Mary Paynter

Mary PAYNTER was my great grandmother. She was probably born about 1839. I cannot be sure about the date having, so far, been unable to find any record of her birth. It would seem that she had an interesting life – being married twice, and in-between marriages having an affair with a married man that produced my maternal grandfather.

My interest in family history did not start until many of my relatives had died, or become too old to accurately recall many details. In this account I shall try to record known facts in normal type and un-verified, verbally passed down (but generally thought to be true) information in italics.

The first official document that I have seen is a copy of her first marriage certificate:

At St Mary’s, Kirkdale, West Derby, Liverpool on 17 January 1864, Edmund Gardner SMITH1 age 24, a bachelor and mariner of 9 Aughton Street (father – Joseph Smith a gardener) AND Mary PAYNTER age 24 a spinster of Kirkdale (father – Edward Paynter also a gardener). Married by licence. The witnesses were Thos Paynter and Dinah Shead (looks like Shead).

St Catherine’s index (June quarter 1865 W Derby 8b 421) records the birth of a daughter – Florence Alice Gardner Smith.2

According to my mother, Edmund Gardner Smith was lost at sea (off Anglesey?) before the birth of his daughter Florence. Sometime after, Mary worked as a sea-going stewardess, reputedly the first, or one of the first, for the White Star Line3. It was during this period of employment that she had an affair with a married man by the name of ANDERSON who was supposedly a ships captain. As a consequence of that liaison she gave birth to my grandfather. My mother had told me that her father was illegitimate; that he had been born after her grandmother had an affair with a ‘ships captain’ called Anderson. She did not have any other details of Anderson.

After a great deal of searching I have managed to get a copy of my grandfathers birth certificate. The birth was registered on 25/3/1874 in the registration district of West Derby and Toxteth (sub-division Toxteth Park) and shows that on 13 March 1874 at 8 Miller Street; Thomas Frederick Anderson SMITH was born to Mary Smith, a stewardess. The father’s name and occupation have been left out. The informant was M A Swift of 8 Miller Street, Toxteth Park. Thomas Frederick Anderson SMITH was christened at St Peter’s, Church Street, Liverpool on 26/4/1874.4 St Peter’s is the cathedral church of Liverpool and a good two miles from Toxteth Park.

It could not have been easy; in those days there must have been a great deal of shame involved with an illegitimate birth. It is to her credit that she was apparently able to keep both her children. Surely she must have had some help, possibly from a member of her family?

Mary’s daughter Florence Alice Gardner Smith (married name Downham) died 16/12/1925 and the probate register shows her address at that time to have been 6 Kildonan Road, Aigburth, Liverpool. A check in the Liverpool Directory shows that address occupied by Thomas and Ann Ryall. When I mentioned this to my mother she immediately recognised the name ‘Annie Ryall’ and thought she may have been a friend of Mary Paynter and had possibly helped to bring up the children. Aunt Nora thought that Mary Paynter and Ann Ryall could have been sisters.

I now have a copy of a marriage certificate, showing that at St Mary’s, Kirkdale, Liverpool on 10/9/1867, John Thomas Ryall, a customs officer aged 21, married Ann PAYNTER a spinster of 19 years of age. Her father was shown as Edwin PAINTER, a gardener.

On 29/5/1876, At Christchurch, Kensington, Liverpool, Mary married for the second time. Her groom was William Paynter STRIPLING aged 31, a bachelor and mariner of 5 Bridge Street, Birkenhead. (His father was Richard Stripling, a mariner) Mary was shown as Mary Smith, a widow. Her age was not given. Her address was 16 Empire Street. (Her father, Edward Paynter, a gardener was shown as deceased) It seems strange that Mary PAYNTER should marry a William PAYNTER Stripling. ‘PAYNTER’ being a fairly unusual name.

My grandfather, Thomas Frederick Anderson Smith, was ‘adopted’ by William Paynter Stripling and was brought up as ‘Frederick Stripling’, the name by which he was known all through his adult life. I assume that Florence Alice Gardner Smith was brought up in the same household.

Mary had another daughter – Marian Annie STRIPLING, born 12/1/1877, whom I remember as Aunt Minnie.

My grandfather, Thomas Frederick Anderson SMITH, was brought up as Frederick STRIPLING; he married with that name and that was the surname of his children. My mother told me that he was unaware of his origins until quite well into his life, when, during a family argument, Aunt Minnie threw his birth certificate at him saying that he was ‘not even a proper Stripling!’ Probably quite a shock for the man, but he lived to a good age, dying on the same day as President Kennedy. My mother said that her father had told her that when he was a child and was naughty, that his mother (Mary Paynter) would tell him that if he did not mend his ways ‘he would finish up like Uncle George, the black sheep of the family’. Uncle George must have been quite a character for Mary to consider him a ‘Black sheep’.

The 1901 census shows Mary as Mary Stripling living at 202 Old Chester Road, Birkenhead. She is shown as ‘wife’ to the head of the household. (The head is not shown, possibly away at sea?) Her occupation is shown as a tobacconists shop, working at home of her own account. Her age is shown as 57 and her place of birth as ‘Downington’ , Salop. (Could that be Donnington?) Also living there is my grandfather Frederick Stripling, son, single aged 27, a solicitors clerk born in Liverpool. Also Aunt Minnie, Marian A Stripling, daughter, single aged 24, nullworking at home born in Liverpool.

Mary died on 9/12/1916 and is buried in Toxteth Cemetery, (CE ‘D’ left Grave No 512) her age, at death, is shown as 72 years.


If her age, 24, was correct at time of first marriage (and I cannot see any reason to doubt that), she would have been born 1839/40.

At the time of her second marriage she would have been 36 or 37. Her husband, William Paynter Stripling gave his age as 31 but he was probably about 26 years. If he was 31 he would have been born about 1845, however his gravestone shows that when he died in 1912 he was 63 years, which gives a birth date of about 1849/50. Also, the St Catherine’s index shows that the birth of William Paynter STRIPLING was registered during the 2nd quarter of 1850 at Holsworthy, Cornwall, reference ix 374.

William Paynter Stripling died 18/5/1912 ‘aged 63 years’ (Same grave that Mary later occupied)

Advertisement in Liverpool Daily Post of 1/3/1871 – White Star Line Oceanic Steam Navigation Co. Ltd., Ships – Oceanic, Baltic, Atlantic, Pacific, Arctic, Adriatic. All offering “a surgeon and a stewardess carried on each ship”.

17 January 2000

Continued search for PAYNTER using 1881 census and my database.

The census shows Mary Stripling, married, aged 37, born at Donnington, Shropshire and living at 4 Rennie Street, Kirkdale as wife and head of household – mariners wife. Daughter – Florence A Stripling, 15 years b. Liverpool. Son – Frederick Stripling, 7 years b. Liverpool. Daughter – Maria A Stripling, 4 tears, b. Liverpool. Also a boarder – John Lane, apprentice mariner, 18 years, b. Liverpool.

My database has two Marys christened in Donington (one n), the most likely (because of date of birth0 being 24/4/1839, parents John and Hannah. (igi) My database shows a John Painter, christened 28/4/1811 at Shifnal – parents Edward Painter and Mary.

John and Hannah would appear to have also had the following children, all christened at Donington.


The other Mary was christened 5/12/1841 to parents, William Painter and Anne.

Also, the 1881 census shows Ann Ryall, b. 1849 at Newport, Shropshire, 32 years, wife of John T Ryall at 21 Halkyn Street, Everton.

The only Ann in my database is Ann Painter, christened 8/8/1849 at Culmington, Shropshire – parents Thomas and Martha.

Have not been able to find Edward Paynter – Mary’s father or Edwin – Ann’s father.

Having drawn a blank on research into the White Star Line, I am now going to have a go at ELDER DEMPSTER LINE. (See note 3 on page 1)

Assuming Mary and Anderson were on the same ship, I have made a note of the ED ships that were in use in 1873. (Information from WWW The Ships List, Elder Dempster Line.)

AFRICA1872-1899scrapped1717 tons
AMBRIZ 1873-1896sold2121 (This was formerly the Asiatic and built 1871 for WSL)
ATHENIAN ? -1873sold1094
BENIN(1st) 1869-1881 sunk off Start Point1530
BIAFRA(1st) 1868-1889sold1487
BONNY(1st) 1869-1890sold1277
CALABAR(1st) 1864-1873traded-in1122
CONGO(1st) 1869-1881sold1283
ELMINA(1st) 1873-1878sold1018
ETHIOPIA(1st) 1873-1882wrecked1761
LIBERIA 1870-1874missing, 48 lost1470
MONROVIA(1st) 1873-1876wrecked Freetown1019
NIGRETIA(1st) 1872-1873wrecked near Freetown1810
ROQUELLE(1st) 1869-1882sold1216
SENEGAL 1872-1887wrecked Spanish Guinea1793
SOUDAN(1st) 1870-1875wrecked Madeira, 46 lives1603
VOLTA(1st) 1870-1892scrapped1477
YORUBA(1st) 1871-1873wrecked Las Palmas1705

I am probably looking for a ship that was away about July 1873.