Rosa Alice Freak – 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks

So it’s week 9 of my challenge and I’m sorry to say this week is going to be a little different, in true honesty I’m really struggling with that fact.
Up until I have been buying the birth certificates for each child born, which I’m hoping to carry on and do when possible.
This week I’m sorry to say I just can’t do that without it costing me hundreds of pounds, don’t fret I have already brought the most important ones, many I brought a good few years ago.
Unfortunately when we moved home, a lot of my certificates got mislaid, and I have no idea where they are. Two certificates which I really wanted to share with you this week have vanished from the face of the earth.
To me they are probably two of the most important certificates in our history.
Thankfully I have a very lovely hubby who kindly re-ordered pdf versions for me so I can share them with you.

I really hope the lack of certification won’t deter you from reading my posts, I promise I will purchase what I can, when I can, but when I can’t, I promise to give you all the information available and you can always order your own if you wish.
Putting copies of the certificates on-line, hasn’t been a decision I’ve taken lightly. I’ve spent a small fortune on them.
They each cost £6 for a pdf and £9.25 for a paper copy, so if I buy the birth, marriage and death for each person you can imagine how expensive it can be.
By me putting them on-line I’m taking the risk of people downloading them and claiming them as their own, at my expense.
I decided to take the risk, in hope that anyone that would like a copy would do the right thing and email me to ask.
It’s a huge risk but one I feel is worth taking because each little post I write is extremely important to me, this blog is something I can call my own and in a way it’s my baby if you know what I mean. I of course want it to be the best it can be, I really do put my heart and soul into it. I know it may not always be grammar correct and I know my spelling can be absolutely shocking at time, but I don’t think I do to bad considering I am highly dyslexic, I try my best and that’s what matters, right?
I’ll stop rambling now and get on with the task at hand and share with you the life of Rosa Alice Freak, my Great, Great-Grandmother.

Firstly let me tell you a little about her surname Freak.
In today’s age it means something totally different, I have to admit we’ve often joked that we are glad we didn’t inherit the Freak surname, but in truth it’s not as bad as it seems.
The ancient surname Freak can be found in the spellings of Firth, Frith, Fridd, Fryd, Freeth, Fright, Freed, Vreede, Frift, Freak, Feake, Freke, Firk, and many other forms is of pre 7th century Olde English, Scottish and Welsh origins.
It derived as a surname from a description for a ‘dweller by scrubland or barren pasture’ from the words ‘firhthe’ or ‘fyrhthe’.
You can find more information here.

Rosa Alice Freak was born on the 20th October 1877, at 29 Blackstone Road, Hackney, London, England, to William Harry Freak and Eliza Freak Nee Stockwell.

Rosa Alice Freak Birth Certificare

In the 1881 census Rosa, her mother Elizabeth and her siblings Elizabeth, Charles, George and Mary are visiting Jame Leadbetter, his wife Emma and their son Walter at Edward Street, Saint Mary’s, Southampton, Hampshire.

Name Age
James Leadbetter 27
Emma Leadbetter 25
Walter Leadbetter 8
Eliza Freak 33
Elizabeth Freak 13
Charles Freak 7
George Freak 6
Rosa Freak 3
Mary Freak

1881 Census

On the 11 May 1855 I find Rosa on the Maidstone Street School, Hackney, London, now known as Sebright Primary School, Schools Admissions and Discharges. The family is residing at 34 Wolverley Street, London.


In May 1887 I find another school admission for Mainstone Street School, for Rosa Alice and her sister Mary Jane B Freak. Rosa is listed as Rose.
The family is now living at 32 Ion square, Hackney, London, England., which is now Ion Square Gardens.


It’s now 1891 and the census has been submitted. Rosa, her father William, mother Eliza, her siblings Charles, George, Emily, William and Maud are residing at 113 Boston Street, St Leonard’s, Shoreditch, London.

Name Age
William Freak 44
Eliza Freak 42
Charles Freak 17
George Freak 16
Rose Freak 13
Emily Freak 10
William Freak 9
Maud Freak 8/12

1891 census Rosa Alice Freak

July 1891 the Freak family lives gets turned up side down when Rosa’s father William Harry Freak falls ill with Bronchitis and dies at their home 86 Chalgrove Road, Hackney, London on the 15th July 1891.

William Harry freak Death Certificate

Over the next few years, Rosa finds a little happiness, she meets the love of her life Charles Frederick Joseph Townsend, son of Jesse Townsend and Catherine Townsend Nee Fielder.
They marry on the 31st March 1895 at the Parish Church of St Mary’s, Southampton.
Rosa’s brother Charles William Freak and her sister Mary Jane Freak are their witnesses.
At the time of their marriage Rosa Alice is residing at 20 Edward Street, Southampton, Hampshire, and Charles Frederick is residing at 20 Princess Street, Southampton, Hampshire and he is working as a butcher.

Rosa Freak and Charles Townsend Marriage Certificate

Rosa must have been pregnant when she married as their first son Frederick William Townsend is born in the October-December quarter of 1895 in Southampton, Hampshire.

Frederick William Townsend Birth Index

By May 1897 the Townsend family are living at 1 Winchester Place, Craven Street, Southampton, Hampshire.
On the 20th May 1897 Rosa and Frederick welcome a daughter Katherine Ethel Townsend into their family. She was born at home at 1 Winchester place, Kingsland, Southampton, Hampshire


Not even a year later they welcome a second daughter into the world.
Rosa Blanche was born on the 1st November 1898 at 1 Winchester Place, Craven Street, Southampton, Hampshire.


A year later tragedy strikes the family.
The Southampton Borough Fire Brigade received a call at five minutes to six on Tuesday 7th November 1899 to 1 Winchester Place, Craven Street, Southampton. Arriving at the scene they find Rosa’s back room in flames.
The fire brigade quickly extinguished the fire but not before poor Rosa had sustained severe burns in her heroic rescue of two of her children Katherine Ethel and Rosa Blanche.
Rosa,Katherine and baby Rosa were taken to the Royal South Hants Hospital Infirmary. Rosa’s two baby girls were in serious condition and heartbreakingly both died from the effects of the burns from the fire.

Katherine Ethel died just two hours after being admitted to The South Hants infirmary Hospital, Southampton, Hampshire, on the 7th November 1899.


Rosa Blanche died in the early hours of Wednesday the 8th November 1899.


An inquest was held at the Royal South Hants.

Newspaper Clipping - House Fire

I wish by the 1901 census Rosa, Frederick and their son Frederick William would be living somewhere new but unfortunately they are still living in 1 Winchester Place, Southampton.
I can only imagine the horror that was felt in those four walls, the horrific memories that must have haunted them. How do you even begin to heal living in a place that stole your two beautiful daughters life’s?
Life must had been extremely hard as they have a lodger called George Giles living with them.
Frederick is working as an Joiners Labourer, I’m guessing it wouldn’t have been the best pay, but what a skill to have. Sadly a skill that has died out with modern life.

Name Age
Frederick Townsend 25
Rosa Townsend 23
F W Townsend 5
George Giles 56

Rosa Freak 1901

Rosa and Frederick finds happiness again as on the 1st October 1902, they welcome a new baby into their home and hearts.
A daughter Lily Louisa.

Lily Louisa Birth Index

On the 28 January 1906 Rosa gives birth to a gorgeous baby boy, Jesse Edward Townsend, my great-grandfather. He was born at 197 Radcliffe Road, Southampton, Hampshire.


The family keeps on growing and the Townsend family welcome Alfred Leonard Townsend into the family.
Alfred was born on the 17th October 1908 in Southampton, Hampshire

Alfred L Birth Index

And then another baby girl is born, Hilda Rosa Townsend on the 5th January 1910 in Southampton.

Hilda Rose Townsend Birth Index

On the 2nd April 1911 the census is taken.
The Townsend family, Charles Frederick, Rosa Alice, Frederick William, Lily, Jesse, Alfred and Hilda are now living at 30 Empress Road, Southampton. They are occupying 4 rooms.
Charles Frederick is working at a Joinery works.
Their son Frederick William is working as a Butchers Porter.
Rosa and Charles have been married 16 years, they have had 7 children, 5 still living and Rosa and Katherine who have died.

Name Age
Charles Frederick Townsend 37
Rosa Alice Townsend 35
Frederick William Townsend 15
Lily Townsend 9
Jesse Townsend 5
Alfred Townsend 2
Hilda Townsend 1


Between July and September 1911 in Southampton Rosa gives birth to another baby boy Henry C Townsend.

Henry C Townsend Index

And on the 23 March 1913 another son, George R Townsend is born.

George R Townsend Birth Index

The family once again welcome a baby girl into the household. On the 23 March 1914 Louisa Flo Eliza is born.
Louisa Flo Eliza Townsend Birth Index

They have one more son on the Leslie James Townsend who was born on the 25 June 1917.

Leslie James Townsend Birth Index

By 1939 Rosa, Charles, their daughter Hilda and son Leslie have moved to 11 Wilton Road, Southampton, Hampshire.
Rosa is an unpaid domestic.
Charles is working as a Ship Yard Labourer.
Hilda is an employee Shop Assistant.
Leslie is a Provision Assistant.


1941 brings more sorrow, when their som Frederick William Townsend dies at the age of 46 between the months of July and September in Southampton.

Frederick William Townsend Death Index

Rosa Alice has seen many births, the horrific passing of two daughters and the death on her oldest son.
No wonder Rosa’s heart fails and she passes away at 5 Waterhouse Lane, Southampton, Hampshire, on the 28th January 1965 at the grand age of 87.
Her cause of death is
1A – Cardiac Failure.
B – Myocarditis
C – Arteric Sclerosis (Arteriosclerosis).

Rosa Alice Freak Death Certificate

The more death certificates I purchase, the more heart conditions keep rearing their ugly heads, as well as autoimmune disease. I’m starting to think that autoimmune disease really could be hereditary after finding out about George Hatcher dying from an autoimmune disease and now Rosa with Myocarditis which can be caused by a viral infection or a self-directed immune response (this is when the persons own immune system attacks the body, such as in autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus), being listed on her death certificate. It’s all very intriguing.

Rosa Alice Townsend was laid to rest at Southampton’s Old Cemetery, Southampton, Hampshire, England, on the 1st February 1965 in grave number P135/282.

Grave Location

Her grandson Raymond John Townsend, my sister Hayley Salkeld Nee Newell and I found Rosa’s resting place a few years ago. Sadly she doesn’t have a head stone.

Our Great-Uncle Ray, Hayley and I have looked into purchasing her a headstone but unfortunately we need to contact all living family members to get permission to do so, which I think will be extremely hard. How lovely would it be though to be able to repurchase the plot and place a headstone for Rosa and our other family members who are buried with her. Hopefully we will be able to one day as my sister Hayley would love to be buried with them, if we can get permission.

I asked my nan Doreen Townsend Nee Willats about her most vivid memory of Rosa. She told me, “Rosa came to see me at my Mums house when Kevan my first born was about three weeks old. She was a lovely lady and very proud to have a great grandson. I had some nappies airing on a clothes horse in front of the fire, she asked me to move them, and then told me she had lost two little girls in a fire at their home, one of her small children had knocked an oil lamp over on the table, it caught the cloth alight, the child was frightened and ran out of the room closing the door. By the time Rosa found the fire the house was burning. She got her children out except two, they were overcome by smoke. Rose showed me the scars on her arms where she was so burnt, trying to save her girls. She was a very courageous lady, how she lived with the pain of that I don’t know. I never again put clothes to air in front of the fire.”

I totally agree with my nan, how do you ever get over losing two of your children?

Sadly this is the end of Rosa Alice Townsend Nee Freak’s story, but not the memory of her. If you do remember her and have any memories, stories etc, I would love to hear from you.
Lets keep her memory alive.

Rosa Alice Freak 20.10.1877 – 28.01.1965



10 thoughts on “Rosa Alice Freak – 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks

  1. Pingback: Katherine and Rosa Townsend – 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, Week 14. | Intwined

  2. Pingback: More than just a name. | Intwined

  3. Pingback: Charles Frederick Joseph Townsend – 52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks – Week 40 | Intwined

  4. Pingback: Catherine Fielder – 52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks – Week 44 | Intwined

  5. Pingback: Eliza Stockwell – 52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks – Week 44 | Intwined

  6. Pingback: Jesse Townsend – 52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks – Week 50 | Intwined

  7. This is an amazing find for me as Rosa was my great grand mother, my nan was Lily Louisa, I have heard the awful story of the fire but have never seen the newspaper article, sadly I was born after Rosa had passed away, so lovely to see a picture of her.


    • Hi cousin, nice to hear from you.
      From what I’ve heard she was a pretty incredible woman and loved by all. Her story is very sad but hopefully her babies will never be forgotten. It’s sad to think that the fire and the deaths of her little ones is the reason she will be remembered throughout history but at least they will never be forgotten.


Leave a Reply to intwined Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s