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TIP SIX: Use your trees to spot possible further growth

Eric Trudgill    -    7 November 2011

Research Tips For Beginners In Gypsy Genealogy

Beginners won’t find tips here on finding research material: for that they can use the internet, join the Romany & Traveller FHS, and buy Sharon Floate’s excellent book, My Ancestors Were Gypsies. What they are offered here are tips on evaluating and interpreting the material they find.

TIP SIX: Use your trees to spot possible further growth.

If you need research to grow your trees, you need trees to grow your research. Data-banks are useful for banking data, especially the inessential kind you don’t need on a tree, but it’s trees that give you growth. Take my progressive understanding of one family, the offspring of Thomas Smith and Mary Holland, who married in Hillmorton, Warwickshire in 1813 in the same church and on the same day as the famous Absolom Smith.

When I spotted Absolom’s son Thomas had wives called Sylvia and Sarah, I realized that the Thomas who married Mary Holland had to be Absolom’s brother and that his children, like Absolom’s, were probably born before, not after, his wedding. I’d found Walter Smith son of Thomas and Mary, baptized in Barrowden, Rutland in 1812; I knew Walter had christened a child in Colly Weston, Northants on the same day as a Humphrey Smith had christened twins, so I looked in the IGI for a Humphrey Smith baptized in roughly the same year and place as Walter, and found him in Monk Kirby, Warwickshire in 1807, his father a vagrant. I now had enough data for a tree, handwritten in pencil for easy altering, on a landscape sheet of A4.

A few months later I’d discovered three earlier children, Hayes, Maria and Edward, baptized in Leics in 1792, 1796 and 1798 respectively, and two possible sons, Robert and Eldred, who might belong in the gap between 1798 and 1807. I now had so much data, I had to re-write my tree on a landscape sheet of A3. A year later I’d discovered so much more about the children and grandchildren of Hayes, Maria, Edward and Humphrey, I had to append A3 charts for each of them (though Walter, with no grandchildren, and Robert and Eldred, with just three children between them, still remain stubbornly undeveloped).

The progress I’d made was partly prompted by the tree-form I’d used, the children spread horizontally with their birth, death and marriage data in parallel, the grandchildren spread beneath them vertically in columns. Looking across the horizontal data, I could identify family members who might be spouses of other family members, and I proved some of them to be so: Hayes and Edward married sisters, daughters of Henry and Hannah Birch; two of Hayes’ sons also, I think, married sisters, daughters of Robert Holland (perhaps Hayes’ cousin) and Argetta Smith (definitely Hayes’ cousin, daughter of Absolom Smith), while one of Hayes’ daughters married one of Edward’s sons; and two of Humphrey’s daughters married brothers, sons of John Smith and Martha Sherriff (the latter perhaps related to Humphrey’s wife).

Looking across the vertical columns, I could identify travel-companions of family members who might themselves be family members: knowing Walter married a Louisa Smith in Claybrooke, Leics the day after Edward christened a daughter there named after the bride, and that Edward’s son Azey was with Hayes’ son Samuel in the 1871 census, convinced me Edward was a sibling even before I found his baptism and his son’s marriage to Hayes’ daughter; however, knowing two of Eldred’s sons were with Hayes and two of his in the 1851 census, and that Robert christened a child in Sproxton, Leics in 1817, the year before Hayes christened one there, didn’t convince me they were siblings too – I’m still looking for their baptisms or other evidence.

Finally, looking across and down the tree for significant forenames I could hardly miss Azey, which is unusual enough to constitute a genetic marker for Thomas and Mary’s family: they had Hayes (recorded usually as Hazey or Easy), Edward had an Azar or Aisy, and Humphrey had an Azy (while sons of Thomas’ brother Absolom had an Easy and a Hasy); discovering Maria, wife of Thomas Fletcher, called her first son Hazy was alone enough to convince me that she was Maria, sister of Hayes, Edward and Humphrey – the tree was bearing yet more fruit.

Copyright © 2011 Eric Trudgill