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Robert Steatham

At the top is Robert Steatham's signature on his Will.

Below that is his signature when he got married.

Robert Steatham

As with all genealogical research, not very much can be proved absolutely. We have to make assumptions about the information. We are helped if the name / name combinations are not too common.

There are stakes in the sand, where we have baptism, marriage, and burial records, and the most valuable of all are wills, and civil registration / census records. The further we go back the information becomes more sketchy and hazy, and the nearer we are the more unavailable due to privacy restrictions.

The Steatham surname is cast in stone when we see Robert Steatham’s will. This was proved at Lichfield as a legal document, signed by Robert himself, and the correction made on the pre-prepared document of the insertion of the “e” is very a clear indication that it was pronounced “Staytham”.

Robert’s burial record giving his surname, casts in stone again the Steatham surname, when we see his burial record at St Lawrence, Darlaston, this is a further indicator of the Steatham surname, and also his age at death, 52 years.

Robert is not really a common English name. Hannah is more frequently used, but still not one of many common names.

Assuming that Robert was married when their first child John, was born in 1800, which must be the case, and if he was born in 1775, which we can deduce from this and from his burial records, it means his must have got married, aged 21 onwards, so the window for marriage is 1796 to 1800.

Searching the records for this time period for a Robert Statham and Hannah marrying, the only one found is for Robert and Hannah at St Martins, Birmingham, on Monday the 24th December 1798.

What evidence is there that Robert Steatham is the person marrying Hannah at St Martins?

Looking at the signatures there are some interesting points to note. Robert on his will, did an unusual thing, he joined the strokes through the ‘T’s.

It is a matter of judgment if they are by the same man, but my opinion is that comparing the signatures alone, there is a case for saying that it is the same Robert.

Other evidence points this being Robert Steatham, such as the marriage of his first son, Thomas Steatham, also at St Martins; this is hard to explain as St Martin's is nowhere near their home at Darlaston.

Let’s go back a bit further to Robert’s birth, which we know must have been about 1775.

Checking the records again, the only one available is for a Robert Statham, baptised 10th December 1775, at St Mary the Virgin, Uttoxeter, Staffs. His mother is down as Hannah Statham.

Ironic that Robert should marry someone with the same christian name as his Mother.

Robert only had two daughters, Sarah, Elizabeth. It was normal practice to name the first son after the father, and the first daughter after the mother. Robert and Hannah did not do this.

The first time we see Robert being used is for a Robert Steatham (1862-1928), he was George Steatham's elder brother, and a great grandson of Robert Steatham.

If the above scenario /facts are true, which I am certain they are, maybe we can weave a tale as follows:-

Robert Steatham was born illegitimate to a Hannah Statham, in Uttoxeter, Staffordshire, in 1775.

Sometime before his 21st birthday he moved from his agricultural environment to the centre of the industrial revolution – Birmingham and the Black Country, to make his fortune.

He married Hannah Butler and moved to Darlaston, which at the turn of the 19th century was a major part of the industrial development in the Midlands.

He must have been ambitious, or lucky or just plain hard working, to amass his wealth in his short life.

It could be that Robert was concerned about the future of his descendents so he wanted them to go forward without being reminded about his humble past. Possibly that is why he did not name any of them after himself or Hannah. Who knows?

Robert set the whole family on the path to success with their increase in wealth during his lifetime, as such he must have come over as such a unique person, that he was regarded as a one off.

Maybe that is another reason why there is no 'Robert' until we get to his grandchildren.

Finally, when he signed his will he was used to signing documents and signed his name in the short form – Rob't!


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