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Unexpected birth places

March 18, 202112:30 pmLeave a Comment

A native of Moldavia in Church Stretton

The census shows to us the unexpected by revealing the birthplace of all residents. One unusual example is the Zrinyi family resident in Church Stretton in the later 19th and early 20th centuries.

1911 Census (c) National Archives RG14/1592

Arthur Edward Demetre de Stourdza Zrinyi was born in Iasi in Moldavia, now part of Romania, around 1835. At that time Moldavia was emerging from the Ottoman empire and was under the control of Russia. After the Crimean war (1853-1856) and the defeat of Russia, the kingdom of Romania emerged as an independent monarchy, but dominated by its position close to the Austro Hungarian Empire.

Arthur settled in Church Stretton, married Fanny Pitt, a farmer’s daughter, from Stoke St Milborough in 1866, and had 11 children, 3 of whom died in infancy, between 1866 and 1890. By the time of 1871 census Arthur described as an ‘officer in the Austrian army’ was living in Church Stretton, though his children were in Ludlow with their maternal grandparents. In 1879 Arthur successfully applied to become a naturalised British citizen.

Shrewsbury Chronicle 29 Oct 1879

There are several accounts of Arthur’s origins. In a newspaper article in the Shrewsbury Chronicle of 29 October 1879 he claimed he was exiled from the empire in 1864 for ‘an uncurbed outbreak of temper’ having been in military service since the age of 15 and in command of a crack regiment of hussars. He also claimed his family were of aristocratic origin and held large estates in Moldavia and Hungary.

In Church Stretton he lived in Park House, Churchway, Church Stretton and described his occupation as accountant. He gathered a number of public offices in the town including School Attendance Officer, Collector of Taxes, and Superintendent Registrar. He was also bailiff of the manor court of Church Stretton. The 1911 census shows the family with one son and daughter still at home. Of the remaining 4 daughters only one married, two were nurses with one Flora becoming a matron in the Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps.

His son, also named Arthur, continued the family tradition by amassing even more offices and occupations including assistant overseer and registrar of marriages, clerk to the parish councils of All Stretton and Little Stretton, agent to the Royal Fire and Life and Norwich and London Accident Assurance Cos., and assistant overseer for Hope Bowdler.

Arthur senior died in 1915, he only left £259 to his son which suggests he was never able to claim his ancestral rights, if indeed they existed. Arthur junior continued to work in his variety of public and private roles, he died unmarried in 1930.

The census provides a glimpse of an unusual life and leaves many aspects unclear – it would be fascinating to find out more about Arthur’s life before he came to Shropshire.


1871 cenus TNA reference HO 334/9/3006

See for further details of Flora’s career

Written by sarahd

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