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TRACING GYPSY FAMILIES BACK DESPITE THE LACK OF RECORDS TWENTY FIVE: James and Clevansy Lee

Eric Trudgill    -    27 May 2015

James and Clevansy Lee, my wife’s 5x great grandparents, show how hard it is to fill gaps in the records. The gypsiologists claimed they had three children, and gave baptisms for two, Britannia in Holnest, Dorset in 1794 and Charles (who married an Ann) in High Wycombe, Bucks in 1800. The third child, Carnation, they said married Arthur Smith and supplied cousin-marriages through their children, Clevansi and John, for Charles and Ann’s, children Henry and Martha.

Anne and I have been able to confirm the four children attributed to Carnation: Mark Smith was christened as Jacob in Cheriton, Hants in 1800 (he was of Cheriton when christening a son in 1832); Clevansi was christened in S Cerney, Glos in 1812 and did marry Charles’ Henry; John was christened in Hagbourne, Berks in 1815 and did marry Charles’ Martha; and Jesse was christened as Jethro in Harwell, Berks in 1818 (see his birth data in the 1871 census). Further more we’ve been able to supplement these children with the short-lived Olive Lee christened in Droxford, Hants in 1802 base born daughter of Carnation, with Matilda Smith christened in Martyr Worthy, Hants in 1805 daughter of Carnation, with Aaron Smith christened in Ropley, Hants in 1807, and with Hannah Smith christened in W Ilsley, Berks in 1809 daughter of Samuel and Carnation.

Anne and I have been able also to confirm seven children (and disconfirm others) attributed to Charles and Ann: Mercy was christened in Bisham, Berks in 1819, Damon in Waltham St Lawrence, Berks in 1822, Martha in Cowley, Mdx in 1829, and Henry and Emily very late in Eversley, Hants (a family church) in Sept 1846; whilst Diana was daughter of Charles when marrying in Eversley in Nov 1846, and Charles junior at least claimed he was born in Farley Hill, near Eversley, and christened children in Stratfieldsaye, Hants, like Diana, Martha and Emily.

We’ve been able to confirm and partly supplement the children attributed to James and Clevansy’s children. However, we’ve been less successful in supplementing the children attributed to James and Clevansy. If Carnation was born around 1780 (the only plausible baptism we’ve found for her husband was in 1777), and Britannia and Charles were christened in 1794 and 1800 respectively, it may be the siblings had a sister Camilla, christened in Ewhurst, Sussex in 1788 daughter of James, travellers (named after a flower like Carnation), and it may be they had a brother Richard, christened in Prestwold, Leics in 1796 son of James and Clavinia, gypsies (James was perhaps a long-travelling horsedealer, as likely to be found in Leicestershire as in Dorset and Buckinghamshire).

We wondered for a while about the Belcher Lee, husband of Lydia, who christened a Humphries in Cowley in 1832, three years after Charles and Ann christened Martha there (Charles and Ann had three grandsons called Belcher), but we lost interest once we found a baptism for a Belcher in 1802 son of James’ brother Damon, and brother of both a Humphries christened in 1796 and the Charles, christened in 1798, who had two children married and five grandchildren christened in Eversley.

We’re wondering still about the Mark Lee, born in the early 1780s, who married Susanna Lee daughter of another of James’ brothers, George husband of Ann. It’s striking that Carnation’s first four children were christened in parishes to the east or south of Winchester, Hants (and her last two much closer to her brother Charles’ territory in Berkshire), it’s striking because Mark Lee, the husband of Susanna, was imprisoned (aged 23) in Winchester in 1806 with an Arthur Lee (aged 34) described in the press as Arthur Smith. Could it be Carnation’s first known child, the Jacob christened in 1800, was re-named Mark to honour her brother, a brother as yet unfound in the records?

Copyright © 2015 Eric Trudgill