Helen Rea was baptised on 6 July 1806 in Barnwood, Gloucestershire, England. She was born to Sarah & Joseph Rea along with her six siblings, John, Joseph, William, Elizabeth, Mary, and Sarah. Joseph was a ‘Gentleman’, but I don’t really know what means.
Helen married Thomas Conyngham Anderson in Dublin, Ireland in 1824 when she was eighteen. Thomas was the first son of Thomas Anderson, a Gentleman from Dublin, according to University records. Thomas attended (Alban Hall) Oxford University, matriculating on 10 December 1818 at the age of twenty four. Thomas is described in his will as being from Churchdown, Gloucestershire so I am still perplexed trying to pin down the connection with Ireland. His daughter’s obituary later refers to his being part of the 6th Dragoons, a Cavalry Regiment of the British Army. Oxford could possibly be part of the connection, as Helen’s sister Elizabeth married Joseph Lysaght Pennefather (also born in Dublin) in 1824 – Joseph had also attended (Alban Hall) Oxford University.
As far as I can tell, Helen and Thomas had at least two children together, Thomasine Eliza & Thomas Augustus. I have not found records for Thomasina’s birth which leads me to believe she was born in Ireland most likely in 1824-25. Thomas Augustus was baptised in Barnwood, Gloucestershire on 23 May 1826. Thomas Conyngham Anderson died 7 December 1826, three days after developing scarlet fever. His will was proved in London on 5 January 1827; Helen was now a widow with two young children at the tender age of twenty one.
In 1834, at the age of twenty seven Helen married Alexander Richey in Barnwood Gloucestershire. The fact that they were married in Barnwood, appears to indicate she had returned home after the death of her husband. Alexander was Irish born and it appears they made their home in Ireland. Helen’s son Thomas Augustus died at Parnell Place, Dublin on 21 May 1836. I believe that Parnell Place was located in the Rathmines area unrelated to the Parnell Place that exists today. The couple’s first child Sarah Jane Mary Susanna was born in Ireland in 1839 so perhaps Helen had remained in Ireland and returned to Barnwood only for her marriage. This does seem a likely explanation which is supported by the marriage of her thirteen year old daughter, Thomasine in Ireland during 1840. Helen’s daughter, Thomasine, refers in her will to the articles of marriage of her mother under which she is entitled to certain properties. This leads me to believe that Helen became quite wealthy upon her marriage to Alexander Richey.
By 1841 Helen and Alexander had returned to England and appear on the census for that year. Isabell Richey was baptised in Clifton, Gloucestershire in 1842 and the couple’s next child, Helen, is born in 1843 but sadly dies three years later. Their next child is born in 1847 and is named Kathleen Helen. 1849 sees the arrival of Emma Catherine who is known as Emmie throughout her life. It is interesting to note that while Helen and Alexander’s children are arriving during this decade, so are the children of Helen’s daughter Thomasine, meaning some of the Aunts will be younger than their nieces and nephews and that Thomasine would not have considered her half-siblings as sisters.
Around 1850, Helen’s daughter Thomasine is widowed after the death of her husband Thomas Keller in Ireland.
The census of 1851 shows Alexander and Helen living in Chelsea. It is around this time that Helen’s daughter Thomasine remarries an Irishman by the name of Charles Underwood, although I have found no records relating to the marriage. Helen and Alexander’s first daughter Sarah appears on the 1851 census at the house of Helen’s sister, Sarah (nee Rea) & Thomas Jenkins in King Street, Gloucester. A notice appeared in The London Standard on 20 July 1852 stating that Sarah, aged thirteen had died on the 12 instant at Barnwood near Gloucester.
In 1853 Helen’s husband dies leaving her a widow for the second time. She remarries Thomas Bonnor, a widower with grown children in 1854. The following year her father Joseph Rea dies leaving Helen £20 in his will. While this may have been a considerable figure in 1855, it is a paltry sum compared with the legacies bequeathed to her siblings. It would be interesting to know if this was an intentional slight or if it was a token gesture as she was already wealthy. 1855 is also the year her eldest daughter Helen emigrates to Australia leaving her children behind.
In 1866 her daughter Isabelle marries Samuel Montague Stable.
Helen is widowed again in 1876 and is sole executrix of Thomas Bonnor’s will. The 1881 census shows she is independantly wealthy with her profession stating “Land, Houses & Dividends” rather than a conventional occupation. Her daughter Emmie appears on the census living with her mother at 2 Hewlett Street, Cheltenham.
Helen died on the 9 April 1888 aged eighty one. I believe she was buried in Barnwood four days later.