Written by Judy Watten nee Rebbeck
November 22, 1999
I first made the acquaintance of George Rebbeck when he was a thirteen-year old Ploughboy on the 1861 Census, in the village of West Harnham two miles from Salisbury, Wiltshire. His dad, William Geary Rebbeck, was a Maltster. At home on Census Day, besides his father, were his mother Sarah Noble, his big sister Hester, sixteen, who was working as a Domestic Servant, and three younger siblings: Andrew was ten, another Ploughboy; Betsy was seven; and Henry, also called Harry, was one. Not at home that day was his big sister Ann Maria, age nineteen.
Twenty years later in 1881, George Rebbeck was Acting Quartermaster on a Special Services 3rd Class Troopship under Captain Guy O. Twiss. George, or someone speaking for him, said he was thirty years old, but he was actually thirty-four years old. George lived and worked aboard the Royal Navy ship Serapis while his family, with his wife Eliza Moody as Head of Household, lived ashore in Portsmouth, Hampshire. The family ashore also had a Lodger, Richard Earle, an unmarried dock labourer, 41, from Poole in Dorset.
George's great grandson Robert John Rebbeck, known as Reb, wrote me, " now we come to the story told me by my father about George's relationship with Eliza Moody. Apparently when George was going out with Eliza she announced that she was pregnant - George's reaction was to flee. He enlisted in the navy and saw the world. Now Eliza was a determined woman so that a couple of years later when his ship docked back at Portsmouth she was waiting for him with her small son at the dockyard gates. They married. The son William George was known to my father as William George Moody . . . William George grew up to be a robust figure who joined the metropolitan police force; he was over six feet tall and of imposing presence with an enormous bushy beard. His siblings on the other hand suffered from chronic bronchitic problems."
The family story is not documented in its entirety. George's mother Sarah Noble signed the documents in Salisbury 2 April 1866 for George to join Her Majesty's Navy. George's first ship was the St. Vincent. In 1871 he was on the Dido. In 1881, as noted, the Serapis. Other ships mentioned in his records are the Excellent, the Minotaur, the Duke of Wellington, Lord Warden, Woodlark, Orontes, and Victory. He was promoted from Seaman's Hand, to Bosun (Boatswain)'s Mate, to Chief Bosun's Mate, to Captain's Coxswain. His officers as described him; Very Good, and Exemplary. They are inconsistent about his appearance - some gave him blue eyes and some grey. Some said he was 5'2", but others found him taller, up to 5'6";. He had a fresh complexion, brown hair, and a small tattoo on his left wrist. England passed a Vaccination Act in 1871 and George, on the Dido that year, is listed as vaccinated for smallpox. He was also listed as married though his marriage record has not been found.
Eliza Moody had a son William George Rebbeck, but he was born 20 April 1869, three years after George joined the navy. On 15 April 1890 William was a "Candidate for the Situation of a Police Constable"; and the following information appears on the Surgeon's Certificate: twenty years old, height 5 feet 9 3/4 inches tall, and weight 10 stones 8 pounds [148 pounds]. He had a dark complexion, brown eyes, and black hair. By trade he was a Grocer's Assistant last employed by W. S. Wolfe, 30 Tralton Street, Landport. He resided at 40 Stirling Street in Portsmouth. He joined the police force and subsequently served in Portsmouth and Chatham; he resigned 4 November 1918. In the Metropolitan Police Records, he is listed under both Rebbeck and Moody.
After his resignation at age forty-nine, there is no further mention of William George Moody Rebbeck in the Civil Register, neither marrying nor dying.
When William the future policeman was nine years old in 1878, George and Eliza had a son named Sydney Francis Rebbeck. In 1900 when Sidney married Emily Coombes, his dad George was already retired, though only 53 years old. Sydney and Emily married in Portsea St. Mary's; his occupation was Shipwright. Between 1901 and 1916, Sydney and his wife had eight children, including one set of twins; Sidney has forty-eight known descendants.
The decade after Sydney Francis was born was a very sad time for George and Eliza. Their second child, Eliza Fanny Rebbeck, was born and died in 1881. Their third child, Robert Bertram Rebbeck, was born and died in 1883. Their fourth child, Frederick Charles Rebbeck, was born and died in 1884. Their fifth child, Walter Henry Rebbeck, was born in 1886 and died in 1887. Their sixth child, Harry Rebbeck, was born in 1887 and died in 1888.
Their seventh child, Alice Mabel Rebbeck, was born in 1889 and married in 1916. I was so happy when I found this. She married in St. Paul's church, Bisterne in the parish of Ringwood, Hampshire. The groom was Edgar Brenton, a Stoker Petty Officer in the Royal Navy. On her Marriage Certificate, Alice described her dad's occupation as Pensioner; George was 69 years old that year. The Brentons had four daughters; their granddaughter Susan Hale Leake is one of our newest list members.
George and Eliza's eighth child, Edgar Ernest Rebbeck, born in 1891, married Adelaide Warne on 12 October 1921, and lived until 1942. No children are known for this couple. Edgar had enlisted in Southampton on 22 October 1913 and served his country in World War I. His occupation at that time was Carpenter. He was invalided out on 7 March 1918 and retired to Rose Cottage in Ringwood, Hampshire. His record states that he was 5'5"...of fresh complexion, with grey eyes and brown hair.
George and Eliza's ninth child, Edith Kate Rebbeck, was born in 1893 and died in 1894.
The mother of all George's children, Eliza Helen Moody, lived until 1906; on the Death Index in the Civil Register her name is Helen Eliza Rebbeck, age 57.
George Rebbeck, retired from his distinguished Navy career but still "wearing"; his endearing wrist tattoo, survived his wife Eliza by twenty nine years--he lived until 21 March 1935, age 87. The informant on his Death Certificate was his son-in-law "E. Brenton"; Alice's husband Edgar. For George's occupation, Edgar wrote "Naval Pensioner, Chief Petty Officer, Royal Navy".
I am grateful for what little has been learned about George Rebbeck, but it is frustrating not to know more.
My feelings echo Charles Pellegrino's in his 1991 book Unearthing Atlantis:
Page last amended January 2004