One thing that most people want to know about in tracing their ancestry is “how far back can I go?.” The best way to do this is to go back one generation at a time, looking for evidence that proves how the two generations are related. Eventually you reach a point where there is not enough evidence to be sure of the connection.
In the case of my “Meldreth Casbon” ancestors, records go back to the 1500s. However, I’ve only been able to confidently trace our ancestry back to the early 1700s. The reason is that earlier records do not provide enough information to “connect the dots,” that is, to say with certainty who is related to whom. The method for establishing these connections is known as the Genealogical Proof Standard.
I will try to illustrate this process with the subject of today’s post, Thomas (yes, another Thomas!) Casbon, father of my 4th great-grandfather, Isaac. This diagram shows how Thomas is related to the other “Meldreth Casbons” I’ve discussed so far.
I’ll start with Isaac’s baptismal record, since I have a good chain of evidence proving that he is my ancestor.
We’ve seen this record before, in “The Collage Explained.” From this record we know that Isaac was baptized July 11, 1773 and that his parents’ names were Thomas and Jane. But who were Thomas and Jane? How can we learn more about them?
If Isaac was baptized as an infant, we can guess that his parents were married within the previous 20 years and born another 20 years or so before that. Although unlikely, his father Thomas might even have been born as many as 70 years or so earlier than Isaac. This gives approximate dates to look back in the parish registers for marriage and birth records.
The parish registers are available on microfilm. In addition, Bishop’s Transcripts, i.e., copies of the parish registers that were sent to the Bishop every year, can be viewed online at https://familysearch.org/search/film/007672879?cat=1108704 (free user account required to view these records).
I could not find a marriage record for Thomas and Jane in Meldreth, but from past experience, I knew that many of our ancestral records could also be found in the adjacent parish of Melbourn, located less than a mile away from Meldreth (just across the A10 highway). My search was more productive here: I found a record for Thomas Casbon and Jane Wilson, married October 25, 1769. 
This date of this marriage fits very well with Isaac’s baptism, so at this point we can say these are probably [my emphasis] his parents. But Thomas and Jane were both common names, so it’s important to make sure there aren’t any other records for a Thomas Casb* (* = any string of letters) marrying a woman named Jane in this time frame. Fortunately, several online genealogy sites make it relatively easy to search for this kind of information. I could not find any other marriages in the correct time frame between Thomas Casb* and a woman named Jane. So, based on the evidence (names, dates, location) and lack of contradictory information, I’m comfortable saying that Thomas Casbon and Jane Wilson, who were married in Melbourn, 1769, are the same Thomas and Jane listed on Isaac’s baptismal record.
The next step is to find a birth or baptismal record for Thomas Casb* in about the 1700 to 1753 time frame. Again, the parish registers on microfilm, Bishop’s transcripts and online search engines come to the rescue. Fortunately, there is only one viable candidate: Thomas, the son of John and Ann Casbel, baptized December 11, 1743 in Meldreth. 
This birth date fits very well with what we know so far: Thomas would have been 26+ years old when he married Jane and 30+ when Isaac was born.
I would also like to know more about Jane, since she is my 5th great-grandmother. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find a baptismal record for a Jane Wilson in Meldreth or the immediate area. Apparently there were no Wilson families living in Meldreth, as the name appears very rarely in the parish records. However, I can deduce that Jane was born in about 1841 based on the age reported on her burial record (see below). This would have given her an age of about 22 when her son Isaac was born.
Now that I’ve established birth and marriage dates for Thomas and Jane, let’s see what other children were born to them.
You can see that another Anne Casbull was buried on February 18th of the same year. This was Anne, the wife of John. She was the mother of our Thomas, and was mentioned in his baptismal record above.
Thomas and Jane’s second child was baptized James Casbull in Meldreth, July 19, 1772. 
I’ll be writing more about James in a future post. He had several children and is the ancestor of a significant line of Casbons today.
Isaac was their third child. As I’ve discussed in previous posts, his sons Thomas and James emigrated to the United States, while sons William and Joseph remained in England.
After Isaac came another son, Thomas, baptized Casbul, May 28, 1775, in Meldreth. 
He left Meldreth and lived his entire adult life in the nearby parish of Shepreth (1.5 miles from Meldreth). His three children died in their teens and did not have descendants.
I’ve mentioned before that it was common practice to name a child after one who was previously deceased. This was the case with Thomas and Jane’s fifth, sixth, and seventh children – all named John and baptized in Meldreth. The first son John was baptized with the surname Casbill in February 1776.  His burial was recorded on October 29, 1777.  There is no baptismal record for their second son John. He must have been born sometime between his namesake’s death in 1777 and his own burial in June 1778. 
The third son John survived into adulthood. He was baptized Casborne, October 3, 1779. 
This John also fathered a significant line of Casbons. He is included in the diagram at the top of this post, and is the father of Reuben and Samuel Clark, who were discussed in earlier posts.
This diagram shows all of Thomas and Jane’s children.
The only remaining records needed to complete this profile of Thomas and Jane’s lives are their burial records. Based on the baptism of their last child, 1779 would be the earliest possible year to find a death record for either of them. Based on their estimated birth years, it would be very unlikely to find a burial record later than 1840.
I have located this record for Thomas Carsbell, buried July 22, 1799 in Meldreth. 
Although there is nothing in this record to tell us for certain that this is our Thomas, born in 1843 and married to Jane Wilson, he is the only likely candidate. The only other Thomas Casb* living in the area at the time was our Thomas’ own son Thomas, born in 1775. Fortunately, there is good evidence that Thomas the son died in 1825.  After a thorough review of the available local records, I haven’t found any contradictory evidence, so I’m confident this is the correct burial date.
For Jane, I’m confident that she was buried on November 22, 1831 in Meldreth. 
There was one other Jane living in the area in the time after Thomas’ death. She was the granddaughter of Thomas and Jane by their son John, baptized Jane Casburn 1803, in nearby Royston.  Census records show that she was still alive after 1831, so she could not be the Jane buried in 1831.  In addition, by 1813 or so, burial records consistently recorded the age of the deceased. In this case, we can see that Jane’s age at death was recorded as 90, which is how I derived a birth year of 1741. She is listed as a widow, which is consistent with Thomas’ death in 1799.
While these records are sufficient to establish an outline of their lives, they give us little insight into what kind of lives Thomas and Jane led. We know that Thomas was a labourer, and that he lived long enough to see his surviving children reach maturity. As an elderly widow, we can guess that Jane was supported by her children. Beyond that we can only speculate.
This illustrates the challenges of locating, compiling, and interpreting genealogical data in order to trace one’s lineage. From Thomas, I can only trace the “Meldreth Casbons” back one more generation with reasonable certainty. I will save that for a future post.