Mum Paternal

Table of Contents | Preface | An Indian Childhood | Genealogy | Colonialism and The Raj


[Genealogy] [IndoEuropeans] [Separate and Unequal] [Mum and Dad] [Dad] [Mum] [William  Blanchette] [Thomas Blanchette II] [Thomas Blanchett 1] [Mum Paternal] [Robert Roberts] [Dad Maternal] [Mum Maternal]

Blanchette_Roberts Family Tree
Clarence Herbert Roberts at about 40
(b 1875 m 1901 d 1935)
His father Alexander Roberts
married 1872
His Mother Sarah Blower
His Grandfather Edward Roberts (b 1852 d1920)
married (1815)
Isabella Massey (b 1815?)
His GGGrandhfather Robert Roberts (b~1780 in Wales d 1817)
married 1806
Elizabeth Ruek


Grandpa Roberts--Clarence Herbert Edward Roberts

Clarence Roberts  (b 1875 m 1901 d 1935) was my mother's father.  He was the great grandson of Robert Roberts the Welsh soldier, and was exactly the same age as William Blanchette my father's father.  I was two years old when he died.

Clarence's father Alexander Roberts was the station master of Allahabad railway station and it was in Allahabad that Clarence was born.  Allahabad  figured heavily in the early British trading in India and was later a large railway and commercial center.   Allahabad, built on a very ancient site, was known in Aryan times as Prayag, and Brahma himself is said to have performed a sacrifice here. The Chinese pilgrim Hiuen Tsang described visiting the city in 634 AD, and it acquired its present name in 1584, under Akbar--obviously Allahabad is a Muslim name. Later on Allahabad was taken by the Marathas, sacked by the Afghans and finally ceded to the British in 1801 by the Nawab of Avadh.  One of the principal reasons behind the "Mutiny" was the breaking of this treaty by Viceroy Lord Dalhousie

It was in Allahabad that the East India Company officially handed over the control of India to the British government in 1858, following the Mutiny. The city was a center of the Indian National Congress and it was at the conference here in 1920, after Jallianwallahbagh, that Mahatma Gandhi proposed his program of nonviolent resistance to achieve independence.

Like the Blanchettes, the Roberts had been moving West since Robert Roberts first came out to India.  Allahabad is the first big town west of Calcutta and sits at the junction of the Ganges and Yamuna--two of India's most important rivers.

Clarence Roberts was born the same year as William Blanchette, my other grand father.  Where Clarence was a Permanent Way Inspector on the railway (PWI), William was an engine driver.  Where Clarence was a Baptist, William had become a Catholic.  Baptists and  PWI's were higher in the social order than engine drivers and Catholics!  This may have been all that turned Clarence Roberts against  William Blanchette's son, my father.  He strongly disapproved of his daughter marrying my father.  To find what was happening at the time Clarence Roberts was functioning check the page on William Blanchette.  Also see the page on Dad.

Mother thinks her father had some kind of engineering training because he used to "design bridges".  Apparently he did not go straight from school to the railway, although his father was a railway station master in Allahabad.

Clarence Roberts married Lillian Nierces the daughter of a Calcutta Armenian family.  Mum tells me that Mum's grandmother, Lillian's mother, was an Irish woman with one arm.  And that is all Mum knows about her maternal grandmother.  Lillian Nierces was 16 when Clarence Roberts married her in 1901.  He was 26.  Mum knows nothing about Clarence Roberts mother Sarah Blower.  Here too it is reasonable to assume that Sarah was born in India, and that she was the daughter of Indo European parents of some kind.

Alexander Roberts b~1852 m 1872 d~1920
His father Edward Roberts
married 1833
Isabella Massey
His Grandhfather Robert Roberts (b~1780 in Wales d 1817)
married 1806
Elizabeth Ruek
Great Grandpa--Alexander Massey Edward Roberts

Clarence Roberts’ father Alexander Massey Edward Roberts (b~1852 m 1872 d~1920) Mum’s grandfather, also worked for the Railway.  He was a  Station Master in Allahabad.   Alexander Roberts married Sarah Blower of whom I know absolutely nothing.   All the remarks about the social setting in the case of the younger Thomas Blanchett2 apply to Alexander Roberts.  Alexander's life spanned that of Thomas Blanchett2 and William Blanchette. Where Thomas was the first generation born in India, Alexander was the second generation.  Ms. Blower almost certainly would also have been a locally born European of probably more than two generations in India, and probably a soldier's daughter or granddaughter.  She would almost certainly be descended from Indians and Portuguese.

Alexander must have joined the railway in about 1870--12 years after the Mutiny.  The first train in India ran from Bombay to Thane---a few miles—in 1853.  The railway to Allahabad probably did not run much before 1870.  Alexander was probably the first or second stationmaster of Allahabad station -- an extraordinarily important job right after the Mutiny.  For contemporary British India history see pages on Thomas Blanchette2 and William Blanchette

Alexander's father Edward Roberts was killed in the Mutiny.   Mum tells me that her grandfather Alexander used to tell the following story of the time of the Indian mutiny.  In 1857 Alexander was 5 years old.  His mother Isabella (nee Massey) was quite fat.  During the Indian sepoys attack on Delhi she fled from them holding Alexander’s hand.  She could not run very fast and she fell on Alexander, hiding him from the Indians.  She pretended to be dead and the Indians ran on and left her and Alexander for dead.  His brother and father were killed.  Another case of a young child without a father.

A “station master” even in my early recollection (before 1943) ran a not so small fiefdom.  Railway stations in the larger cities, and Allahabad would have been one of the larger and more important cities, became the monuments of the Victorian age--think Victoria station in London!  Victoria station, however, is nothing compared to the railway station in Bombay, just as no British government building in London compares with Government house in Calcutta, or the Viceroy's residence in Delhi.  

The railway station even as late as 1943 was about the only clean well ordered public place in the teeming cities of India. (When the riots started in about 1945 everything broke down including the strict rules within the railway station.  The station became the refuge for tens of thousands of refugees streaming east and west throughout the subcontinent).  The stationmaster had absolute control over this not so little space. He controlled who was allowed in to the station, who could use the “Europeans Only” sections of the station, what vendors were allowed to sell, what porters were employed and so on and so on.  In a small pond he was a very large fish!  In recent years, like right now, places like the Bombay railway station have become little villages with vendors, restaurants, tailors and various other tradesmen.  The stationmaster is king.

In 1870, before the railways were common and before many roads had been built, the railway station must have been an oasis, particularly for Europeans, in a perceived hostile land.  As soon as a decade after the mutiny, the loyalty of railway employees in general and station masters in particular must have been of great importance.  They were, after all, the gate keepers and custodians of the British Raj's ability to react rapidly to trouble anywhere in India.  There never were large numbers of British troops in India, so flexibility was paramount.

Alexander's father Edward, was the orphan son of Corporal Robert Roberts. Somehow Edward Roberts got himself an education and became a teacher in a school.   Teachers in India, more so than in most societies I know, carry great social prestige.  Edwards position, together with the fact that he had died in the Mutiny would have assured his son Alexander of access to the best possible jobs available.  Putting together all this data, I conclude that Alexander probably was as high in the social pecking order that a "country born" Brit could get.  

Thomas Blanchette2, however, the contemporary of Alexander was the son of an ex-soldier who had chosen to live in India and go into a trade--stone masonry.  A trade would not be nearly so prestigious as a teacher, and therefore his son William would not have had the same choice of a career as did Alexander's son Clarence.  This and the religious difference probably explains Clarence Robert's opposition to his daughter Diamond marrying William Blanchette's son Eugene.  To see what was happening in Alexander's world as he was growing up, check the pages on William and Thomas Blanchett2.

Edward Roberts b1809 m 1833 d1857
Robert Roberts
married 1806
Elizabeth Ruck
Great Great Grandpa--Edward Roberts

Alexander Roberts father, my mother’s great grandfather was Edward Roberts (b1809 m 1833 d1857).  Edward was the son of the Welshman Robert Roberts from St Asaph, Wales who died in action in Trichinopoly in 1817.  That makes Edward an orphan at  the age of 8.  This family is a good example of the life expectancy of the British soldier in India.  Both Edward and Alexander were orphaned at the ages of 8 and 5 respectively.

Edward was born in Cawnpore—a town that every English schoolboy learns about with horror.  It was the site of a massacre of English women and children during the mutiny and was the principal event which fired up the British troops to carry out their own much worse massacres.

Edward Roberts married Isabella Massey when he was 24 and he, together with one of his sons, was killed in Delhi in the Indian Mutiny (first War of Independence) in May 1857 when he was 48.  The name Isabella would tend to be Spanish or Portuguese, Massey would be Irish/Scots.  In 1998 when Janice and Paddy and I were in Delhi we searched the Civil Lines cemetery for his grave without success.

Edward Roberts was principal of an institution called “Islamia College” in Delhi when he died.  I know nothing of this institution, nor do I know anything more about Isabella Massey.  From its name one would assume this was a Muslim academy.  For this discussion let's assume Edward became involved with Islamia College when he was 31 in 1840.  This social mobility at this time (1820-ish) is quite fascinating.  Here is another of apparently many cases of first generation British children born in India, where the son of a British laborer moves in one generation from manual labor to academe or something similar.  In no way would the son of a Welsh laborer born in England in 1809 have done much more than end up in the mines, or in a factory or in jail. 

Edward would have been eight years old when his father was killed in 1817 and presumably he was taken in and educated by one of the orphanages that catered to the British Army.  In 1817 these places were in very short supply.  However in 1813 HEIC had lost its total monopoly on British immigration to India, and were unable to exclude British missionaries as was their practice.  By 1820-1830 British missionaries were beginning to set up English language schools in India.  Presumably high school educated local Englishmen would be in demand to staff such institutions. 

By 1840 special efforts were being made by the British to have some kind of educational institutions available for Muslims whose world had fallen apart with the fall of the Moghuls.  Hindu educational institutions were not quite as hard hit by the collapse of the Moghuls late  in the 18th century. The British government was now being run by reform minded Whigs, and some minimal money was being provided for educational institutions in India.  So I suspect that Edward had picked up a high school diploma from a Christian missionary school, that he was at least bilingual, and that he would have been an ideal candidate for teaching English and the "British way of life" to Muslim kids.   On to Robert_Roberts

Table of Contents | Preface | An Indian Childhood | Genealogy | Colonialism and The Raj

[Genealogy] [IndoEuropeans] [Separate and Unequal] [Mum and Dad] [Dad] [Mum] [William  Blanchette] [Thomas Blanchette II] [Thomas Blanchett 1] [Mum Paternal] [Robert Roberts] [Dad Maternal] [Mum Maternal]