Richard Yeo – absent father

The 1851 census return for 68 Cooper Street, Bideford records the head of the household as absent at sea. He is not named but was Richard Yeo – his children Mary Elizabeth Yeo (age 11), Emma Yeo (9), Richard Yeo (7), Amelia Yeo (6) and Henry Yeo (3) are listed, but the only adult recorded is house servant Elizabeth Johns, age 28, birthplace Northam.

Richard’s wife had died the previous year. Her headstone in the churchyard of St Mary, Bideford records her as Elizabeth Brook Yeo and her date of death as 12 March 1850. She had been baptised Elizabeth Brook Ellis at Northam in 1804 and had married Richard in 1857, when he is recorded as a mariner. Richard had been baptised at Marhamchurch in 1792.

It appears that Richard’s children were in the charge of a fairly young servant during his absence. Perhaps someone else usually looked after them but was also away on the night of the census, or Elizabeth was a relative? She might have been related to Richard’s brother-in-law Thomas Johns.

Richard later found an occupation that kept him in Bideford: the 1861 and 1871 censuses record him there as a harbourmaster. He died in 1876 and is buried with Elizabeth. Richard’s elder son Richard Yeo remained in Bideford and worked as a tea dealer. His younger son Henry Yeo moved to Exeter and became an insurance broker. Of Richard’s daughters, Amelia Yeo married James Norrington in 1871, Emma Yeo married John Docton at Padstow in 1881 and Mary Elizabeth Yeo died unmarried in 1906.

Camilla Comeau – who is descended from Richard’s youngest sister Bridget Yeo (1799–1878) and her husband Thomas Johns – has added to our knowledge of Richard’s family by identifying him as a son of William Yeo and Catherine Sleeman of Stratton. He was therefore a descendant of Philip Yeo of Stratton, who married Margaret Bond at North Tamerton in 1704 and whose other descendants have been traced by a number of researchers.

In addition to Richard and Bridget, William and Catherine had six other children: William (born in 1785), John (1788), James (1790–1843, married Alice May), Catherine (born and died in 1794), Catherine (born in 1795, married William Martin) and Peter (born in 1797).

William Yeo senior died in 1819 is buried at Stratton.

Bridget’s daughter Bridget Yeo Johns (born in 1822) married her first cousin William Yeo Martin, son of William Martin and Catherine Yeo.

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