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A New Branch of the Cree Family of Fife and Devon?

A New Branch of the Cree Family of Fife and Devon??

On Sunday, 1st April 2012, I was focussing once again on trying to find out more information about my Cree family history in Ireland when I came across the following death announcement in one of the Limerick papers (

"At Turnchapel, near Plymouth, Celia Cree, daughter of the late Robert Cree."

My attention was immediately drawn to the location of Plymouth, the name Robert Cree and the name Celia Cree, which is close to Cecilia Cree. Anyone who has followed Cree family history knows that we have a particular line we call "The Cree Families of Fife and Devon" for whom we have very extensive records and indeed a publication written by Gerald H Cree and edited by Mike Spathaky. This death announcement seemed to relate to late 1852 based on a date used on the page but there was no access to the name of the paper or it's actual publication date. Initially I thought that this Celia was the daughter of Robert Cree and Charlotte Street. However by looking at the 1851 census I found that this Celia's family lived in the village of Turnchapel, Plymstock, and was as follows:

Mary Cree Wife       42 yrs   Wife of Commercial Traveller, born in Tankersley, Yorkshire, 

Cecilia Cree Daughter 10 yrs   Scholar   born Devon, Hooe

John Cree Son  8 yrs   Scholar   born Devon, Turnchapel

So I was immediately able to determine that Celia was in fact Cecilia and her death was recorded in Plympton St Mary in the July - Sept Quarter 1852. The birth of her brother John Cree was recorded in the July - Sept Quarter, 1842.

The information from the 1851 census and the death announcement of Celia (Cecilia) and the fact that it was the "late Robert Cree" started a few metaphorical bells ringing very loudly. We have quite a lot of information about the Robert Cree who married Charlotte Street including the fact that he spent his later years as a commercial traveller. His wife Charlotte died in Bridport, Devon, on the 4th March 1833.

After Charlotte's death Robert Cree was therefore quite entitled to marry again but none of the extensive research undertaken by his family or by ourselves had given any indication that he actually did so. In fact the Cree history states that "In March 1851 he was lodging at 17 George Street, Edinburgh, where the census return described him as a "widower", aged 66, commercial traveller in needles, born in England." Robert died at 17 George Street on the 20th December 1851 and was buried in Warriston Cemetery.

The critical point here is that in the 1851 Turnchapel, Plymstock, census Mary Cree describes herself as the "wife of commercial traveller" which indicates that her husband was alive. However by the death of her daughter Cecilia in mid-1852 the death announcement states that Cecilia was the daughter of "the late Robert Cree." Therefore Mary Cree's husband and Cecilia Cree's father Robert must have died between mid-1851 and mid-1852. Since Robert Cree died in Edinburgh on the 20th December 1851 we seem to have a perfect fit and a perfect mystery, namely, why did Robert Cree keep his relationship with Mary and his second family a secret? To date I have found no record of Robert's marriage to Mary but the fact that she lived in the Cree family environs of Plymouth and that Cecilia Cree's death was publicized openly in the papers does not seem to indicate that he was trying to keep it a secret.  

In the 1861 census Mary Cree was still in Turnchapel but was described as a widow, 52 yrs, Head of Household (on her own), and a Housekeeper. In the 1871 census Mary Cree was living at 1 Woodline Cottage, Nursery Avenue, Brixton, Lambeth St Mary, living with her son John. She is described as Head, Widow, 62 yrs, Warehouseman's mother, born in Pilley, Yorkshire. John Cree is described as Son, unmarried, 28 yrs, Warehouseman born in Plymouth. In the 1881 census Mary Cree was living at 44 Bishops Road, Brixton. She was described as Head, Widow, 72 yrs, Annuitant, born in Pilley, Yorkshire. The use of the word "annuitant" is very interesting since it would appear that she may have been left some money in a will or from another source. Her son John is still living with her, unmarried, 38 yrs, warehouseman, born Plymouth. They have a visitor staying, Thomas Baker, Stationer, and a boarder Susannah Driscoll. It would appear that Mary Cree died in the parish of St Saviour, Southwark in the period January to March 1890, aged 80 years.

In the 1891 census Mary Cree's son John Cree was living at 12 Elizabeth Street, Newington St Mary, London. He is described as John Cree, Head, (but he may have actually been a lodger), Single, 48 years, Warehouseman, born in Plymouth. In the 1901 census John Cree was a lodger at 12 Elizabeth Street, recorded for the first time as married (but no sign of a wife and so perhaps incorrect), Invalid, no occupation, born Plymstock, Devon. There is a record for a death of a John Cree in the October to December Quarter 1905 in Camberwell, London, and I assume that this is one and the same John Cree.

I again started to look for a marriage between Robert Cree and Mary but instead found a 1841 census entry for Turnchapel, Plymstock.

Mary Cree   30 yrs

Robert Cree  5 yrs

Cecilia Cree  1 yr

It was therefore clear that Mary and and the late Robert Cree had a son, Robert Cree, born about 1836. By the 1851 census Robert Cree had left home and was an apprentice linen drapers assistant in Clifton, Bristol. In the 1861 census he was working in St Jame's Square, London, as a salesman, whilst by 1871 he was married to Elizabeth Anne Tipping, living at 11 James Road, Brixton, and was working as a commercial traveller in millinery. Robert and Elizabeth were married at St John the Evangelist, Brixton, on the 16th July 1868 and both were then living at Barrington Villas. The father of Robert was given as Robert Cree, commercial traveller, whilst Elizabeth's father, Richard F Tipping, is described as a proprieter. In the 1871 census Robert and his wife had a daughter, Fanny E Cree, whilst Elizabeth's mother, Rachel Tipping, widow and involved in house property was staying with them. By 1881 Robert and his family had moved to 11, The Parade, Lee in Kent. His family had by then grown to Fanny E Cree (11 yrs), Amy M Cree (9 yrs), Ernest French Cree (5 yrs), Elsie Cecilia Cree (4 yrs) and Stanley Robert Cree (2 yrs). They also employed a servant, Alvina Mollard.

By 1891 Robert Cree was again described as a commercial traveller, living at 19 Kitto Road, Deptford, and we find a new addition to the family, Percy J Cree. Now the unusual name Percy is very much a signature of the Cree family of Fife and Devon and seems to indicate that Robert Cree was aware of a connection to that line. In 1891 Robert and Elizabeth Cree are still living at Kitto Road with daughter Fanny and sons Ernest and Percy. Percy John Cree died in Torquay on the 23rd May 1907 and seems to have left his small estate to his brother Ernest French Cree, mercantile clerk.

On the 16th March 1902 Ernest French Cree married Maud Anne Phillips in Peckham. In the 1911 census Ernest and his wife were living in Deptford where he was a store manager. Ernest died at Iden Manor Way, Beckenham, Kent, on the 22 October 1926, leaving a healthy sum of money to his widow Maud Annie Cree.

Robert Cree's daughter, Elsie Cecilia Cree, married Robert George Hatt on the 21 July 1900 at St Catherine, Hatcham, Lewisham. (We now have a very good photograph of Elsie Cecilia Cree and she is a fine looking women). Unfortunately Robert Hatt died on the 11 October 1903 leaving his effects to his wife. Based on the probate records Elsie Cecilia Cree/Hatt died on the 28 September 1935 in South Shields. One of her daughters, Elsie Gertrude Hatt, was born on the 29 November 1901 in Lewisham and married Joseph Hutchison on the 4 August 1828. It would appear from the probate records that Elsie Cecilia Cree left her estate to the Hutchison family. Elsie Gertrude Hatt died in Toronto, Canada,  on the 22 December 1975. Joseph Hutchison was born in South Shields on the 6 October 1896 and died in Toronto in June, 1981. Elsie Cecilia Cree had two other children, Robert Vernon Hatt and Wilfred Ernest Hatt but it would appear that neither married. In 1911 it would also appear that all three children were inmates in the Infant Orphan Asylum, Woodford Road, Wanstead, indicating that the family had fallen on hard times.

Robert Cree's son Stanley Robert Cree is listed in the 1901 census as staying with his sister Amy M Pink in Ditchling, Sussex. Amy Mary Cree was baptised at St John the Evangelist, Brixton, on the 16th July 1871. Her father Robert is described as a commercial traveller living at 39 Loughboro Park Road. Amy had married a poultry farmer, William H Pink, and Stanley is also recorded as a poultry farmer. Stanley Robert Cree married Ruth Ford in Hailsham, Sussex, at the end of 1908 and he died at 371 London Road, St Leonards-on-Sea, on the 8 August 1932, leaving his effects to his wife Ruth. They certainly had a daughter named Edna M Cree who was born in Hailsham in 1920 and may possibly have had a son Robert E E Cree born in Hendon in 1918. The association with Robert E E Cree is based on the wife's given maiden name of Ford.

Robert Cree's daughter Fanny Elizabeth Cree was baptised at St John the Evangelist, Brixton, on the 20th June 1869. Robert was again described as a commercial traveller living at 11 Barrington Villa, Brixton.

And so that is far as the story goes at present. From a remote search amongst Irish records we may have found a completely unknown branch of the Cree family of Fife and Devon. Or have I made a fundamental error? Only time will tell.

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Comment by Mike Spathaky on April 19, 2012 at 13:57

No I see no reason to think you have made an error. A very thorough piece of research. And what a surprise to those of us who know about the Fife and Devon Cree line! Well done Trevor! I now have to incorporate all this new data into the Cree Genealogy Database so that eventually it will appear on-line at

Comment by Trevor Cree on April 8, 2012 at 18:10

Just a follow-up on the Cree family of Fife and Devon. It had been previously recorded that John Cree (1792-1866), linen draper, was made bankrupt but we now have a specific date, namely 3rd May 1842. (

In the 1851 census there is a record at 1 Prospect Row, Stoke Damerel, Devonport, for a Wabella (clearly Isabella) Cree, Head, 72 years, Widow, Annuitant, born in Scotland. I cannot find any other reference to Isabella or her family but it could be that she may have been married to one of the original Fife Cree who also made the journey to Devonport about the same time as John Cree (1753- c1826). Since she was an annuitant one would assume that she was reasonably provided for.  

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