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TR41 TRACING GYPSY FAMILIES BACK DESPITE THE LACK OF RECORDS FORTY ONE: Lucy Boswell

Eric Trudgill    -    2 October 2016

This much we know. A Lucy Boswell, wife of Viney, christened a Lazarus Boswell in Marnham, Notts in 1801 (vagrants); a Lucy Boswell, with no husband named, christened an Eliza Boswell in Bolsover, Dby in 1816; a Lucy Boswell married a John Vernon in Londonthorpe, Lincs in 1820; and a Lucy Boswell died in Laxton, Notts on Dec 30 1851, aged 60 and in the presence of Cinnamenta Heaps on her death certificate, and aged 80 at her burial two days later; and all these Lucy Boswells were the same woman. Beyond these facts we “know” little, and must work towards knowledge by distinguishing between plausible and implausible guesses.

Lazarus was the alternate forename, used six times at the birth or marriage of his children, by the famous Elijah Boswell, who gave Marnham as his place of birth in the 1871 census (the Elijah who between 1820 and 1831 christened five children by Harriet Woodward, the first three of eight by Charlotte Smith, and the first two of eleven by Charlotte’s sister Alice). Eliza Boswell was the wife of first Israel Smith (brother of Charlotte and Alice) and then Henry Booth, the Eliza given by the gypsiologists as Elijah’s sister. John Vernon was tried with Elijah Boswell for offences against the game laws in Nottingham in January 1825. And Cinnamenta Heaps was the Cinnamenta Boswell who married John Heaps in Derby All Saints in 1828, and as Cinnamenta Heaps, widowed daughter of John Vernon labourer, married William Mellors, labourer, in Worksop, Notts in 1859.

We don’t know, except with Elijah, Cinnamenta and Eliza, the identity of Lucy’s children. The gypsiologists thought Elijah had a brother Zachariah Boswell, husband of Santa Maria Smith (who they thought was a sister of Charlotte, Alice and Israel, which is possible but uncertain). Zachariah may have been a son of Lucy (he christened a child in Laxton in 1838), but the evidence isn’t conclusive: all we can say is, if he wasn’t her son, he was surely her nephew. Another possibility is the Salavena Boswell baptised in Longford, Dby in 1812 daughter of an unnamed traveller. Salavena is a female form of Salovino, the long form of Viney, and Longford was where Elijah christened a son in 1834, but again the evidence isn’t conclusive.

Similarly we don’t know, except with Elijah, the identity of the father of Lucy’s children. Viney sired Elijah in 1801, seemingly her first, and may have sired the rest, including Cinnamenta, who described herself as the daughter of John Vernon in 1859, but was perhaps complimenting him as the man who had fathered her, while Viney had merely sired her. Alternatively, John may have been living with Lucy and siring her children for most of the years before they formalized their union in church in 1820. There may even have been other husbands between Viney and John. We simply don’t know.

Further more, even if we could assign Lucy’s children, we still wouldn’t know the identity of Lucy’s, Viney’s and John’s parents. In the first article I ever posted on this web-site I suggested Lucy was probably a daughter of Richard Boswell and Phyllis Blewitt, and that her Viney may have been the famous one (son of John) who christened his first known child by Comfort Woods in 1804, and had a brother who had a child, the famous Appy Boswell, by surely Lucy’ sister, Trinity Boswell. I’m pretty sure Lucy was a daughter of Richard, and thereby a granddaughter of Edward and Jane Boswell, but I won’t “know” this until more evidence arrives. I’m less sure about Viney being the son of John: indeed we can’t be sure he was even a Boswell (at the 1801 baptism he may have been going in his wife’s name). And as for the provenance of John Vernon, I haven’t a clue.

I’m very grateful to Jo Major for supplying me with ground-breaking material on Lucy and Cinnamenta Boswell and on the mysterious John Vernon.

Copyright © 2016 Eric Trudgill