Sarah Kenning, one set of possible parents


May 26, 2013 by auntkatefirmin

So far the parents of Sarah have remained elusive, after today I’m a little more hopeful.  Starting with what we’re confident about:  Sarah was born about 1790, give or take a year.  She was living in Ratcliffe in 1816.  Someone told the census taker in 1861 that she was born on Commercial Road.  The only clue we have about her parents is indirect – she married a carman who seems more prosperous than the average day laborer.  At least Kenning or Kinning is not a very common name!

There is actually a baptism for Sarah Kimming, daughter of William and Dorothy, born 7 February 1791, and baptized in March at St. Mary, Newington, in Southwark.  With only the baptism, there’s not enough evidence to be certain if this could be our Sarah.  Looking at other baptisms, and making the (large) assumption that there is only one couple in the greater London area with the names William & Dorothy Kinning gives us this family group:

  • Mary Kinning baptized 8 April 1787 St. Mary, Newington
  • Elizabeth Kinning baptized 19 July 1789, St Mary, Newington
  • Sarah Kimming
  • Robert Kenning baptized 29 June 1794, St George in the East, 17 days old, father a laborer residing Morgan’s buildings
  • William Kinning baptized 11 June 1797 St Mary, Whitechapel, living in Charlotte Street

So far this looks promising.  Since the family moved across the Thames when Sarah was three, she likely considered herself a resident of Whitechapel or Stepney.  There’s nothing to indicate that this couldn’t be the same family moving north from Southwark.  Based solely on their names, this could be the William Kenning and Dorothy Abrahams that had the banns published in St Bartholomew the Great, West Smithfield, City of London, in September and October 1780.  If so, any other children the couple had before the move to Southwark aren’t indexed anyplace I’ve checked online.  This William & Dorothy had not been married before, so even though young William was born 17 years after the marriage they could be Sarah’s parents.  The marriage took place on 4 January 1781 and both William and Dorothy signed their names.  William’s signature looks like William Cinning.  The witnesses were William Hurst and Mary Martin.

Morgan Street, White Horse Lane in 1795

Morgan Street (in orange), White Horse Lane, from Cary’s 1795 map. Also marked are St Mary, Whitechapel #85, and future location of Chicksand Street in the upper left. From

The London tax records for William Kenning provide a picture for the years after his move to Stepney. From 1796 until his death in 1805 he paid tax as an occupant of property in Morgan Street.  This places him in the parish of St George in the East (the church is just to the south of the excerpt from Cary’s 1795 map following the New Road which will be renamed Cannon Street).  I’m working on a separate post, but in short, by 1810 White Horse Lane and this neighborhood would be entirely transformed by the construction of a toll road, the Great Commercial Road.

If this is indeed Sarah’s family, she probably lived here until her father died when she was 14.  After that we lose track of her and the entire family.  In 1816 a Sarah Kinning married John Firmin at the age of 25 and the mysterious Ann Kinning was a witness at the wedding. Based on the evidence of the tax records, by 1796 the family was relatively prosperous and settled.  To sum up, I don’t find any thing that rules out Sarah the daughter of William and Dorothy as Sarah the wife of John Firmin.  In particular, I’m finding the location as rather compelling evidence in favor of this theory.

I have other contemporary Kenning families to research before I reach a decision about whether or not this is our Sarah. Certainly I’d be more confident if there were more overlap in the given names between the two families.  Just the same, this has been an intriguing excursion into a time of rapid change in this part of London.

May 26th update – with help from family (thank you!) one more child of William and Dorothy has been identified:

Henry Kenning baptized 27 October 1799, St Mary, Whitechapel, Charlotte Street.

2 thoughts on “Sarah Kenning, one set of possible parents

  1. Julie Baker says:

    A have a Sarah Kenning, born around 1804, St George in the East who married John Tatham, tin plate worker, in 1826 – no idea of Sarah’s parentage but wondered if she could be a link to your family? John and Sarah had at least 12 children.

    • That’s very intriguing. William & Dorothy (Abrahams) Kenning have a living daughter Sarah, but if they had a son in 1782 who missed being indexed, he would be old enough to have daughter Sarah in 1804. I’ll be on the lookout.

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