A Minor Mystery Solved

A more appropriate title for this post might have been “The Many Wives of James Casbon.” However, I’ll stick with the current title because it was finding the answer to the “minor mystery” that prompted me to write the post.

This is a cautionary tale. The caution is that one should be very careful about trusting “facts” that are listed in online family trees unless the evidence supporting those facts is documented and credible. In this case, the facts in question are the identities of the women who were married to James Casbon (~1813–1884).

When I did a search on Ancestry for James, listing his parents as Isaac and Susannah (Howes) Casbon, I found that he was included in 66 family trees. Six different women were named as his wives in these trees. Some trees only listed one of them while others listed up to five. A few of the trees simply said “unknown spouse”—a safe and reasonable approach. Several of the trees were private, meaning the names of James’s wives could not be viewed. Here are the names of the women, in order of frequency, in those trees I was able to view.

Elizabeth Waller             26 trees
Mary Cooper                   17 trees
Mary Payne                       7 trees
Mary Harper                     5 trees
Mary Jackson                    5 trees
Ann Mitch                         5 trees

How many of these women did James actually marry and which ones? I can say with confidence that only three marriages have been documented. I have copies or extracts of the marriage records of James to Elizabeth Waller in 1835,[1] Mary Jackson in 1866,[2] and Mary Payne in 1876.[3] There is no evidence that James married Mary Cooper, Mary Harper, or Ann Mitch. In the family trees where they are listed, no sources are provided other than other family trees. One could posit that James married another woman in the interval between Elizabeth’s death in 1852 and his marriage to Mary Jackson in 1866, but there are no records to support this (and no children born during this time listing James as the father).

Census and birth/baptism records show that all of James’s children were born to either Elizabeth Waller or Mary Jackson. (Alice Casbon’s birth in 1871 is not registered but given that it occurred just one month after the arrival of James and Mary in America, there is no reason to believe that anyone besides Mary Jackson was her mother.)

The marriage of record of James Casbon to Elizabeth Waller at Meldreth, Cambridgeshire, 25 July 1835; Meldreth parish records (Click on image to enlarge)
The marriage record of James Casbon and Mary Payne, Porter County, Indiana, 15 January 1876; Porter County Public Library (Click on image to enlarge)

So how did these other women come to be listed as James’s wives? There are several possible reasons. In the case of Ann Mitch, it is a matter of mistaken identity. There were two men named James Casbon in the early 1800s, both born in Meldreth, Cambridgeshire. One was born 7 September 1806.[4] He was the first cousin of the James of this post. The elder James married Ann Hitch (whose name has been incorrectly transcribed as Mitch in both Ancestry and FamilySearch) at Steeple Morden, Cambridgeshire on 15 December
1827.[5] Ann died in 1833 after bearing James one child (Alfred Hitch Casbon). It can be easy to make mistakes in family trees when two people have the same name. Although the younger James would have been only about 14 years old when the marriage to Ann Hitch occurred, some family historians have gotten around this discrepancy by assuming that there was only one man named James. However, this is not supported by later census records.

The case of Mary Cooper is harder to explain. James’s older brother William married a woman named Mary Cooper in 1829.[6] My best guess is that the name of William’s wife was incorrectly attached to James in a family tree and the incorrect information was passed on to others.

That brings me to Mary Harper. Where did the name come from? This was the minor mystery I learned the answer to this week.

I was updating some of my documentation and came upon the marriage license application of James’s and Mary (Jackson’s) daughter Alice Hannah Casbon to her second husband, Charles Hicks. Alice and Charles applied for the license at Starke County, Indiana on 4 March 1936 and were married the same day.[7] The application requests the names of the bride and groom’s parents. Alice wrote “Mary Harper” as her mother’s maiden name.

The marriage license application of Alice (Casbon) Edwards to Charles Hicks, 4 March 1936, Starke County, Indiana; FamilySearch (Click on image to enlarge)

This naturally raises the question: Wouldn’t Alice know her own mother’s name? In fact, there is good reason for her not to. Her mother died before Alice was 5 years old, and probably much earlier than that. (The date of Mary (Jackson’s) death is not recorded). Her father, James, died when Alice was 13. Mary Payne, her stepmother, might not have known the correct maiden name. Alice might have been told incorrectly that her mother’s surname was Harper or she might have misremembered what she was told.

At any rate, it appears that Alice herself was the source of the misinformation that was included later in family trees.

As I said earlier, one must be very careful about accepting genealogical “facts” at face value. Once incorrect information is made available in an online family tree, others might copy it to their own tree and it takes on a life of its own. A useful rule of thumb is to carefully review the source attributed to any “fact” in an online tree. If there are no sources attached or the only source is another family tree, one should not accept the fact as proven unless more reliable sources can be found.

Unfortunately, I must confess that I am one of the guilty parties here. I saw the names of Mary Cooper and Mary Harper in family trees many years ago and included them in my own tree. I even included them as possible wives in my first blog post about James in 2016. When I posted my tree to Ancestry I was still a relative beginner at genealogy and did not yet understand the need for careful source documentation or how easily misinformation could be spread. I kept the names in my tree for much longer than I should have after realizing that I had no evidence to support them. It’s likely that others copied the information from my tree and perpetuated the misinformation. I am much more diligent now.


[1] Cambridgeshire, England, Meldreth Parish, Register of marriages (1813–1867), p. 34, no. 100, 25 Jul 1835; accessed as “Parish registers for Meldreth, 1681-1877,” browsable images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/film/007567609?cat=210742 : accessed 29 August 2017), image 363 of 699; citing FHL microfilm 1,040,542, item 8.
[2] “Stretham Marriages 1558 – 1952,” PDF extract, Cambridge Family History Society (https://www.cfhs.org.uk/tokens/tokpub.cfm : downloaded 2 September 2017), >Casben >Stretham >Stretham Marriages 1558 – 1952, 3 Nov 1866; citing Stretham (Cambridgeshire) parish records.
[3] Indiana, Porter County, Marriage Record, vol. 4 [Sep 1871-Jan 1875], p. 348, 8 Jan 1876; browsable images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/film/005014495?cat=608739 : accessed 8 Apr 2020) > Film # 005014494 >image 693 of 928.
[4] Cambridgeshire, England, Meldreth Parish, Register of baptisms (1806–1812), baptisms 1807; accessed as “Parish registers for Meldreth, 1681-1877,” browsable images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/search/film/007567609?cat=210742 : accessed 28 April 2017), image 137; citing FHL microfilm 1,040,542, item 3.
[5] “England Marriages, 1538–1973 ,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:N2QC-7QV : accessed 19 October 2015), James Casbon and Ann Mitch, 15 Dec 1827; citing FHL microfilm 990,377.
[6] Cambridgeshire, England Melbourne Parish, Bishop’s transcripts for Melbourne, 1599-1847, (marriages beginning 1814) unnumbered page, no. 160, Wm Casbon & Mary Cooper, 14 Mar 1829; browsable images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/film/007672882?cat=1109075 : accessed 12 Jul 2016) >image 529 of 682; citing FHL microfilm 2,358,010, item 2.
[7] Indiana, Starke County, marriage records, v. 10 (June 1934-January 1937), pp. 392–3, marriage license application; imaged in ” Marriage records, 1850-1957″, browsable images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/film/007742312?cat=574765 : accessed 27 Mar 19) > image 392 of 716; citing FHL film 2447544, item 3.

Occupations

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.

A Coming-of-Age Celebration

I wasn’t planning on writing about this family again so soon, but I was drawn to this article in the October 24, 1908 Bury (Lancashire, England) Times.[1]

Newspaper image © The British Library Board; all rights reserved; with thanks to The British Newspaper Archive (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk) (Click on image to enlarge)

I was struck by both the importance of the occasion and the detailed reporting of the evening’s festivities. It paints such a vivid picture of a bygone era. I tried to find out more about the tradition of the coming-of-age celebration, but it does not seem to be well documented. In this case, Miss Casbon (Nellie) had just turned 21. This was the age of majority, when a young person gained full control over their lives by law.[2] In the U.K., the age of majority was finally reduced to 18 in 1975.[3]

Here in the U.S. 21 is the age when people can legally drink alcohol in many states. That occasion is frequently celebrated, often to excess, but not in such a dignified manner. The only other coming-of-age celebration I can think of in the U.S. is a “sweet sixteen” party, but that doesn’t have the level of formality and maturity described in the article above.

I wonder when the tradition started and when it ended? In England there was a long tradition of aristocratic debutantes being presented to the monarch as their formal introduction to society. I suspect that as the middle class became more prominent in 19th century Britain, it became economically and socially feasible to have similar celebrations for non-aristocratic young women.

It certainly sounds like a memorable and joyful occasion – musical performances, singing, “selections on a gramophone.” I love the detailed description of each of the presents along with the names of the gift-givers.

“Nellie” was Helen Marshall Casbon, daughter of Alfred Hitch Casbon junior and his wife Margaret Marshall. Alfred and his father, Alfred Hitch senior, were both subjects of my previous post. Nellie also had a younger sister, Laura Marshall Casbon. She was one year younger than Nellie, so I expect she would have had a similar celebration one year later. Unfortunately, the online archive of the Bury Times does not extend beyond 1909, and I haven’t located a similar article for Laura.

Nellie never married, and in 1939, she was still living in the house at 41 East Street in Bury.[4] Her occupation in 1911 was listed as Milliner, and in 1939 as “Cotton winder.”[5],[6]

Detail from the 1939 Register, Bury, Lancashire; the “41” on the far left is the house address on East Street (Click on image to enlarge)


Google Street View™ image of 41 East Street, Bury, Lancashire, England; it is the one with the red door; this is where Alfred Hitch Casbon junior’s family lived from at least 1891 through 1939 or later; this block of houses looks largely unchanged since the 19th century (aside from the automobiles and satellite dishes!)

Nellie died 1976 in Bury (I bet she still had most of those gifts!).[7] Her sister Laura married a man named Cairns in 1936, and I haven’t been able to trace her whereabouts since
then.[8]

[1] “Coming-of-Age Celebration.” The Bury (Lancashire, England) Times, 24 November 1908, p. 10, col. 2; pdf image, The British Newspaper Collection,” findmypast http://search.findmypast.com/bna/viewarticle?id=bl%2f0000315%2f19081024%2f261 : accessed 17 March 2017).
[2] “Age of majority,” Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Age_of_majority : accessed 17 March 2017), rev. 16 Mar 17, 11:44.
[3] “Timeline of young people’s rights in the United Kingdom,” Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_young_people’s_rights_in_the_United_Kingdom : accessed 17 March 2017), rev. 8 Mar 17, 21:48.
[4][4] “1939 Register,” image and transcription, findmypast (http://search.findmypast.com/record?id=tna%2fr39%2f4314%2f4314j%2f019%2f21 : accessed 8 March 2017), entry for Helen M Casbon (born 19 Oct 1887), East Street , Bury C.B., Lancashire ; citing [The National Archives], RG101/4314J/019/21.
[5] “1911 Census of England and Wales,”  image and transcription, findmypast (http://search.findmypast.com/record?id=gbc%2f1911%2frg14%2f23516%2f0111%2f1 : accessed 8 March 2017), Helen Marshall Casbon in entry for Alf H Casbon (age 57), East St, Bury, Lancashire, England; citing [The National Archives], census reference RG14PN23516 RG78PN1371 RD462 SD5 ED5 SN56.
[6] “1939 Register,” entry for Helen M Casbon.
[7] “England & Wales Deaths 1837-2007,” Bury, Lancashire, England, vol. 38:0387; database, findmypast (http://search.findmypast.com/record?id=bmd%2fd%2f1976%2f3%2faz%2f000162%2f103 : accessed 18 March 2017), entry for Helen Marshall Casbon, 3d quarter, 1976.
[8] “England & Wales Marriages 1837-2008,” Wallasey, Cheshire, England, vol. 8A: 1329, findmypast (http://search.findmypast.com/record?id=bmd%2fm%2f1936%2f4%2faz%2f000195%2f050 : accessed 8 March 2017), Frederick Cairns & Laura M Casbon, 4th quarter, 1936.

A Family of Tailors

We’ve already met Alfred Hitch Casbon. He’s the guy whose middle name was transcribed as “Jitel” (see “Without a Hitch”). He was the son of James (Howse) Casbon (1806–1871) by his first wife, Ann Hitch.

Alfred Hitch Casbon was born September 4, 1828 in Melbourn, Cambridgeshire and baptized in the “non-conformist” Independent church December 7th of the same year.[1] He spent his early years in Meldreth with his family. By 1851, however, “Hitch” was working as a tailor, and living in the town of Sandiacre, Derbyshire, England.[2]

Detail from 1851 census, Sandiacre, Derbyshire, England (Click on image to enlarge)

For reasons unknown, he decided to be baptized again as an adult into the Church of England, in 1851.[3] Perhaps this had something to do with his upcoming marriage. He married Charlotte (Haines) Hornby, a widow, on August 9, 1852.[4]

Marriage record of Alfred Hitch Casbon and Charlotte Hornby, August 9, 1852 (Click on image to enlarge)

Alfred and Charlotte had a son, also named Alfred Hitch, in 1853.[5] Charlotte died in 1866,[6] and Alfred remarried in 1867, this time to Elizabeth Ryder, a previously unmarried woman.[7] Their first child, Arthur Hitch, born in 1868, lived only a matter of days.[8] Their second son was born in 1870 and named Harry Hitch Casbon.[9] Thus, Alfred Hitch Casbon had two surviving sons, born 17 years apart.

Alfred moved around quite a bit during his working years. His first marriage was in Hackney (London).[10] Arthur was baptized and buried in Haddenham (near Ely).[11] Harry was baptized in Ely proper.[12] By 1861 Alfred was again living in Hackney and in 1871 he was in Kent.[13], [14]

By 1881 he finally settled down for good, in Bury, Lancashire. The census of that year is the only one that shows Alfred, his wife, and both surviving sons together.[15]

Page from 1881 Census, Bury, Lancashire, England (Click on image to enlarge)

By this point, Alfred senior seems to have attained some stability in his occupation. He employed an apprentice and machinist. Alfred junior had also learned the tailor’s trade. Alfred senior died at Bury in 1887.[16] His widow Elizabeth died in 1904.[17]

Meanwhile, Alfred junior was married in 1885 to Margaret Marshall, the daughter of a baker.[18] In the 1891 census, Alfred and Margaret were listed in separate locations, Alfred as a lodger in Brighton, Sussex, and Margaret as head of household in Bury.[19], [20] Perhaps this was due to a temporary work situation for Alfred, as they were together again in Bury for the 1901 census.[21] Alfred and Helen had two daughters, Helen and Laura, born 1887 and 1888, respectively.[22], [23]

In the 1911 census, Alfred described his specialty as “gentlemens tailoring.”[24]

Schedule from 1911 Census, Bury, Lancashire, England.(Click on image to enlarge)

This census also shows that daughter Helen was employed as a milliner and Laura as an elementary school teacher. This census image is also interesting because it shows the actual form completed by Alfred and provided to the census enumerator. Prior to 1911 these forms, known as schedules, have been lost, and only the summary sheets completed by the census enumerators survive. Alfred’s wife Margaret died 1934 in Bury, and Alfred died one year later, also in Bury.[25], [26]

By 1891, Harry Hitch, the youngest son, was also a tailor.[27] He married Elizabeth Bradshaw in 1897.[28] In the 1891 and 1901 censuses, Harry was living in Radcliffe, Lancashire, not far from Bury.[29] In 1911 he was living in Bury again.[30]

Detail from 1911 Census, Bury, Lancashire, England (Click on image to enlarge)

Unlike their father, both Alfred junior and Harry were listed as “workers”—not employers—on the census forms. In the 1939 register (similar to a census – taken just after the outbreak of war), Harry is listed as a Journeyman Tailor – retired.[31] The word journeyman implies that he could serve as an employee, but had not fulfilled all the requirements to be a master tailor and hence could not be self-employed. Harry and Elizabeth never had children. Harry died 1943 in Fylde, Lancashire, and Helen died 1956 in Blackpool, Lancashire.[32], [33]

Here’s a chart showing how the “Hitch’s” are descended from the Meldreth Casbon branch.

(Click on image to enlarge)

[1] “England & Wales Non-Conformist Births and Baptisms”, Hitch Casbon (born 4 Sep 1828, baptized 7 December 1828); images and transcriptions, findmypast (http://search.findmypast.com/record?id=tna%2frg4%2fbap%2f183809 : accessed 10 Jan 2017); citing The National Archives, TNA/RG/4/155.
[2] “1851 Census of England, Wales & Scotland,” image and transcription, findmypast (http://search.findmypast.com/record?id=gbc%2f1851%2f0013258922 : accessed 8 March 2017), entry for Hitch Casbourn (age 22) in household of William Raynor,Sandiacre, Shardlow, Derbyshire,  ; citing [The National Archives], HO 107, piece 2141, folio 241, p. 241 (stamped).
[3] Meldreth Parish (Cambridgeshire, England), Parish registers for Meldreth, 1681-1877, Alfred Hitch Casbon baptism, 25 Oct 1851; FHL microfilm 1,040,542.
[4] “London, England, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1754-1921,” Alfred Hitch Casbon & Charlotte Hornby, 9 August 1852; images and transcriptions, Ancestry (www.ancestry.com : accessed 10 August 2016); citing London Metropolitan Archives, London.
[5] “England & Wales births 1837-2006,” Alfred Hitch Casbon; database, findmypast (http://search.findmypast.com/record?id=bmd%2fb%2f1853%2f2%2fah%2f000619%2f035 : accessed 8 March 2017); citing Hackney, London, England, 2d quarter, 1853, vol. 1B: 263.
[6] “London, England, Church of England Deaths and Burials, 1813-1980,” Parish of West Hackney, Middlesex, England; transcriptions and images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 17 February 2017), entry for Charlotte Casbon, buried 13 November 1866; citing Board of Guardian Records, 1834-1906 and Church of England Parish Registers, 1813-1906. London Metropolitan Archives, London.
[7] “London, England, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1754-1921,” Alfred Hitch Casbon & Elizabeth Ryder, 15 April 1867; Ancestry (accessed 10 August 2016).
[8] Cambridge Family History Society, “Cambridgeshire Burials,” transcripts, findmypast (http://search.findmypast.com/record?id=gbprs%2fd%2f403340357%2f1 : accessed 8 March 2017), entry for Arthur Hitch Casbon, 17 Aug 1868, Haddenham, Cambridgeshire, England.
[9] Cambridge Family History Society, “Cambridgeshire Baptisms,” transcripts, findmypast (http://search.findmypast.com/record?id=gbprs%2fb%2f323517931%2f1 : accessed 31 Jan 2017), entry for Harry Hitch Casbon, born 25 May 1870, baptized 21 Jun 1870, Ely (Cambridgeshire), Wesleyan Methodist [Church].
[10]  “London, England, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1754-1921,” Casbon & Hornby, 9 August 1852.
[11] Cambridge Family History Society, “Cambridgeshire Burials,” Arthur Hitch Casbon, 17 Aug 1868.
[12] Cambridge Family History Society, “Cambridgeshire Baptisms,” Harry Hitch Casbon, born 25 May 1870.
[13] “1861 Census of England and Wales,” image and transcriptions, findmypast (http://search.findmypast.com/record?id=gbc%2f1861%2f0000993933 : accessed 26 Jan 2017), entry for Alfred Cashon (age 32), Marys Place, Hackney, London; citing [The National Archives], RG 09, piece 155, folio 155, p. 63.
[14] “1871 Census of England, Wales & Scotland,” image and transcriptions, findmypast (http://search.findmypast.com/record?id=gbc%2f1871%2f0014306938 : accessed 8 March 2017), entry for Alfred W Casban, Alexandria Road, St Lawrence, Thanet, Kent; citing [The National Archives], RG 10, piece 997, folio 70, p. 18.
[15] “1881 Census of England, Wales & Scotland,” image and transcriptions, findmypast (http://search.findmypast.com/record?id=gbc%2f1881%2f0017803564 : accessed 8 March 2017), entry for Alfred K Casbon (age 52), Regent Street, Bury, Lancashire; citing [The National Archives], RG 11, piece 2864, folio 96, p. 22.
[16] “England & Wales Deaths 1837-2007,” Bury, Lancashire, England, vol. 8C, p. 404; database, findmypast  (http://search.findmypast.com/record?id=bmd%2fd%2f1887%2f4%2faz%2f000060%2f108 : accessed 8 March 2017), entry for Alfred Hitch Casbon (age 59), 4th quarter, 1887.
[17] “England & Wales Deaths 1837-2007,” Preston, Lancashire, England, vol. 8E: 363; findmypast (http://search.findmypast.com/record?id=bmd%2fd%2f1904%2f3%2faz%2f000060%2f351 : accessed 14 March 2017), entry for Elizabeth Casbon (age 75), 3d quarter, 1904.
[18] Parish of St Thomas Bradford, Yorkshire, England, Alfred Hitch Casbon & Margaret Marshall, 18 October 1885; transcripts and images, “West Yorkshire, England, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1813-1935,” Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 17 February 2017); citing Yorkshire Parish Records, West Yorkshire Archive Service, Wakefield, Yorkshire.
[19] “1891 Census of England Wales & Scotland,”  image and transcription, findmypast (http://search.findmypast.com/record?id=gbc%2f1891%2f0006364915 : accessed 8 March 2017), entry for entry for Alfred H Casbon (age 37) in household of George Luste[?se], Belgrave Street, Brighton, Sussex, England; citing [The National Archives], R 12, piece 806, folio 71, p. 31.
[20]  “1891 Census of England Wales & Scotland,” image and transcription, findmypast (http://search.findmypast.com/record?id=gbc%2f1891%2f0021545025 : accessed 8 March 2017), entry for Margaret Casbon (age 41), East Street, Bury, Lancashire, England; citing [The National Archives], RG 34, piece 3136, folio 50, p. 34.
[21] “1901 Census of England, Wales & Scotland,” image and transcription, findmypast  (http://search.findmypast.com/record?id=gbc%2f1901%2f0024703844 : accessed 8 March 2017), entry for Alfred H Cashon (age 47), East Street, Bury, Lancashire, England; citing [The National Archives], RG 13, piece 3645, folio 120, p. 33.
[22] “England & Wales births 1837-2006,” Bury, Lancashire, England, vol. 8C: 533; database, findmypast (http://search.findmypast.com/record?id=bmd%2fb%2f1887%2f4%2faz%2f000095%2f116 : accessed 15 March 2017), entry for Helen Marshall Casbon, 4th quarter, 1887.
[23] “England & Wales births 1837-2006,” Bury, Lancashire, England, vol. 8C: 560; database, findmypast (http://search.findmypast.com/record?id=bmd%2fb%2f1888%2f4%2faz%2f000095%2f356 : accessed 15 March 2017), entry for Laura Marshall Casbon, 4th quarter, 1888.
[24] “1911 Census of England and Wales,”  image and transcription, findmypast (http://search.findmypast.com/record?id=gbc%2f1911%2frg14%2f23516%2f0111%2f1 : accessed 8 March 2017), entry for Alf H Casbon (age 57), East St, Bury, Lancashire, England; citing [The National Archives], census reference RG14PN23516 RG78PN1371 RD462 SD5 ED5 SN56.
[25] “England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1966,” database and images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 10 August 2016), Casbon, Margaret, 12 July 1934; citing Principal Probate Registry, Calendar of the Grants of Probate and Letters of Administration made in the Probate Registries of the High Court of Justice in England, London.
[26] “England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1966,” database and images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 10 August 2016), Casbon, Alfred Hitch, 5 May 1935; citing Principal Probate Registry, Calendar of the Grants of Probate and Letters of Administration made in the Probate Registries of the High Court of Justice in England, London.
[27] “1891 Census of England Wales & Scotland,” image and transcription, findmypast  (http://search.findmypast.com/record?id=gbc%2f1891%2f0021600165 : accessed 8 March 2017), entry for Harry Casbon, West Street, Radcliffe, Bury, Lancashire; citing [The National Archives], RG 12, piece 3143, folio 47, p. 13.
[28] “England & Wales Marriages 1837-2008,” Bury, Lancashire, England, vol. 8c: 882; database, findmypast (http://search.findmypast.com/record?id=bmd%2fm%2f1897%2f3%2faz%2f000060%2f188 : accessed 16 March 2017), entry for Harry Hitch Casbon [& Elizabeth Bradshaw], 3d quarter, 1897.
[29] “1901 Census of England, Wales & Scotland,” image and transcription, findmypast (http://search.findmypast.com/record?id=gbc%2f1901%2f0024729035 : accessed 8 March 2017), entry for Harry H Casbon (age 30), Wellington Street, Radcliffe, Bury, Lancashire, England; citing [The National Archives], RG 13, piece 3648, folio 90, p. 14.
[30] “1911 Census of England and Wales,” image and transcription, findmypast (http://search.findmypast.com/record?id=gbc%2f1911%2frg14%2f23523%2f0577%2f1 : accessed 8 March 2017), entry for Harry Hitch Casbon, Nelson St, Bury, Lancashire;  citing [The National Archives], RG14PN23523 RG78PN1371 RD462 SD5 ED12 SN286.
[31] “1939 Register,” image and transcription, findmypast (http://search.findmypast.com/record?id=TNA%2FR39%2F4258%2F4258A%2F014%2F19 : accessed 8 March 2017), entry for Harry H Casbon (born 25 May 1870), Collyhurst Avenue , Blackpool C.B., Lancashire; citing [The National Archives], RG101/4258A/014/19.
[32] “England & Wales Deaths 1837-2007,” Fylde, Lancashire, vol. 8E: 858; database, findmypast (http://search.findmypast.com/record?id=bmd%2fd%2f1943%2f1%2faz%2f000164%2f105 : accessed 16 March 2017), entry for Harry H Casbon (age 72), 1st quarter, 1943.
[33]  “England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1966,” database and images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 17 February 2017), Casbon, Elizabeth, 24 April 1956; citing Principal Probate Registry, Calendar of the Grants of Probate and Letters of Administration made in the Probate Registries of the High Court of Justice in England, London.

James Casbon, Farmer and Carrier, 1806-1871, Part 2

Part 1 of this series ended with the death of James’ wife of 16 years, Susanna Hayden Sanders. The next chapter of James’ life was turbulent, as he faced significant legal, financial, and domestic challenges.

The first record of this period is the 1851 census.[1]

Detail from 1851 census, Meldreth, Cambridgeshire (Click on image to enlarge)

We see from this census record that James was not present at the time the census was taken. The first listing is for his son John, age 15. There is a notation, “Hedd [Head] from home,” indicating that James was away for unknown reasons. The occupation is listed as “Farmer 13 acres & Carier [Carrier].” This occupation almost certainly applies to James, not his son John. The census enumerator has even written the occupation above the line on the form, possibly to make this clear.

This is the first indication that James had another occupation besides being a farmer. A Carrier was “a person who drove a vehicle used to transport goods.”[2] In today’s terms, we would probably say he was in the freight and delivery business – the Victorian version of FedEx®. When James became a carrier is unknown, but if he was already working as a carrier in 1834, it would explain why he was in London when he married Susanna Hayden Sanders.

This detail from a village directory for Barley, Hertfordshire (more about that later) shows James’ delivery schedule.[3] He probably had arrangements for lodging in London during his weekly visits.

Detail from Barley (Hertfordshire) directory, 1864 (Click on image to enlarge)

We also see from the 1851 census that only three of the seven children are listed: John; George, age 14; and Fanny, age 6. By this time, son Alfred Hitch Casbon was working as a tailor in Derbyshire.[4] Daughter Martha, age 12, can be found in the household of her maternal uncle Zacheriah Sanders on the 1851 Census.[5] Sarah was with her maternal grandparents, John and Ann Sanders.[6] I haven’t been able to locate the oldest daughter Ann, but I know from later records that she was alive. I wonder if these daughters were taken in by relatives after Susanna’s death, to ease the burden on James.

The census also shows us that James had a housekeeper, a maid, and two lodgers.

The first hint of financial troubles appears in 1851. This article from the Hertford Mercury shows that James was brought to court for a debt of 8£, 10s.[7] I can’t be certain this is the same James, but based on later developments, it seems likely.

Article from Hertford Mercury, July 5, 1851 (Click on image to enlarge); Newspaper image © The British Library Board; all rights reserved; with thanks to The British Newspaper Archive (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk) (Click on image to enlarge)

James married again, this time to Charlotte (Webb) Cheyney, a widow. They were married December 1, 1851, in Hackney, Middlesex, London. [8]

Article from Hertford Mercury, July 5, 1851; Newspaper image © The British Library Board; all rights reserved; with thanks to The British Newspaper Archive (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk) (Click on image to enlarge)

In 1853, James’ suffered a severe financial setback. He was unable to pay his debts and was placed in debtors’ prison in London. [9]

Article from The London Gazette, 20 Mar 1853 (Click on image to enlarge)

This article describes him as a farmer and general dealer, and gives him a London address. Is this the right James? Yes – the next article tells us enough to be certain.[10]

Article from The London Gazette, 13 May 1853 (Click on image to enlarge)

This article tells us that James was “formerly of Meldreth, Cambridgeshire,” and a “Farmer, Carrier, Dealer in Hats, and General Dealer.” Other than saying he is “latterly out of business,” the articles don’t give an indication of how much debt he owed or to whom. I suspect that it was his business as a dealer, in hats or “general,” that got him in trouble. Later records, such as the directory entry, above, show that he continued to work as a carrier.

I don’t have access to the court records and don’t know how long he was imprisoned or how he settled the claims against him, but he apparently made it out of prison before November, 1854. In that month he was “charged by his wife with assaulting her and turning her out of doors.”[11]

Article from the Hertford Mercury, 25 Nov 1854; Newspaper image © The British Library Board; all rights reserved; with thanks to The British Newspaper Archive (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk) (Click on image to enlarge)

Although “cruel treatment was clearly proved,” James’ wife Charlotte is described as a “Tartar,” which was a term meaning “a person of bitter, irritable temper; especially, an irascible domineering woman; as. that man who marries a tartar is to be profoundly pitied.”[12]

Besides telling us about the unhappy state of his third marriage, this article is the first record showing that James was no longer living in Meldreth. Sometime within the past few years he had relocated to Barley, a village in Hertfordshire, a village about 5 miles south of Meldreth.

The records do not show why he moved to Barley. However, the move was permanent. The 1861 census shows James, still employed as a carrier, living in Barley with his son John, also a carrier, and daughter Fanny.[13]

Detail from 1861 census, Barley, Hertfordshire (Click on image to enlarge)

Son George, a wheelwright, was also living in Barley in 1861, with his new in-laws.[14]

Notably, James’ wife Charlotte is not seen in the 1861 census. I have not been able to find any record of her after the 1854 court case.

This census is also interesting in that James has a middle initial, “H.” Earlier records do not provide a middle name or initial for James. However, on his daughter Sarah’s marriage record of 1873 (after James’ death), her father’s name is recorded as “James Howse Casbon.”[15] Howse was his mother Mary’s maiden name, so this is apparently the meaning of the “H” in the 1861 census.

I’ll end James’s story with another mystery about his middle initial. James was buried February 4, 1871 in Barley. The parish register for his burial shows his middle initial to be “I,” or possibly “J.”[16]

Detail from 1861 census, Barley, Hertfordshire (Click on image to enlarge)

The civil record of James’ death, lists his name as James Itchcock Casbon.[17] There is no doubt this is the same James Casbon. Where did “Itchcock” come from? I have no idea.

[1]  “1851 England, Scotland and Wales census,” database and images, Findmypast (http://www.findmypast.com : accessed 23 July 2016), entry for John Casbon, High Street, Meldreth; citing [The National Archives] PRO HO 107/1708/56, p. 5; Royston (Hertfordshire) registration district.
[2] “Victorian Occupations,” Carrier, London Census 1891 Transcription Blog (http://www.census1891.com/occupations-all.php : accessed 24 January 2017).
[3] “Barley,” History, Topography, & Directory of Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire (London: 1864), p. 241; digital images, Google Books (https://books.google.com : accessed 24 January 2017).
[4] “1851 England, Scotland and Wales census,” Findmypast (accessed 9 August 2016), entry for Hitch Casbourn, Lodger, Street Side, Sandiacre, Derbyshire; citing [The National Archives] PRO HO 107/2141/241, p. 241 (stamped); Shardlow registration district.
[5] “1851 Census … ,” Findmypast (accessed 9 August 2016), entry for Martha Casbarn, Niece, Rowley Yard, St. Giles, Cambridge; citing [The National Archives] PRO HO 107/1760/867, p. 887 (stamped); Cambridge registration district.
[6] “1851 Census …,” Findmypast (accessed 13 January 2017), entry for Sarah Casbon, granddaughter, High Street, Royston, Hertfordshire; citing [The National Archives] PRO HO 107/1708/56, p. 423 (stamped); Royston registration district.
[7] “Hertford County Court.—Friday June 27,” Hertford (Hertfordshire, England) Mercury, 5 July 1851, No. 885, vol. 17, p. 4, col. 4,  James Mason v. James Casbon; online images, Findmypast (http://search.findmypast.com/search/bna : accessed 7 November 2016), British Newspapers 1710-1953.
[8] “London, England, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1754-1921”, James Casbon – Charlotte Webb Cheney (1851), images and transcriptions, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 10 August 2016); citing London Metropolitan Archives.
[9] “Court for Relief of Insolvent Debtors, ” The London Gazette, 20 Mar 1853, Issue 21,425, p. 943, col. 2; online archive (https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/21425/page/943 – accessed 17 Jun 2016).
[10] “Court for Relief of Insolvent Debtors, ” The London Gazette, 20 Mar 1853, Issue 21,425, p. 943, col. 2; online archive (https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/21425/page/943 – accessed 17 Jun 2016).
[11] “Royston … Petty Sessions, Wednesday, November 15,” Hertford Mercury, 25 Nov 1854, p.3, col. 4; Findmypast (accessed 7 November 2016), British Newspapers 1710-1953.
[12] Zells’s Popular Encyclopedia: a Complete Dictionary of the English Language, 5 vols. (Philadelphia: T. Ellwood Zell, 1882), vol. 4, p. 2332, entry for “Tartar”; online image, Google Books (https://books.google.com : accessed 26 January 2017).
[13] “1861 England, Wales & Scotland Census,” Findmypast (accessed 2 August 2016), entry for James H Casbon, Chequer Corner, Barley, Hertfordshire; citing The National Archives, RG 9, piece 812, folio 85, p. 5; Royston registration district, ED 6, household 23.
[14] “1861 England, Wales & Scotland Census,” Findmypast (accessed 4 August 2016), entry for George Casbon (Son In Law), Smith End, Barley, Hertfordshire; citing The National Archives, RG 9, piece 812, folio 76, p. 14; Royston registration district, ED 5, household 77.
[15] St. Philips Dalson church, Hackney (London) parish, marriages 1873, Herbert EdmundLeader – Sarah Sanders Casbon, 28 Apr 1873; accessed in “London, England, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1754-1921”, images and transcriptions, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 10 August 2016).
[16] Parish of Barley (Hertfordshire), Burials 1870-71, James I Casbon, 4 Feb 1871; accessed in “Hertfordshire Burials,” images and transcriptions, Findmypast (accessed 13 January 2017).
[17] “England & Wales Deaths 1837-2007,” James Itchcock Casbon, Deaths registered in January, February and March 1871, p. 56, col. 2; image and transcription, Findmypast (accessed 13 January 2017).

James Casbon, Farmer and Carrier, 1806-1871, Part 1

James Casbon of Meldreth (~1772-1833) had only one son, also named James, who is the subject of today’s post. He was born September 7, 1806 and baptized September 28 in the same year.[1]

Detail from Meldreth Bishop’s Transcripts, showing birth and baptismal dates for James Casbon, 1806 (Click on image to enlarge)

He was a first cousin to my third great grandfather, Thomas (b. 1803), and the nephew of Thomas’ father Isaac.

There is so much interesting information about James that I decided to break his story into more than one post. Of course, as always, I have more questions than answers.

The first record I have after his baptism is his marriage in 1827 to Ann Hitch, in Steeple Morden, a village about 6 miles west of Meldreth.[2]

Marriage record of James Casbon and Ann Hitch (Click on image to enlarge)

James and Ann had one child, Alfred Hitch Casbon, whose middle name was the subject of a recent post. Ann died 1833 in Meldreth, leaving James with their five-year-old son.[3]

James remarried soon thereafter, on August 22, 1834, to Susanna Hayden Sanders.[4]

Marriage record of James Casbon and Ann Hitch (Click on image to enlarge)

This record is most interesting because of the location: the parish of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, a famous church in Westminster, London.

“St.Martin’s Church from Charing Cross” engraved by J.Woods, published in Woods Views in London .., 1837; image courtesy of ancestryimages.com (Click on image to enlarge)

The question I have is, what was James doing in London? The marriage record says that both he and his bride were “of this parish.” This phrase usually means the individual(s) had resided in the parish for at least three weeks.[5] I can’t answer this question, unless it was related to James’ occupation as a carrier (more about this in the next post). His bride Susanna was not from London either, so her presence there is also unexplained.

There is another noteworthy detail from both of James’ marriage records. He did not sign with his mark, suggesting that he could read and write. This sets him apart from many if not all of the other Casbons in Meldreth.

Another logical question is, how do I know this is the right James? That will also be the topic of another post. For now, suffice it to say that there is a strong chain of evidence supporting my conclusion that the James Casbon who married Susanna Hayden Sanders in London is the same one born in Meldreth in 1806.

The next record I have of James is the 1841 census of England and Wales.[6]

Detail from 1841 Census, Meldreth Parish (Click on image to enlarge)

There are several interesting things to learn from this census record. First note that James’ age is reported as 34 and Susanna’s as 33. Census enumerators weren’t required to use exact ages in 1841. In fact, they were instructed to round ages between 30 and 34 down to 30.[7] Apparently the enumerator ignored the instructions. The “yes” on the far right of each page indicates that they were born in the “same County,” in this case Cambridgeshire. In Susanna’s case, this is incorrect. I have good evidence that she was born in Hertfordshire.[8]

We can see that by 1841, James and Susanna already had a sizeable family, including Hitch, age 12, from James’ previous marriage. The other children were: John, age 6; George, 5; Ann, 3; and Martha, 1.

What I find most interesting about this census is James’ occupation of Farmer. This term has a distinctly different meaning than Agricultural Labourer. A farmer either owned the land, or more likely was a tenant of the landowner.[9] Farmers hired Agricultural labourers, who were paid with wages or perhaps a share of crops. A farmer had at least some security because he had certain rights to the land and its proceeds. The agricultural labourer was at the mercy of the farmer and did not have guaranteed employment.[10]

James was clearly better off socially and financially than the other Meldreth Casbons at that time. This is supported by another detail in the 1841 census. The final name listed in James’ household is Martha Smith, age 19. The initials “F.S.” under profession, etc. stands for female servant.[11] The fact that James could afford to have a servant puts him in a different league compared to his “Ag. Lab” Casbon cousins.

This raises yet another question: how did James acquire this status? I don’t know the answer, but I recently became aware of a clue.

The Meldreth History web site has an informative article about the enclosure of Meldreth in 1820.[12] Enclosure (or inclosure) was a legal process by which previously open fields were closed off and allotted to individual owners.[13] Enclosure resulted in dramatic shifts in agricultural and labor practices. The Meldreth article provides a link to a transcript of the Award Book for the Meldreth enclosure.[14] This document details how the enclosure was to be accomplished and spells out individual land allotments, much like modern land titles.[15]

One entry in the 1820 Award Book is a copyhold allotment to James Casbourn.[16] The allotment is for “one acre three roods and twenty nine perches.” Copyhold is a term that goes back to the Middle Ages, and it means that the individual, or copyholder, is a tenant of the landowner, with specific rights and duties.[17] The copyhold allotted to James Casbourn was heritable, meaning it could be passed from father to son (or other legal heir).[18]

Who was the James Casbourn of the Award Book? According to my records, there was only one living adult named James Casbo[ur]n in the Meldreth area in 1820: James (1772-1833), the father of this post’s subject. As his only son, James, born in 1806, would almost certainly have been the heir and inheritor of the copyhold.

I don’t know this for a fact, and if correct, it still leaves the question of how and when the copyhold was granted to a member of the Casbon family. This information might be contained in the records of the (“Sheene”) manor, but I don’t have access to those records at this time.

James’ domestic life was shaken by tragedy when his second wife Susanna died in 1850. She was buried in Meldreth on March 29th of that year.[19] The cause of her death is unrecorded. By this time, two more daughters had been born: Sarah Sanders, born about 1844; and Fanny S., born about 1846.[20],[21] Once again, James was a single parent.

The next post will pick up where this one left off.

[1] Parish of Meldreth (Cambridgeshire), “Bishop’s transcripts for Meldreth, 1599-1862,” James Casbon baptism, 28 September 1806; browsable images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-C9T9-NFMB?i=270 : accessed 5 November 2015).
[2] Parish of Steeple Morden (Cambridgeshire), “Bishop’s transcripts for Steeple-Morden, 1599-1855,” James Casbon – Ann Hitch marriage, 15 December 1827; browsable images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-C9T9-CT2T?i=326&cat=110868 : accessed 4 August 2016).
[3] Parish of Meldreth (Cambridgeshire), Parish registers for Meldreth, 1681-1877, Ann Carsbourn burial (1833); FHL microfilm 1,040,542.
[4] “Westminster Marriages”, images and transriptions, Findmypast (http://www.findmypast.com : accessed 17 January 2017), James Casbon – Susanna Hayden Sanders (1834); citing City of Westminster Archives Centre.
[5] Fawne Stratford-Devai, “English & Welsh Roots – Parish Records in England and Wales,” GlobalGenealogy.com, 11 June 1999 (http://globalgenealogy.com/globalgazette/gazfd/gazfd28.htm : accessed 19 January 2017), para. 17 [“1754”].
[6] 1841 Census of England and Wales, Cambridgeshire, Meldreth, p. 9 (stamped), James Casbon; image, Findmypast (http://www.findmypast.com : accessed 4 August 2016); citing [The National Archives], HO 107, piece no. 63, Book no. 19, folio no. 9, p. 12.
[7] Guy Etchells, “Directions 1841: Respecting the manner in which Entries may be made in the Enumeration Schedule,” 2005; Rootsweb (http://freepages.history.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~framland/census/1841directions.htm : accessed 19 January 2017), para. 11.
[8] “Hertfordshire Baptisms”, images and transcriptions, Findmypast (accessed 17 January 2017), Susnah Hayden Sanders (1808).
[9] “Agriculture and the Labourer,” Cambridgeshire History (http://www.cambridgeshirehistory.com/People/agriculturallabourers.html : accessed 19 January 2017), para. 31.
[10] “Agriculture and the Labourer,” Cambridgeshire History, para. 6.
[11] Etchells, “Directions 1841 … ,”Rootsweb, para. 15.
[12] Kathryn Betts, “Enclosure in Meldreth, 1820,” Meldreth History (http://www.meldrethhistory.org.uk/page/enclosure_in_meldreth : accessed 19 January 2017).
[13] “Enclosure,” Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org: accessed 19 January 2017), rev. 06:32, 17 Jan 2017.
[14] Arnold Stanford, transcriber, “Inclosure Act 1820 Meldreth Award Book,” 2014; PDF, Meldreth History (http://www.meldrethhistory.org.uk/documents/Meldreth_Award_Book_complete2.pdf ; accessed 19 January 2017)
[15] “England Enclosure Records, Awards, Maps, Schedules (National Institute),” FamilySearch Wiki (https://familysearch.org/wiki/en/England_Enclosure_Records,_Awards,_Maps,_Schedules_(National_Institute) : accessed 19 January 2017), rev. 20:38, 4 Sep 2014.
[16] Stanford, transcriber; “…Meldreth Award Book,” p. 12, James Casbourn Copyhold Allotment; Meldreth History.
[17] “Copyhold,” Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org: accessed 19 January 2017), rev. 13:47, 3 December 2016.
[18] “Copyhold,” Wikipedia.
[19] Meldreth parish (Cambridgeshire), Parish registers for Meldreth, 1681-1877, Susannah Casbon burial (1850); FHL microfilm 1,040,542.
[20] “England & Wales births 1837-2006,” database, Findmypast (http://www.findmypast.com : accessed 29 October 2015), birth entry for Sarah Casbon; citing Birth Registration, Royston, Hertfordshire, England, 2nd quarter, 1844, vol. 6, p. 610.
[21] “England & Wales births 1837-2006,” Findmypast (accessed 2 August 2016), birth entry for Fanny Casbon; citing Birth Registration, Royston, Hertfordshire, England, 1st quarter, 1846, vol. 6, p. 591.

Without a Hitch

What would you say is this first name?

Don’t feel bad if you don’t know. One of the major online genealogy organizations didn’t know either. Here’s a screen shot of how the record was transcribed in FamilySearch.

https://familysearch.org/search/record/results?count=20&query=%2Bgivenname%3Ajitel~%20%2Bsurname%3Acasbon~ : accessed 11 January 2017 (Click on image to enlarge)

Did you think the name was “Jitel”?

So, what is FamilySearch? Here’s what the entry in Wikipedia says:

FamilySearch is a genealogy organization operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was previously known as the Genealogical Society of Utah (or “GSU”) and is the largest genealogy organization in the world. FamilySearch maintains a collection of records, resources, and services designed to help people learn more about their family history. FamilySearch gathers, preserves, and shares genealogical records worldwide. It offers free access to its resources and service online at FamilySearch.org.[1]

FamilySearch is the website I used the most for genealogy research. It’s easy to use, has millions of records, and it’s free. I also have a paid subscription to Findmypast, and I use a version of Ancestry at my local library. According to one source, as of January 1, 2017, FamilySearch had 2,180 historical record collections online containing 1.2 billion searchable documents and 5.57 billion searchable names; Ancestry had 32,795 databases with over 19 billion records; and Findmypast had 2,049 databases with over 2.0 billion records.[2] In addition, there are many other companies and organizations that provide online genealogy data, either for free or by paid subscription.

Where and how do these genealogy websites get their data? They purchase or borrow it from archives and repositories. These data sources exist at the national, state, and local levels. Some belong to governments, some belong to private organizations. In the case of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, they have copied and microfilmed vast quantities of records and stored them in a massive vault dug into the side of a mountain.

Most if not all of these archives consist of paper records. In order to make them available online the information in them has to be converted to searchable digital information. The process for doing this is referred to as indexing. At a minimum, indexing requires someone to transcribe the data from individual records and enter them into a database. Most often the records are scanned or photographed so that a digital image is created. Then someone transcribes the information into a database.

Records that are typed or printed might be scanned with optical character recognition (OCR) software. But OCR is not able to read handwritten records, so they must be transcribed by hand. FamilySearch relies on volunteers to do their indexing. I’ve done some indexing for FamilySearch. It can be challenging trying to read older styles of handwriting. Often the records are badly damaged from water, fire, sunlight, age, insects, etc.

Ancestry sends much of their data to other non-English speaking countries for transcription. Although they have good quality control mechanisms in place, you can see where errors might arise when non-native speakers try to interpret handwriting.

I’ve gone into this rather detailed explanation to try to make a couple points: 1) online genealogy databases are only as good as the quality of the indexing. This is not a criticism of the online providers – they provide a wonderful service and have made research much easier than the days when you had to visit the actual data repositories for research. 2) There is no substitute for being able to view the actual record, or at least a digital image of the record.

Which brings me back to the entry for “Jitel” Casbon. I originally found this entry when I was using FamilySearch to find descendants of James Casbon (1806-1871), son of James (“James Casbon of Meldreth (~1772-1833)”). This particular transcription is contained in a database called “England and Wales Non-Conformist Record Indexes (RG4-8), 1588-1977.” The index was “created by The National Archives in London as an online access to digital images created from the original records.”[3] Whoever transcribed the records for The National Archives came up with the name “Jitel.”

What is a nonconformist? In England, these are considered to be “people who did not belong to the established church,” i.e., the Church of England.[4] More specifically, in these records, nonconformists are members of other non-Anglican protestant denominations. “Jitel’s” parents (James and Ann) were nonconformists.

As you can see from the screenshot above, the FamilySearch entry did not have access to an image of the actual record. At the time, this was the only information I had, so I entered “Jitel” into my genealogy software program, hoping to get access to the actual record someday.

That day came this week, when I repeated my search in Findmypast, looking for anyone with the surname Casbon born between 1826 and 1830. It turns out that Findmypast has a collection named “England & Wales Non-Conformist Births and Baptisms.” Unlike FamilySearch, this collection includes digital images of the actual records from the National Archives. Here’s the record that turned up in my search.[5]

(Click on image to enlarge)

Also unlike FamilySearch, whoever indexed the record for Findmypast correctly transcribed the first name as “Hitch.” Can you see it?

Because of the handwriting, I can also see how the indexer for FamilySearch would have interpreted the first part of the “H” as a “J,” and the “ch” as “el.” The second part of the “H” looks like a small “l” to me. I might have transcribed it as “Jlitel.”

What kind of a name is “Hitch”? Well, it turns out that the child’s full name was Alfred Hitch Casbon. Hitch was his middle name. His mother’s maiden name was Ann Hitch. It was common at the time to use a family surname as a middle name. It was also common to use middle names or nicknames when registering births.

Of course, once I had access to the original record, and knowing the mother’s maiden name, it was easy to recognize the word “Hitch.” But without that information, it’s easy to see how a transcriber could make a mistake.

Another mystery solved. I’ll have more information about Alfred Hitch Casbon in a future post.

[1] Wikipedia (http://www.wikipedia.org : accessed 10 January 2017), “FamilySearch,” rev.14:26, 29 December 2016.
[2] Randall J. Seaver, “Genealogy Industry Benchmark Numbers for 1 January 2017,” Genea-Musings, 1 January 2017 (http://www.geneamusings.com/2017/01/genealogy-industry-benchmark-numbers.html : accessed 10 January 2017, items 1, 2, and 9.
[3] FamilySearch Wiki, (https://familysearch.org/wiki/en/England_and_Wales_Nonconformist_Record_Indexes_(RGA_4-8)_,1588-1977_(FamilySearch_Historical_Records) : accessed January 12 2017); “England And Wales Nonconformist Record Indexes (RGA 4-8) ,1588-1977,” rev. 13:00, 26 Oct 2016.
[4] “Nonconformists” (2017), The National Archives (http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/help-with-your-research/research-guides/nonconformists : accessed 12 January 2017).
[5] “England & Wales Non-Conformist Births and Baptisms”, transcriptions and images, find my past (http://findmypast.com : accessed 10 January 2017), entry for Hitch Casbon; citing The National Archives (U.K.) reference RG4/155.