Miss Maria Alers

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Miss Maria Alers

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1771- 1859


On 15 Aug 1771 a Miss Maria Alers bore a son William Alers by Thomas Hankey (1740-93). It seems fairly certain that Thomas Hankey and Miss Alers were never married, since William’s son John Alers Hankey offered a large reward for the discovery of a marriage certificate - but without success.  Three daughters were born to Thomas Hankey between 1774 and 1779, by Elizabeth Weaver, whom he did not marry until 1781.

Nothing definite is known about Miss Maria Alers. Roskill suggests she may have been a German governess in Thomas Hankey’s household, and notes that ‘In the 16th and 17th centuries the name Alers was fairly common in Bremen where many of them were pastors. Also a Huguenot family, originally ‘des Aleurs’, changed their name to Alers on settling in Brunswick, Germany, and later assumed the title of ‘von Alers’. But no evidence has been found to prove that Miss Alers was descended from either family.’ The name also occurs in the Netherlands and in South Africa.

If Miss Alers was at some time a governess in Thomas Hankey’s household, she can hardly have been such before William’s birth in 1771, as he was Thomas’s first child. More plausible is an alternative tradition that Miss Alers was a governess in Sir Thomas Hankey’s household; his youngest surviving child was born in 1743, and would not have required a governess much after the age of 17, in 1760. But Miss Alers could have remained in the household until after Sir Thomas'’s death in 1770, and could have been much the same age as Thomas Hankey.

The name Allar, Allars, Allers and occasionally Alers is found in the Shoreditch, Stepney and Mile End area of East London from the seventeenth century; this family group were of French Huguenot origin, and many of them were weavers. William Alers was resident in Mile End from 1779 to 1810; this tends to support the possibility that Miss Alers came from the Shoreditch, Stepney and Mile End area, and that William Alers was born there [the 1851 census confirms that he was born in London]. But it was not to his mother that William returned after leaving Edinburgh in 1789, but to Stephen Hall, of New Grove, Mile End.


There is a Susannah Alers who could conceivably have been Thomas Hankey’s mistress, but there is no evidence to support this except the sequence of dates. The daughter of John Frederick Alers, Susannah was baptised on 22 Nov 1741 at Aldershot (being a year younger than Thomas Hankey). Sir Thomas Hankey died on 3 Jul 1770, possibly having Miss Alers as a governess in his household; William Alers was born thirteen months later on 15 Aug 1771; Susannah Alers (by then aged 32 and living at Shoreditch) was married to Samuel Eaton on 21 Nov 1773 at Shoreditch, St Leonard; Thomas Hankey’s eldest child by Elizabeth Weaver was born on 25 Jan 1774. If Susannah was ever Thomas Hankey’s mistress in the formal sense, she must have ceased to be so fairly soon, at the most one to two years, after William Alers birth.