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TRACING GYPSY FAMILIES BACK DESPITE THE LACK OF RECORDS TEN: Dick and Margaret Heron

Eric Trudgill    -    2 March 2014

Last month I provisionally accepted all the children on George Hall’s list for Dick and Devit Heron with the exception of Solivino. Hall’s list for Dick and Margaret is both longer and less detailed. He gives Miller, who married Winifred Boswell daughter of Shadrach; Margaret; Suki; Thomas, who married Miller’s daughter, Pisanna; Ann, who married Jasper Smith; Lucy; Sage; George; Dover, who married Treci Heron; Alley; Louisa, who married Edward Elliott; Fowk, who married Edward Elliott’s sister, Polly; and John, who married Sibereti Heron, and went as a Baker or Brown.

It’s somewhat worrying that of Dick and Margaret’s thirteen alleged children here six are given no spouses or offspring, whereas of Dick and Devit’s nine this is true of only one, and he is specified as unmarried with an implicit explanation, “the lame man.” It’s somewhat worrying too that of Dick and Margaret’s remaining seven children two look distinctly doubtful: Vivienne Halton, in her brilliant and exhaustive research on the Elliotts, found no evidence of any Edward Elliott, let alone Polly’s brother, marrying Dick’s (or any) Louisa; and it would be easier to accept a son of Dick and Margaret incestuously marrying his half-sister, Sibereti daughter of Dick and Devit, if Hall’s informant had got his name right, James Baker, not John.

We’re left then with five well-documented possible children for Dick and Margaret: Miller, Thomas, Ann, Dover and Fowk. Hall didn’t list on his Heron Tree the three Smith offspring Ann christened 1804-08 (Charles, Sidnel and Sophia), but he did list seven offspring for Miller and Winifred, and though no baptisms have yet emerged, his William, Aaron, Perun, and probably Yuniki were with Miller in the census, and his Trenit, Pisanna and Rhoda clearly married the men he cited. He listed eight offspring for Thomas and Pisanna, and baptisms have been found for four 1824-34 (Perpagellion, Aaron, Otiie Alfred, and Goliath). He listed five offspring for Dover and Treci, and baptisms have been found perhaps for two of them (Jessie and Albert), the Jezeniah christened in 1837 daughter of John and Tracy gypsy and the Allgate christened in 1841 son of John and Theresa dealer in hardware. He listed six offspring for Fowk and Polly, and baptismal or marriage records have been found for three of them (Swallow ie Fenwick, Mizeretta and Tienna).

But if five on Hall’s list of Dick and Margaret’s children are solidly attested in the records, a glance at the records suggests the birth-order he gave them is seriously askew, and explains why last month I proposed moving two of them to Dick and Devit’s roster. Miller was probably christened as Tulmilliar Boswell, parents unnamed, in 1774 close to the Herts/Cambs border (see my article on him in April 2012); and his wife, Winifred Boswell was christened in 1772. Thomas was christened in Teigh, Rutland in 1797 son of Richard and Maria.

Ann was married in 1803 to Jasper Smith, christened in 1781 son of Jasper and Catherine. Dover was christened in Elm, Cambs in 1804 son of Richard and Maria. And Fowk was christened in Stroxton, Lincs in 1794, parents unnamed but with his forename so rare outside the Grays we hardly need theirs.

It’s clear Hall’s informants didn’t have much grasp of the birth-order of Dick and Margaret’s children, and in my view we’re entitled to question the credentials of two children they assigned to Dick and Margaret, Ann and Miller, born respectively about ten and twenty years before the group christened 1794-1804. And if we give Hall’s Ann to Devit, we can give a later Ann to Margaret, that is, if we trust the Bishop’s Transcript of the baptism in Cambridgeshire in 1801 of Ann Hyrn daughter of Richard and Maria, gypsy.

It looks to me plausible that Dick’s wives were consecutive, not concurrent, that Devit had the bulk of his children, that Margaret in time took Devit’s place with Dick, and, when she died, took over her children too, with the result that Dick’s descendants muddled her children and step-children (rather as Betty Buckland was credited with half Lawrence Boswell’s children when she’d borne none at all). I’m guessing of course from the available, fragmentary evidence, but nobody researching the Herons, and mindful of my guesses, will come to grief if they’re as ready to spot evidence that demolishes as to spot evidence that supports.

Here’s another guess. When we find such evidence, it won’t be in Cambs, a county known to have been a favoured haunt for Dick Heron’s family, I think it will be in Hunts, Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk or Rutland, counties close to Cambs that have been much less well explored by researchers. What we need is more people willing to travel to the relevant County Record Offices and plod through hitherto under-used original parish registers.

Copyright © 2014 Eric Trudgill