Category Archives: Drighlington

A Short Life Remembered: Resurrecting the GRO Dead

This is another in my “Short Lives Remembered” series. In these posts I focus on often-forgotten children in family trees. Those who died all too young. The ones who never had chance to marry, have children and descendants to cherish their memory. The ones who, but for family history researchers, would be forever forgotten. This story is a direct result of the new search facilities available with the General Register Office (GRO) indexes. 

I wrote about the new searchable indexes of births and deaths and the extra flexibility they provided here. As it is a new compilation it differs from other indexes because, where possible, the GRO have provided the mother’s maiden name right back to July 1837, as opposed to the September quarter of 1911. For deaths, an age is included if it is on, or is legible on, the original entry. Again this is back to their 1837 inception, as opposed to the March quarter of 1866 on other indexes.

Armed with these new search options, I am in the process of going through my family tree. For some there are obvious child-bearing gap years to focus on. The 1911 census is even more explicit in that it gives the number of children born in a marriage to a couple and provides the number surviving/dead. So the search offers a new tool to identify some of the hitherto unknown dead children if other methods have failed. More speculatively I’m going through my direct line ancestors to see if there are any other missed babies. Tedious with the two-year search parameter and having to specify the gender when searching. But rewarding nevertheless.

This is the story of my first search. 

I decided to investigate my 2x great grandparents Joseph and Kezia Hill (née Clough). Joseph and Kezia married on 22 April 1869 at Tong Parish Church. Coal miner Joseph was only just 20 and Kezia 18. They both lived on Whitehall Road, Drighlington. Childhood sweethearts I assumed. In February 1871 son Albert was born, followed by John Herbert (Jack) in December 1872. Another boy, Harry, was born in around early 1874. Finally daughter Martha arrived  towards the end of September 1876. Kezia died the following year. So I had a very narrow search window for this family.  

I didn’t expect much, given they’d had four children in their seven years of marriage. However the very first search produced a possible. I used 1870 +/- 2 years, males, with the surname Hill and mother’s maiden name Clough, and no phonetically similar/similar sounding variation options. It produced three hits. These are in the screenshot below. 

Albert is there, as is a boy named Herbert. This is John Herbert. As I explained in my previous post, this is one of the quirks of the new search. Joseph and Kezia originally registered their son under the name Herbert, but changed their minds, went back and amended his name to John Herbert. The new indexes fail to pick up certified name changes. 

There is a third boy on this list though: Frank William, whose birth was registered in the September 1869 quarter. It looked promising. The Registration District corresponded – Bradford, Yorkshire. The names were family ones – Joseph’s grandfather was called Francis; his uncle and eldest brother were named William. But it wasn’t proof positive.

In the 1871 census Joseph and Kezia with infant son Albert. No Frank. Was he living elsewhere at the time of the census, or had he died, another census “in-betweener“. 

A search on the death indexes for Frank Hill with a +/- 1 year parameter resulted in 14 hits. The bottom entry looked spot on. It shows the death registration of Frank William Hill in Bradford, Yorkshire in the December quarter of 1869 – age 0.  The convention is to record the age as 0 for infants under 12 months. However, be aware that despite the rhetoric, this isn’t a hard and fast rule with these new indexes –  there are errors. I have instances were a child of two months at death is recorded as two years.  

I decided to play it safe though and went for the birth certificate initially. I ordered it on 9 November via the trial PDF system. By 11 November it arrived, five days ahead of schedule. However I couldn’t open it. The only one of my orders I had an issue with, and it would be this one. Despite this glitch, I am feeling very positive about the new PDF system. No it’s not perfect, but it is another (cheaper) ordering option, where you don’t need a fancy all bells and whistles certified copy. It’s a straightforward process, especially for those birth and death events searchable on the new indexes. And the indexes themselves have helped me progress my family history in a way not possible with the alternative ones.

Anyway, back to Frank’s certificate. I was on tenterhooks. So near but yet so far. Then Steve Jackson stepped in, who runs the Atcherley One-Name Study. He sorted it in no time, and bingo. Frank William was indeed Joseph and Kezia’s first child. 

This put a whole new spin on my family tree. For a start my great grandad was now relegated to third child. But, more importantly, Frank was born in Drighlington on 18 September 1869. This was coming up to five months after his parents married. He may therefore have been the very reason for their marriage. But sadly his life proved far shorter than those five months of his parents married life to date.   

PDF Copy Birth Certificate of Frank William Hill

Joseph registered his son’s birth, making his mark. He alternated between signing and making his mark on various birth and death registrations, so it is difficult to make literacy assumptions on the basis of a one-off registration. However the sad task of registering the baby’s death fell to Sabina Hill. I suspect she is Joseph’s sister as she’s the only Sabina Hill in the family tree at this point. However I do have a slight niggle with this theory: she was only 14 years old in 1869. She too made her mark.

Frank never thrived. He must have been a constant cause of concern for his young parents. He is described on the death certificate as having anaemia since birth. He lived only three weeks, giving up his struggle in Drighlington on 9 October 1869. 

His certificate also states, besides anaemia, he suffered convulsions for a few hours before his death. Convulsions was not an uncommon death certificate death cause for young children and infants in this era. Babies and infants who develop a fever as a result of an infection may fit because of their high body temperature. With the medical limitations of the period, in these circumstances the outward manifestation rather than the underlying cause was recorded.

So ended Frank’s short, but significant, life. Significant insofar as it was probably the initial impetus behind Joseph and Kezia’s marriage. And, as a result, generations later their family lives on. Including me.

I’ve not found a baptism for Frank. There won’t necessarily be one. And to date I’ve not found a parish register burial entry for him. But it’s early days, given its only a week ago since I learned of his existence thanks to the new GRO indexes. However the discovery of his brief life has added a new dimension to Joseph and Kezia’s life together. And sadly it’s another tragic one. Maybe next year I will write about them.

Others who feature in this series of “Short Lives Remembered” posts are:

Sources:

GRO Picture Credit: 

Extract from GRO birth register entry for Frank William Hill: Image © Crown Copyright and posted in compliance with General Register Office copyright guidance.

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A Short Life Remembered: King Cholera’s Deadly Reign

This is another in my “Short Lives Remembered” series. It focuses on often-forgotten children in family trees who died all too young. The ones who never had chance to marry, have children and descendants to cherish their memory. The ones who, but for family history researchers, would be forever forgotten.

This post is about Sarah Clough. Sadly the most remarkable thing I know about her life is her death.

Sarah was the fourth child of my 3x great grandparents William and Mary Clough (née Burnett). She was born on 22 February 1833 in Adwalton Yorkshire and baptised in the parish church of St Peter’s, Birstall on 2 June 1833.

Historically, Adwalton is probably best known for its part in the English Civil War: The scene of the Battle of Adwalton Moor, when the Royalist forces of the Earl of Newcastle defeated the Parliamentarian forces of Sir Thomas Fairfax bringing Yorkshire under Royalist control.

Alongside it’s neighbour Drighlington, to where the Clough family moved, this was an otherwise historically unremarkable village, following the normal industrial revolution growth and development patterns of other West Riding villages in the 19th century.

By the time of Sarah’s birth, textile manufacture was supplanting farming and mining as principal occupations in Adwalton and Drighlington. William, her father, worked as a clothier, following the traditional occupations of the area. This was before fate stepped in and his working life took a totally different path. But that’s for another time.

Sarah only features in one census, that of 1841. She is shown living in Drighlington with her parents and three older siblings. The next record I have is her death certificate. Which brings me to a period in time when Drighlington hit the news for entirely unwelcome reasons.

Sarah died there on 10 August 1849, age 16. No occupation given, so I do not know if she followed her elder sister into a worsted spinning job in one of the area’s relatively new mills. She’s described merely as the daughter of William Clough. He registered her death the following day.

The certificate reveals she suffered one of those truly awful, and all too common, deaths of our ancestors. It indicates she died after suffering for 11 hours from “malignant cholera”.

Cause of Death Extract from Sarah Clough’s Death Certificate

So once more I venture into the depressing medical world family history researchers frequently inhabit. This time learning about cholera.

Malignant cholera was one of the names given to Asiatic cholera. This was distinct from English cholera. Adverts in 1849 stated that English cholera, which all persons more or less suffered from in summer months, was characterised by “violent looseness of the bowels, attended with sickness, and in extreme cases violent cramps”.  In other words dysentery and food poisoning, more commonly known as gastroenteritis today. If left untreated it could result in Asiatic cholera, or so some quack newspaper adverts claimed.

English Cholera Description, “Leeds Intelligencer” 25 August 1849

In fact Asiatic cholera was a different entity. Originating in India, it first reached the shores of Great Britain in the autumn of 1831, after its relentless march across Europe. It’s first victim was in Sunderland. The epidemic dissipated the following Autumn, but not before claiming the souls of some 32,000 people, roughly a 50 per cent death rate of those afflicted. In these pre-civil registration days this is only a rough estimate, with ranges fluctuating between 20,000 to 50,000+[1]

L0008118 A dead victim of cholera at Sunderland in 1832. Coloured lit

L0008118 A dead victim of cholera at Sunderland in 1832. Coloured lit Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images images@wellcome.ac.uk http://wellcomeimages.org A dead victim of cholera at Sunderland in 1832 by IWG. Coloured Lithograph Circa 1832 Published: – Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Like English cholera, Asiatic cholera also struck without warning, but it’s symptoms were more extreme. Although not the top killer in the country during the period, its high mortality rate and the speed with which it killed caused panic. Those afflicted were gripped by dramatic diarrhoea, terrible abdominal cramps and vomiting. In the most severe cases the loss of body fluids was so appalling that the victims rapidly became dehydrated, cold, withered and gaunt. Often their faces became unrecognisably shrunken and they could develop a blue-grey tinge to their skin. The swiftness with which victims succumbed is illustrated by the fact that Sarah was dead within 11 hours of the onset of her symptoms.

V0010485 A young Viennese woman, aged 23, depicted before and after

V0010485 A young Viennese woman, aged 23, depicted before and after Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images images@wellcome.ac.uk http://wellcomeimages.org A young Viennesen woman, aged 23, depicted before and after contracting cholera. Coloured stipple engraving. Published: – Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Victims died as a result of dehydration, sometimes hastened by medical ministrations which could be based on purging the body of impurities. Laxatives, such as mercury, and emetics like opium were amongst the armoury of potentially prescribed medications. Hardly the most suitable concoctions to give to patients already exhausted from sickness and diarrhoea. Other remedies touted at this time were passing steam over the patient or pouring boiling water on the patient’s stomach, brandy, bloodletting and “hot air baths”, all of which made dehydration worse. Even arsenic was prescribed.

Official advice, as well as druggists adverts, featured in the press of the day. All equally ineffective.

Official Cholera Remedy – ” Leeds Intelligencer” 23 June 1849

Fundamental to the grip the frightening disease had on the country was the lack of understanding of its causes and transmission. The prevalent theory was that the disease was caused and spread by smelly, contaminated air, otherwise known as miasma. Getting rid of foul smells, including improved sanitation, would combat the deadly menace. Attempts were made to fumigate buildings in affected communities by burning sulphur or tar. Drinking brandy or eating copious quantities of garlic were also widely believed to be a preventative measures.

L0003001 A court for King Cholera

L0003001 A court for King Cholera Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images images@wellcome.ac.uk http://wellcomeimages.org ‘A court for King Cholera’ is hardly an exaggeration of many dwelling places of the poor in London. 19th century Punch Published: 1852 Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Medical thinking had not progressed beyond this when the next deadly wave of the disease spread through Britain throughout 1848-49. The poor still lived in cramped and unhygienic conditions, sewerage was still largely inadequate and water supplies were still vulnerable to contamination: All these factors exacerbated by urbanisation. The miasma theory still held sway, promoted by the likes of social reformer Edwin Chadwick. There was no expert agreement about whether or not it was contagious, with debates on the subject aired in the press.

“The Leeds Times” 14 October 1848

However prudent advice in “The Leeds Mercury” of 29 September 1849 suggested precautions such as burning beds and clothing of the deceased and, in what looks like an early attempt funeral humour, “early (though not premature) interment“. In 1849 Dr John Snow publicly stated the disease was transmitted through water. His voice was dismissed.

In terms of fatalities this second outbreak of the disease proved to be the most serious of 19th century epidemics to hit Britain. Estimates vary between 53,000 and 62,000 lives lost[2], including that of Sarah Clough.

L0039174 Map of England showing prevalence of cholera, 1849

L0039174 Map of England showing prevalence of cholera, 1849 Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images images@wellcome.ac.uk http://wellcomeimages.org Map of England shaded to show the prevalence of cholera in the several districts during the epidemic of 1849. The relative degree of mortality is expressed in the darkness of the shading. The dates indicate the time at which the epidemic broke out. Printed Reproduction 1852 Report on the mortality of cholera in England, 1848-49. Great Britain. General Register Office. Published: 1852. Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/


Drighlington was particularly hard hit. Looking at the Drighlington St Paul’s burial register Sarah was just one of many of the village’s inhabitants to die in the summer of 1849.

A look at the a parish register shows 17 burials in August 1849. Of these 15 were Drighlington inhabitants, two from Adwalton. Sarah’s burial took place on 11 August 1849. Compare this with three June burials; four in July; one in September; four in October. Looking at the month of August in the years sandwiching 1849, August 1848 had four burials; whilst August 1850 shows only one. So a dramatic spike that cholera-affected month of August 1849.

The terror of the inhabitants felt is unimaginable: An illness with an incorrectly vague cause and no known cure sweeping their hometown; neighbours, friends and families being suddenly struck down; a succession of funerals held in the local church; many more suffering the distressing and debilitating effects of the illness. 

Newspapers, filled daily with cholera returns and countrywide reports, ratcheted up anxiety levels. They even remarked on the disproportionate numbers affected in Drighlington. For example, this from the “Bradford Observer” of 16 August 1849:

In our last number, we recorded a death from Asiatic cholera in Drighlington. Since then, five other cases have occurred, all of which proved fatal. Taking into consideration the size of the village and the population, this fearful malady is spreading more rapidly than in towns, where the population is so dense. The number of deaths from Asiatic cholera since the commencement a fortnight ago being seven, besides several others from English cholera”.

The “Leeds Intelligencer” of 18 August 1849 put the number of deaths at 11 and described clean-up measures to tackle the outbreak.

“Leeds Intelligencer” 18 August 1849

Put into context the 1851 population of Drighlington township was 2,740. So 11 cholera-related deaths in such a short space of time, not to mention those infected and recovering, and it’s easy to see how ravages of the illness would affect a significant proportion of the village one way or another.

Two further waves of cholera swept Britain but with decreasing death tolls – the 1853-54 outbreak claimed 20,000 souls[3]. Following this outbreak John Snow was able to prove his theory about the bacterial nature of the disease, when he isolated the source of the 1854 Soho outbreak to a contaminated Broad Street water pump.

Although full acceptance was slow, it was an important step in paving the way to laying to rest the bad air/miasma theory. This, ironically combined with the Public Health Acts and Sanitary Act resulting from the work of Chadwick, meant the disease was increasingly more effectively prevented and the 1865-66 epidemic accounted for a mere 10,000 – 14,000 deaths, depending on statistical sources.[4].

It wasn’t until 1883 that a German doctor, Robert Koch, isolated the cholera bacillus. And over 30 years more years elapsed before a vaccination became generally available in 1914.

So the short life of Sarah Clough is significant for the disease which cut it short. Just one of many thousands of people mowed down in Britain alone in what were the worldwide 19th century cholera pandemics. As a result of my research into Sarah’s death, the disease for me is now more than a name.

Others who feature in this series of “Short Lives Remembered” posts are:

 

Footnotes:

Sources: 

GRO Picture Credit: 

Extract from GRO death register entry for Sarah Clough: Image © Crown Copyright and posted in compliance with General Register Office copyright guidance.

Removal Orders and Child Stealing Chimney Sweeps: Seeking a One-Handed Gypsy – Part 3

I’m preparing for another Tyne and Wear Archives visit so I’m reviewing my Burnett and Jackson ancestor research. Some of this research is in Part 1 and Part 2 of “Removal Orders and Child Stealing Chimney Sweeps

In these posts I wrote about how a newspaper article detailing the outcome of a Quarter Sessions case demolished some brick walls in my family history. In April 1830 Drighlington township unsuccessfully attempted to remove John Burnett’s widow, Jane, and her children to Newcastle All Saints parish. John was the brother of my 3x great grandmother.

The newspaper report provided family details which enabled me to progress back to child-stealing-accused chimney sweep Stephen Burnett and Charlotte, the woman he for some time lived in concubinage with – my 5x great grandparents.

Since writing these posts I’ve accumulated three more snippets of information, all from different sources. One of these has particular relevance for my proposed visit to Newcastle.

New Information
The first record is the administration granted to John Burnett’s widow, Jane, after he died intestate. This provides some additional pieces of background information. It states John died on 16 June 1829. Previously I only had his Drighlington burial date of 19 June 1829. The administration gives the names, abode and occupations of the two bondsmen: As yet no obvious family link, but you never know when this might be useful. I also have additional confirmation that he lived in Drighlington and that he was a collier (coalman on the administration).  Finally there is a written statement outlining the whole of his goods and chattels amounted to under £5.

The second piece of documentation is via the West Yorkshire Archive Service record set on Ancestry. The “Removal and Settlement” records show the Drighlington Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor made a failed attempt in late 1829 to remove Jane Burnett and her children Nancy, Stephen, Maria and Jackson, to Halifax.  This is useful because it is further supporting evidence for the 27 June 1798 St John the Baptist, Halifax, baptism I traced for John. So all part of the migration pattern of the family – from Newcastle and the North East, to Cumbria and then down to Drighlington in Yorkshire via Halifax.

The third piece of information is a newspaper notice in early 1830. Thwarted by Halifax, the Drighlington poor law officials had All Saints parish in Newcastle firmly in their sights as a place to offload the potentially financially burdensome young family. On 9 December 1829 a Removal Order was issued, but Newcastle challenged it. This Order was respited pending an appeal. The January 1830 West Riding Quarter Sessions, held in Wakefield, show this appeal by the All Saints churchwardens and overseers would be heard at Easter 1830 Quarter Sessions at Pontefract. It was the report of this appeal which features in Part 1.

675px-All_Saints_Church,_Newcastle_2014 (2)

All Saints Church Newcastle – by Hewarthjb (see Sources for full details)

The overseers at All Saints now set about gathering evidence. And part of this was an appeal for the whereabouts of Charlotte Burnett. This advert appeared in the “The General Hue and Cry” column of the “Newcastle Courant” on 13 February 1830. It read:

One Pound Reward
If Charlotte Burnett be living, she will hear Something to her Advantage, by applying to Mr Salmon ___ Overseer for All Saints’ Parish, in this Town. She is upwards of 70 Years of Age[1] was born with one Hand only, and was last seen in this Neighbourhood in 1827, at which Time she was travelling with her Daughter and Children as Gipsies. It is presumed that she is known by the Name of Burnett. Any Person giving such Information as will enable Mr Salmon to find out her Place of Residence, shall receive the above Reward.
Newcastle, Feb 4 1830.”

The reward indicates the importance to the parish in locating what would be a prime witness for them.[2] From the notice I have an idea of the mobile lifestyle of Charlotte. There is confirmation of another branch of the family. There is also an indication of the hardship she faced, living with a disability for all of her life in such unforgiving times. So some more pieces in the family history jigsaw puzzle.

jigsaw-305576_1280 (2)

Jigsaw Image from Pixabay

The overseer succeeded in his search because Charlotte was traced and did appear at the appeal. The assumption that she used the name “Burnett” was correct, as was proved at the Easter Quarter Sessions. But I still do not know for sure whether she married Stephen Burnett. Neither do I know any maiden name.

The newspaper piece gives me some information to work with when I next visit to Tyne and Wear Archives – more parish record searches, including overseers accounts and vestry minutes for 1829-1831.

Sources:

  • All Saints Church, Newcastle picture from Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike License by Heworthjb – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33465964Ancestry – West Yorkshire Archive Service; Calderdale, West Yorkshire, England; West Yorkshire, England, Removal and Settlement, 1627-1912 Ref OR 98
  • Ancestry – West Riding Quarter Sessions, Wakefield – January 1830
  • FindMyPast newspapers. “Newcastle Courant” – 13 February 1830
  • Measuring Worth: https://www.measuringworth.com/
  • Pixabay – Jigsaw Image
  • Prerogative Court of York – Administration for John Burnett – Jun 1829 – vol. 179, f – Borthwick Institute

[1] She was actually in her early 80s
[2] The Measuring Worth Calculator shows the 1830/2014 real price is of £1 is £79.97; labour value is £766.60 and income value is £1,429.00

Removal Orders and Child-Stealing Chimney Sweeps: How Newspapers Demolished a Brick Wall – Part 1

In my post about Bigamy in Batley I introduced my 4x great grandparents Robert Burnett and Ann Jackson. Due to Robert’s job as a tinner/brazier, the Burnett family moved frequently in the early days of their marriage. They finally settled in Drighlington in the early 1800s, presumably once Robert had earned sufficient money to establish his own business. Their first children were born in the Halifax area (1794 and 1798) and Flockton (1796). But for a while the origins of the couple remained a puzzle to me.

Robert died before the 1841 census[1]. Ann’s entry in that census indicated Yorkshire roots. She died in 1848, so there were no further clues. From death certificates it appears Robert was born in around 1771 and Ann in 1772.  I suspected Ann’s maiden name was Jackson. This theory was based on the fact that two of her sons, John and James, had children named Jackson Burnett and Ann Jackson Burnett. Their wives had no apparent link to this surname.  The only likely marriage I could find between a Robert Burnett and Ann Jackson took place on 7 January 1793 at Kendal, Westmorland[2].

After that I drew a blank. There the mystery lay for quite some time, until FindMyPast began rolling out their British Newspaper collection.  Playing about with names I was trying to find out any information about their son, Stephen Burnett, and his wife’s possible bigamous marriage. A search for him fetched the following extract from the West Riding Easter Sessions as reported in the Leeds Intelligencer of 29 April 1830:

“….She proved that when about 22 years of age, she lived some time in a slate of concubinage a man named Stephen Burnett, who was a chimney sweeper at Stockton….”

By this time Stephen, Robert and Ann’s son, had died. Neither was Durham associated with my family history research. But the name piqued my interest.

The article turned out to be a newspaper report of a case heard in Pontefract in which All Saints Parish, Newcastle upon Tyne was appealing against an order for the removal of a pauper Jane Burnett, widow of John Burnett, and her four children from Drighlington to All Saints. John Burnett, who was one of Robert and Ann’s sons, died in June 1829.

Under the complex Poor Law rules of settlement everyone “belonged” to a parish and this parish and its ratepayers were responsible for supporting them if the need arose. In larger parishes of the north the financial burden was the responsibility of the smaller township unit. This issue of settlement was a complex and contentious one, the number of inter-parish disputes and court cases a testimony to this. Generally your settlement parish was that of your father but this could be superseded by a number of other factors. For example a woman took the settlement parish of her husband on marriage. If illegitimate your settlement was the place you were born, but this changed from 1743/4 when you took the settlement parish of your mother regardless of your birthplace. There were other permutations too including being a parish ratepayer, renting a property in the parish assessed at £10 pa or more, serving an apprenticeship, or being hired to work in the parish for 12 months; but all in all the rules were a veritable minefield.

In the case of Jane Burnett and her children the Officials responsible for the Poor Law in Drighlington township were trying to prove their rightful settlement for this family was Newcastle All Saints. They were seeking to ship them off to an area of the country the family in all probability had never visited, in order to save Drighlington poor rate payers the expense of providing parish relief for them. And All Saints Newcastle similarly did not want the burden of costs falling to their ratepayers, possibly for many years to come as the children were all under ten years of age.

All Saints Church Newcastle upon Tyne - Blue Plaque

All Saints Church Newcastle upon Tyne, Blue Plaque

In the course of the case Mr Maude, acting for Drighlington, called forward Ann Burnett, wife of Robert. She affirmed that her maiden settlement was Newcastle All Saints where members of her family had received frequent parish relief. Ann had also given birth to an illegitimate child in the workhouse there.

So this appeared to be the very thin grounds for the wish to send the family to this Parish: the fact that Newcastle All Saints was the Parish of John’s mother. However from Parish Registers John was born in wedlock so to my mind should, in the absence of other superseding reasons, have taken the settlement of his father Robert.

All Saints Church, Newcastle upon Tyne

All Saints Church, Newcastle upon Tyne

In turn Mr Blackburn, acting for All Saints, called Charlotte Burnett the 82 year-old grandmother of the deceased. The report contains no mention of Charlotte Burnett’s maiden name, unless that too was Burnett, or her origins. She now lived in Carlisle with her daughter, Mrs McGregor.

In her testimony she stated that when she was around 22 years old she had lived for some time in a state of “concubinage” with a man named Stephen Burnett, a Stockton chimney sweep. Going one day with his apprentices to sweep chimneys in Darlington, she went into labour and gave birth to Robert[3], the father of the deceased, at a place called Long Newton.  Darlington is just over 11 miles from Stockton-on-Tees, with Long Newton a shade over four miles into the journey, so a fair trek in circa 1771 for a heavily pregnant woman. And I am baffled as to why she was making the journey in the first place; she could hardly be sweeping chimneys!

It was therefore claimed that, being born illegitimate, Robert’s place of settlement was Long Newton. And because his son John had gained no other settlement elsewhere the decision was made that he too belonged to Long Newton, as did his widow and children. The court therefore decided that Jane and her children should be removed forthwith to that Parish.

There is some doubt about whether the order was ever carried out. If it was, it only lasted for a short period. Jane Burnett remarried on 27 September 1832 at Leeds Parish Church. The Parish Register entry states that she lived in Armley Parish. The 1841 census shows she was living once more in Drighlington with her children by John, new husband Jeremiah Newell and their children.

So even though I have been unable to trace records of the case in West Yorkshire Archives, due to the contentious nature of the operation of the Poor Law in that period and the newspaper report of the ensuing court case I have a wealth of information, including names and locations, which I am in the process of following up.

From initial searches on FreeReg and a visit to Tyne and Wear Archives it appears that John Jackson, mariner, married Elizabeth Hay at All Saints on 20 April 1772. Ann was baptised on 22 August 1773; daughters Amelia and Jane were baptised on 4 November 1787 at the ages of six and two respectively. Various Jacksons feature frequently in the return of clothes given to the poor. Sadly the poor house admission/discharge register does not cover the period for the birth Ann Jackson’s illegitimate child. However the bastardy bonds include an entry on 27 May 1788 for an Ann Jackson. Jas Atkinson, Shoemaker, appears to be the putative father and house carpenters Gilbert Dodds and Wm [Reid?] are named as those charged with paying bonds of indemnity. However further research is needed so another visit to Tyne and Wear Archives beckons.

That is not the end though. Newspaper searches have produced some further articles which potentially relate to my 5x great grandfather Stephen Burnett, father of Robert. I will return to these in Part 2.

Sources:

[1] GRO Death Certificate date 31 July 1837
[2] “England Marriages, 1538–1973 ,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:NJV1-NYQ : accessed 5 July 2015), Robert Burnett and Ann Jackson, 07 Jan 1793; citing Kendal, Westmoreland, England, reference yrs 1700-1795; FHL microfilm 97,376.
[3] Giving an estimated birth year for Robert of around 1770-1771

Bigamy in Batley? 

This is the curious tale of Stephen Burnett, the brother of my 3x great grandmother, and his wife Abigail Hirst.

Stephen was the son of Robert Burnett and his wife Ann Jackson. The Burnetts moved frequently in the early days of their marriage, probably as a result of Robert’s trade. He was a tinner/brazier.  Many young tinsmiths took to the road as pedlars or tinkers in an effort to save enough money to open a shop in town. Stephen’s baptism is recorded in the Flockton Register for St Michael and All Angels Church, Thornhill on 5 June 1796.[1]  The family eventually settled in Drighlington, where Robert opened his business.

Stephen did not follow the family trade.  By the time he married Abigail Hirst on 24 December 1815 at All Saints, Batley Parish Church, following banns[2], he worked as a miner. Abigail was the daughter of John and Susannah Hirst[3]All Saints Church, Batley 2

During this period, Batley was not the normal location for marriages for Drighlington folk.  The town fell within the remit of Birstall Parish, and the normal venue for such occasions was St Peter’s Church in Birstall.

However, within a short time of their marriage, there appears to have followed a strange turn of events. On 14 November 1816, with Abigail pregnant, it seems that Stephen travelled to Leeds to enlist as a Private in the Army, joining the 51st Foot Regiment[4], the forerunner of the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry.  Claiming to be 17 years of age he enlisted for life[5].

In the meantime Abigail, now living in Adwalton, gave birth to a son, Thomas, on 5 April 1817. The baptism took place at St Peter’s Birstall on 1 June[6]. Oddly, Stephen’s profession is described as a collier, no mention of the Army.

Stephen may have been in Yorkshire in January 1821 because a Stephen Burnett acted as a witness at the marriage of John Burnett at St Peter’s Birstall.  John was another of the children of Robert and Ann Burnett. The only question mark is that Robert’s father was also called Stephen, and to date I have not traced his death.

However, whatever the circumstances, Stephen was clearly estranged from his wife.  On 30 May 1825 in Batley Parish Church, the same location as her earlier nuptials, Abigail undertook what in effect appears to be a bigamous marriage to William Gallaway[7]. There is no marital status indicated for either party in the Parish Register.

It is a distinct possibility that Abigail was pregnant and this forced the issue. It appears she and William may have had a son, Joseph, born in Adwalton in around 1825. No baptism has been traced to confirm the parentage of Joseph. But he features in the 1841 and 1851 censuses with the family[8].

In this period there was a seven years’ absence defence for bigamy.  If a spouse had not been heard of for seven years and there was no indication as to whether they were still alive, in such circumstances the abandoned partner was free to re-marry.  A variation of this was if the spouse had been absent and overseas for seven years.[9]  If the spouse subsequently reappeared, the second marriage, although not bigamous, would be declared void.

However, if it was Stephen that visited home only four years earlier in 1821 this would cast serious doubt about the application of the seven year rule. An appearance at a family wedding would hardly go unnoticed. Neither could the overseas absence claim apply as, although Stephen enlisted in 1816, his Regiment was home-based until spring 1821.

Within months of Abigail’s “marriage” to William events took an unanticipated twist. In November 1825, after eight years’ Army service, Stephen was discharged to pension. He was suffering from an illness described as “organic disease of the thorax”, which he contracted in Falmouth in 1818. This was now serious enough to render him unfit for further military service.

His discharge papers describe his conduct as good. They state he was born in Flockton. They describe him as 5’6” tall, with brown hair, grey eyes and fair complexion. They also give his trade, a collier. It appears he immediately returned home to Drighlington, where he was again a witness at a family wedding – this time for his sister Mary in December that year.[10]

One cannot begin to imagine the consternation caused to William and Abigail when news of Stephen’s return reached them. Now at the very least their “marriage” would be declared void; at its worse the ignominy of a trial and the threat of transportation if convicted hovered over them if the truth came to light.

They were spared the ordeal.  An ill man, shortly after his return Stephen died aged 30.  His burial took place at St Paul’s, Drighlington on 4 July 1826[11].

This still left William and Abigail in a tricky situation. Now a widow she was free to marry and this is the course of action she took to legitimise her union with William. Swiftly after Stephen’s death, Abigail and William married at a different parish church, that of St James, Tong, on 1 October 1826[12]. The entry in the register now states Abigail is a widow.  And was it an accident or deliberate that William’s surname had subtly changed to Galloway?

Tong Parish Church

Tong Parish Church

To conclude the strange tale of Stephen and Abigail, their son Thomas survived to adulthood. In the 1841 census he is living in Tong with Abigail’s parents. He married Betty Webster on 6 March 1843 and the register entry names his father as Stephen Burnett, miner[13]. Thomas’ address at the time of his marriage is given as Farnley.  After initially living in Tong, Farnley appears to be where Abigail and William settled sometime between 1839 and 1841[14]. In addition to Joseph the couple had at least six other children. The youngest child was named “Hirst,” a reference to Abigail’s maiden name[15].

There are a number of question marks over the theory behind the story. These include the baptismal entry for Stephen and Abigail’s son Thomas, and the possible reappearance of Stephen in 1821 for John’s wedding. Another apparent discrepancy is Stephen’s signature. Stephen could sign his name. Because of this we have four samples signatures taken from marriage registers and his Army papers.

The entries in the various parish registers are fairly consistent. The signature on his Discharge Papers is not identical, being just his initial rather than full Christian name. But the rest of the signature is not out of step.

So is the Stephen Burnett in the Army the Drighlington Stephen Burnett? I suspect it is, as the mystery which surrounds Abigail and William Galloway’s two marriages coupled with the timing of Stephen’s Army discharge and death seem to point to something being amiss.

Sources:

  • Ancestry.co.uk: Parish Register of St Michael’s, Thornhill
  • Ancestry.co.uk: Parish Register of St Peter’s, Birstall
  • National Army Museum – History of the 51st Regiment of Foot http://www.nam.ac.uk/research/famous-units/51st-2nd-yorkshire-west-riding-or-kings-own-light-infantry-regiment
  • Find My Past: WO97 Royal Hospital Chelsea: Soldiers Service Documents
  • Ancestry.co.uk: Parish Register of Batley All Saints
  • Find My Past: 1841 and 1851 Census
  • Anestry.co.uk: Parish Register of St Peter’s, Leeds
  • Ancestry.co.uk: Parish Register of St James’, Tong
  • Ancestry.co.uk: Parish Register of Leeds St Peter’s Parish Church
  • Find My Past GRO BMD Records – Baptisms
  • “Marriage Law for Genealogists: the definitive guide” – Rebecca Probert
  • “Divorced, Bigamist, Bereaved?” – Rebecca Probert

[1] Thornhill St Michael’s Parish – Flockton Register
[2] Note the marriage was by banns and not by licence. So even if the parties were underage at the time of their marriage, it would not have subsequently be declared invalid
[3] Her baptism is recorded in the Parish Register of St Peter’s Birstall on 7 October 1798. At the time her parents lived in Drighlington, although there is sometimes some overlap in records between Drighlington and the neighbouring village of Adwalton. The 1851 census records Abigail as being born in Adwalton.[4] http://www.nam.ac.uk/research/famous-units/51st-2nd-yorkshire-west-riding-or-kings-own-light-infantry-regiment
[5] Find My Past, British Army Service Records: WO97 Chelsea Pensioners British  Army Service Records 1760-1913, Box 645, Box Record 95 – Discharge papers
[6] St Peter’s Parish Church Birstall Parish Register – Baptisms. Ancestry.co.uk transcript indicates 17 June for baptismal date, but this appears to be an error
[7] Batley All Saints Parish Register – Marriages, under the name Abigal Burnet
[8] This is supposition. In the 1841 census, when no family relationships were given, Joseph is recorded in the Farnley home of William and Abigail, age 16.  In the 1851 he is described as “son”. But that could equally refer to being the son of just William as it could to being the son of both William and Abigail.
[9] “Marriage Law for Genealogists” and “Divorce, Bigamist, Bereaved?” – Rebecca Probert
[10] Mary Burnett is my 3x Great Grandmother. Her marriage to William Clough is recorded in the St Peter’s Parish Church Birstall Parish Register – Marriages[11] St Paul’s Church, Drighlington – Burials
[12] St James’ Parish Church, Tong Parish Register – Marriages. The place did have family associations, as by the time of the 1841 census, Abigail’s parents lived here.
[13] Leeds St Peter’s Parish Church Parish Register – Marriages
[14] Given the birth places of their children according to the 1851 census, and the fact that by 1841 they were living in Farnley
[15] Hurst according to the 1851 census, but Hirst in the GRO entry and 1841 census,