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TRACING GYPSY FAMILIES BACK DESPITE THE LACK OF RECORDS THIRTY FIVE: Joseph & Tabitha Butler

Eric Trudgill    -    2 April 2016

In February 2012 I posted an article on this site about the 18th Century Butlers who travelled on either side of the East Warwicks/West Northants border, tracing the family of the Joseph Butler who married Tabitha Davis in Wolford, Wks in 1763 through successive generations into the 20th Century.

In it I suggested without proof that Joseph had an older sister, Mary Butler, who married Thomas Sherriff in Alderminster, Wks in 1759 and had a William Sherriff, baptised in Hillmorton, Wks in 1769, who married an Elizabeth Butler. My tally of Joseph and Tabitha’s children has grown from two to six, and I’m now positive Mary was indeed Joseph’s sister and Elizabeth was his daughter.

Joseph and Tabitha baptised the following children: Sarah in Wasperton, Wks in 1756 and Ann in Norton, Northants in 1764, the parents in each case recorded as travellers: Joseph junior in Long Itchington, Wks in 1767, Elizabeth in Wellesbourne, Wks in 1770, and another Joseph junior in Lower Shuckburgh, Wks in 1774, tramper from Birmingham. The second Joseph junior, not the first as I assumed for a while (who presumably died young), was the one who married Letitia Davis in 1794, and was of Lower Shuckburgh when they christened Susanna, Charles and Amelia in 1797, 1807 and 1810.

To these we can add Comfort Butler, baptised in Fenny Compton, Wks in 1772, parents unnamed but surely Joseph and Tabitha (Fenny Compton is close to both Wellesbourne and Lower Shuckburgh, where they baptised Elizabeth two years earlier and the second Joseph junior two years later, and Comfort’s husband, William Davis, I am sure was a cousin, like her brother Joseph’s wife, Letitia Davis, the two of them being Tabitha Davis’ nephew and niece.

The first Joseph Butler junior presumably died young, and I know nothing about his sister Sarah beyond her baptism, but I can document marriages for not just the second Joseph Butler junior but the other three siblings as well.

Ann Butler, baptised in 1764, married Abraham Bradburn, to the north of her family’s patch, in Rearsby, Leics in 1787, travellers.

Elizabeth Butler, baptised in 1770, married her cousin William Sherriff (baptised in 1769 son of Thomas and Mary --- see paragraph two), in Peatling Magna, Leics in 1793; at Elizabeth’s baptism Joseph and Tabitha had described themselves as travellers of the parish of Walsall, Staffs, and at the baptism in 1821 of a son of Ann Sherriff, daughter of William and Elizabeth, Ann also described herself as of Walsall (which was perhaps her maternal grandfather’s ancestral “home”, not place of birth, though a Joseph Butler was baptised there in 1734). If Elizabeth’s baptism and marriage confirm Mary Butler as Joseph’s sister, so do the marriages of Comfort and the second Joseph junior.

Comfort Butler, baptised in 1772, married a William Davis in 1794 in Wolston, Wks, and Joseph junior, baptised in 1774, married a Letitia Davis in 1794 (two months later) in Boddington, Northants, where William and Comfort had christened a child the previous year. William and Letitia Davis were siblings marrying siblings who were also their cousins. As I’ll explain next month, they were baptised respectively in 1772 and 1775, children of George Davis, who was a brother of Tabitha Davis, Joseph Butler’s wife, and also a witness at Mary Butler’s wedding to Thomas Sherriff, thus again confirming Mary as Joseph sister. Traditional Gypsies did like to keep things maritally, where they could, within the family.

If you want to see this family traced into the 20th century, The Romany & Traveller FHS is publishing from mid-April my Family Tree of Joseph and Letitia Butler, 20 A4 pp, price in Britain £8 + postage. See the Society’s web-site to place your order.

Copyright © 2016 Eric Trudgill