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TRACING GYPSY FAMILIES BACK DESPITE THE LACK OF RECORDS TWENTY SIX: Zachariah and Phyllis Lee

Eric Trudgill    -    5 July 2015

Gypsy genealogists have long been intrigued by the antecedents of the Zachariah Lee, aged 28 when he was transported to Australia in 1835, who by Lettice Powell had a Nathan christened in Kesgrave, Sfk in 1830 (of Romford Essex) and an Owen allegedly born in Kesgrave a year later, and who then by Charlotte Hammond, ex-wife of Riley Boswell, had a Lavinia (Wynie) and a Vashti born in Norfolk about 1833-35.

Some of the pioneer gypsiologists believed Zachariah to have been son of a Samuel and Million Lee, brother of the Charles Lee who married Union Chilcott, and cousin of the Zachariah Lee (christened in 1803 son of David and Sophia), who married Rosetta Lee. Samuel and David, it was said, were sons of an earlier Zachariah and cousins of the Samuel Lee who married Mary Ann, aunt of Union Chilcott. There was indeed a Zachariah Lee, husband of Demona, who christened a Samuel in Otford, Kent in 1792, but the latter would have struggled to have a Zachariah himself by 1807. And the gypsiologists were regularly handicapped by a paucity at that time of reliable dates. David Lee christened children 1788-1816, but his alleged cousin Samuel, husband of Mary Ann, started having children about 20 years later and stopped about 20 years later too.

Worse still for the gypsiologists, Samuel, husband of Mary Ann, was surely not a cousin of Samuel, husband of Million, but the very same man. Comparing his children in the 1861 census with the birth records, we find Robert Lee christened in Enfield, Mdx in 1818, Thomas in Acton, Mdx in 1821, John in Bodiam, Sussex in 1827, George in Hawkhurst, Kent in 1828, and Britannia and Horace both very late in Ham, Sry in 1853, all of them children of Samuel and Mary Ann except Robert, who was the base son of Mary Lee, gypsy. To these we can add the Charles Lee (attributed to Samuel and Mary Ann) christened in Walthamstow, Essex in 1810 and the Caroline Lee christened in Kingsbury, Mdx in 1822 (close to Acton, where Samuel and Mary Ann’s Thomas had been christened five months earlier), both children of Samuel and Amelia.

We can add these because Samuel junior, son of Samuel and Mary Ann in the census, gave his birth-place as Rougham, Sfk, which is where he was christened in 1813 son of Samuel and Emily, gypsy, and Elizabeth, daughter of Samuel and Mary in the census, gave her birthplace as Saxmundham, Sfk, and was christened in 1824 in Snape, Sfk (close to Saxmundham) daughter of Samuel and Mildred alias Milly Lee, travellers.Million looks like an informalized Milly (itself an informalized Emily or Amelia), and Mildred look like a priest’s attempt at formalization. So the Charles christened in 1810 was the one who married his cousin, Union Chilcott, christened in 1812, and if his mother Mary Ann claimed in 1861 to be only 60, remember she’d just been widowed!

Worse yet for the gypsiologists, Samuel, husband of Mary Ann, was almost certainly not the son of a Zachariah. In 1827 and 1828 he christened children jointly with Benjamin and Matilda Lee, and in 1839 aged 46 he was gaoled in Ipswich, Sfk with Benjamin aged 38. It’s true Matilda was a Lee when she married Benjamin in 1816, but Samuel looks like Benjamin’s brother, not hers: in the 1851 census the widowed Benjamin was surely travelling with his brother’s sister-in-law Ruth, wife of John Chilcott, and her family, not his brother-in-law’s sister-in-law. Benjamin was christened in West Drayton, Mdx in 1799 son of James Lee and Letitia Draper, James being son of the famous Duke, and I’d be surprised if Samuel wasn’t born to the same parents about eight years earlier.

The gypsiologists struggled to explain the antecedents of the Zachariah transported to Australia in 1835, and if they’d known more about one of his fellow transportees, I suspect they wouldn’t have bothered. Tried, sentenced and transported with Zachariah Lee aged 28 was a Major Lee aged 19, clearly the one christened in Lowestoft, Sfk in 1816 son of Zachariah and Phyllis. At the moment we have only three plausible children for Zachariah and Phyllis: the Henry Lee, born about 1804, who married Ruth Powell; the Zachariah Lee, born about 1807, who like Henry claimed to be of Romford and married a Powell (was Lettice Ruth’s sister?); and the Major Lee christened in 1816. We’ll surely find more.

Copyright © 2015 Eric Trudgill