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.
It appears that Richard’s children were in the charge of a fairly young servant during his absence. Perhaps Elizabeth was a relative, or someone else usually looked after them but was also away on the night of the census?
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 in 1881 and Mary Elizabeth Yeo died unmarried in 1906.
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