Robert True, Draper and Mercer, High Street, Wickford.

Married Susannah Stebbing, nee Gigney.

Below are notes on Robert True (a childless widower) and his sister, Mary Ann True (who never married).  They both lived at Wickford.

Robert True, born 1863/1864.  Robert was baptised at St Guthlac’s Church, Market Deeping, Lincolnshire on 10 January, 1864.  He was the son of Thomas True and his second wife, Rachel nee Berry.

Robert was a draper and mercer, and had a shop in Wickford, Essex and later corresponded with his first cousin Mary Ann (known as May or Marion) Brooke (nee True) of South Gundagai, NSW, Australia. This correspondence was apparently kept up in the 1920s and 1930s.  May Brooke nee True was my great-aunt.

I have a photo of Robert’s shop with Robert standing in the doorway, which was sent to his relatives in Australia. The photograph is inscribed “High Street, Wickford, Essex”. The shop has Robert’s name overhead (i.e., R. True).  I wrote to the Wickford Library in 2002 and received a letter back from the Library Manager, Joanne Cullen (Is this the same “Jo Cullen” who is a member of your History Group?).  Joanne told me in a letter dated 19 March, 2002, that Robert’s shop is now Sansom’s menswear store in Wickford.  The present manager of the shop believes the shop was acquired by Sansoms in the 1930s, possibly this is when Robert sold the premises, retired and before he went on a trip to the USA?

Joanne sent me pages of a book (name of the book unknown) which features a photo of Robert’s earlier shop.  This earlier shop, on the right near side of the photo, has “R. True” overhead.  The name is a bit indistinct.    The caption under the photo in the book says “The thatched cottage next to the shops in the High Street is built on the site where Woolworths stands today.  R. True was the local tallyman – he rode around the district on his trade bicycle selling his wares”.

What is a tallyman? Probably a door-to-door salesman, selling goods to housewives who paid off the goods with a small amount each week (the salesman keeping a tally?).

Robert’s relatives in Gundagai remembered being told that he was a bachelor, but he married a Susannah Stebbing, a widow, in the Billericay Registration District, Essex in the March quarter of 1888 (Vol. No. 4a, Page No. 336).  The town of Wickford is in the Billericay district.  Susannah was born in the Billericay district in the September quarter of 1850 (Vol. No. 12, Page No. 10), the daughter of James Henry Gigney and Susannah Gigney.

I have found the Gigney family in various census entries – 1851, 1861, 1871 and 1881 – living at Wickford.  James Gigney was a saddler/harness maker and was born at Burnham, Essex and baptised there on 23 September, 1810, the son of James May Gigney and Mary nee Wiffen.   James’ wife, Susannah Gigney was born in Nevenden, Essex circa 1819.  James Gigney and Mary Wiffen had twelve known children.  One son, Henry Gigney, baptised at Burnham on 12 April, 1827, married Isabella Davey in 1857.  In the 1901 Census, Henry Gigney was a widower, a retired victualler, living at Rayleigh, Essex (near Wickford).  Living with him was his housekeeper, Mary Ann True, sister to Robert.  So in 1901 Mary Ann was a housekeeper to the uncle of Susannah Gigney/Stebbing/True, her sister-in-law!

James Henry M. Gigney died in the Billericay district in the June quarter of 1875 (Vol. No. 4a, Page No. 121).  His wife Susannah Gigney died in the Billericay district in the December quarter of 1909, aged 83 years (Vol. No. 4a, page No. 331).

Susannah Gigney married Herbert Stebbing in the December quarter of 1876 in the Pancras registration district, London (Vol. No. 1b, Page No. 172).  Herbert followed the same trade as his father-in-law, James Gigney – Harness Maker.   Herbert Stebbing was born in 1850 at Little Waltham, Essex, the son of Jabez and Eliza Stebbing.  His father Jabez was a Post Office messenger, aged 41 years, living at Little Waltham with his family in the 1851 census.

In the 1871 Census Herbert Stebbing was living two doors from the Gigney family in Wickford.  He was a harness maker, aged 21 years, a lodger in the household of Mary North, aged 69 years.   Possibly he was an employee of James Gigney, his future father-in-law?

Gigney Family- 1881 Census

Showing Susannah Gigney/Stebbing/True’s mother, Susannah Gigney as head of household.

 Susannah GIGNEY Head W Female 62 Nevendon, Essex, England Annuitant
 Ada GIGNEY Daur U Female 22 Wickford, Essex, England 
 Ida GIGNEY Daur U Female 22 Wickford, Essex, England 
 Emma CANT Visitor M Female 25 Wickford, Essex, England 
 Samuel CANT Visitor M Male 33 Bures, Suffolk, England Enquiry Agent
 Susannah CANT Visitor  Female 1 Stamford Hill, Middlesex, England 
 Ada B. CANT Visitor  Female 4 m Stamford Hill, Middlesex, England 

Source Information:

Census PlaceWickford, Essex, England
Family History Library Film1341423
Public Records Office ReferenceRG11
Piece / Folio1759 / 62
Page Number10

Ada and Ida Gigney – as listed about in the 1881 census – were the younger twin sisters of Susannah Gigney/Stebbing/True.  In 1901 Ida married William Doe.  Ida died in 1914 and her husband William then married her twin sister Ada, in 1915!!

If Susannah True died before her husband Robert commenced writing to his cousin May at South Gundagai, maybe he did not mention anything to Auntie May Brooke about his marriage, and his relatives in Gundagai just assumed that Robert was a bachelor.

I have a photocopied book (64 pages) – Aspects of Wickford History by M. Wakeham.  This photocopy was sent to me a while ago now.  After recently discovering that Robert True’s wife Susannah was a Gigney, I looked at this book again and discovered that a James Gigney is mentioned quite a few times! One entry I believe refers to Susannah’s father, James Gigney Snr., but most of the entries would be James Gigney Jnr., the brother to Susannah Gigney/Stebbing/True.

James Gigney Jnr. seems to have been a prominent citizen of Wickford and a successful businessman.  There is even a photograph of James Gigney’s delivery van on Page 59.  The following are excerpts from the book:-

Page 27 – Chapter on Commercial Development – The saddlers were James Gigney and George Upton.-From Whites Directory of 1848, so this would be James Gigney Snr.

Page 28 – Commercial Development – By 1886 Mr James Gigney, no longer a mere saddler, was now also a ‘harness maker, ironmonger, oilman and upholsterer’………James Gigney had by this time extended his business to ironmongery, china, glass, earthenware, boots, clothes, seeds, timber, lime cement and building materials.

Page 30 – Commercial Development –  James Gigney was listed merely as a grocer in 1910(that is, listed in Kelly’s Commercial Directory).

Page 38 – Chapter on Roads and Bridges – At this time none of Wickford’s bridges had separate footpaths.  In 1911 Mr J. Gigney offered to give a piece of land near Southend Road so that the bridge could be widened.

Page 39   –  Chapter on the High Street – According to the memory of Mr James Gigney, speaking in the 1930s, next came a house called ‘The Willows’…….

Page 41 –The High Street – James Gigney built himself a shop on a plot of land in what came to be known as ‘The Broadway’.  This was a parade of shops.

I also found Robert True mentioned on page 30 of Aspects of Wickford History:-

In the days before social security benefit and National Health Services, the welfare of the population in hard times was looked after by organisations like the Essex Provident Society (D.Upton, secretary) and the Hearts of Oak Medical Society, Robert True, a one time commercial traveller, administered the latter.

From the 1901 English Census :[i]

Age      Birthplace                       Residence in 1901          Occupation

Robert True

Person ID No. 2804901

37Linc Mkt DeepingEssexWickfordTraveller With Oil Etc


The Susannah True listed in the 1901 Census was 12 years older than her husband Robert.   In the 1901 census, if people have consecutive Person ID numbers that means they are in the same household. [ii]

1881 Census

 Herbert STEBBING Head M Male 29 Little Waltham, Essex, England Harness Maker 
 Susannah STEBBING Wife M Female 29 Wickford, Essex, England  
 Naomi HEWETT Visitor W Female 58 Burnham, Essex, England  

Census PlaceWickford, Essex, England
Family History Library Film1341423
Public Records Office ReferenceRG11
Piece / Folio1759 / 62
Page Number10

Susannah and Herbert Stebbing had one known child, Herbert James Stebbing, born September quarter of 1877 (Vol. No. 4a, Page No. 230) registered at Billericay.  Herbert James Stebbing died in the September quarter of 1878, registered at Billericay.

Susannah’s first husband, Herbert Stebbing, died in the June quarter of 1885, aged 34 years, registered at Billericay.

1891 Census for Wickford, Essex

Living at No. 58 Victoria Cottage (near the Castle Inn, Wickford).

Robert True, head of household, 27 years, born Market Deeping, harness maker

Susannah True, wife, aged 39 years, born Wickford, draper and confectioner.

Daisy Wade, visitor, aged 17 years, born Hardcastle, Essex, no occupation.

William Sheldric, widower, lodger, aged 72 years, retired farm bailiff.

John Collins, lodger, aged 28 years, harness maker

William Turner, lodger, aged 17 years, stockman.

Alice Burrell, general servant.

Perhaps Robert worked for Susannah’s first husband Herbert Stebbing as a harness maker? Or became a harness maker after he married Susannah and maybe took over Herbert Stebbing’s business?  Robert may have become a shopkeeper some time after 1891 and possibly continued on with Susannah’s shop, becoming a draper and confectioner after his wife Susannah died?

Susannah died in 1909.

Essex Newsman – Saturday 06 March 1909 (from the website

THE FUNERAL of Mrs True, took place on Tuesday, at the Parish Church.  The Rector, the Rev. W. Bryant, officiated.  The coffin bore the inscription: “Susannah True.  Died Feb. 26th. 1909 aged 58 years.”  The mourners were:  Mr Robert True, husband; Miss. A. Gigney, sister; Mr. J. Gigney, brother; Mrs Wade and Mrs Doe, sisters;  Mrs J. Gigney, sister-in-law; Mr Doe, brother-in-law; Mr. J. Gigney, nephew; Miss True, sister-in-law; Mrs English and Mrs P. Gigney, nieces: Mrs Doughton, Mr and Mrs Mead, Mrs Betin.  There were some beautiful floral tributes.

Robert True, Commercial Traveller. 1902[iv]

Robert True, General and Fancy Draper, Milliner, Hosier, Ladies, Children’s and Gents’ Outfitter and Boot Factor. 1917[v]

In the 1911 census Robert was living with his sister Mary Ann at Fernleigh, Wickford.

County: Essex, District:  Billericay, Sub-District:  Wickford,

Enumeration District: 13,  Parish: Wickford

Address: Fernleigh, Wickford.

Mary Ann True, head of household, single, female, aged 52 years, no occupation: born Market Deeping, Lincolnshire.

Robert True, brother, widower, male, aged 47 years, travelling draper, born Market Deeping, Lincolnshire.

Also in the household in 1911 was a 19 year old female servant, the servant’s 4 year old child and a boarder who was an elementary school teacher (see the 1911 census details for Robert’s sister Mary Ann).

In 1938 Robert apparently retired and sold his business in High Street, Wickford, Essex. He then journeyed to the United States where his brother Ambrose True and family were living.

He would be the same Robert True who travelled to the United States in 1938, aged 74 years. [vi] Which means he was born in 1864, which would be correct. This would tie in with the story that great auntie May Brooke of South Gundagai told of corresponding with Robert in the 1920s and 1930s (this story came from my mother, Alice Mary Jones nee True). Apparently the last letter Auntie May received from Robert, he told her that he had retired and was going to America to live with his two spinster sisters.  Robert would have had only one spinster sister (Mary Ann, born 1859).  His other sister, Elizabeth dying aged 7 years.  If his sister Mary Ann , born 1859 did go to the USA, she did not stay there permanently, as she died in England in 1938 (the same year Robert travelled to America).  At least we know that one sibling, Ambrose, was living in Michigan, USA.

I did find a record of a Robert True migrating to the United States in 1938, aged 74 years.  Port of embarkation was Southampton, England and the destination port was New York.  This information was found on the website.  The details are:-

Name of Ship:   Queen Mary

Steamship line: Cunard White Star Limited

Date of Departure:  June 29th 1938

Where bound: New York

Name and Descriptions of British passengers embarked at the Port of Southampton

Included half way down the page  – Robert True, Tourist Class,  Age: 74

Last Address in the United Kingdom:  (hard to read but could be “QTS Customs House, London” (whatever that means!), Retired.

At I then found a United States Customs list for the “Queen Mary” for the voyage in 1938.  As the “last permanent residence” was Wickford and the “County of Birth” was Lincolnshire, this is definitely “our” Robert.  The details are:


S.S. “Queen Mary” – Passengers sailing from Southampton to New York

The fifth passenger on this list was:-

(family name and given name)                    True, Robert

Age:                                                                   74

Sex:                                                                    Male

Married or Single:                                             Widowed

Calling or Occupation:                                       Retired

Able to read and write                                       Yes

Nationality (country of which citizen is subject)    Britain

Race:                                                                             English

Place of birth (country)                                               England

(town, state province or district)                               Lincolnshire


(part of column heading illegible)

Place:                                                                      London

Date:                                                                       25 June, 1938

Last permanent residence (country):                England

(city or town, state, province

or district):                                                              Wickford



Robert True sailed from Southampton on board the “Queen Mary”, part of the Cunard White Star Line.  The ship carried 881 passengers during this voyage and the Captain was R.B. Irving.  The “Queen Mary” arrived in New York on 29 June, 1938.  Robert was recorded as being retired and his age as 74 years. [vii]   This age is compatible with Robert True, born Market Deeping in 1864.

In February, 2011 some very kind people at gave me some information on Robert True.  Apparently Robert returned to England in 1938, possibly only a few months after he landed in America. Robert True arrived back at Southampton on 15 August,1938, travelling from New York to Southampton aboard the “Queen Mary”.  Possibly the reason he went back to England was because his sister Mary Ann died in 1938 (probably after Robert had arrived in America).  Robert died in the Brentwood Registration District, Essex in 1952, aged 89 years (Reference: Vol. No. 4a, page No. 423). .

Robert was a beneficiary in his sister Mary Ann’s Will.  He inherited an amount of £658 4s 6p.  Below is the details found by my very kind helpers at Rootschat about Robert’s Will:-

Robert True of Orchard House Runwell Road Wickford died 14/12/1952, probate London 04/03/1953 to Thomas William  Palter, company managing director £6648 10s 11p.

Mary Ann True, born 1859

Mary Ann True, baptised 1 May, 1859 at St Guthlac’s Church, Market Deeping, the daughter of Thomas True and Rachel Berry.  In the 1881 census Mary was living with her aunt, Susan Wellfare (nee Berry) at Beverley St Mary, Yorkshire. Susan (born 1831) would be a sister to Rachel Berry.

Susan Berry married William West Wellfare at Wisbech, Cambridgeshire in the December quarter of 1850 (Vol. No. 14, Page No. 311).  Susan would have been aged about 19 at the time of her marriage. William obviously had died before 1881.  Susan Wellfare died at Beverley, Yorkshire, in the March quarter of 1899 aged 68 years (Vol. No. 6d, Page No. 66). After she died, her niece, Mary True, probably moved south to Rayleigh, Essex to look for work, and to be near her brother Robert at Wickford, Essex.

1871 Census

Residence:  2 Toll Gavel, Beverley St Mary, Yorkshire

William W. Wellfare, head of household, aged 41, married, bootmaker, born Isle Upwra, Cambridgeshire

Susan Wellfare, wife, aged 49, married, born Wisbech, Cambridgeshire.

Below are the details from the 1881 Census:

 Susan WELLFARE  Head  Female  50  Wisbeach, Cambridge, England  Boot Seller  
 Mary A. TRUE  


 U  Female  22  Mkt Deeping, Lincoln, England  (Assistant To Boot Seller) ((Companion))  

DwellingToll Gavel
Census PlaceBeverley St Mary, York, England
Family History Library Film1342145
Public Records Office ReferenceRG11
Piece / Folio4740 / 99
Page Number1

In the 1901 census, Mary True, aged 41 years, housekeeper, born Market Deeping, was living at 148 High Street, Rayleigh, Essex, in the home of Henry Gigney, a retired publican. Henry Gigney was baptised at Osten, Burnham, Essex on 12 April, 1827.  His parents were James May Gigney and Mary Ann Wiffen. Henry married Isabella Davey at St George, Southwark, Surrey in 1857.  Isabella Gigney died in the Rochford registration district, Essex in the March quarter of 1893, aged 54 years.  Henry Gigney died in the Billericay registration district in the September quarter of 1906.  Henry and Isabella had at least one child, Alice Gigney, born circa 1859, as recorded in the 1861 census:-

1861 Census – Civil Parish:  Shoreditch St Leonards.  Ecclesiastical Parish:  St James.  District:  Shoreditch.  Sub-District:  Holywell

Parlamentary Borough of Tower Hamlets.  Residence:  6 Earl Street.

Henry Gigney, aged 34 years, head of household, married, harness maker, born Burnham, Essex

Isabella Gigney, aged 26 years, wife, married, born Whittle, Essex

Alice Gigney, aged 2 years, daughter.

In the 1891 census, Henry Gigney, aged 64 years, a licensed victualler and his wife Isabella, aged 58 years, were living at Pritwell, Essex.  No other family members were living with them in 1891.

Henry Gigney was a brother to James Henry Gigney, who was born in Burnham, Essex in 1810.  James Gigney was the father-in-law of Robert True, brother to Mary Ann.  So Mary Ann True moved to Rayleigh, Essex after her aunt Susan Wellfare died in 1899.  Her employment as housekeeper no doubt came about because Henry Gigney was the uncle to Mary Ann’s sister-in-law, Susannah Gigney/Stebbings/True.

1901 Census

Mary True41Market Deeping LincolnshireEssexRayleighHouse Keeper Domestic

1881 Census Entry for Mary True’s employer, Henry Gigney.

 Henry GIGNEY Head M Male 54 Burnham, Essex, England Licensed Victualler 
 Isabella GIGNEY Wife  Female 45 Writtle, Essex, England  
 Mary MORRIS Bar Maid U Female 21 Coteford, Gloucester, England Bar Maid 
 Sarah CHAPPLE  Other U Female 17 Carringham, Essex, England Servant 
Dwelling36 Maxey Road
Census PlacePlumstead , Kent, England
Family History Library Film1341176
Public Records Office ReferenceRG11
Piece / Folio0749 / 13
Page Number16

Henry Gigney was recorded in Kelly’s Directory of Essex, 1894 and 1902.  His entry reading “Gigney, Henry, Rayleigh”, with no more detailed address.

Mary Ann True has not yet been found on the 1891 Englsh census, either at Beverely St Mary or Rayleigh, or anywhere else in England.


County: Essex, District:  Billericay, Sub-District:  Wickford,

Enumeration District: 13,  Parish: Wickford

Address: Fernleigh, Wickford.

Mary Ann True, head of household, single, female, aged 52 years, no occupation: born Market Deeping, Lincolnshire.

Robert True, brother, widower, male, aged 47 years, travelling draper, born Market Deeping, Lincolnshire.

Bertha Jane Pudney, servant, single, female, aged 19 years, general servant domestic, born Rayleigh, Essex.

Phillip Henry Etches, boarder, single, male, aged 25 years, Assistant Teacher Elementary, born London, Chelsea.

Joseph Arthur William Pudney, visitor, male, aged 4 years, born Hawkwell, Essex.

Will of of Mary Ann True of Orchard House Runwell Road Wickford,
spinster who died in Southend General Hospital Southend on Sea.
Probate on 20th October to Robert True, Outfitter, £658 4s 6p.

Mary Ann died on Sunday, 16 August, 1936.

The Essex Chronicle, Friday, August 21, 1936

(from the website

THE DEATH of Miss Mary Ann True, a highly-esteemed resident of Wickford, occurred on Sunday at Southend Hospital.  She was 77, and for many years lived with her brother, Mr Robert True, draper, High Street.  She was a member of the Congregational Church and actively engaged with the Working Party, which met at her home.  The funeral was held yesterday at the Congregational Church.

[i] The Information about Mary’s Will was found for me by a very kind helpful person on the Rootschat website –

[i] From

[iii] Kellys Directory  of Essex, 1894

[iv] Kellys Directory  of Essex, 1902

[v] Kelly’s Directory for Wickford, Essex in 1917.

[vi] This reference found on

[vii] Transcripts of passenger lists found on the findmypast website –

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