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TIP TWENTYONE Where the names are the same double check the context

Eric Trudgill    -    3 February 2013

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 TWENTYONE: Where the names are the same, double-check the context.

Gypsy forenames are especially treacherous when they come in a husband and wife combination: to be sure you’ve got the right couple you need to research the rest of their family and their travel profile, all the time looking for other couples with a better claim. Take Edward, a typically dangerous common forename.

Edward Boswell, baptised in 1780, having married Phyllis Lee in 1799 christened children in many counties till 1824, and he’s been confused with another Edward Boswell, husband of Phyllis, who christened two children in 1826, but who also christened three more 1830-37, beyond the first Phyllis’ procreative capacity (this second Edward was surely the first one’s son, baptised in 1802, since his two children in 1826 were named Matilda and Seth, like two of the first Edward’s children). Edward Buckland, baptised in 1759 parents unnamed, married a Diana and christened children in Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire 1785-1810, and is clearly not to be confused with another Edward Buckland, husband of Diana, who christened children in Buckinghamshire and nearby Middlesex 1818-31, the second Edward again being surely the first one’s son, baptised in 1791.

Edward Lee son of Methuselah, baptised in 1844, married a Mary Ann and had, it’s said, a Samuel, Dangerfield, Solomon, Leonard and Charles (actually they were sons of Edward and Charlotte), and he’s been confused with Edward Lee son of Joseph, baptised in 1843, who married Mary Ann Huard in 1862 and christened children on his family’s patch in East London, well away from the other Edward’s patch south of the Thames. And Edward Smith son of Johnny, baptised in 1824, married a Mary Ann and had five children born or christened in Worcestershire about 1849-62, and is clearly not to be confused with another Edward Smith, husband of Mary Ann, who christened children in Worcestershire about 1848-66; indeed this second Edward wasn’t even a Gypsy.

Uncommon forenames in a husband and wife combination are even more treacherous than common ones, since researchers think there couldn’t, in the same place and time, be more than one Mackenzie and Matilda Boswell, Moses and Jenty Buckland, Zachariah and Charlotte Lee, Wisdom and Hannah Smith. But there could.

Mackenzie Boswell son of Alfred, baptised in 1843, married Matilda Smith daughter of Elijah, baptised in 1845, and had four children in the West Midlands 1867-73, and he’s been confused with Mackenzie Boswell (Stockport Kenza) son of Noah, born in 1853, who married Matilda Boswell daughter of William, baptised in 1852, and christened four children in the Stockport area 1881-89: I confused them myself until, checking the 1876 baptism of Samson Boswell (normally given then to the first Mackenzie and Matilda), I found his father described as of Dove Holes, close to Stockport. Moses Buckland son of Tenant married Genty Stanley in Devon in 1891, and is clearly not to be confused with the Moses Buckland (his nephew) who married Jenny Stanley in Devon in 1910, when the first Moses had settled in America.

Zachariah Lee, surely son of Zachariah and Phyllis, married Charlotte Hammond and had two children by her in Norfolk in the 1830s before being transported to Australia, where he died in 1847, and is clearly not to be confused with the Zachariah Lee who married a Charlotte and had five children in Middlesex 1845-56. And Wisdom Smith son of Cain, baptised in 1763, who married Hannah Smith in 1782, is clearly not to be confused with his grandson Wisdom, baptised in 1812, who married Hannah Smith, baptised in 1817 daughter of Mendoza, or to be confused with another grandson called Wisdom, baptised in 1818, who married Hannah Smith, baptised in 1822 daughter of William.

However, distinguishing the last two couples is tricky, since both christened children near Lincoln in the 1840s and 1850s. Personally, I give the first couple Sembly, Rudolphus, William and Sarah, christened 1837-45, and the second couple another Rudolphus, christened in 1844, plus eight more children by 1866: and I do this because of their context, because of the two Hannahs’ birth-dates, and because the first one always calls herself Hannah and christens her children north-west of Lincoln, while the second one usually calls herself Ann and christens her children in a fairly narrow corridor south of Lincoln. I’ll revise my view when someone comes up with better evidence.

Copyright © 2013 Eric Trudgill