Segments in this Video

Lower Class England (02:12)


Missionaries tried to help working class families in Edwardian England— descendants will explore their family's forgotten history. Today's episode will focus on an unmarried pregnant woman and the missionary who rescued her kids. (Credits)

Living in the Slums (02:00)

Roy Nelson's grandmother, Susan lived in Deptford, which the Humanitarian League described as one of the dark places of the world. John Nelson died leaving Nelson to care for her three young children alone. Listen to a letter Nelson wrote in 1903, begging for money— Margaret Marchant oversaw her benefits.

Concerns about Morality (03:15)

Margaret Marchant was the daughter of Thomas Marchant and part of the Victorian upper class. When she became the secretary of the charity, she decided to investigate whether the family was worthy to receive benefits. Because Nelson was pregnant out of wedlock, Marchant removed the children from the home and distributed them amongst relatives.

Success Story (02:38)

The CRS gave Mrs. Murray three shillings a week to care for Charlotte, Nelson's youngest daughter. Listen to a letter from Marchant to Greenwich COS extolling Charlotte's virtues. Charlotte marries Arthur Avey in 1925 and their eldest daughter was born three days after they married.

The Posh Aunt (02:37)

In 1938, the family relocated to Mottingham, Kent to live in council housing. Charlotte never spoke of her own mother. Victor Avey recalls seeing Susan Nelson on the street and deciding not to speak with her.

Victor's Story (04:04)

Avey worked on the railroad for 25 years and met his first wife in a dance hall. Avey left when his wife started cheating on him. Colin and Suzanne have not seen their father in over 30 years.

The Reunion (03:40)

Colin hopes to reconnect with his father, but Suzanne hopes to gain closure and explanation. Avey brings Suzanne and Colin a birthday card. Watch as Avey meets his granddaughter for the first time.

Nathaniel Jr. and Alfred's Story (02:37)

Nelson remained in Debtford and had three more children out of wedlock. The COS decides to no longer give her benefits. Nelson deserted Nathaniel Jr. when he was five.

Return from War (03:29)

Nathaniel Jr. worked various jobs and the family got by financially. Roy Nelson apprenticed as a carpenter, got married, and moved to Kent. They own their own home.

Alfred's Story (03:43)

A newspaper published that Nelson was arrested after allegedly attempting to drown Alfred in the river and a passerby fished him out. In court, Nathaniel said he was intoxicated and the charges were dropped. Alfred married his wife Phyllis in 1931 and the couple had 8 children.

Continuous Bombing (04:24)

During World War II, four of Alfred's children were evacuated to the country. Alec, or "boy-boy," lived with a farmer in Durham— when he returned to Debtford, none of his family could understand his accent. He met his wife in grammar school, became a carpenter, and had four children.

Alec's Story (03:16)

In 1964, Alec and his family moved into their own home in Kent and taught his children that a good education was essential. Suzanne moved to the country and his son became computer business consultant. Alec died at the age of 49.

Never Financially Secure (02:34)

Alex received benefits to raise his five children after his wife left him. Tierney Nelson-Martin lives with her mother in Deptford, who stresses finding a job before having children. She interviewed at MacDonald's but did not obtain the position.

Aunt Sharon (02:39)

Jobless, Sharon Nelson receives benefits to help raise her five children. Once, she dreamed of becoming an archaeologist, architect, or lawyer, but left school to raise her children. Her daughter hopes to become and actress or singer.

The Marchant Line (03:17)

When the government established a national welfare program, the Charity Organization Society ceased to exist— Marchant retired after World War II. Alexandra Barcus volunteered at a woman's service clinic during college. She and her sister are the last of the Marchant line.

Susan Nelson's Descendants (04:49)

Barcus meets Tierney and decides to help her break the cycle of pauperism. The Nelsons arrange a family reunion.

Credits: The Nelsons and Margaret Marchant— The Secret History of My Family: A Social History (00:33)

Credits: The Nelsons and Margaret Marchant— The Secret History of My Family: A Social History

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The Nelsons and Margaret Marchant—The Secret History of My Family: A Social History

Part of the Series : The Secret History of My Family: A Social History
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The story of an Edwardian family trapped in welfare dependency and a mother accused of a shocking crime against her own child. Did the handouts given to Susan Nelson's family by a prosperous charity visitor provide her descendants with the chance to move up in life or was it all down to their own hard graft? More than a hundred years on, some of Susan's descendants are still locked in patterns of benefit dependency, while others have freed their families from the desperate poverty of their ancestor. Meanwhile, a descendant of Susan's benefactor discovers why her well-to-do ancestor decided to cut off financial support for Susan just when she needed it most.

Length: 53 minutes

Item#: BVL124984

ISBN: 978-1-63521-925-8

Copyright date: ©2016

Closed Captioned

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