The 19th century was a time of tremendous social and economic change in England. The industrial revolution and growth of the railroads created economic growth, new job opportunities, and shifted segments of the population from their traditional rural homelands to the cities.

How did this affect our English Casbon ancestors? We can gain some insight through the review of census data. Beginning in 1841, roughly the beginning of the Victoria era, census reports listed the place of residence and occupations of household members. When combined with genealogical data, these reports can provide insight into how the changes of the 19th century affected multiple generations of family members.   

Hence, today’s post is a bit of a “science project.” I have compiled the occupations and locations of Casbon family members from 1841 through 1891. These are separated into family groups which are further subdivided by generation.

In the early 1800s, there were two main family groups with the Casbon surname or its antecedents (such as Casbel, Casburn, etc.). One of these families arose in Littleport, Cambridgeshire, but over the course of a generation became based in Peterborough, Northamptonshire (now Cambridgeshire). I refer to these as the Peterborough Casbons. Their common ancestor was Thomas Casbon, born about 1776 in Littleport and died near St. Ives, Huntingdonshire in 1855.

The second group arose in the rural area south of Cambridge and became associated with the village of Meldreth. This family group was larger than the Peterborough Casbons and all were descended from Thomas Casbon, who was born at Meldreth in 1743 and died there in 1799. I have divided the Meldreth group into three subgroups, corresponding to the offspring of three of James’s sons. The first-generation members of each of these subgroups were first cousins to those in the other two groups.

A third family group named Casbon sprung up in Chatteris, Cambridgeshire in the mid-1800s. They were descended from John Casburn, who was born about 1818 and died in 1848 (but does not appear in the 1841 census). This family group lived predominantly in Chatteris throughout the 19th century and eventually died out in the mid 20th century due to the lack of male heirs. Because John’s children were born in the 1840s, their occupations were first listed in the 1871 census.

I have not been able to connect any of these three major family groups together through genealogy records.

For this project, I created a spreadsheet for each group or subgroup showing those family members whose occupations were recorded in the 1841–1891 censuses. The family members are separated by generation; their occupations and places of residence are listed by census year. Thus, it is possible to see how a given individual’s place of residence and occupation changed over subsequent census years. A brief analysis and commentary follow each spreadsheet.

Peterborough Group

(Click on image to enlarge) Extracted census data for four generations of Peterborough Casbons; direct descendants are listed underneath their parents in the next generation; a wife, Jane (Cooper), is listed underneath her husband; occupations are listed as found in the census; some additional information is listed to explain why census data is not given

What is most apparent in this group is the strong family tradition of gardening and related occupations across all four generations. The only exceptions to this tradition in the males are John Casbon (1863), who was listed as a grocer in 1891, and Charles Casbon (1866—see below).

The term “gardener” is a bit ambiguous in the census listings. In one sense, a gardener might be little more than a servant or labourer [British spelling intentional], employed by a landowner to tend his grounds. However, the term was also applied to self-employed men who ran commercial nurseries and sold bedding plants, trees, and shrubs to others. There is abundant evidence that Thomas (1807) and his descendants were the latter kind of gardener, but it is unknown how the term applied to Thomas (1776).

Of the women, two Sarahs (1834 and 1865), worked as domestic servants before getting married. Elizabeth (1861) worked as a dressmaker in 1881, but we know from other sources that she later served as a domestic servant.

Emily (Cantrill—1846) and her son Charles Casbon (1866) deserve special mention. Emily was either divorced or separated from her husband, Thomas, and moved to her parents’ home in London, along with their two children. I haven’t been able to find a description of her occupation, “hair draper,” but I suspect it is another term for hair stylist. Her move to London probably opened the door for her son, Charles, to have such a unique occupation—“Photographic Artist”—compared to the other men in this group.

Meldreth Group 1

(Click on image to enlarge) Extracted census data for three generations of Meldreth Group 1

Jane (1803) and William (1805) were both children of John and Martha (Wagstaff) Casbon. Jane was “crippled from birth” (1871 census) and listed as a “straw plaiter” in the 1851 census. William was an agricultural labourer for his entire life. His three sons left Meldreth, with two settling in parts of London and one settling a little further south in Croydon. John (1843) had a criminal record and worked as a labourer of one sort or another his entire life. I’m assuming that his occupation of gardener in 1881 refers to the working-class meaning of the term.

William’s sons Reuben (1847) and Samuel (1851) both spent some time working for railways. Their occupations reflect the diversity of jobs in urban locations compared what would have been available Meldreth. Although still members of the working class, Reuben and Samuel were probably able to maintain a higher standard of living than their father. Note Samuel’s first occupation as a coprolite digger. This reflects a short-term economic “boom” when coprolite was mined for fertilizer in the area surrounding Meldreth.

William’s female descendants all entered into various forms of domestic service, probably the most common employment for girls from working class families.

Meldreth Group 2

(Click on image to enlarge) Extracted census data for three generations of Meldreth Group 2

James (1806) was the son of James and Mary (Howse or Howes) Casbon. In some records he is referred to as James Howse or James Itchcock Casbon. He was born and raised in Meldreth. Unlike the other Meldreth families, he was a landowner. This put him in a higher social class than the other Meldreth Casbons and allowed him to serve on juries, and possibly to vote.

For reasons unknown to me (unless it was tied to his bankruptcy), James moved from Meldreth to Barley, Hertfordshire, a distance of about five miles, sometime between 1851 and 1854. His oldest son, Alfred Hitch (1828), became a tailor, as did Alfred’s two sons. It’s interesting that they were located in different cities for every census. James’s son John (1835) followed him in the farming and carrier tradition, while his son George (1836) became established in Barley as a wheelwright.

Two of his female descendants, Margaret (1873) and Julia (1866), became domestic servants. Two other female descendants, daughter Fanny (1846) and granddaughter Lavinia (1870) broke the domestic service tradition, with Fanny becoming the “superintendent” (perhaps housemistress) of a large apartment complex and Lavinia becoming a bookseller. Both later moved to Folkestone, where Fanny became the owner of a boarding house/vacation hotel [link]). Charlotte (Haines), the wife of Alfred H. (1828), must have supplemented the family income with her occupation as a straw bonnet cleaner.

Meldreth Group 3

(Click on image to enlarge) Extracted census data for three generations of Meldreth Group 3

This is my own ancestral group, consisting of three brothers, Thomas (1803), William (1806), and James (1813). A fourth brother, Joseph (born about 1811), died without male heirs. Thomas emigrated to the United States in 1846, so is only captured in the 1841 census as an agricultural labourer.

His brother William (1806) and William’s son William (1835) worked in Meldreth as agricultural labourers their entire lives, except that William junior seems to have “moved up” as a market gardener in 1891. William’s (1806) two grandsons left Meldreth. Walter (1856) eventually became a railway wagon examiner and William (1860) lived in various places with diverse jobs. Although listed as a baker in 1891, he later became the Superintendent of Catering for the House of Lords. William’s (1806) granddaughter, Priscilla (1862), was a domestic servant in 1881 and was living in Meldreth with no occupation listed in 1891.

James (1813) and his descendants in England were never able to rise above the class of (mostly agricultural) labourers, although George (1846), and possibly William (1836), served time as soldiers. Like his brother Thomas, James (1813) emigrated to the United States in 1870, leaving his adult children behind.

Chatteris Group

(Click on image to enlarge) Extracted census data for two generations of Chatteris Casbons

The two brothers in this group, Lester (1841) and John (1846), were agricultural labourers. Unusually, John’s daughter Rose (1868) was also listed as an agricultural labourer. The other two daughters, Lizzie (1872) and Harriet (1874) followed the traditional route for working-class women as domestic servants. Only Charles (1873) seems to have advanced a little in social standing as a saddler. The most unique occupation in this group was Sarah “Kate” (1844) who was listed as a “gay girl,” i.e., a prostitute.

General Observations

I have consolidated the occupational data for all of these family groups into a single chart.

(Click on image to enlarge) Consolidated occupational data from the 1841–1891 censuses for the Casbon family groups

During the study period four generations of the Peterborough group, three generations of the Meldreth subgroups, and two generations of the Chatteris group—a total of 55 individuals—had occupations recorded on the 1841–1891 censuses.

In general, there was very little upward social mobility. Descendants of working-class families tended to continue in working-class occupations, although in different categories (agriculture/industry/transportation for men and domestic service for women) and different locations. The Peterborough group and Meldreth Group 2 started out in a higher social class as gardeners and farmers (i.e., land owners), but their descendants tended to stay in about the same social class as tradesmen (tailor, wheelwright, grocer) of different kinds.

This lack of upward mobility is probably a reflection of the rigid class structure that persisted in England throughout the 19th and into the early 20th century. I’m a little surprised that more of the working-class descendants weren’t able to move up to what I would call lower-middle class occupations.

That said, the later generations were probably better off economically and materially than their predecessors. Overall, the economy improved throughout the century. Food was probably more plentiful, and furnishings less primitive compared to the lives of agricultural labourers in the early 19th century.

The growth of transportation and urbanization created new job opportunities and drove later generations into the cities. By 1891 there is a much greater diversity in occupations, especially for the men. This trend was most pronounced for the Meldreth group, many of whom ended up in or near London. As they migrated to the cities, their numbers dwindled in the home village. By 1891, only two households—William (1835) and John (1849)—were recorded in Meldreth or it’s sister village or Melbourn.

For working-class women, domestic service was one of the few sources of employment. Girls usually began working “in service” in their teens and continued until they were married. A few never married and continued in service their entire working lives. Even the daughters of a farmer/landowner and a tradesman, Margaret (1873) and Julia (1866), respectively, found employment in domestic service. There were three notable exceptions: Fanny (1846), Lavinia (1870), and Sarah “Kate” (1844). The first two of these became financially independent, while Kate’s fate is unknown.

It would be interesting to compare the occupations of the 19th century with those of the 20th. Many of the social barriers were greatly reduced or broken down altogether. The two world wars created tremendous social and economic disruptions. I’m certain we would see a great deal more diversity and upward mobility in occupations for men and women. Unfortunately, census data is only available for 1901 through 1921 in England, along with a census-like instrument known as the 1939 register. Such a study will have to wait, for now.

Alice Hannah Casbon (1871–1950)

Alice Hannah Casbon was the last child born to James (~1813–1884) and Mary (Jackson, ~1833–187_?) Casbon. There is a family tradition that Alice was born at sea while the family was making the crossing from Liverpool to New York aboard the ship Great Western. Although there is no evidence to support the claim, it is easy to see how the story came about. The Great Western arrived at New York on Christmas Day, 1870.[1] Alice does not appear on the ship’s passenger manifest. Her birth date is recorded as 25 January 1871, just one month after the family’s arrival in New York.[2] Thus, if the family had sailed one month later, or if her mother had gone into premature labor, Alice would have been born at sea!

Imagine how uncomfortable the voyage in the steerage of a sailing vessel must have been for Alice’s mother, being so far advanced in her pregnancy.

Despite the family tradition, all the available evidence supports the birth date given above. There is no official birth certificate, as these were not required at the time. However, every available census gives her birthplace as Indiana; and the 1900 census gives the month and year as January 1871.[3] The date of 25 January 1871 is recorded on her death certificate and in her obituary.[4]

Nothing is known of Alice’s childhood, but we can conclude that it would not have been easy. Alice was no more than 5 years old, and possibly much younger, when her mother died. James remarried in 1876 and died in 1884, when Alice was 13. Whatever was left of her childhood was spent with her stepmother, Mary (Payne). Unfortunately, there are no documents that I know of that describe this period of her life.

According to the 1940 U.S. census, Alice’s highest level of education was the fourth grade.[5] Although this was common for girls at the time, it seems likely that Alice went to work at an early age, either at the home or elsewhere, given what we know about her circumstances.

On 24 January 1891, a day before her twentieth birthday, Alice married a two-time widower named Benjamin Edwards.[6] He was 20 years older than Alice and, according to his obituary, had 13 children from his first marriage.[7] At least five of these children were 10 years old or younger, so Alice was immediately placed into the role of stepmother.

The couple had another eight children together: Elsie, born 1892, Grace (1894), Bertha (1895), Mary Alice (1897), Howard (1899), Pearl (1901), Hazel (1903), and Florence (1906). All except Pearl, a son, survived into adulthood.

Detail from an Edwards family photo (undated); left to right, back row: Elsie, Grace, Benjamin, Alice (Casbon), Bertha, Hazel; front row: Howard, Florence, and unidentified; courtesy of Ron Casbon (Click on image to enlarge)

In the 1900 census, Ben, Alice, and their family were residing in Porter Township, Porter County, Indiana.[8] In 1910 and 1920, they were living in Union Township, Porter County.[9] By 1930, Ben, now retired, and Alice lived at 960 West Street in Valparaiso, the Porter County seat.[10] This house is still standing.

Benjamin Edwards died in 1934 at the age of 83.[11] Two years later, Alice married Charles Hicks, a roofing contractor and former city councilman.[12] This marriage was short-lived due to Charles’s premature death following a traffic accident. The story received extensive coverage in the Valparaiso Vidette-Messenger. Both Charles and Alice suffered fractured knee caps along with cuts and bruises, as a result of a head-on collision on 4 February 1938. They were both hospitalized at Fairview hospital in LaPorte, Indiana, “where it was stated their condition is not critical.”[13] On 25 February it was reported that both had undergone surgery for the fractured kneecaps. “Mrs. Hicks is recovering nicely, but Mr. Hicks’ condition is not so good.”[14] Two days later, Charles was dead.[15]

In her later years, Alice seems to have divided her time between at least two of her daughters. In the 1940 census, she was staying with her daughter Grace and her husband, Jay Blachly, in Valparaiso.[16] In early 1948 she was said to be residing with her daughter Hazel and her husband, Arthur Simpson, in Three Oaks, Michigan.[17] However, in July of that year, she was again residing with Grace, when she had a heart attack and was said to be making a “rapid recovery.”[18] She was once again living with Hazel in Michigan when she passed away 15 March 1950 from “a lingering illness.”[19] The nature of her illness is unknown to me. Alice was 79 years old when she died.

Undated photo of Alice in her later years; courtesy of Ron Casbon

One of Alice’s daughters is said to have done a great deal of Casbon genealogy research. I have copies of some of these records, but they came to me indirectly and I don’t know who the daughter was.

[1] “Marine Intelligence,” The New York Times, 26 Dec 1870, p. 8, col. 5; online images (https://timesmachine.nytimes.com/timesmachine/1870/12/26/issue.html : accessed 17 January 2017).
[2] “Michigan Death Certificates, 1921-1952,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KF41-L5D : accessed 21 February 2017); citing Three Oaks, Berrien, Michigan, Division for Vital Records and Health Statistics, Lansing; FHL microfilm 1,973,189.
[3] 1900 U.S. census, Porter County, Indiana, Porter Township, ED 91, sheet 4B, dwelling & family 75 (Benjamin Edwards); imaged as “United States Census, 1900,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HY-6QNS-7WT?i=7 : accessed 20 Jan 2015) >Indiana > Porter > ED 91 Porter Township > image 8 of 22; citing NARA microfilm publication T623.
[4] “Michigan Death Certificates, 1921-1952.” “Mrs Alice Hicks Dies Following Lingering Illness,” The (Valparaiso, Indiana) Vidette-Messenger, 16 Mar 1950, p. 6; image copy, Newspaper Archive (accessed through participating libraries: 16 Aug 2016).
[5] 1940 U.S. census, Porter County, Indiana, Valparaiso, Ward 3, ED 64-6, sheet 4-B, family 89 (Blachley—transcribed as “Blackley”—Jay); imaged as “United States Census, 1940,” FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QSQ-G9MB-N9LX?i=7&cc=2000219 : accessed 6 July 2017); citing NARA digital publication T627.
[6] Porter County, Indiana, marriage records, vol. 9 (1889–1892), no. 282; imaged as “Indiana Marriages, 1811-2007,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/collection/1410397 : accessed 22 Mar 2019) > >Porter >1889-1892 Volume 9 >image 179 of 361; citing Indiana Commission on Public Records, Indianapolis.
[7] “Benj. Edwards, Local Pioneer, Death Victim,” The Vidette-Messenger, 19 Mar 1934, p. 4, col. 4; online image, Newspaper Archive (accessed 15 April 2018).
[8] 1900 U.S. census, Porter County, Indiana, ED 91, Sheet 4B.
[9] 1910 U.S. census, Porter County, Indiana, ED 150, sheet 8A, dwelling 151, family 153; imaged as “United States Census, 1910,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-GRJJ-FWS?i=14 : accessed 29 Oct 2015); citing NARA microfilm publication T624. 1920 U.S. census, Porter County, Indiana, ED 154, sheet 9B, dwelling 187, family 197; “United States Census, 1920,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-GR67-31W?i=18 : accessed 14 Dec 2015); citing NARA microfilm publication T625.
[10] 1930 U.S. census, Porter County, Center Township, ED 64-7, sheet 7B; imaged as “United States Census, 1930,” FamilySearch images, (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-GRH7-J26?i=13 : accessed 23 Mar 2019); citing NARA microfilm publication T626.
[11] “Benj. Edwards, Local Pioneer, Death Victim,” The Vidette-Messenger.
[12] “Indiana, Marriage Index, 1800-1941”, database, (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=5059 : accessed 23 Mar 2019), Charles Hicks & Alice Edwards, 4 Mar 1936; citing Starke County, Indiana, Index to Marriage Record 1896 – 1938, Inc. Letters, W. P. A.; original Record Located: County Clerk’s O; Book: H-21; Page: 20.
[13] “Charles Hicks and Wife Hurt in Auto Crash,” The Vidette-Messenger, 4 Feb 1938, p. 1, col. 7; Newspaper Archive (accessed 23 Mar 2019).
[14] “Condition of Charles Hicks Not Favorable,” The Vidette-Messenger, 25 February 1938, p. 1, col. 6; image copy, Newspaper Archive (accessed 23 March 2019).
[15] “C.S. Hicks Fails to Survive Crash Injuries,” The Vidette-Messenger, 28 Feb 1938, pp. 1-2; Newspaper Archive (accessed 23 March 2019).
[16] 1940 U.S. census, Porter County, Indiana, Valparaiso, Ward 3, ED 64-6, sheet 4-B.
[17] “Local Brevities,” The Vidette-Messenger, 3 Apr 1948, p. 2, col. 1; Newspaper Archive (accessed 12 Jul 2020).
[18] “Local Brevities,” The Vidette-Messenger, 13 Jul 1948, p. 2, col. 1; Newspaper Archive (accessed 12 Jul 2020).
[19] “Mrs Alice Hicks Dies Following Lingering Illness,” The Vidette-Messenger, 16 Mar 1950, p. 6; image copy, Newspaper Archive (accessed 16 Aug 2016).

Herman, Floyd, and Harriet, about 1905

I must start this post with an apology. I’m not sure who sent me the photograph of Herman, Floyd and Harriet Casbon. I believe it was one of my Iowa Casbon cousins. I’m sorry for not giving you proper credit!

Left to right: Herman, Harriet, and Floyd Casbon, ca. 1905, probably taken at Valparaiso, Indiana (Click on image to enlarge)

I love old photographs, and this one is especially nice. It is clearly a formal studio portrait. The boys are wearing identical outfits and Harriet has a lovely dress with a bow in her hair. The boys are standing at rigid attention. I especially like that fact that all three seem to have their eyes focused on different points; only Harriet is looking at the camera.

Herman Parkfield Casbon was born near Valparaiso, Porter County, Indiana, on
19 November 1900.[1] He was the oldest child of Charles Parkfield and Julia (Bidwell) Casbon. The Parkfield name memorializes the name of the ship taken by Thomas Casbon (1803–1888) and his family from Southampton, England to Quebec, Canada in 1846.

Herman appears in the 1920 census living in his parents’ house with an occupation that appears to be “mail clerk.”[2] In 1929, he married Clara Elizabeth London. Clara’s mother, also named Clara, was the Porter County Clerk and her namesake daughter was the Deputy County Clerk. Clara Casbon’s name appears on many county records and newspaper announcements. By 1930, Herman’s occupation was listed as “milk truck man,” a business he pursued for the rest of his life.[3]

Herman and Clara were divorced in September 1933.[4] This might have been triggered by the death of their first child, Clara Mae Casbon, who was born on 18 July 1931 and died of scarlet fever with meningitis on 8 April 1933.[5] The divorce was short-lived, however, as the couple was remarried in Jasper County, Indiana, less than one month later.[6] They went on to have two more children, Betty Rae and James Parkfield (there’s that name again!), both now deceased.

It must have been a volatile relationship, as Herman and Clara divorced again in 1939, this time for good.[7] Clara was granted custody of the children. By this time, Herman’s health was probably failing, for he died of hepatic cirrhosis due to chronic alcoholism on
17 November 1941.[8] No doubt, his problems with alcohol factored into the failed marriage.

Floyd Sylvester was Charles and Julia’s second child, born 27 January 1902.[9] Floyd married Ethel Dowdell in 1922.[10] The couple had six children—three girls followed by three boys: Erma Jean, Charlotte Louise, Marjorie Ellen, Charles Henry, Dennis Floyd, and Jerry Curtis. In 1930, Floyd’s occupation was given as “chaffeur [sic]—school bus,”[11] and by 1940 his full-time occupation was “farmer—grain.”[12] I believe Floyd took over his father’s house and farm. He died at Valparaiso on 19 February 1987, 85 years old.[13] His widow, Ethel, was 93 when she died on 8 April 2000.[14]

Harriet Lurancy Casbon was born on 26 June 1904.[15] She married Edwin R. Galloway in 1923[16] and divorced him in 1925.[17] She married Harold Edison Martin on 27 September 1939.[18] The couple had no children together, but Charles had a daughter from an earlier marriage and he also adopted a nephew, whom he raised as a son. Harold was an automobile salesman.[19] He died in 1971.[20] Harriet passed away at Valparaiso on 6 July 1983, age 79.[21] Her obituary mentioned that she “was a retired Center Township school bus driver with 29 years of service.”[22]

I have two other photos showing Herman, Floyd, and Harriet as older children. The first is said to be from 1907, but I have my doubts about the date because Harriet would have only been 3 years old in 1907 and she appears older than that in the photo..

Bundy School, Porter County, Indiana, said to be 1907; highlighted, left to right: Harriet, Floyd, and Herman; courtesy of Porter County Museum, https://www.facebook.com/pocomuse (Click on image to enlarge)

The Bundy school was located a little over one mile south of Charles Casbon’s home, on property owned by my great-grandfather, Lawrence L. Casbon. I originally posted this photo here.

Compare to this photo from the 1917–1918 school year

Bundy School, Porter County, Indiana, 1917–1918; highlighted, upper left, Herman; upper right, Floyd; lower right, Harriet; their brother Robert is in the second row, third from left (not highlighted); posted to the Porter County (Indiana) Memories UNLEASHED facebook page by Janet Bell; colorized using MyHeritage in Color™, https://www.myheritage.com/incolor (Click on image to enlarge)

[1] Indiana, State Board of Health, Certificate of Death, no. 35424; imaged as  “Indiana, Death Certificates, 1899-2011,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=60716 : accessed 9 November 2018), Certificate >1941 >13 >image 931 of 3017; citing Indiana Archives and Records Administration, Indianapolis.
[2] 1920 U.S. census, Porter County, Indiana, ED 139, sheet A, line 35, family 51; imaged at FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/collection/1488411 : accessed 15 August 2017) >Indiana >Porter >Center >ED 139 >image 5 of 20.
[3] 1930 U.S. Census, Porter County, Indiana, ED 64-8, sheet 4A, p. 81 (stamped); imaged as “United States Census, 1930,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-9RH7-JS4 : accessed 9 November 2018),  Indiana > Porter > Valparaiso > ED 8 > image 7 of 20; citing NARA microfilm publication T626, roll 622.
[4] “Clara Casbon Given Decree,” The (Valparaiso, Indiana) Vidette-Messenger, 21 Sep 1933, p. 3, col. 8; online image, Newspaper Archive (accessed through participating libraries: 10 July 2017).
[5] Indiana, State Board of Health, Certificate of Death, no. 12647; imaged as “Indiana, Death Certificates, 1899-2011,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=60716 : accessed 9 November 2018), Certificate >1933 >05 >image 653 of 3009.
[6] Jasper County, Indiana, Marriage Record, vol. 13, Oct 1933-Oct 1934, p. 175;digitized as “Will County, Illinois marriage records, ca. Apr. 1836 – July 1928,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/film/007857154?cat=1133019 : accessed 13 Nov 2018) >image 22 of 813; citing FHL film 2,449,719, item 1.
[7] “Local Woman Gets Divorce,” The Vidette-Messenger, 15 Feb 1939, p. 3, col. 3; online image, Newspaper Archive (accessed through participating libraries: 12 November 2018).
[8] Indiana, State Board of Health, Certificate of Death, no. 35424.
[9] Indiana, State Board of Health, Certificate of Death, no. 87-006808; imaged as “Indiana, Death Certificates, 1899-2011,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=60716 : accessed 9 November 2018), Certificate >1987 >24 >image 816 of 2020.
[10] Will County, Marriage Records, ca. July – Nov. 1922, no. 37492; digitized as “Will County, Illinois marriage records, ca. Apr. 1836 – July 1928,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/film/007747223?cat=1184888 : accessed 13 Nov 2018), images 20 & 22 of 889; citing FHL film 2,342,900.
[11] 1930 U.S. census, Porter County, Indiana, ED 10, sheet 12B, line 99; imaged as “United States Census, 1930,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/collection/1810731 : accessed 25 Jul 2017) >Indiana >Porter >Valparaiso >ED 10 >images 24-25 of 26.
[12] 1940 U.S. census, Porter County, Indiana, ED 64-10, sheet 11B, household 196; imaged as “United States Census, 1940,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/collection/2000219 : accessed 28 Nov 2017) >Indiana > Porter > Center Township > 64-10 Center Township outside Valparaiso City, Porter County Poor Asylum > image 22 of 67.
[13] Indiana, State Board of Health, Certificate of Death, no. 87-006808.
[14] Indiana, State Board of Health, Certificate of Death, no. 014079; imaged as “Indiana, Death Certificates, 1899-2011,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=60716 : accessed 25 April 2019) >Certificate >2000 >09 >image 108 of 2602.
[15] Indiana, State Board of Health, Certificate of Death, no. 83-026515; imaged as “Indiana, Death Certificates, 1899-2011,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=60716 : accessed ), Certificate >1983 >11 >image 1535 of 2529.
[16] Photocopy of Porter County, Indiana, marriage record, Edwin R Galloway & Harriet L Casbon, 15 Feb 1923; author’s collection.
[17] Photocopy of Porter County, Indiana, marriage record, Harold Martin & Harriet Casbon, 27 Sep 1939; author’s collection.
[18] Photocopy of Porter County, Indiana, marriage record, Harold Martin & Harriet Casbon, 27 Sep 1939.
[19] “Obituaries … Harold E Martin,” The Vidette-Messenger, 21 Apr 1971, p. 13, col. 6; online image, Newspaper Archive (accessed through participating libraries: 12 Dec 2016).
[20] “Obituaries … Harold E Martin.”
[21] Indiana, State Board of Health, Certificate of Death, no. 83-026515; imaged as “Indiana, Death Certificates, 1899-2011,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=60716 : accessed ), Certificate >1983 >11 >image 1535 of 2529.
[22] Photocopy of news clipping, “Obituaries … Harriet L Martin,” The (Valparaiso, Indiana) Vidette-Messenger, 6 Jul 1983; author’s collection.


Here’s a research tip: when viewing images of records online, always check to see if there are more pages than the one you are viewing.

Case in point: Here is the top of a page from the passenger list of the steam ship Celtic, which arrived at Boston, Massachusetts on 10 June 1928, after departing from Liverpool, England on 2 June (you’ll need to enlarge the image to see the details).[1]

Detail from passenger list of the steam ship Celtic, list E, 1st page (National Archives and Records Administration) (Click on image to enlarge)

The person of interest is passenger number four, Margaret Fanny Casbon. We can see that she is 52 years old, her occupation is “domestic,” she can read and write in English, she is a subject of Great Britain, was born and resides at Royston, England, and was granted a visa on 25 May. We can also see that the list appears to be alphabetical, and is labeled as list “E”; therefore, it is probably part of a much longer document. All in all, it contains a great deal of information and looks like it might be a complete record for Margaret Fanny Casbon …until you look at the next image.[2]

Detail from passenger list of the steam ship Celtic, list E, 2nd page (National Archives and Records Administration) (Click on image to enlarge)

Now we can see that there are another 21 numbered columns pertaining to the passengers listed on the first image. Among other things, we learn that Margaret has a brother, John Marcus Casbon, who lives in Barley, England, and that this is her first trip to the United States. She is part of a group participating in a “Congregational Pilgrimage, Boston,” and will be in the U.S. for one week. Finally, after learning that she is not a polygamist or anarchist, is in good health and has no deformity, we can see that she is 5 feet 4 inches tall, has a “fresh” complexion, brown hair and grey eyes.

Her name, age, and relation to John Marcus Casbon all confirm that she is the daughter of John (~1835–1908) and Mary (Simmance, ~1837–1906) Casbon and the granddaughter of James (1806–1871) and Susanna (Sanders, ~1806–1850) Casbon, about whom I have written previously. Her common ancestor with my branch of the family is her second great-grandfather Thomas Casbon (~1743–1799). That makes us third cousins, several times removed. Not the closest of relations!

Sometime in the early 1850s, Margaret’s grandfather James migrated about five miles south from Meldreth, Cambridgeshire—the village where he was born and raised—to Barley, Hertfordshire. His son John continued in his father’s footsteps as both a farmer and carrier, i.e., a freight hauler. John’s brother, George, established himself in Barley as a wheelwright. These occupations placed them in a higher social class than my direct ancestors, who were agricultural laborers—essentially landless peasants. Barley was quite a small village, so the two brothers were probably well known there.  

Despite her family’s standing, we find Margaret working as a housemaid in London on the 1891 census.[3] I suppose she worked in domestic service for much of her life, given that her occupation on the 1928 passenger list is recorded as “domestic.”

Returning to the passenger list, what caught my attention was the fact that all the passengers listed on the page were participating in the Congregational Pilgrimage at Boston. In fact, only 7 of the 1,212 passengers on the Celtic were not part of the pilgrimage. Apparently, the ship was chartered to support this event.

It’s not surprising then, that the arrival of the ship was a newsworthy event, as can be seen from this clipping from the Boston Globe.[4]


The Globe reported that this was “the largest party of foreign visitors ever to land in this country from one vessel.”[5]

The visit has been arranged with special reference to the fact that the Pilgrims, in 1620, founded the first Congregational Church in America, and the visiting Congregationalists are intensely interested in seeing the place where the Pilgrims landed. They have styled themselves “the Twentieth Century Pilgrims,” and have declared the purpose of the trip to be that of “strengthening the bonds of fellowship between American and British Congregationalists, and through them, between the two great Nations which hold their loyalty and devotion.”[6]

Another newspaper made these observations:

There is little resemblance between the modern pilgrimage and the trip of the first Pilgrims to America. Gin and brandy were a part of the Mayflower’s cargo, and beer was the daily “washer down” of the “bacon, hard tack, salt beef smoked herring and cheese” which was the fare of the mariners en route to the land of plenty, but all alcoholic beverages have been tabooed by the congregational pilgrimage, in deference to the American prohibition laws and their own temperance ideas. Moreover, excellent cooks will provide viands beyond the skill of the pilgrim mother, with her simple “frying pan and kettle heated over a fire on a box of sand.”[7]

The itinerary included visits to Plymouth, Lexington, and Concord, followed by a trip to New York, from whence they departed again aboard the Celtic for England.[8] This must have been the trip of a lifetime for Margaret!

I was curious to find out more about Congregationalism and Margaret’s role in the Congregational church.

I won’t go into details here, but the roots of Congregationalism go back to Henry VIII and the founding of the Church of England. The early dissenters felt that the Church of England was still too close in organization and form to the Roman Catholic church. The early Congregationalists were known as Independents “who believed each church should be a gathering of believers joined together under a covenant agreement, and with the power to choose their own minister.”[9] Congregationalists were similar to Baptists in their beliefs; however, unlike the Baptists, the Congregationalists practiced infant baptism.

The Pilgrims who traveled to America in the Mayflower were an offshoot of this movement who sought to establish a “pure” church outside of the control of the Church of England. They were later joined by Puritans who fled England to the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The reform movements in England and America gradually took on more of a denominational form and churches became known as Congregational churches.

In 1841, an Independent chapel was built in Barley, Margaret’s hometown. This seems to have been occupied by the Baptists for many years but was turned over to the Congregationalists in 1889.[10]

The (former) Congregational Church in Barley; photo courtesy of Andrew Wood, Hertfordshire Churches in Photographs (https://hertfordshirechurches.wordpress.com/); used with permission.
Detail from U.K., Ordnance Survey, Hertfordshire V.SW (includes: Barkway; Barley; Reed; Royston.), six-inch series, revised: 1896, published: 1899; accessed at National Library of Scotland Map Images (https://maps.nls.uk/ : accessed 4 Jun 2020); The Congregational Chapel is circled; used with permission under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC-BY-NC-SA) license (Click on image to enlarge)

Margaret was apparently a well-known member of the congregation. A history of the Congregational Church in Great Chishill, Hertfordshire (which merged with the Barley congregation in 1994) reports that “Miss Margaret Casbon and her brother John were good supporters of the Chapel, gave generously and attended regularly.”[11]

There are very few records available to tell us what happened to Margaret later in life. She appears in the 1939 England and Wales Register (a census-like survey taken prior to World War II) living in the family home, known as “Mount House.” Her occupation was given as “housekeeper.”[12] By then both of her siblings, Florence Marian (Casbon) Smith (1864–1926) and John Marcus Casbon (1875–1936) were deceased. With Margaret’s death on
30 December 1956,[13] the line of her father’s descendants ended, as neither she nor her brother ever married, and their sister Florence had no children.

[1] “Massachusetts, Boston Passenger Lists, 1891-1943,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/collection/1923995 : accessed 2 Jun 2020) >336 – v. 514 Jun 1, 1928 – Jun 14, 1928 >image 235 of 410; citing NARA microfilm publication T843.
[2] “Massachusetts, Boston Passenger Lists, 1891-1943,” >336 – v. 514 Jun 1, 1928 – Jun 14, 1928 >image 236 of 410.
[3] 1891 England census, London, Streatham, ED 5, p. 30, schedule 192 (corrected from 191), line 13, household of Albert (illegible) Turnham; imaged as “1891 England Census,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=6598 : accessed 2 Jun 2020) >London >Streatham >District 05 >image 55 of 61; citing The National Archives, RG 12, piece  454, folio 140.
[4] Boston Globe, 11 Jun 1928, p. 2; imaged at Newspapers.com (accessed 27 May 2020).
[5] Boston Globe, 11 Jun 1928, p. 2.
[6] Boston Globe, 11 Jun 1928, p. 2.
[7] “Modern Pilgrims to Visit America,” North Adams Evening Transcript, 18 May 1928, p. 10; imaged at Newspaper Archive (accessed through participating libraries: 27 May 2020).
[8] Boston Globe, 11 Jun 1928, p. 2. “North Adams Will Aid in Pilgrimage,” North Adams Evening Transcript, 19 May 1928, p. 5, col. 2; imaged at Newspaper Archive (accessed through participating libraries: 27 May 2020).
[9] “The Congregational Christian Tradition,” Congregational Library & Archives (http://www.congregationallibrary.org/researchers/congregational-christian-tradition#congregationalists : accessed 4 Jun 2020).
[10] “Barley Chapel, 19th/20th Century,” Genealogy in Hertfordshire (http://www.hertfordshire-genealogy.co.uk/data/answers/answers-2008/ans8-040-barley-chapel.htm : accessed 4 Jun 2020).
[11] Rev. Reginald Rooke, His Candlestick and a Light Among Them, Chapter 23, “Everyday Life in Barley Chapel”; reproduced as PDF files at “Great Chishill Congregational Church 1694-1954: A Brief History Of Its 260 Years Of Christian Witness,” Great & Little Chishill (http://www.greatchishill.org.uk/subpages/urc.html : accessed 4 Jun 2020).
[12] 1939 England and Wales Register, Hertfordshire, Hitchin, ED DFIJ, RD 135-2, schedule 115; imaged as “1939 England and Wales Register,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=61596 : accessed 27 May 2020) >Hertfordshire >Hitchin RD >DFIJ >image 10 of 16; citing The National Archives, RG 101/1659B.
[13] “England and Wales Death Registration Index 1837-2007,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QVC6-M4CQ : accessed 28 September 2015), Margaret F Casbon, 1956;  citing General Register Office, Southport, vol 4A, p. 236, line 75.

Mable Ruth’s Mystery Marriages

Mable Ruth Casbon; scanned image of undated photo; courtesy of Claudia Vokoun

Mable Ruth was the only daughter of Thomas S. (1870­­–1955) and Ella (Downs, 1873–1936) Casbon. She was born at Deep River, Lake County, Indiana on 11 August 1893.[1] Most published records indicate that she never married. However, I have come across evidence that shows this assumption to be incorrect.

The first indication that Mable might have been married appears in a Kitsap County, Washington death certificate dated 3 January 1910.[2] The certificate records the stillborn death of George Francis Perrault, born at Charleston, Washington to “T.J. Perrault,” born in Canada, and “Mable Casbon,” born in “Ind.”

Detail from the death certificate of George Francis Perrault, stillborn 3 January 1910, showing the mothers name as “Mable Casbon” and her birthplace as “Ind.”

This is a startling piece of information. Who else could Mable Casbon from Indiana be other than Mable Ruth? I have what I believe is a complete listing of Indiana Casbons from that era and there are no other women named Mable. Mable Ruth Casbon was 16 years old when the birth occurred.

If Mable Ruth Casbon was the mother of George Perrault, she must have returned to Indiana sometime between January, when the stillbirth occurred, and early May of 1910, for we find her living with her parents in Porter County, Indiana on the 1910 census, which was enumerated on 10 May of that year.[3] By the way, every United States census from 1900 through 1940 shows Mable Ruth living with her parents in Indiana and her marital status as “S[ingle]”.

Detail from 1910 U.S. Census, Washington Township, Porter County, Indiana, showing entry form Mabel [sic] Ruth Casbon, age 16, marital status S[ingle]

Were Mabel and T.J. Perrault married? I have never found a marriage record, but there is a divorce record showing that Mabel [sic] Perrault, plaintiff, was divorced from Theodore Perrault on 26 January 1911.

Is this plausible? It’s certainly possible that the stillbirth was the final straw in a possibly hasty and undesirable marriage and that Mabel returned to Indiana shortly afterwards while awaiting the outcome of her divorce suit.

The evidence is muddied by the fact that a man named Theodore Perrault married a woman named Mabel Howard at St. Paul, Minnesota in April 1902,[4] and that Mabel Howard and Theodore Perrault were listed as the parents of a child born at Bremerton, Kitsap County, Washington in 1907.[5] Did Theodore marry two women with the same first name? I haven’t found a divorce or death record for Mabel (Howard) Perrault, so I don’t know what became of her—unless she was the woman who divorced Theodore in 1911? But if so, why is Mable Casbon listed as the mother on the death certificate? I can’t come up with a scenario that would result in “Mable Casbon” from “Ind.” being written on the death certificate by mistake.

I can’t say there is enough evidence to prove that Mable Ruth was married to T.J. Perrault, but whether they were married or not, she is most likely the woman who had his child in 1910.

Then I found another record.

It appeared in a database of Porter County, Indiana, divorce records maintained by the Porter County Public Library. Mabel Ruth Casbon/Bancroft is listed as the plaintiff in a divorce filed against Joseph A. Bancroft in late 1925.[6]

Once again, I haven’t found a marriage record. However, I found this listing in a 1924 city directory for Chesterton, Porter County, Indiana.[7]

Detail from Polk’s Valparaiso City and Porter County Directory … 1924-1925, showing entry for Joseph R. Bancroft and his wife “Ruth M,” living in Chesterton, Indiana.

Note that “Ruth M.” is listed as the wife of Joseph R. Bancroft, who works for “Casbons & Bancroft.” Note also the entries for George and Jay Bancroft, who also work for Casbons & Bancroft. Two pages later in the same directory is a listing for “Casbons & Bancroft (Thomas S Casbons [sic], Joseph and G P Bancroft) auto supplies 100 N. Calumet rd.”

Mable Ruth was known by many as “Ruth” Casbon. There is no doubt from this directory entry that she was married to Joseph Bancroft, who was in business with her father, Thomas S. Casbon.

To summarize, Mable Ruth was probably married and divorced twice—once as a teenager and again when she was close to 30 years old. The evidence is much stronger for the second marriage than the first. She evidently decided to retain her maiden name after her divorce from Joseph Bancroft.

After the divorce from Joseph Bancroft, Mable Ruth lived with her parents at 208 E. Morgan Street for the remainder of their lives. Her mother died in 1936 and her father in 1955. Prior to his death, her father conveyed his real estate to Mable Ruth “principally by way of compensation and in appreciation of what she has done in helping to take care of her mother and myself during our lives.”[8] She was active in various community and fraternal organizations for most of her life. When she died on 27 February 1989, the death certificate listed her marital status as “never married.”[9]

Did others know about her marriage(s)? It’s possible that the presumed marriage to T.J. Perrault and the birth of a child were kept secret from all except immediate family, but her marriage to Joseph Bancroft would have been public knowledge. However, in the ensuing years, the marriage and divorce became a dim memory that was known only by a few and eventually forgotten by all.

[1] Indiana, Porter County, [delayed] Birth Certificate Record, vol. 2, 9 Oct 1942-29 Apr 1955, p. 140, Mable Ruth Casbon, 11 Aug 1893; imaged as “Birth certificate record, 1941-1984,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/film/007665021?cat=608975: accessed 15 Nov 2018) >Film # 007665021 >image 914 of 1017.
[2] Washington State Board of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics, death certificate no. 2 (county no. 485), Kitsap County, Charleston; imaged as “Washington Death Certificates, 1907-1960”, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HY-68TW-KVJ : accessed 11 September 2018) >image 1243 of 2836; citing FHL film 1,991,660, item 6.
[3] 1910 U.S. census, Kitsap Co., Washington, ED 151, sheet 12A, Washington Twp., dwelling & family 119; database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/collection/1727033 : accessed 15 August 2017) >Indiana >Porter >Washington >ED 151 >image 19 of 20.
[4] “Minnesota Marriages, 1849-1950”, database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:FD68-JXQ : 20 January 2020), Theodore J. Perrault, 1902.
[5] Washington, Kitsap County, register of births, 1891–1907, p. 26, no. 9490, 31 May 1907; imaged as “Washington, Birth Records, 1870-1935,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=1209 ) “>Kitsap >Kitsap County, Birth Register: 1891-1907 >image 26 of 27.
[6] “Porter County, Indiana, Divorce Records,” database, Porter County Library (http://engagedpatrons.org/database/PCPLS/DivorceRecords/ : accessed 23 May 2020), Case no. 5953, Joseph A Bancroft & Mable Ruth Bancroft (also Casbon), filed 20 Nov 1925; citing Porter County Circuit Court.
[7] Polk’s Valparaiso City and Porter County Directory, Including Rural Routes, 1924-1925 (Chicago: R.L Polk & Co., 1924), vol. 7, p. 206, Bancroft, Joseph R (Ruth M), 915 Broadway, Chesterton; imaged as “U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=2469 : accessed ) >Indiana >Valparaiso >1924 >Valparaiso, Indiana, City Directory, 1924 >image 109 of 206.
[8] Photocopy of Last Will and Testament of Thomas S Casbon, dated 23 Feb 1949; privately held by Jon Casbon.
[9] Indiana, State Board of Health, Certificate of Death, no. 89-006540, Porter County, Valparaiso; imaged as “Indiana, Death Certificates, 1899-2011,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=60716 : accessed 2 November 2018), Certificate >1989 >03 >image 1585 of 2582; citing Indiana Archives and Records Administration, Indianapolis.

“Trotting Match”

The following article appeared in The Cambridge Independent Press, 4 August 1866:[1]

Trotting Match.—On Monday last, the New Road and Cemetery End were thronged with spectators to witness a trotting match against time, Mr. Casbon’s five-year old roan filly Strawberry, by Orton, being engaged to trot one mile in harness, drawing her owner and another person. The time fixed for starting was eleven o’clock, and the start took place near the pump at the end of City Road, the finish being near the public house in Eastfield. The task was performed in a little over four minutes and a half.

Although not stated, the event took place in Peterborough, Northamptonshire (now Cambridgeshire). The article doesn’t really contain any information of genealogical interest, but it gives us a little insight into the life and times of people in Peterborough in the latter half of the 19th century.

Who was “Mr. Casbon”? I’ve written several posts about the Peterborough Casbons. They were all descended from Thomas Casbon (~1807–1863), who was born in Littleport, Cambridgeshire and eventually settled in Peterborough sometime between 1847 and 1851. Thomas established himself as the owner of a nursery in Peterborough and seems to have been quite successful.

Thomas had two sons, John (~1832–1885) and Thomas (1840–1889), both of whom followed their father into the nursery business. Both sons were living in Peterborough at the time of the 1861 census. John moved to Spalding, Lincolnshire, sometime before 1868, but he might have still been in Peterborough in 1866. Therefore, I can’t be sure which of the brothers was the “Mr. Casbon” of the article.

Let’s imagine we were there. “Monday last” would have been 30 July 1866. It’s odd that such an event would occur in the middle of a workday. I wonder if it was a special event or holiday. At any rate, the atmosphere was festive. There must have been advance notice of the event since the roads were “thronged with spectators.” This was not an every-day occasion.

The goal of a “trotting match against time,” was to see how fast a single horse pulling a cart and riders could go a fixed distance, in this case one mile. Apparently, the filly Strawberry had a reputation for speed. I’m guessing that “by Orton” means that Strawberry was the offspring of a better-known horse named Orton. However, I haven’t been able find any more information about either of the horses.

Four and a half minutes is not a particularly fast time for a mile. The current trotting records (individual records are based on the horse’s gait, age, and sex) for a mile are under two minutes, but these were set in groomed tracks, not the city streets of Peterborough. This was before the days of modern paved asphalt or concrete roadways. The city streets might have been paved with stones or bricks, while the road to Eastfield was probably packed dirt or gravel. It would have been a bumpy ride for two men in a two-wheel cart!

The spectators lining the streets would have seen the horse and cart quickly ride past. Then they might have waited until the official time was passed down the line before retiring to the local pubs for lunch and a pint.

“Great Trotting Match Against Time, by the Mare Nonpariel,” print (London: W. Soffe, 1835); this depicts a match in which the horse and rider went 100 miles in 10 hours, 14 minutes, and 40 seconds; ©The Trustees of the British Museum under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license

Here is a map showing my interpretation of the route taken by Mr. Casbon and Strawberry.

Adapted from Ordnance Survey, Six-inch to the mile, England and Wales, 1842-1952, Northamptonshire Sheet VII.SE (1886); reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland (CC-BY-NC-SA) (Click on image to enlarge)

What does the story tell us about “Mr. Casbon”? It appears that whichever brother he was, he was doing well enough financially to possess a horse of some merit. This doesn’t seem like the kind of horse one would buy to help with the nursery business, but perhaps it was.

1866 might have represented a high point in the business affairs and social standing of the two brothers, for they each faced significant misfortune in the coming years. Thomas’s wife, Emily, filed for divorce in 1868, taking their two children with her to London. John was forced to file for bankruptcy in 1870. Thomas apparently tried to drown himself in the Thames in 1871. He later made his way to Australia, where he was jailed twice for drunkenness, and died there in 1889. John was apparently able to re-establish himself in the nursery business in Peterborough, where he died in 1885.

[1] “Trotting Match,” Cambridge Independent Press, 4 Aug 1866; image copy, British Newspaper Archive (https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/ : accessed 24 Feb 2017).

Barn Burned

This article appeared in the 18 September 1930 La Porte City, Iowa, Progress Review newspaper.[1]

(Click on image to enlarge)

The owner of the barn, George W. Casbon (1874–1944), was the patriarch of today’s Iowa Casbons. The fire must have been a terrible blow. 1930 was near the beginning of the Great Depression. I’m told that the bank foreclosed on the loan George took out to rebuild the farm. This may be the reason he was forced to sell the farm in 1935.

George’s barn, about 1911; George is standing on the left; the small child to his right is his daughter Emma; barely visible behind the second team of horses is his son Sylvester; I believe this is the barn that burned down in 1930; courtesy of Alice Brim (Click on image to enlarge)

[1] “Barn Burned,” The Progress Review, 18 Sep 1930, p. 1, col. 7; imaged at Community History Archive (http://laportecity.advantage-preservation.com/ : accessed 10 May 2020).

Four Men—a Postcard

Do you like postcards? I must admit that I haven’t sent one in decades—even before the days of email and social media. And I can’t recall the last time I received one, either.

Here’s a postcard that was never mailed.

“From right to left: Uncle Lawrence, Mr Williams, Father, Uncle Charley”; courtesy of Claudia Vokoun (Click on images to enlarge)

Who are the men in the photo? Fortunately for us, instead of being mailed, the postcard was labeled with the names and identities of the subjects. Surnames aren’t given, but there is enough information to know who all the individuals are except for “Mr. Williams.”

“Uncle Lawrence” and “Uncle Charley” are Lawrence Leslie (1865–1950) and Charles Parkfield (1872–1949) Casbon. This tells us that the postcard was labeled by a nephew or niece of the two men. Therefore, “Father” must be one of their brothers. That narrows him down to either Thomas Sylvester (1870–1955) or George Washington
(1874–1944) Casbon. I’m familiar enough with the appearance of both men that I can identify him as Thomas Sylvester. Besides that, we can see that the photo was taken in Michigan City, La Porte County Indiana, just across the border from Porter County. This makes it less likely for George to be the subject of the photo, since he lived in Iowa.

Mr. Williams is obviously a friend of the brothers and known to the person who labeled the card, but beyond that I have no idea about his identity.

I really like the photograph. The men appear relaxed and informal. Thomas is the only one who seems to be smiling. The others appear a bit bored or disinterested. The background seems to show a sports field or possibly a racetrack. The men must have gone to Michigan City for an outing or special event. They might have stepped into the studio or perhaps there was an outdoor photo booth or tent. The relaxed postures and informality of their clothing makes me think it was a spur of the moment decision.

The person who labeled the postcard would have to be one of Thomas’s three children: Mable Ruth (1893–1989), Sylvester Hugh (1895–1922), or George Perry (1897–1976) Casbon. My guess would be that it was Mable, but there is no way to know for sure.

When was the photo taken? I can only venture a broad guess, based on the apparent ages of the men and on some features of the postcard. Compare the postcard to this photo taken in about 1905.

Sylvester Casbon and his descendants, Valparaiso, Indiana, about 1905; author’s collection

Clearly, the men in the postcard are several years older.

Here are comparison photos of Lawrence and Charles, taken about 1920 and 1915, respectively.

Left: Lawrence Leslie Casbon, from a family portrait, author’s collection; Right: Charles Parkfield Casbon, from a family portrait, courtesy of Ilaine Church

 I don’t have a comparison photo of Thomas. However, to my eye, the men in the postcard look roughly the same age as these two comparison photos. Based on this, I would guess that the photo was taken sometime between the late 1910s and the 1920s.

There are some additional clues about the date based on the appearance of the postcard. The website OldPostcards.com describes features that can help to identify the ages of postcards. The first feature is the fact that the back of the postcard is divided into two sections, one for the message and one for the address. According to OldPostcards.com, divided backs did not come into use until March 1, 1907.[1] The second is the fact that there is a white border around the photograph. White borders came into use about 1915.[2] The plain paper that this postcard is printed on was replaced by linen-like paper beginning in 1930.[3] These features support a date between 1915 and 1930.

The clothing worn by the men also supports a date from the late teens to the early 1920s.

I’ve tried to find out more information about The Peak Studios in Michigan City, but couldn’t find anything.

This is literally a “snapshot in time.” It captures a moment, an era, and a brief glimpse into the lives of the three Casbon brothers and their friend Mr. Williams.

Do you have any favorite postcards?

[1] “Identifying the Age of Postcards,” OldPostcards.com (https://www.oldpostcards.com/Oldpostcards-History-of-Postcards-Page.html : accessed 4 May 2020).
[2] “Identifying the Age of Postcards.”
[3] “Identifying the Age of Postcards.”

Moving Day

This is just a brief announcement for my readers. As of this post, Our Casbon Journey has moved to a new web site, hosted by the Guild of One-Name Studies. The URL for the new site is https://casbon.one-name.blog.


By making this move, I have the assurance that the blog will be preserved indefinitely as part of the Guild Blog Project. I have served a “guinea pig” for the project for the past several weeks. It has now reached the point where it is ready to go live to the public.

You may notice subtle differences in the blog’s appearance, but it is substantially the same as before.

Thank you for your continued readership!


The Cambridge Chronicle of 26 April 1862 contained this brief report.

Commitments to the Castle. … George Casbon, Meldreth, and John Reed, Whaddon,
running away from the Bassingbourn union with the clothes, 21 days each.

What does this mean? The report gives quite a bit of information, providing you understand some of the terminology and context.

It’s clear from reading the paragraph that all the named individuals have been accused of various crimes or infractions. What does it mean that they were committed to the Castle?

In Cambridgeshire, i.e., Cambridge County, the Castle was the nickname for the county jail (gaol in the U.K.). Thus, being committed to the Castle means being sentenced to spend time in the jail.

The term Castle comes from the fact that the original county jail was a former Norman castle. The castle was demolished in 1807 and a new jail built a short distance away. The Castle nickname remained with the new building. The site of the old castle is now called Castle Mound.

View of Cambridge Castle and Plan of Cambridge Castle engraved by Warren and published in Picturesque Views of the Antiquities of England & Wales, 1786; Public Domain, courtesy of ancestryimages.com

I have posted about people being committed to the Castle before. Ten-year-old John Casbon was briefly committed (before spending the rest of his seven-year sentence at a reform school) after being convicted of arson in 1852. James Casbon was sentenced to two months in the Castle for child neglect in 1870.

Who were George Casbon and John Reed?

George is one of the most common Casbon forenames, but only two Georges were born before 1862, one in 1836 and one in 1846. We can eliminate the first, George S. Casbon, for a few reasons. Although born in Meldreth, by 1862 he was no longer living there. He was married and working as a Wheelwright at Barley, Hertfordshire. The profile of a working man doesn’t match that of someone who would be running away from the Bassingbourn union, as I will explain.

That leaves George Casbon, the son of James and Elizabeth (Waller) Casbon, born at Meldreth 28 November 1846 and baptized there 16 March 1847, as the only remaining candidate.[1] George’s mother, Elizabeth, died of consumption in 1852.[2]

As to John Reed, I have found only one person by that name from Whaddon. He appears in the 1851 census as John Read, age 6.[3] His sister Susanna Read, age 21, is listed as head of household and a pauper. The father, William Reed, died in 1847.[4] Mary Reed, the mother, died in 1849.[5] Thus, the household we see in the 1851 census consists of their orphaned children, with John being the youngest.

George Casbon and John Reed both would have been about 16 years old when they ran away from the Bassingbourn union; but what was the Bassingbourn union?

Bassingbourn union was another name for the Royston Union Workhouse. Royston is a large town located at the northern border of Hertfordshire. In 1862, the border between Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire ran through the middle of Royston. The Royston Union Workhouse was located on the north, or Cambridgeshire side, of Baldock Road. The workhouse was located within Bassingbourn Parish in Cambridgeshire, hence the term Bassingbourn union.

Detail map showing locations of Meldreth, Whaddon, and Royston; adapted from Map of the County of Cambridge, from an Actual Survey made in the years 1832 & 1833 (London: Greenwood & Co., 1834); courtesy of David Rumsey Map Collection (https://www.davidrumsey.com/); image reproduction copyright © 2000 by Cartography Associates (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)
Detail from Ordnance Survey map, showing location of Royston Union Workhouse; Cambridgeshire LVIII.SW (Southampton: Ordnance Survey Office, 1886); Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland, Creative Commons License

Workhouses were institutions created to house and feed the poor and infirm. Each workhouse was administered by a poor law union consisting of several parishes. The Royston workhouse was built in 1836 and designed to accommodate 300 inmates.[6] In general, workhouses were segregated by sex and age: there were sections for the aged and infirm, children, able-bodied men, and able-bodied women.[7] Inmates were issued clothing, usually made from coarse materials.[8] Able-bodied inmates were expected to work, often at menial tasks; schooling and sometimes apprenticeships were provided to children.[9]

Why were the two boys in the workhouse? In the case of John Reed, we know that he was an orphan. With no means of financial support, the workhouse was probably his only option.

The situation with George Casbon is more complicated. We know that he lost his mother in 1852. His younger sister, Emma, died at the workhouse (my emphasis) in November 1853.[10] This suggests that after the death of George’s mother, either some or all of the children were sent to the workhouse.

My confusion is compounded by the fact that I haven’t been able to positively identify James Casbon or any of his children (except for daughter, Lydia, who was married) in the 1861 England census. I have speculated that James and his son Thomas were listed (in the 1861 census) in the village of Cottenham with the surname Randle. In addition, I think I’ve found James’s two youngest sons, George and John, at the Royston workhouse. The census uses initials for the inmates. Among these are the initials “C.G.” and “C.J.” (the first initial represents the surname), both from Meldreth.[11] Incidentally, the initials “R.J.,” which might stand for John Reed, from Whaddon, are also present on the same census page.

The final detail from the Cambridge Chronicle article is that the two boys were committed to the Castle for the offense of “running away from the Bassingbourn union with the clothes.” It’s unclear whether the offense was running away or taking the clothes, although I suspect it was the latter. I wish there was a little more detail. Which clothes did they take—their own or those belonging to other inmates? What did they intend to do with the clothes? Such is the way with family research—you never have all the answers.

What became of George and John? I’ll save most of George’s life for later posts but will say here that he eventually married and had a family of his own. He died at the village of Fowlmere, 18 October 1897.[12] He was 51 years old.

John Reed’s fate is unknown. I haven’t been able to identify him in any records after 1862.

[1] Meldreth (Cambridgeshire) Parish Records, baptisms [1813–1867], p. 63, no. 501; browsable images, FamilySearch ((https://familysearch.org/search/film/007567609?cat=210742 : accessed 28 Apr 2017).
[2] England, General Register Office, death registration, Royston & Buntingford/Melbourn, 1852, vol. 3A/134, no. 117.
[3] 1851 England census, Whaddon (Cambridgeshire), enumeration district 11, p. 4, line 12; imaged at Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=8860 : accessed 24 Apr 2020) >Cambridgeshire >Whaddon >4 >image 5 of 23.
[4] “England, Cambridgeshire Bishop’s Transcripts, 1599-1860,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/collection/1465708 : accessed 24 Apr 2020) >007681883 >image 704 of 733.
[5] “England, Cambridgeshire Bishop’s Transcripts, 1599-1860,” accessed 24 Apr 2020 >007681883 > image 709 of 733.
[6] Peter Higginbotham,“Royston, Herfordshire,” in The Workhouse: The story of an institution … (http://www.workhouses.org.uk/Royston/ : accessed 24 Apr 2020).
[7] “Workhouse,” Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Workhouse#1834_Act : accessed 24 Apr 2020), rev. 18 Mar 2020, 01:28.
[8] Higginbotham, “Workhouse Uniform,” in The Workhouse: The story of an institution … .
[9] Higginbotham, “Work” and “Children in the Workhouse,” in The Workhouse: The story of an institution … .
[10] England, General Register Office, death registration, Royston & Buntingford/Melbourn, 1853, vol. 3A/107, no. 319.
[11] 1861 England census, Bassingbourn (Cambridgeshire), enumeration district 5, p. 77 (stamped) verso (6th page of entries for Royston Union Workhouse), lines 4 & 5; Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=8767 : accessed 24 April 2020) >Cambridgeshire >Bassingbourn >District 5 >image 23 of 25; National Archives.
[12] “Deaths,” Saffron Walden (Essex) Weekly News, 22 Oct 1897, p. 8, col. 8; British Newspaper Archive (accessed 14 Sep 2017.