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More Festive Genealogy - the case of Christmas King.

If you made a list of words associated with the festive season, it’s almost guaranteed that you’d be writing things like robin, king, Christmas, stocking or gift. One of the most festively named people has to be Christmas King, born in Norfolk and who lived in London.


Christmas King was baptised on 31 December 1815 at St Michael Coslany church in the centre of Norwich. Christmas’s birth was before civil registration in England and Wales which did not start until 1837, so we have no way of confirming his exact date of birth. It’s tempting to assume he was born on 25th December, but this can’t be proven. Christmas’s parents were listed on the baptism register as Jeremy King, a painter, and his wife Marianne. In 1837, just as civil registration was beginning, Christmas married Matilda Mann on 12 June in Norwich.

Christmas and Matilda did not remain in Norfolk though, and appeared on the first national census in 1841 in Woolwich, London. Christmas was working as a shoemaker, and they had a small daughter, also named Matilda.

In 1851 the family had moved to Ellen Street in Plumstead, but Christmas was still working as a boot and shoemaker. Matilda also had employment as a dressmaker and there was a second child, William. Things had not changed in 1861 in respect to either the family’s address or Christmas’s occupation. Son William, aged 14, was also working as a shop boy. By 1871 the family had moved to Crescent Road in Plumstead, and William had joined his father in the boot making trade. Ten years later in 1881 Christmas and Matilda were still in Crescent Road, although William had moved out. Both Christmas and Matilda were still working at this point – could this be an indication of financial issues for the couple?

This might be the case, as by 1891 both Christmas and Matilda were listed as “married couple inmates” at the Woolwich Union Workhouse. Christmas was 75 and his wife Matilda was 71. Christmas was still listed as a shoemaker and there is a cross in the box to indicate he was still employed in this trade. The Workhouse was the last resort for the poor in the late 19th century, in a time before pensions and the welfare state. Christmas and Matilda were clearly not earning enough to support themselves.

Christmas King died the following year and was buried on 18 Jan 1892 in Greenwich. His wife Matilda had died at the end of the previous year. Although rudimentary healthcare and accommodation was provided for those in the workhouse, life expectancy was shorter than it would have been elsewhere.

Christmas King had a fairly ordinary life by the standards of the 19th century, but the ease of tracing him through multiple census returns, death indexes and other documents is purely down to his unusual name. William King or Thomas King would have been a different matter, but Christmas not only gives a clue about his time of birth, but makes life a lot easier for genealogists.

Stuck with your own genealogy?

If you’re battling with more unusual names than Christmas and Matilda, is it time to cast a fresh pair of eyes over your research? Get in touch and I’d be delighted to help.


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