Is this trigamy?

In 1894, a man called Percy Wentworth Willougby Keene married Mary Ann Constable. They had a son, Edward Russell John Keene who died in 1917, during the First World War. In 1901, a man called Percy Wentworth Willoughby Keene was living with his wife, Elizabeth Keene (nee Higham) and their young son Percy junior. At the same time, Mary Ann Keene (nee Constable) was living elsewhere with her daughter Elsie and son Edward. On 3 August 1907, a man called Percy Wentworth Willoughby Keene married Annie Louisa Holmes who gave birth to his son Stanley Holmes Keene.

Percy Wentworth Willoughby Keene was born in Westminster, London, on 3 January 1873 to Lancelot and Eliza Keene. He died in early 1970. In his younger days, he was a travelling salesman, mostly in saddlery. However, by 1908, he had settled down to a life as a clerk.

Mary Ann Keene (nee Constable) married Frederick Laming in 1917 and died in 1961. In 1911, she was working as a monthly nurse for a family in Leatherhead and going by the name of Mary Ann Laming though she hadn’t officially married Fred for another six years.

Elizabeth Keene (nee Higham) was born in around 1882. She was just 19 in 1901 when living with Percy who was 28. Percy junior was one year old. These days, there’s something a bit icky about a 27 year old travelling salesman impregnating an 18 year old girl but, it probably went on quite a bit back in 1900. There isn’t an accurate death date for Elizabeth though an Elizabeth Higham was buried in Anfield Cemetery in 1941.

Annie Louise Keene (nee Holmes) was born in London in 1879. She gave birth to her son, Stanley Holmes Keene on 19 December 1908. At the same time, Percy Wentworth Willoughby Keene was spending time at his Majesty’s pleasure at Wormwood Scrubs.

The reason for this was because Percy Wentworth Willoughby Keene was convicted of forging two cheques. The first (£25) he would have got away with but, clearly, he got a bit greedy and tried a second (£50) and was caught. He pleaded guilty at the Old Bailey on 8 September 1908 and went to Wormwood Scrubs for nine months without hard labour.

The four children of Percy Wentworth Willoughby Keene were Elsie May, Edward Russell John, Percy junior and Stanley Holmes Keene. Elsie was born in 1894, married Thomas Dearing in 1917 and died a year later, in 1918. Edward was born in 1898, didn’t marry and died in Belgium on 7 June 1917. Percy junior was born in 1900 and died in 1933. Stanley was born in around 1902 and died in 1983.

Returning to Percy Wentworth Willoughby Keene, he enlisted on 11 February 1915 at the age of 42. He lasted 68 days before being discharged as ‘not being likely to become an efficient soldier‘. No reason was given on his extant attestation papers.

Those are the facts I have discovered. My questions are

  • Were there three different men called Percy Wentworth Willoughby Keene who married three different women from 1894 to 1907?
  • Was Mary Ann Keene (nee Constable) who married Thomas Dearing knowingly a bigamist?
  • What happened to the young Elizabeth Keene (nee Higham)?
  • If there was only one Percy Wentworth Willoughby Keene, was he a trigamist?

Incidentally, Edward Russell John Keene, the man I was researching which led me on this merry dance, gave his aunt, Blanche Elizabeth Winter, as his next of kin on his army papers. She was married to George Thomas Winter. Blanche was Blanche Elizabeth Constable before marrying George in 1887.

Sometimes, researching dead soldiers can be incredibly revealing.

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