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Eric Trudgill    -    5 December 2015

he gypsiologists were told a Joshua Small and Rhoda Stanley were the parents of some prominent Gypsies in South West England in the late 18th, early 19th centuries, including a Moses, James Belcher and Robert Gully Small. Unfortunately no baptisms for Joshua and Rhoda’s children have been found; Moses was baptised in Gussage St Michael, Dorset in 1805 son of James and Jane; and James Belcher and Robert Gully, it’s now clear, were Moses’ nephews, not brothers.

Moses is the only child of James and Jane for whom we have a baptism, except presumably Robert, christened in Christchurch, Hants in 1791, and probably Nicy, christened in Southampton, Hants in 1793 (Robert Gully had a sister christened as Algenice). But the prison records tell us that in 1810 James and Jane Small and their sons, William and Moses, were imprisoned in Dorchester, Dorset as rogues and vagabonds, and that in 1824 Moses, aged 20, and his brother Robert, aged 33 from Christchurch, Hants, with his six children, along with Benjamin and Owen Stanley, were given a month’s hard labour in Dorchester. And taking these three sons in probable birth order, we’ll find evidence of two more possible children for James and Jane.

Robert Small, it’s clear, married a Charlotte, was a widowed cutler in the 1851 census, and was the grinder husband of a Betsy in 1861. He and Charlotte christened Elganice in Fowey, Cornwall in 1811 (unchecked), Robert junior in Charlton Musgrove, Somerset in 1814 (brazier of Gillingham, Dorset), James Crib in Iwerne Courtney, Dorset in 1817, Ruth in Yeovil, Somerset in 1818, and Charlotte in Durweston, Dorset in 1828. Robert junior is obviously Robert Gully, who married Rhoda Cooper christened in 1812: that his Cinderella married Moses Small’s grandson, and that Moses had a son called Gully, is down not to the two husbands being brothers, but perhaps to their wives being sisters. William Small, it seems clear, was buried in Halse, Somerset in 1823 (“an itinerant man who died on the high road”), having married one Matilda and in Chard, Somerset in 1822 christened another (“gypsy”), who married James Hughes/Lee son of Matthew Lee and Urania Hughes. And Moses, it’s well known, married Cinderella Cooper, and had an Ebenezer, Keziah, Sally, Moses junior (father of a Belcher), Uriah, Gully, Henry, Angelina, Trinity and Louisa.

From this, it seems reasonable to conjecture James and Jane had an earlier son, the James Small who married Elizabeth Stanley in Church Knowle, Dorset in 1810, and had an Eliza christened in Melcombe Horsey, Dorset in 1811 (who married Seth Boswell, christened in 1809 son of Edward and Phyllis), a Powers christened in Tarrant Keynston, Dorset in 1813 (who married Mary Ann Wells and had a Belcher born in 1840 and a Seth born in 1848), and surely the James Belcher, born about 1809, who married Sophia Stanley, presumably a cousin, and had a Powers christened in Honiton, Devon in 1832.

It seems reasonable too to conjecture James and Jane had an even earlier daughter, the Ruth who married James Wells. James and Ruth probably had the Benjamin Wells, born about 1804, who married Mary Ann Joles and christened in Holnest, Dorset in 1826 the Jane Wells who married John Small, christened in 1834 son of Robert Gully. James and Ruth certainly christened a James and Jane Wells in 1807 and 1809 respectively, named after Ruth’s parents (Jane married Richard Joles), and they certainly christened Ann, Robert, Joseph, Matilda and Elizabeth Wells 1814-27. Ann was possibly the Mary Ann Wells who married Powers Small son of James and Elizabeth, though that could have been Ann’s immediately older sister born about 1811). Robert seems to have honoured in his forename Ruth’s brother Robert, who seems to have honoured her with his daughter Ruth. And Matilda, besides possibly honouring the wife of Ruth’s brother William, married Henry Manley and in their Eliza, christened in 1845, supplied a cousin marriage for Seth son of Powers Small and Mary Ann Wells. Much of this of course is less fact than speculation, but it shouldn’t waste your time as much as trying to stand up the misinformation about the Smalls given to the gypsiologists.

Copyright © 2015 Eric Trudgill