Possible Samuel Roes

My mother’s maternal grandfather was Samuel J Roe, born 6 March 1862 in Devon, England. We know nothing of his parents or other family, and family lore may be lies or exaggerations. He came from England to America under mysterious circumstances, moved to WV; in October 1895 in Garrett County, MD, he married Vernie Plum (daughter of James H Plum and Mary C Plum) when she was just 15-16 and had 11 children. He died 22 Feb 1947 in Parsons, WV, just shy of 85 years of age.  He and his wife are buried at Layton Cemetery, Tunnelton, Preston Co, WV. Their Children were:

Mary Elizabeth Roe Mullenax (1894 – 1949) (my maternal grandmother)
Anna M. Roe Smith (1897 -)
James Gilbert Roe (1898 – 1927)
Pierce Edward Roe (1900 – 1967)
Nora Mae Roe Nicholson (1903 – 1977)
Samuel Summerville Roe (1905 – )
Isabelle Virginia Roe McGinnis (1907 – 1959)
Jessie Catherine Roe Hebb (1913 – 1981)
Maggie Roe (1915 – 1917)
William Alfred Roe (1916 – 1961)
Willard Lee Roe (1920 – 1967)


He was a large man, over six feet, and when young he had a large head of red hair (a trait he passed down to some descendants). The story my mother heard was that he had ‘jumped ship’ in America, and hid out in the area of Tunnelton, WV on a small farm with a coal mine. By all accounts, he was rather paranoid and fearful of strangers. Every census, his purported age changed! As the years went on, his birth year shifted so that, unlike real humans, he became a few years younger every 10 years. After some 35 years of research, I have been unable to verify the story about his ‘jumping ship,’ despite the fact that my mother always claimed that her mother still had the pardon papers signed by Queen Victoria. I have found no proof that he was in the Royal Navy, although there were in fact quite a few Samuel Roe’s listed all over England (particularly from Devon, a major seaport) and appearing in ship censuses. I searched as well in the criminal files pertaining to the RN but found no one listed who could have been my great grandfather.  Having sifted through every UK census record for any Samuel Roe, Row, Rowe born near the 1862 reputed birth date of our relative, I have narrowed the possibilities to the following:

1.) 1871 UK Census–Samuel Row Age: 7 Est. Birth Year: abt 1864 Relation: Son Father’s Name: Elias Mother’s Name: Elizabeth Where born: Harrabridge, Devon, England. Civil Parish: East Murton Ecclesiastical parish: St Andrew Town: Greenhill Cottage and Murton Colliery County/Island: Durham Country: England Registration district: Easington Sub-registration district: Easington ED, institution, or vessel: 14 Household schedule number: 99 Household Members:

Name                       Age

Alfred Row                  9

Elias Row              47

Elizabeth Row     49 

Fredric Row              13

Helina Row                5

Jessice Row              11

Samuel Row          7

William Row            15


1A.) 1881 UK Census Samuel Rowe Age: 16 Est Birth Year: abt 1865 Relation: Son Father’s Name: Elias Mother’s Name: Elizabeth Where born: Whitechurch, Devon, England Civil Parish: Haswell County/Island: Durham Country: England Street address: Eight Rows Five Occupation: Driver (Coal Mine) Registration district: Easington Sub-registration district: Easington ED, institution, or vessel: 2. Household Members:

Name                             Age

Alfred John Rowe           19

Elias Rowe                   52

Elizabeth Rowe          55 

Malinda Rowe                  14

Samuel Rowe              16

This is the strongest contender for our ancestor: Samuel Row or Rowe born about 1864 or 1865 in Devon, England to Elias & Elizabeth Row(e). We have both the 1871 and 1881 UK Census for this family. According to the 1871 details, they were living in Murton Colliery, indicating that the father, Elias, was a coal miner. Ten years later, they’ve moved to Eight Rows Five in County Durham and Samuel indicates his occupation is driver in a coal mine. Eight Rows Five is an odd name for a town, but suggests to me that they were living in a coal town that was built for the miners and their families on the actual site of the coal mine. This was a common occurrence in 19th century England. In an odd coincidence, this Samuel Rowe was born in Murton Colliery, which is where Ann Tennant was born (she’s my Dad’s paternal grandmother)!



These listings are possibles, but are, I think, less likely to be our Samuel Roe.

2.) 1871 UK Census Samuel Rawe Age: 8 Estimated Birth Year: abt 1863 Relation: Son Father’s Name: William Mother’s Name: Mary Where born: Drewsteignton Civil Parish: Drewsteignton Town: Teignholt County/Island: Devon Country: England Registration district: Okehampton Sub-registration district: North Tawton ED, institution, or vessel: 9 Household schedule number: 16. Household Members:

Name                              Age

Mary Rawe                 45 

Samuel Rawe               8

William Rawe           44

Carolene Vanston            9


3. 1871 UK Census–Samuel H A Rowe Age: 6 Estimated Birth Year: abt 1865 Relation: Grandson Mother’s Name: Emma G Gender: Male Where born: Morice Town, Devon, England BORN IN DEVON, LIVING IN CORNWALL Civil Parish: Landrake With St Erney County/Island: Cornwall Country: England Registration district: St Germans Sub-registration district: Saltash ED, institution, or vessel: 2 #2 Household schedule number: 85 Household Members:

Name                       Age

Emma G Rowe        27

Emma M Rowe         2

Jane Rowe               60

Samuel Rowe          60

Samuel H A Rowe    6

The Grandfather Samuel is listed as a Greenwich RN pensioner. The father is not listed, so might have been at sea or dead. Cornwall was another big site for mariners and Royal Navy.

1871  Samuel Rowe Age: 9 Estimated Birth Year: abt 1862 Relation: Son Father’s Name: James Mother’s Name: Matilda Where born: Plymouth, Devon, England Civil Parish: St Andrew Ecclesiastical parish: Holy Trinity County/Island: Devon Country: England Registration district: Plymouth Sub-registration district: St Andrew ED, institution, or vessel: 30 Household schedule number: 220  Household Members:

Name                                      Age

Elizabeth Rowe                         5

Harriet Rowe                           11

Henry Rowe                               1 month

James Rowe                            41

James Rowe                            17

John Rowe                               19

Matilda Rowe                         40

Matilda Rowe                          13

Samuel Rowe                       9

Thomas Rowe                           2

William Rowe                         16

This last family fits in terms of birth date and place. In such a big family, it would make sense that 10 years later, Samuel would be moving on.

© Copyright 2015 Linda L Labin, PhD