Share this page


Eric Trudgill    -    28 February 2015

The pioneer gypsiologists were told by family members that the famous Shadrach Boswell was born in Holland. Perhaps he was, but he was baptised in Basildon, Essex in 1750 son of Robert and Diana, who had baptised a Cornelius in Wellington, Shrops in 1742, a Sinah in Lt Melton, Norfolk in 1746, a Peata in Southill, Beds in 1747, and an earlier very short-lived Shadrach in Finchley, Mdx in 1749.

The pioneer gypsiologists were told by family members that Shadrach married a Cinderella Wood and had the following children: Winifred, who married Miller Heron; Zachariah, who was transported as a young man; Tiso, who married first Sophia Heron and then Hannah Williams widow of James; Sophia, who married Gilderoy Scamp; Clark, father of Allen by one marriage and of Levi, Plato and Zachariah by another; Abel also father of a Levi, Plato and Zachariah; and Manfield, who married Rebecca Williams, daughter of Tiso’s second wife by her first husband.

In fact Shadrach’s wife, Cinderella, it’s clear from the baptism of one of several children unknown to the gypsiologists, was a Buckley, not a Wood, who either on occasions used variant forenames, Mesila and Elizabeth, or had co-wives with those names. And whilst Winifred was baptised (as Winnifruita) in Asheldam, Essex in 1772 daughter of Shadrach and Mesila, and Tiso was baptised in Epping, Essex in 1778 son of Shadrach and Elizabeth, no baptisms have been found for the other children named by the gypsiologists except Clark, who I argued last month wasn’t Shadrach’s son but Edward and Greenleaf’s. It’s true Manfield, aged 56, was at least recorded as an immigrant to the USA in 1850 with his wife Rebecca, but this isn’t proof he was Shadrach’s son.

Not only that. We can add to the gypsiologists’ list Pizanah Boswell baptised in Tollesbury St Mary, Essex in 1773 daughter of Shadrach and Mazelly, Caravania Boswell baptised in Layer de la Haye, Essex in 1784 daughter of Shadrach and Mezila, probably Matilda Boswell baptised in Hackney, Middlesex in 1785 daughter of Shadrach and Mary, and certainly two Lewis Boswells baptised respectively in Henham, Essex in 1781 and (newborn) in Hindlesham, Suffolk in 1792, both sons of Shadrach and Cinderella, the latter said on the second occasion to have been born a Buckley. But we have to subtract almost as many children as we add: it’s possible Zachariah never existed (no trace has been found in the records); it’s likely Sophia never existed (the father of her alleged son, Riley Scamp, was a Joshua from Dorset, not a Gilderoy from Kent); and it’s certain, I think, Clark never existed, nor Abel except perhaps as an alternate name for the Clark who did exist, son of Edward and Greenleaf (again there’s no trace of Abel or his alleged sons in the records).

Nevertheless, if there are still several gaps in our knowledge of Shadrach’s children, I think we can fill out his origins a little. In 1756 a Solaveno Bazel was christened son of Edward and Sarah in Asheldam, Essex, where 16 years later Shadrach Boswell was to christen his first child, Winifred. The remoteness of Asheldam (not an obvious place for Gypsies to visit), and the echo of Solaveno and Shadrach, two very rare Boswell names, in the appearance together in Hertfordshire in 1818 of a Vane Boswell with a Bejany Boswell, perhaps his daughter, who two years earlier had christened a Shadrach Boswell in Hertford, suggest the first Shadrach’s father, Robert, had a brother called Edward married to a Sarah.

And given the closeness of Shadrach and Edward, husband of Greenleaf (Shadrach christened Caravania on the same day as Edward christened Clark only 30 miles away, and some of Clark’s descendants apparently thought they derived from Shadrach), given this closeness why shouldn’t Edward, husband of Greenleaf, be not another son of Edward and Sarah, named after his father, but another son of Robert and Diana named after his uncle? If we can find a plausible father and perhaps mother for both a Robert and an Edward Boswell born about 1720, we may be able to trace the family back into the seventeenth century.

Copyright © 2015 Eric Trudgill