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An up-date for new visitors to this site ...

Eric Trudgill    -    31 March 2018

An up-date for new visitors to this site

After posting two articles a month for nearly seven years, Eric is devoting a year to polishing the contents and format of eight Family Tree books he’s written on the Romany Boswells, Bucklands, Lees and Smiths and, more briefly, on thirty other families arranged in three books geographically. All eight books will be published by the Romany and Traveller FHS, the first some time before Christmas, and in the meantime two pages from each book are being posted here each month in lieu of two articles. This month, the fourth, it’s the turn of Ten Major Smith Families Part One, covering four major families of the English Midlands and North.


Major 18th century Smith families of the Midlands and the North

The gypsiologists sometimes talked of “Northamptonshire Smiths” as though they were an uncouth aberration from mainstream Romany culture, but in fact they were the mainstream, at the heart of the major families covered in this book and of some of the Smiths of the Midlands and the South covered in Part Two.

Steeple Claydon, Bkm, where Wisdom Smith, husband of Hannah, was baptised in 1763, is about five miles from N Marston, Bkm where Absalom Smith, son of Thomas and Hannah, was baptised in 1768, and it’s about ten miles from the Northamptonshire border. Cropredy, Oxf, where Absalom’s brother Salovino was baptised in 1761, is about five miles from Aston-le-Walls, Nth, where Moses Smith son of Nehemiah and Elizabeth was married in 1794, and both are about ten miles from Sulgrave, Nth, where Nehemiah married Elizabeth in 1764.

All of which means Wisdom was a “Northamptonshire Smith” even before he christened six children in Northamptonshire, as was Salovino even before he christened four there (plus others in nearby Warwickshire), and John and Nehemiah junior, sons of Nehemiah and Elizabeth, even before they christened five and six there respectively. And the children and descendants of Wisdom and Hannah, Thomas and Hannah, and Nehemiah and Elizabeth remained territorially wedded to the Northamptonshire area, except where marriage partners or a need to enlarge the family’s business base encouraged a territorial drift towards the North East, North West, or (less often) South East.

Wisdom and Hannah’s Edward, for example, baptised children in a small area on the border of Rutland and Northamptonshire from 1806 to 1855 (his sons Robert and Adam also used that same small area), and if we find him christening a child in Stannington, Yks in 1852, it’s probably because he was on a family visit (his nephew Messiah baptised a child in Stannington three weeks later). Wisdom and Hannah’s Eunice, Wisdom junior and Tabitha, on the other hand, moved north into Lincolnshire, and Eunice’s children, and to a lesser extent Tabitha’s, moved further north into Yorkshire. Wisdom and Hannah’s Salome, on the other hand, married a Smith whose family had moved east and south from Northamptonshire rather than north, into Huntingdonshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex and Hertfordshire, while claiming to be from Northamptonshire till at least the 1860s.

In the same way Thomas and Hannah’s children, Salovino, Lilburn/Robert, Absalom, Thomas and Sophia, stayed pretty much in the Northamptonshire/Rutland/Leicestershire area, but while Absalom’s Ambrose christened his very large family almost exclusively in Leicestershire and Rutland, he saw three sons, Josiah, Easy and Arkles, start their own families in Yorkshire, being joined before long by their brother George and his family. And Thomas junior’s Edward saw two sons, Riley and Aisy, marry and settle in Lincolnshire, perhaps because Riley was influenced by his wife Maria and her parents Wisdom Smith and Maria Elliott, and Aisy was influenced by Riley.

Nehemiah and Elizabeth’s children, John, Moses, Nehemiah junior, Woodfine, Abner, Aaron and Samuel, took a varied approach to territory. The last three seem to have stuck pretty much to the Northamptonshire/Rutland/ Leicestershire axis, and Moses to have moved between his own family’s Northamptonshire patch and his wife’s patch in N Oxfordshire and S Warwickshire. John’s George, however, moved west into Staffordshire and Worcestershire, as did the children of John’s Nehemiah, while Woodfine’s Edward, Zachariah, and especially Moses, moved north beyond Staffordshire into Cheshire and Lancashire.

William and Charlotte’s children at first glance don’t look much like these three major families of Northamptonshire Smiths: of the four baptisms we have as yet for their children one is in Leicestershire, one rather oddly in Cambridgeshire, and two in Lincolnshire. However, these children are of a later generation than the children of Wisdom, Thomas and Nehemiah (the earliest seems to have been born in the first years of the nineteenth century), and if we assume William was of an age with the children of Wisdom, Thomas and Nehemiah, we may be able to name his parents along with theirs: indeed it seems likely his parents were Wisdom and Hannah.


William & Charlotte Smith’s Family: Explanations

Perhaps I’m ending this book where I began it: some pioneer gypsiologists believed the William Smith I’m now discussing was a son of Wisdom & Hannah, and there’s certainly a suitable gap for him between their Absalom, born seemingly quite soon after their wedding in March 1782, and their Edward, baptised in December 1786.

A William born to Wisdom and Hannah in late 1784 or early 1785 would seem supported by the gypsiologists’ accuracy about him in many respects. They claimed that he had a Rosetta who married Francis Brown, a Sidney who married Jane Booth, and a Unity who married William Brown, all of this confirmed by the baptisms of the three children and of their offspring (Sidney’s baptism in 1812 in Wimpole, Cam, son of a travelling cooper looks a bit odd, but we do find him travelling with William Brown in Lincolnshire in 1829 purporting to be of Gamsby, Cam, presumably Gamlingay which is close to Wimpole). Similarly the gypsiologists claimed William had a Charlotte and Alice who were co-wives of the famous Elijah Boswell, a Santa Maria who married Elijah’s brother Zachariah, an Israel who married Elijah’s sister Eliza, and a Dennis who married Ellen Charlotte (who left him for one of Elijah’s sons), all of these marriages confirmed by the baptisms of Charlotte’s, Alice’s, Santa Maria’s, Dennis’ and Israel’s children.

So we have three alleged children of William confirmed by baptisms (plus a William junior, christened in 1805, unknown to the gypsiologists probably because he died young), and five alleged children unconfirmed by baptisms but supported by their documented spouses and offspring. Significantly we have what look like cousin marriages between the offspring of two of the confirmed and three of the unconfirmed children: Sidney’s Maraniel married Alice’s Okey, his Emily married Dennis’ Fenwick, and his Ellen married Santa Maria’s Nathaniel, while Unity’s Caroline married Dennis’ Tennant (who was later to marry Charlotte’s Lucy).

The gypsiologists got a lot right about William’s children, and maybe they were right about his parents, about his being a son of Wisdom and Hannah. But we need to be cautious. There were limits to the gypsiologists’ knowledge. For example, they didn’t know the forename of William’s wife. Worse, some of their claims look very doubtful (they said William had another child, Delizanna, so far unfound in the records). Worse still, some of their claims were clearly wrong: they said William’s wife was a Booth and that Francis and William Brown’s parents were William Brown and Joanna Dalton, but Santa Maria described herself as formerly Dalton on the birth certificate of a daughter, which means either William Smith’s wife Charlotte was a Dalton, not a Booth, or Santa Maria was a sister-in-law, not sister, of William and Charlotte’s Rosetta and Unity; and while Francis Brown was possibly christened in 1806 as son of Thomas and Joanna, chimney sweeper, his alleged brother Sampson was almost certainly christened in Kinoulton, Ntt 30/9/1817 as son of William and Susanna, travelling pedlar (it would be reckless to assume Thomas in 1806 was an error for William, and Susanna in 1817 a mis-heard or mis-read Joanna).

There’s a doubt as yet, then, about Santa Maria’s place in the family, and there’s a doubt as yet, I believe, about William being a son of Wisdom and Hannah despite what looks at first sight like powerful supportive evidence, the remarkable number of marriages between the offspring of William’s children and the offspring of four of Wisdom and Hannah’s children, Mendoza/Theodosia, Eunice, Bethiah and Tabitha. Mendoza/Theodosia’s Unity married Rosetta’s Francis and his Patience married Sidney’s Samuel. Eunice’s Nathaniel married Rosetta’s Eliza. Bethiah’s Joshua married Rosetta’s Harriet, and her Francis married Alice’s Henrietta and Eliza. Tabitha’s Sidney married both Rosetta’s Violet and Sidney and Jane’s Edingale; Tabitha’s Salome married Alice’s Jeremiah; Tabitha’s Bethiah married Charlotte’s William; Tabitha’s Mary Ann married Alice’s Magnus; and Tabitha’s Eldery had a son who married a daughter of Dennis, a daughter who married a son of Alice, and a son who married a daughter of Alice.

These do look like cousin marriages, but they don’t have to be. Bethiah’s and Tabitha’s connection with William and Charlotte’s children may have been through their husband William Gray’s known friendship with Elijah Boswell, husband of Charlotte and Alice; and Mendoza/Theodosia’s and Eunice’s connection with Sidney’s and Rosetta’s children may have been through their sisters Bethiah and Tabitha. Until all the facts are in we need to be wary of trapping ourselves in false assumptions.

Copyright © 2018 Eric Trudgill