Cattle Drover        Brighton

Emma senior was very much alive and living in Croydon. When James describes himself as a widower, we can only assume that his Brighton partner had died. We do not know her name or what children she may have had by James.

The other possibility is that he called himself a widower to explain why he was living without a wife.

James has given up his job as a long-distance lorry driver, which was based in Croydon. He is now settled in Brighton, driving buses.

There is no evidence that James ever contracted a second marriage during this time.

When 7-year-old Charles entered Brighton Road Junior School in 1912, it was no longer James’s name that was entered in the column for his parent or guardian. Unlike almost every other child in his year, the word “mother” has been entered in this column.

It is thus probably between 1906, when Thomas and Mabel were enrolled in school, and 1911 that James’s frequent absences in Brighton became a permanent situation.

At 45, James was too old to serve in World War I and their son Charles too young. William was already in the navy.

Thomas joined the Queens (Royal West Surrey) Regiment. He was killed at the Battle of Arras in northern France on 11 May 1917, reportedly by a sniper’s bullet. Private Thomas Harvey March is commemorated at the Arras Memorial. This bears the names of an astounding 34, 814 soldiers from Britain, South Africa and New Zealand who died in this battle but have no known grave.

Arras Memorial [2]

The citation by the War Graves Commission tells its own story.

Service Number S/6485
Died 11/05/1917
Aged 22
2nd Bn. The Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment)
Son of Mrs Emma March, of 1, Magdala Rd, South Croydon, Surrey.

James has evidently not returned to Croydon. Thomas has told the Army only his mother’s name.

James was 40 miles away in Brighton when the telegram arrived that every soldier’s family dreaded. We can only speculate about when and how he learned of his son’s death.

In 1911, the oldest pupils at the school for the deaf in Margate were 15. Emma junior reached her 16th birthday in Dec 1917. It was thus about this time that she finished her education and returned to the family home.

Emma senior found her work in the laundry. A number of the domestic staff at the school were also totally deaf, and presumably former pupils. Their occupations suggest that Emma junior’s education would have included laundry work so that she would be employable in spite of her disability.

James did return to his family in Croydon. This was probably motivated by the apparent death of his partner in Brighton. As the family tradition says, he was driving a lorry for a brewery.

Now that she has the main breadwinner back, Emma no longer needs to work at the laundry. But Emma junior is reaping the rewards of her training at Margate and is employed as an ironer. Charles has begun his lifelong career in printing.

The family are still living in Magdala Road.

1921 Census. 1 Magdala Road, Croydon.
James March      Head         51y 7 m   Married  Croydon   Carman    Page & Overton Brewers
Surrey St, Croydon
Emma March      Wife         52y 9m     Married                                        Chipstead  Surrey
Charles March    Son           15y 11m   Single     Croydon   Printing     Mr Hayward, George St                                                                                                              Croydon
Emma March       Daughter   20y 6m     Single     Croydon   Ironer       Mrs Campbell, Selsdon Rd

By the 1938 Register, 70-year-old James has retired. The family are still living at Alma Cottages in Magdala Road.

1939 Register. 1 Alma Cottages, Magdala Road, Croydon.
James W March           27 Aug 1869        M                Lorry Driver retired
Emma March               21 Aug 1868        M                Unpaid Domestic Duties
Emma March                 3 Dec 1901          S                 Ironer at Laundry
Sydney G March           24 April 1914       S                 Painter & Decorator

Only their youngest child, the profoundly deaf Emma, is still living with them. She was 39, but still single. She continued to work in the laundry business, as her mother had done.

Sydney March was their grandson, the child of William and Clara. In 1911, Clara and her first child had been living here with Emma and two of her sons.

Croydon was heavily bombed in World War II. Over 1,300 bombs fell on the borough. Magdala Road was adjacent to the Brighton Road bus depot, which was burnt to the ground in a devastating raid on the night of 10 May 1941.

Brighton Road bus garage 1941.[3]

Emma did not live to see the end of the war. She died in Croydon in the first quarter of 1944. She was aged 75.

James outlived her by 13 years. He died in the 3rd quarter of 1957 aged 87.

We do not know what happened to Emma junior after her parents died. She lived to the age of 70, dying in the first quarter of 1971.


[1] https://historyof.place/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/deaf_home-1024×752.png
[2] https://www.studiogbp.com/wp-content/uploads/Faubourg-D%E2%80%99Amiens-Cemetery-%E2%80%93-Arras-Memorial-Cemetery-France-11.jpg
[3] https://i2-prod.mylondon.news/news/south-london-news/article16010272.ece/ALTERNATES/s615b/0_BusBombPNG.png





March Tree