When considering such large families, it’s interesting to look for patterns and trends. In this case, I count five male children compared to nine females, which doesn't exactly adhere to the law of averages! Five of their children died* by the age of 2 (two boys and three girls), while nine lived to adulthood. That’s a 36% mortality rate. The repeated loss of so many children must have been devastating for Thomas and Mary Ann and their family.
- 2 in January (Mary Ann & Louisa)
- 1 in March (Elizabeth #1*)
- 1 in April (John Dalby*)
- 3 in May (Frederick*, Jane Hannah, and Harriet*)
- 1 in July (Thomas)
- 2 in August (William Scoons, Sarah Ellen)
- 1 in October (Elizabeth #2*)
- 2 in November (Eliza Amelia, Caroline)
- 1 in December (Alfred)
I have to wonder if this marathon production of children contributed to Mary Ann’s early death in 1862 at the relatively young age of 45. Her youngest daughter would have been only three and a half years old. And because of her age, I wouldn’t be surprised if Mary Ann’s death was the result of complications with yet another pregnancy, but this is pure conjecture. Living in London in this era had plenty of other health risks to consider as well.
Thomas's parents were non-conformist, so his birth rather than his baptism was recorded in the Herne Bay Union Bay, Mortimer Street registers, perhaps some time after the fact. His three oldest siblings were certainly born in Headcorn up to 1806. When the birth of his sister Louisa was registered, they were then "of the Parish of Boughton, formerly of Headcorn", and "of Boughton" on the next line for Thomas's birth, so it is likely that Thomas was born in Boughton. However, census and other sources claim he was born and baptised in Headcorn. The family lived in both locations before they “moved to Camberwell in about 1820 where [Thomas's father Thomas] also opened a Wheelwright Shop.”
Anecdotal information on this Boorman branch comes from a family history written in the early 1950s by a relative Caroline Dyer titled "Notes on the Life and the Descendants of Thomas Boorman”. Caroline Winifred DYER was Thomas’s spinster granddaughter through his daughter Mary Ann BOORMAN. She writes the following about her grandfather:
When [Thomas] Boorman became of an age to start work, he was apprenticed to a coach-builder and served his seven years apprentice-ship in the Camberwell neighbourhood. When that period ended he had next to find himself a post as an improver or journeyman. So he set out one morning from his home in Camberwell and walked on stopping at any likely looking Coachbuilders' premises to enquire if a workman were required.
He must have walked some distance. Presumably through Kennington, Clapham and part of Battersea before he found himself approach[ing] Wandsworth by way of East Hill. Going down the hill he came to a Coach builder's works with the name of Stamper. He enquired there and was taken on, found himself lodgings in Wandsworth and settled dawn to his new job.”
With the early death of his wife Mary Ann in 1862, Thomas still had a young family to raise, but he waited until 1882 to marry again. His second wife Emma Stanton was reportedly the "niece of Mrs. Cavell, Thomas’s housekeeper", and considerably younger than Thomas (Emma was born about 1841 in Plaistow Essex according to the 1891 census). So the question remains: who took care of his large young family in the interim? By 1862 Thomas's oldest children where already grown, with his oldest son and daughter already married. Thomas Jr already had a son of his own (of course they named him Thomas!), and Mary Ann was expecting her own first child. In the 1871 census, Sarah Cavill was living with the family, an unmarried housekeeper from Essex and 68 years of age. Presumably her duties included minding the younger children.
We also have a rather fuzzy image of handwriting which says “T Boorman 1885”; the family assumes that this was his signature. It was written on the back of a photo, perhaps one of the above portrait? I'm trying to gather more information on this.
Thomas died 20 Sep 1894 in Wandsworth at the age of 84 and 3 weeks according to the family bible. His probate summary says that he was living at 41 Melody Road in Wandsworth and probate was granted to his widow Emma Boorman, with effects amounting to £552 8s 5d. Thomas was buried in the Garratt Lane Old Burying Ground in Wandsworth along with his wife Mary Ann and young daughter Harriet. And probably four young infants. Their gravestone is still there, a little sad for wear and not in its original location. The cemetery is now maintained as a park, a beautiful green space in the middle of a bustling city where people can stroll along the paths and rest on a bench under a shady tree, perhaps contemplating those that had walked there so many years before.