Piecing together the complicated life of Eliza Grist

Eliza Grist was the daughter of my gggg uncle WIlliam Grist. When I started to see what I could find for her, I soon realised that she didn’t have a conventional life, so I couldn’t resist seeing if I could piece it all together. The following has been compiled using online records only: I haven’t paid to get copies of any certificates for her even though it would be interesting to see what they say. But his hobby costs enough already! There is such a wealth of data available online these days, though, that it’s interesting to see what can be gleaned just using the information an Ancestry subscription provides.

On 12 July 1840, Eliza Grist was baptised at Darfield, Yorkshire, daughter of my gggg uncle William Grist and Emma Wood. In the census she consistently gives her birthplace as Smithley, which is in the parish of Darfield but is close to its border with Worsbrough. Her aunt Sarah Grist married Thomas Oxley, and their daughter Margaret (Eliza’s cousin) married Joseph Green of Worsbrough. Eliza, however, certainly didn’t lead a run of the mill life.

Eliza Grist is with her parents at Smithley in 1841, her father William a turner, and she is the youngest of 5 children. In 1851 the family have moved a few fields away to Blacker Hill and her father is a grocer and flour dealer.

In 1856, when she was only just 16 years old, Eliza married Matthew Cook, the marriage registered in Jul-Aug-Sep quarter in Barnsley, the nearest registration office to Blacker Hill. The reason for such a young marriage is the birth of Etty Cook (aka Hetty) registered Jan-Feb-Mar 1857 at Barnsley. The birth of Epsy Cook was registered in 1859 in Barnsley.

The complex life begins with the 1861 census. Eliza Cook is at Blacker Hill with her parents, William and Emma, and her 1 year old daughter Epsy Cook. Hetty Cook age 4 is not far away, in Wombwell with her grandparents William and Mary Cook. Checking back in the census to trace their son, the 1851 census has William and Mary Cook at Wombwell with a 17 year old son, coal miner Matthew Cook, and in 1841 William, Mary and son Matthew are at Elsecar. Looking for a birth of Matthew turned up a baptism in 1833 at Attercliffe of Matthew Cook, parents William and Mary Cook. He has to be the Matthew Cook who married Eliza Grist, but where was he in 1861? The answer is he was living as a boarder in Monk Bretton: the census has Matthew Cook married age 28, coal miner, born Attercliffe. So why were Matthew and Eliza not together and why was their daughter Hetty with her paternal grandparents whereas Epsy was with her mother and maternal grandparents? It seems that all was not well with the marriage of Eliza and Matthew.

In 1871, Eliza turns up at Hoyland (not far from Blacker Hill) as a boarder in the house of Something Smith (the name has been written over and is impossible to read) age 28, an iron puddler born in Bilston, Staffordshire. With her is a son Joseph Grist age 7 born in Tankersley, which is just down the road from Hoyland, plus another female boarder with a young child. There is a birth of a Joseph Grist registered in Barnsley in January quarter 1867, though this wouldn’t make him 7 in April 1871, and there is also a death in 1867 in Barnsley of Joseph Grist age 0. Eliza’s son Joseph, in later census, says he was born in Beal, Lancashire, then Bacup, Lancashire and then in 1901 says Platts Common, Yorkshire – but there is no Joseph Grist born in Lancashire and heaven knows what Eliza would have been doing there. It would seem, however, that Joseph is not Matthew Cook’s son but was born illegitimate and possibly wasn’t registered, or registered under a surname that isn’t Grist or Cook.

So where was Matthew Cook? In 1871 there’s a Matthew Cook age 28, collier, born Yorkshire, living in Newcastle under Lyme, Staffordshire with a wife Elizabeth and children aged 8 to 3. There is no marriage for Matthew Cook and Elizabeth, so they probably weren’t but were saying they were in the census for appearance’s sake. That this is the correct Matthew Cook is confirmed in the 1881 census, as he gives his place of birth as Attercliffe.

But where, in 1871, were daughters Hetty and Epsy? Hetty Cook age 15 is a domestic servant in Barnsley, and Epsy Cook age 11 is still with her maternal grandparents who are now living at Nether Hoyland, not far from where Eliza is living. A good question us why wasn’t she living with them too!

Hetty Cook married in Shipley, Bradford in 1876, to an iron clog maker called Smith Gill Holdsworth and in the 1881 census gives her place of birth as Blacker Hill, so it’s the correct Hetty. They had children and then Hetty died age 33 in 1892.

In 1879, Eliza Grist had a daughter registered as Emma Grist Moss at Barnsley. In 1881 she is at Platts Common, Nether Hoyland calling herself a widow (she wasn’t but her husband Matthew Cook had clearly abandoned her and his daughters). With Eliza are her son Joseph age 16, a colliery labourer, her daughter Emma age 2, and a boarder James Moss age 40, a sawyer from Derbyshire. It would appear that James Moss was Emma’s father. Also in the household is visitor Minnie Cook age 5, born Worsbrough, which seems to indicate that Eliza may have been in touch with her husband’s family. Unfortunately nothing else can be found for this Minnie Cook so I’m not sure who she was.

In 1884 Epsy Cook (as Hepsy Cook) married George Lycett at Wakefield, and they can be found in the 1891 census at Higham, to the north-east of Barnsley. Hepsy gives her place of birth as Blacker Hill, confirming it’s the right Epsy/Hepsy. George Lycett was born in Hoyland Nether and is a coal miner, and living with them in 1891 is George’s brother-in-law and Hepsy’s half brother Joseph Grist, age 26 and a boiler maker. Epsy died in 1897, her death registered as Hephzibah Lycett age 39 at Barnsley.

In 1891 Eliza Grist, widow age 50, is at Wentworth Road, Hoyland Nether with her daughter Emma age 12 and a boarder, John W Sharpe age 26, a coal miner from Barnsley. James Moss has disappeared – he was in Hoyland Nether in 1881 and 1891 but then can’t be found. Eliza’s husband Matthew Cook isn’t in the 1891 census, which isn’t surprising: he can be found in the 1900 USA census in Lackawanna, Pennsylvania having arrived in the US in 1887. His “wife” Elizabeth must have died, but with him is daughter Mary and son Thomas and living two doors away is son William, who had arrived in USA in 1882 and by 1900 had a wife and 3 children named Mary, Matthew and Elizabeth.

In 1901 Eliza Grist is at 17 Barnsley Road, Hoyland Nether, a widow age 60, with her daughter Emma Grist age 23, a grandson James Grist age 2 – who is the illegitimate son of Emma – and a lodger J W Sharpe, coal miner, born Barnsley. Emma was to have another illegitimate child, Joseph Arthur Grist, in 1901. Eliza’s son Joseph Grist is, in 1901, working in Durham, unmarried and a boarder with two elderly sisters. Then in 1903 Emma Grist Moss married John William Sharpe, their marriage registered at Barnsley. However, John William Sharpe was not the father of her two children, as in the 1911 census they are listed as his stepsons.

Eliza died in 1906: her death was registered as Eliza Cook age 66 in Barnsley. She seems to have had a somewhat unfortunate life, but piecing it together from the records was an enjoyable challenge.

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