The First Family of James Casbon in England

I have written about James Casbon (~1813–1884) many times, but most of my focus has been on his later years in England, his emigration to the United States, and his children who grew up there. However, he lived most of his life in England and had a large family there by his first wife, Elizabeth Waller. I have never told the stories of James’s and Elizabeth’s children. They would have been adults by the time James departed from England with his second family (wife, Mary, and their children) in 1870.

Technically, James’s living descendants in the United States—some of whom I know and correspond with—are closer in kinship to their English cousins than they are to me, since I am descended from James’s brother Thomas.

James Casbon, undated photo; courtesy of Ron Casbon

I’ll begin with a brief review of James’s and Elizabeth’s lives in England. James’s birthdate is not recorded, but from census records, it seems that he was probably born at Meldreth, Cambridgeshire in 1813 or 1814. Elizabeth Waller was born at Meldreth 11 September 1815 and baptized 15 October of that year, the daughter of William and Sarah (Johnson)
Waller.[1] James and Elizabeth were married at Meldreth 25 July 1835.[2] Elizabeth died of consumption (tuberculosis) 16 August 1852 at the age of 36.[3] James’s whereabouts after her death are unknown until he appears in the vicinity of Cottenham, Cambridgeshire, sometime in the 1860s. He married his second wife, Mary Jackson, at Stretham, Cambridgeshire, in 1866.[4]

The immediate aftermath of Elizabeth’s death is unknown, but there is reason to believe that it had a catastrophic effect on the family. At least two of the children, and probably more, ended up at the local workhouse, a destination reserved for destitute families and paupers. By 1861, the first census after Elizabeth’s death, there is no trace of the family as a unit. Only one of the children can be found in that census with certainty. By then, many of them would have been old enough to enter the workforce, so it is not surprising that they cannot be found together. However, it is odd not to find them at all.

Here is a chart showing James, Elizabeth, and two generations of their descendants, followed by biographical sketches of their children.

Chart showing descendants of James and Elizabeth (Waller) Casbon, numbered by generation and arranged in birth order (Click on image to enlarge)

William Casbon (~1836–unknown)

I held off on writing this post until I knew the answer to the two-William problem. Now that I have the answer, I can be more confident in what I say about James’s eldest son, William.

The only certain records we have of William are the 1841 and 1851 censuses of Meldreth and Melbourn, respectively. His age is given as 5 in 1841 and 15 in 1851, giving an estimated birth year of 1836. The 1851 census also tells us that William had already entered the workforce as an agricultural labourer.

Detail from 1851 England census, Melbourn, Cambridgeshire, showing James Casbon and his family; William, age 15, is highlighted (Ancestry.com) (Click on image to enlarge)

After the 1851 census, the trail for William goes cold, or at least cool. I have found a few records that might pertain to him. The first is in a collection known as the “1861 Worldwide [British] Army Index” (Findmypast.com). The collection includes a record for William Casbon, a private assigned to the 1st Battalion 20th (East Devonshire) Regiment of Foot in Gorakhpur, India.[5] I think this was probably James’s son, especially since he does not turn up elsewhere in the 1861 England census. Given the likely disruption of the family following his mother’s death, it’s plausible that William could have enlisted in the Army, perhaps after a stint in the workhouse.

There are two more interesting records. The first is the baptismal record of William Casbon, son of William Casbon and Lydia Lovely, at Whaddon (a village 1 ½ miles from Meldreth) in 1867 (no date given).[6] The child appears to have born out of wedlock in about 1860, based on his name being listed as William Lovely, age 11, in the 1871 census.[7] It’s plausible but not possible to prove that James’s son William was the father.

The second record is an 1869 criminal court record describing the conviction of Eliza Bacon, age 29, for “feloniously marrying Robert Bacon, her husband William Casbon being alive.”[8] This record might also refer to our William, but there is insufficient information to connect it to him with certainty. I have been unable to find any record of marriage or death for William.

Sarah Casbon (~1837–unknown)

The oldest daughter of James and Elizabeth, Sarah was baptized at Meldreth 8 October 1837.[9] She appears in the 1841 and 1851 censuses and then disappears from view. She would have been 14 years old when her mother died. I haven’t been able to find any further marriage, death, or census records for Sarah.

Lydia (Ann) Casbon (~1840–1885)

Lydia was baptized at Meldreth 20 December 1840.[10] She married, at Chester, Cheshire, 28 August 1859, Daniel Cross.[11] What was Lydia doing at Chester, more than 140 miles from Meldreth? One can surmise that she had found a position of some kind there, either as a servant or dressmaker (her occupation in the 1861 census). The parish marriage record gives Lydia’s father’s occupation as “farmer.” This was an exaggeration, since James was an agricultural labourer, a far cry from one who farmed his own land.

Lydia and Daniel had one son, William, born in 1867. Although I have not traced the family any further, it is evident from other Ancestry family trees that William had a large family. Thus, it is likely that Lydia and Daniel have living descendants today. Lydia’s burial is recorded at Chester on 8 May 1885.[12]

Mary Casbon (~1841–unknown)

Mary was baptized at Meldreth 19 December 1841.[13] Like several of her siblings, she disappears after the 1851 census. Given her age at the time of her mother’s death—about 11 years old—she might have spent some time in the Royston Union workhouse. While researching for this post, I came upon an 1861 census listing for Matilda Casbin, age 19, housemaid at a private home in Westminster St. Martin in the Fields, London.[14] Matilda’s birthplace is listed as Meldreth, Cambridgeshire. Given the last name, the birthplace, the fact that there are no other records for Matilda Casbon, and no other Casbons of that approximate age from Meldreth who are unaccounted for, I think this could be Mary.

Thomas Casbon (1844–1924)

Thomas was born at Meldreth 20 September 1844 and baptized there 15 June 1845.[15] He would have been 8 years old when his mother died. I haven’t found him for certain on the 1861 census, but I have previously written about my theory that Thomas and his father might have been listed in the 1861 census of Cottenham, Cambridgeshire, under the surname Randle. Thomas appears in a few newspaper articles of the late 1860s and early 1870s for minor criminal offenses such as public drunkenness and trespassing. He is recorded in the 1871 census living at Barrington, Cambridgeshire (2 ½ miles from Meldreth) and working as a “coprolite labourer.”[16]

In 1878 Thomas married Sarah Ann Wyers, a former domestic servant from Mepal, Cambridgeshire.[17] The couple had eight children—all but one of them boys—ensuring continuation of the family name. Thomas worked as an agricultural labourer and lived the remainder of his life at Brangehill (possibly a farm), near Sutton, Cambridgeshire. His death was registered in October 1924.[18] He was 80 years old.

George Casbon (1846–1897)

George was born at Meldreth 28 November 1847 and baptized 16 March the following
year.[19] George was sent to the Royston Union workhouse, probably shortly after his mother’s death. I wrote about him recently, describing his arrest and brief imprisonment for running away and stealing clothes from the workhouse. I have found entries in the 1861 census listing for the Royston workhouse that I believe are for George and his younger brother, John. They are represented by the initials “C.G.” and “C.J.” (last initial/first initial) on the census form.[20]

Detail from 1861 England Census, Bassingbourn, Cambridgeshire, Royston Union Workhouse, showing entries for “C.G.,” age 14 and “C.J.,” age 13; in this listing, the first initial represents the surname (Ancestry.com) (Click on image to enlarge)

I believe he can be also found in the 1871 census as “George Carswell,” age 24, birthplace Meldreth, Cambridgeshire, residing in the Army barracks at Stoke Damerel,
Devonshire.[21] This suspicion is supported by the description of George’s occupation in the 1881 census as “formerly a soldier.”

George married Sarah Pearse in 1881[22] and the couple settled in Fowlmere, a small village about 3 miles from Meldreth. He was listed there as a farm labourer in 1891.[23] George and Sarah had a son and four daughters. Notably, all four of the daughters became domestic servants, one of the few options available to girls from the lower classes. One of these daughters, Hilda Mary Casbon (1887–1921), being unmarried, gave up her son, George, for adoption. George was later shipped to Canada as one of thousands of “British Home Children.”

George, the subject of this sketch, died at Fowlmere 18 October 1897 at the age of 51.[24]

John Casbon (1849–1935)

John was born at Meldreth 10 February 1849, three years before his mother’s death.[25] I believe he was also sent to the Royston Union workhouse, where he is listed as “C. J.” in the 1861 census. In the 1871 census, he is listed as an agricultural labourer at Meldreth.[26] In 1890 he married Sarah Pepper, a local woman who previously worked as a servant and cook in London.[27] John and Sarah lived on Drury Lane in Melbourn, Cambridgeshire, for their entire married lives and had no children. By 1911, his occupation was listed as “shepherd.”[28] John died in 1935[29] and Sarah in 1938.[30]

Emma Casbon (1851–1853)

Emma’s birthdate is not recorded, but her age was recorded as 2 years old when she died of “fever” at the Royston Union workhouse on 4 November 1853.[31]

Death registration of Emma Casbon, Union Workhouse Bassingbourn (Royston), 2 years old; cause of death “Fever” (Click on image to enlarge)

Her baptismal record of 13 August 1852—three days before her mother’s death—is marked “Private,” meaning the ceremony was performed somewhere besides the parish church—most likely at home.[32] Given the timing, this was probably done so that her terminally ill mother could be present at the ceremony, perhaps as a dying wish. The location of Emma’s death—the workhouse—is the most visible and poignant indication of the consequences of Elizabeth’s death. Without his wife, James, a poor labourer, no longer had the resources to care for his family. We don’t know when or how many of James’s children were admitted to the workhouse, but in Emma’s case, it was probably quite soon after Elizabeth’s death.


[1] Parish of Meldreth (Cambridgeshire, England), register of baptisms (1813–1867), p. 8, no. 57; accessed as “Parish registers for Meldreth, 1681-1877,” browsable images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/search/film/007567609?cat=210742 : accessed 28 April 2017), image 201 of 699; citing FHL microfilm 1,040,542, item 5.
[2] Parish of Meldreth, register of marriages (1813–1837), p. 34, no. 100; accessed as “Parish registers for Meldreth, 1681-1877,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/film/007567609?cat=210742 : accessed 29 Aug 2017), image 363; citing FHL microfilm 1,040,542, item 8.
[3] England, General Register Office (GRO), death registration (unofficial copy), Royston & Buntingford/Melbourn, 1852, no. 117; PDF copy, author’s collection.
[4] “Stretham Marriages 1558 – 1952,” PDF extract, database,  Cambridgeshire Family History Society (https://www.cfhs.org.uk/tokens/tokpub.cfm : downloaded 2 September 2017), >Casben >Stretham >Stretham Marriages 1558 – 1952, James Casben & Mary Jackson, 3 Nov 1866; citing Stretham (Cambridgeshire) parish records.
[5] “British Army, Worldwide Index 1861,” database, Findmypast (https://www.findmypast.com/transcript?id=GBM%2FSOLIDX%2F00170082 : accessed 11 Nov 2016).
[6] “England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:NBFC-TLQ : 6 December 2014).
[7] 1871 England census, Cambridgeshire, Bassingbourn, ED 4, p. 13 (65 stamped), schedule 60, William Lovely in the household of John Willshire; imaged at Ancestry ((https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/7619 : accessed 29 Sep 20) >Cambridgeshire >Bassingbourne >ALL >4 >images 13-4 of 26; citing The National Archives, RG 10/1361.
[8] Central Criminal Court Calendar of Prisoners in Her Majesty’s Gaol of Newgate, Third Session, Commencing Monday, 20th of September, 1869, p. 10, no. 20; imaged in “England & Wales, Crime, Prisons & Punishment, 1770-1935,” Findmypast (https://www.findmypast.com/transcript?id=TNA/CCC/CRIM9/015/28981/3), image 171 of 236.
[9] Parish of Meldreth, register of baptisms (1813–1867), p. 49, no. 390.
[10] Parish of Meldreth, register of baptisms (1813–1867), p. 54, no. 430.
[11] Holy Trinity parish, Chester, Cheshire, England, p. 173, item 2; imaged as “Cheshire Diocese of Chester parish marriages 1538-1910,” Findmypast (https://search.findmypast.com/search-world-records/cheshire-diocese-of-chester-parish-marriages-1538-1910).
[12] Parish of Christleton, Burials 1885, Refe. item 2,, p 15 Record group Part 1 – 1; imaged as “Cheshire Diocese Of Chester Parish Burials 1538-1911,” Findmypast (https://www.findmypast.com/transcript?id=GBPRS%2FD%2F767404785%2F1 :accessed 8 Nov 2016).
[13] Parish of Meldreth, register of baptisms (1813–1867), p. 55, no. 437.
[14] 1861 England census, Middlesex, Westminster St. Martin in the Fields, Charing Cross, ED 10, p. 12, Matilda Casbin in the household of Lydia A. Knight; Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/8767 : accessed 1 Oct 20) >Middlesex >Westminster St Martin in the Fields >Charing Cross >District 10 >image 13 of 29.
[15] England, General Register Office, birth registration (unofficial copy), certificate no. BCA205377, Royston & Buntingford district, Melbourne sub-district, no. 230, 20 Sep 1844; author’s collection. Parish of Meldreth, register of baptisms (1813–1867), p. 61, no. 487.
[16] 1871 England census, Cambridgeshire, Barrington, ED 2, p. 14, schedule 52; imaged as “1871 England Census,” Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/7619 : accessed 23 Aug 20) >Cambridgeshire >Barrington >ALL >2 >image 15 of 31.
[17] “England and Wales Marriage Registration Index, 1837–2005”, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:2D5X-CWM: 13 December 2014).
[18] “England and Wales Death Registration Index 1837–2007,” FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QVH4-9L5F : accessed 25 September 2015); Ely, 3d qtr 1924, vol. 3B/144.
[19] Parish of Meldreth, register of baptisms (1813–1867), p. 63, no. 501.
[20] 1861 England census, Cambridgeshire, Bassingbourn, enumeration district 5, p 77(stamped), verso (6th page of Royston Union Workhouse); Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=8767 : accessed 24 April 2020) >Cambridgeshire >Bassingbourn >District 5 >image 23 of 25.
[21] 1871 England census, Devon, Stoke Damerel, St. Aubyn, Raglan barracks, p. 81 (verso), line 10; imaged as “1871 England Census,” Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/7619 : accessed 23 Aug 2020) >Devon >Stoke Damerel >St Aubyn >Raglan Barracks >image 37 of 57.
[22] “England and Wales Marriage Registration Index, 1837-2005,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:2DRB-92T : accessed 26 September 2015), George Casbon, 1881; from “England & Wales Marriages, 1837-2005,” database, findmypast (http://www.findmypast.com : 2012); citing Marriage, Colchester, Essex, England, General Register Office.
[23] 1891 England census, Cambridgeshire, Fowlmere, ED 6, p. 14, schedule 86; imaged as “1891 England Census,” Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/6598 : accessed 23 Aug 2020) >Cambridgeshire >Fowlmere >ALL >District 6 >image 15 of 20.
[24] “Deaths,” Saffron Walden (Essex) Weekly News, 22 Oct 1897, p. 8, col. 8; accessed through “British Newspaper Collection,”  findmypast (https://search.findmypast.com/ : accessed 14 September 2017).
[25] Parish of Meldreth, register of baptisms (1813–1867), p. 68, no. 540.
[26] 1871 England census, Cambridgeshire, Meldreth, ED 15, p. 6, schedule32; ; imaged as “1871 England Census,” Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/7619 : accessed 24 Aug 20) >Cambridgeshire >Meldreth >ALL >15 >image 7 of 32.
[27] “England and Wales Marriage Registration Index, 1837–2005”, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:2DCN-4ZD : accessed 28 Apr 20); Royston, 1st qtr, vol. 3A/352.
[28] 1911 England census, Cambridgeshire, Melbourn, ED 9, schedule 82; imaged as “1911 England Census,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=2352 : accessed 24 Aug 2020) >Hertfordshire >Melbourn >ALL >09 >image 168 of 299.
[29] England and Wales, “Search the GRO [General Register Office] Online Index,” HM Passport Office (https://www.gro.gov.uk/gro/content/certificates/indexes_search.asp : accessed 30 Sep 20); entry for John James Casbon, age 85, 1st qtr 1935, Cambridge, vol. 3B/564.
[30] “Search the GRO [General Register Office] Online Index,” (https://www.gro.gov.uk/gro/content/certificates/indexes_search.asp : accessed 30 Sep 20); entry for Sarah Casbon, age 88, 1st qtr 1938, Cambridgeshire, vol. 3B/553>
[31] England, death registration (unofficial copy), Dec qtr 1853, Royston & Buntingford District, vol. 3A/107, Melbourn Sub-district, no. 319; General Register Office (GRO), Southport.
[32] Parish of Meldreth, register of baptisms (1813–1867), p. 75, no. 599.

Amos in Iowa?

This is my sixth post in the Guild of One-Name Studies (GOONS) blog challenge 2020. The challenge is to post 10 blogs in the first 12 weeks of the year.

Amos Casbon is not a new character in my blog. He can be considered the patriarch of what may be the largest branch of Casbons living in America. He was the son of James and Mary (Jackson) Casbon and the brother (or half-brother?) of Margaret “Maggie” Casbon, about whom I wrote in the fourth post of the GOONS challenge. Amos was born 6 July 1869 at Cottenham, Cambridgeshire, England.[1] He was only a toddler when his family emigrated to Porter County, Indiana, USA, in late 1870. He was probably only 4 or 5 years old when his mother died. His father remarried in 1876.[2] James was murdered in an unprovoked attack in August 1884, when Amos was 15 years old.[3]

After his father’s death, there is little solid information about Amos until his marriage to Carrie Belle Aylesworth in 1900. He was probably forced to grow up fast, without the support of a close loving family. Family tradition has it that Amos and his stepmother did not get along and that he was estranged from his sister Margaret, who seemed to have strayed from the “straight path.” He might have lived with and worked for local farmers. He was said to have lived for some time with his older cousin, Jesse Casbon, who also lived in Porter County. My impression is that this was an unsettled time in Amos’s life.

Portrait of a young Amos Casbon; undated, courtesy of Ron Casbon

We know that he worked as a grip for a Chicago streetcar company for four years in the late 1890s.[4]

Amos’s entry in The Lakeside Annual Directory of the City of Chicago
(Chicago: The Chicago Directory Co., 1896), p. 391; Ancestry.com

In addition, a 25 January 1900 news announcement tells us that Amos, then living in Chicago, was job hunting in the Boone Grove (Porter County, Indiana) area.[5]

Last May, when I spent time at the Valparaiso Public Library, I discovered that Amos had also spent some time in his late teens and perhaps early twenties living and working in Iowa. The discovery was made when I found this news item on microfilm.

Untitled Article, The Porter County Vidette, 11 July 1889

Why is this important? For one thing, it puts another data point on the timeline of Amos’s life, during a time about which we have little other information. The timeline is probably only important to me and to those descendants of Amos who share in interest in their family history (of whom there are several).

The second reason is that Amos’s presence in Iowa connects him to another branch of the family, specifically the branch living in Iowa that consisted Emma (Casbon) and Robert Rigg, and their nephew George Washington Casbon (see “Introducing the Iowa Casbons! Part 1”). Emma, although 22 years older, was Amos’s first cousin, the daughter of his uncle Thomas Casbon (1803–1888). George, who was five years younger than Amos, was his second cousin, the son of Emma’s brother Sylvester Casbon. Emma, Robert, and George lived on a farm in Tama County, Iowa, about six miles away from LaPorte City, where Amos was reported to be living in 1889.

It is unlikely to be a coincidence that that Amos was living and working so close to his Iowa relatives. It is a little surprising, though, since the Rigg family had moved to Iowa in 1876, when Amos was only 7 years old. Considering the difference in their ages, he was hardly old enough to have formed a close personal friendship with Emma, or with George, who was only 2 years old when he moved to Iowa.

We can infer from this that family ties between all the branches of the family—Amos, his stepmother and sisters, Emma’s family in Iowa, and her siblings in Indiana—were still very close. There had probably been occasional family visits between Iowa and Indiana, and letters were probably frequently exchanged. Even though Amos might not have had a close relationship to Emma and George, he was a member of the larger family. That bond was strong enough to bring him to Iowa as a young man.

Ties between the Iowa and Indiana Casbons remained strong for a generation or two. We know this from photographs and other items documenting visits between the Iowa and Indiana families. There is even a news item from 1931 reporting that Amos and his family had returned “from a trip to points in Iowa visiting friends and relatives.”[6]

By my generation, the ties between the Iowa and Indiana clans were virtually forgotten. For that matter, the ties between my branch and the descendants of Amos were very weak. Even though their families continued to live in the same county in Indiana, I never met or knew any of these cousins until recent years. I don’t believe this was the result of any kind of hostility; it was just a natural process that happened as each generation grew in size and the degrees of separation increased. Thankfully, as a result of efforts by members of all three branches to reconnect with our common heritage, not to mention modern conveniences such as Facebook and email, we are communicating and sharing stories with each other again.

[1] England, birth registration (PDF copy) for Amos James Casburn, born 6 Jul 1869; registered September quarter 1869, Chesterton District 3b/452, Willingham Sub-district,  no 45; General Registry Office, Southport.
[2] “Indiana Marriages, 1811-2007,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/collection/1410397 : accessed 24 October 2015) >Porter >1871-1875 Volume 4 > image 242 of 246; Indiana Commission on Public Records, Indianapolis.
[3] “Murder! That is About what is Made out of the Case of Old Man Casbon,” Porter County (Indiana) Vidette, 28 Aug 1884, p. 1, col. 2.
[4] “Boone Grove Couple Will Observe 50th Anniversary,” The (Valparaiso, Indiana) Vidette-Messenger, 21 Nov 1950, p. 1, col. 6.
[5] “Boone Grove Items,” The Porter County Vidette, 25 January 1900.
[6]“Aylesworth,” The Vidette-Messenger, 27 Nov 1931, p. 6, col. 1.

The Birth Record of Amos James Casbon

A short while ago I wrote about a birth record I had obtained from the General Register Office (GRO) in England.[1] I actually received three birth records from the GRO in the same order. In addition to that of George Casbon, I received the records from Amos James Casbon and his sister Margaret. I’ll write about Amos today and save Margaret for a later post.

Here’s the record.

Birth registration of Amos James Casbon[2] (Click on image to enlarge)

What is the significance of this record? First of all, it gives Amos’ correct birth date – July 6, 1869 – and location – Chair Fen, Cottenham (Cambridgeshire). This differs from Amos’ obituary, which gives his birthday as July 2 and the location as Meldreth. The birth registration should be considered more likely to have accurate information, since it was completed nearer in time to the actual event. Although it might come as a surprise to some, it’s quite possible that Amos did not know his correct birthdate because his parents were semiliterate at best and did not know or remember the exact date. I have no idea why his obituary gave the birthplace as Meldreth, except that it was the birthplace of his father James and his uncle Thomas, so others might have assumed Amos came from there as well.

Previously, the only birth record I had was from an online birth registration index. The index gives the year and quarter of birth, and the name of the district where the birth was registered. Each registration district includes a number of different civil parishes (villages or towns). In Amos’ case, the index showed that his birth was registered at Chesterton during the third quarter of 1869. [3] The Chesterton district encompassed a large area surrounding the city of Cambridge and composed of 38 civil parishes.[4] So, the registration index alone did not give precise information about where or when Amos was born.

I also knew that Amos was baptized in the town of Stretham on August 3, 1869.[5] To be more accurate, his baptism was recorded in Stretham, but the baptism was performed “privately,” meaning it was not performed in the church. The baptismal record also gives the location of his parents’ abode as Cottenham.[6] The birth record narrows the location down further to a place known as Chair Fen.

I think Chair Fen must be a misspelling of Chear Fen, which can be found on maps of the Cottenham area. These two maps show the location of Chear Fen in relation to Cottenham, and a more detailed map of the fen area itself.

Detail from 1898 Ordnance Survey map of Cambridge (Hills), showing Cottonham;[7] Chear Fen is outlined in red; reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland (http://maps.nls.uk/index.html) under the terms of the CC-BY-NC-SA licence 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/legalcode) (Click on image to enlarge)

Detail from 1887 Ordnance Survey map of  Cambridgeshire, Sheet XXXIV.NE, showing Chear Fen,
just south of the Old West (Great Ouse) River;[8] reproduced with the permission of the National
Library of Scotland (http://maps.nls.uk/index.html) under the terms of the CC-BY-NC-SA licence 4.0  (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/legalcode) (Click on image to enlarge)
Chear Fen is located about 3 miles northeast of Cottenham, roughly midway between Cottenham and Stretham. The proximity to Stretham may explain why Amos was baptized in Stretham rather than Cottenham. In addition, Amos’ mother, Mary (Jackson), was from Stretham, so they might have considered this their home parish.

Cottenham and Chear Fen are located within a large area in eastern England known as the Fenlands. Fens are low-lying wetlands that were historically prone to periodic flooding.[9] They were drained several centuries ago and are now maintained by a system of dikes, drains , and pumping stations.[10]

The River Great Ouse at Chear Fen;[11] photo by Bob Jones [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0 )], via Wikimedia Commons
The remainder of the information in Amos’ birth registration confirms facts already known from other sources: his father’s name was James; his mother was Mary née Jackson; and James worked as a farm labourer. Given their residence on Chear Fen, it’s likely that James lived where he worked, on one of the farms shown on the map.

Now that we know where and when Amos’ life began, I’ll end with this timeline of his life.

(Click on image to enlarge)

[1] Jon Casbon, “New Document Breaks through a Brick Wall,” 29 Oct 2017, Our Casbon Journey (https://casbonjourney.wordpress.com/2017/10/29/new-document-breaks-through-a-brick-wall/ : accessed 26 November 2017).
[2] England, birth registration (PDF copy), Amos James Casburn, born 6 Jul 1869; registered 9 Aug 1869, Chesterton District 3b/452, Willingham Sub-district, Cambridgeshire; General Registry Office, Southport.
[3] “England and Wales Birth Registration Index, 1837-2008,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:2X7G-YF3 : accessed 12 September 2015), Amos James Casburn, 3d quarter,1869; from “England & Wales Births, 1837-2006,” database, findmypast (http://www.findmypast.com : 2012); citing Birth Registration, Chesterton, Cambridgeshire, vol. 3B:452; citing General Register Office, Southport, England.
[4] “Chesterton Registration District,” UK BMD (https://www.ukbmd.org.uk/reg/districts/chesterton.html : accessed 26 November 2017).
[5] “Cambridgeshire Baptisms,” database, findmypast (http://search.findmypast.com/record?id=gbprs%2fb%2f323728303%2f1 : accessed 30 January 2017), Amos James Casburn, 3 Aug 1869; citing Cambridgeshire parish records (transcribed by Cambridgeshire Family History Society).
[6] “Cambridgeshire Baptisms,” Amos James Casburn.
[7] “One-Inch to the mile, England and Wales, Revised New Series, Cambridge (Hills), Sheet 188,” 1898; online image, National Library of Scotland (http://maps.nls.uk/view/101168159 : accessed 27 November 2017); citing Ordnance Survey Office, Southampton.
[8] “Six-Inch to the mile, England and Wales, Cambridgeshire XXXIV.NE (includes: Cottenham; Landbeach; Stretham; Waterbeach; Wilburton),” 1887; online image, National Library of Scotland (http://maps.nls.uk/view/101571604 : accessed 26 November 2017); citing Ordnance Survey Office, Southampton.
[9] “The Fens,” Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Fens : accessed 26 November 2017), rev. 08:07, 24 Nov 2017.
[10] “The Fens,” Wikipedia.
[11] “File:River Great Ouse at Chear Fen – geograph.org.uk – 271786.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:River_Great_Ouse_at_Chear_Fen_-_geograph.org.uk_-_271786.jpg : accessed 26 November 2017).

James Casbon (~1813–1884): Final Days in England

Today’s post serves as a coda to my previous post about James Casbon (~1813–1884). In that post I mentioned that James might have been living in Cottenham, Cambridgeshire, as early as 1861. He was probably living there when he married Mary Jackson in 1866; and he was definitely living there when his son Amos was born in 1869. [1],[2]

Cottenham is located 14 miles north northeast of James’ home town, Meldreth, and about 6 miles south southwest of Stretham, where James and Mary were married and Amos was baptized.

Map showing location of Cottenham in relation to Meldreth and Stretham[*] (Click on image to enlarge)

This news article from the Cambridge Chronicle and University Journal of September 10, 1870 once again places James in Cottenham, as well as in a difficult situation.[3]

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)

This brief statement conveys some very interesting information, and raises questions as well.

In addition to giving James’ home as Cottenham, it tells us that he had two children at the time, that he was convicted of neglect, and that he was being committed to “the Castle.”

Who were the children? They must have been Amos and his older sister, Margaret. Amos was just over a year old in September 1870. Margaret was probably born 1864 in Stretham.[4] Margaret and Amos were the two children who arrived in the United States with Amos and his wife Mary (Jackson) in December, 1870.[5]

In what way did James neglect his children? What was the legal definition of child neglect in nineteenth-century England? I found the answer in The Poor Law Amendment Act, 1868.

With regard to child neglect, the law states,

When any Parent shall wilfully neglect to provide adequate Food, Clothing, Medical Aid, or Lodging for his Child, being in his Custody, under the Age of Fourteen Years, whereby the Health of such Child shall have been or shall be likely to be seriously injured, he shall be guilty of an Offence punishable on Summary Conviction, and being convicted thereof before any Two Justices shall be liable to be imprisoned for any Period not exceeding Six Months.[6]

I’ve been unable to find any news article or other source giving details of James’ trial or conviction, so we really don’t know the circumstances. We know that James was perpetually poor. We don’t know enough about him to know whether he would willfully neglect his children.

Another question I have is, where was Mary? Presumably she was at home with the children doing the best she could. James was probably the breadwinner, and somehow fell short of his responsibilities.

Readers may wonder what “castle” James was being committed to. The Castle was the name of the building that served as the county jail (or gaol) for Cambridgeshire.[7] Originally a Norman castle, it served as the jail for centuries.[8] The original castle was torn down and replaced by a newer building in 1807.[9] This is the building where James would have been confined.

If he was actually in jail for the entire two months, he would have been released right before he and his family boarded the ship Great Western in Liverpool, November 11, 1870, bound for New York.[10]

Detail of passenger manifest from the ship Great Western, which arrived in New York on Christmas Day, 1870;[11] James’s surname has been misspelled as “Custon”
With the information available, it’s possible to create a timeline of James’ life in England.

(Click on image to enlarge)

A long chapter in James’ life came to an end in dramatic fashion. Coming out of the Castle and traveling to Liverpool to board the ship, James’ final days in England must have been hectic. Was the trip planned and anticipated, or was it a last-minute decision? How did he pay for the voyage? He must have had financial assistance, probably from his brother Thomas in Indiana. Whatever the circumstances, he was on his way.

[*] Detail from Ordnance Survey of England and Wales, Revised New Series (1903), Sheet 16, 1:253,440 (label boxes added). This work incorporates historical material provided by the Great Britain Historical GIS Project and the University of Portsmouth through their web site A Vision of Britain through Time (http://www.VisionofBritain.org.uk). Creative Commons license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)
[1] “Stretham Marriages 1558 – 1952,” PDF extract, database,  Cambridge Family History Society (https://www.cfhs.org.uk/tokens/tokpub.cfm : accessed 2 September 2017), >Casben >Stretham >Stretham Marriages 1558 – 1952, James Casben & Mary Jackson, 3 Nov 1866; citing Stretham (Cambridgeshire) parish records.
[2] “Cambridgeshire Baptisms,” database, findmypast (http://search.findmypast.com/record?id=gbprs%2fb%2f323728303%2f1 : accessed 30 January 2017), Amos James Casben, 3 Aug 1869, Stretham; citing Cambridgeshire parish records (transcribed by Cambridgeshire Family History Society).
[3] “Cambridgeshire … Commitments to the Castle,” Cambridge (England) Chronicle and University Journal, Isle of Ely Herald, and Huntingdonshire Gazette, 10 September 1870, p. 4, col. 6, para. 13; accessed in “British Newspapers,” online archive, findmypast (https://search.findmypast.com/bna/ViewArticle?id=BL%2F0000421%2F18700910%2F049%2F0004 : accessed 25 March 2017)
[4] “Cambridgeshire Baptisms,” findmypast (https://search.findmypast.com/record?id=gbprs%2fb%2f323728146%2f1 : accessed 22 September 2017), Margaret Jackson, 24 Jul 1864, Stretham.
[5] Passenger manifest of ship Great Western, unnumbered p. 3, lines 27-30, James Custon (age 57) and family; imaged as “New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1891,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:939V-51S2-X5?i=106&cc=1849782 : accessed 10 November 2016), image 107; citing NARA microfilm publication M237, Roll 338.
[6] Hugh Owen, Jun., Esq., The Poor Law Amendment Act, 1868 (31 & 32 Vict., C. CXXII.) (London: Knight & Co., 1868), p. 26: 37; online image, Google Books (https://books.google.com/books?id=vWkZAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false : accessed 22 September 2017).
[7] Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cambridge_Castle : accessed 22 Sep 2017), “Cambridge Castle,” rev. 08:28, 22 Sep 17.
[8] “A History of Cambridge County Gaol 1802-1829,” Victorian Crime & Punishment (http://vcp.e2bn.org/justice/page11587-a-history-of-cambridge-county-gaol-1802-1829.html : accessed 22 September 2017)
[9] “A History of Cambridge County Gaol 1802-1829.”
[10] “Home Ports,” Lloyd’s List (London), No. 17,651, 12 Nov 1870, p. 2, numbered column 7 (Liverpool … sailed, Great Western, 11 Nov 1870); accessed in “British Newspapers,” online images, findmypast (https://search.findmypast.com/bna/viewarticle?id=bl%2f0000861%2f18701112%2f024 : accessed 13 January 2017).
[11] Passenger manifest of ship Great Western.

Did James Casbon (~1813–1884) Use an Alias in the 1861 Census?

OK, I’ll admit it – it sounds a bit fantastic. But hear me out, it’s not totally crazy.

Why would I think this entry from the 1861 census of England might be James Casbon?

Details from 1861 census, Cottenham, Cambridgeshire[1] (Click on image to enlarge)
For starters, here is a little background. James was my fourth great uncle, the youngest brother of my third great grandfather, Thomas Casbon (1803–1888), who came to the United States in 1846. James was born in about 1813 or 1814, and followed his brother Thomas to Indiana in 1870. He has been the subject of two previous posts: “James Casbon of Meldreth, England and Porter County, Indiana” and “James Casbon in the 1880 U.S. Census, Porter Township, Porter County, Indiana.” Thanks in part to James’ propensity to father children, he is possibly the patriarch of more of today’s living Casbons than anyone else of his generation.

For a long time, I’ve been frustrated by the fact that I haven’t been able to find James or most of his children in the 1861 census. I have him in the 1841 and 1851 censuses. After 1851, he doesn’t appear in a census again until the 1880 United States Census, when he was living in Indiana (he missed both the 1870 U.S. and 1871 U.K. censuses because he emigrated in late 1870). This leaves a huge gap in my knowledge of James’ whereabouts before he came to America.

The time period between 1851 and 1880 isn’t a total blank. I know that his first wife, Elizabeth (Waller) died in August 1852, and their youngest daughter, Emma (b. 1851) died in November 1853.[2],[3] Their deaths left James responsible for seven children ranging from 4 to 17 years old. This must have placed a tremendous burden on him. He was a poor agricultural laborer, without a steady income, on one of the lowest rungs of the social order. His situation could have come from a Dickens novel.

In 1851, James and Elizabeth had seven children. [4] His oldest son, William, age 15, was already working as an agricultural labourer.

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

After Elizabeth died, it’s likely that some of the older children had to find work, and some might have been placed with other families, or even a public institution (daughter Emma died at the “Royston Workhouse”).[5]

Since I was unable to find James in the 1861 census using traditional search methods, I decided to use a more broad-based approach. Sometimes surnames are so badly misspelled that they yield false negative search results. So, instead of searching by surname, I searched for any males named James born in Meldreth between 1808 and 1818.

This approach yielded 9 results. Of these, the one for James Randle caught my eye. Why? Because he was living in Cottenham.

I knew that James had lived in Cottenham shortly before coming to the United States. Specifically, James’ place of abode was listed as Cottenham when his son Amos James was baptized (in nearby Stretham) in August, 1869.[6] I also know that James married Mary Jackson in Stretham, in 1866, so it’s also possible that he was living in Cottenham then.[7]

Besides the location, other information in the 1861 census entry suggests that James Randle and James Casbon could be the same person. James Randle’s age is listed as 45. James Casbon would have been about 47 in 1861. Age discrepancies are common in census records, and a 2-year difference is minor. (It’s also possible that James Casbon did not know his exact age.) Like James Casbon, James Randle is listed as a widower and an agricultural laborer. And of course, both were from Meldreth.

Who was Thomas Randle? Look again at the 1851 census. James and Elizabeth’s fifth child, and second son, is recorded as “Thos,” age 6. His age is a close match to 15-year old Thomas Randle’s.

The fact that James and Thomas Randle were lodging in a public house during the census is interesting. It suggests they had recently arrived, or perhaps were looking for work.

Is there any evidence that someone named James Randle really was born in Meldreth during the eighteen teens? I’ve searched all the baptism, marriage, and burial records for Meldreth and nearby areas, and there are no entries for Randle or similar names. Nor does he turn up in censuses prior to 1861. Also, I haven’t found any records for a Thomas Randle in or near Meldreth.

Why would James Casbon be going under an assumed name? It would suggest that he did not want to be found – by the law or creditors. We know that he was a poor man, so debt could have been an issue. It’s also possible that he was on the lam for a criminal offense.

What about James’ other children – why aren’t they listed in the census along with James and Thomas? By 1861, the older children were in their late teens and early twenties, so it’s likely they were already employed elsewhere. That still leaves the two younger children, George and John, who would have been 14 and 12, respectively. After an exhaustive search, I haven’t been able to find either one in the 1861 census (although they appear again in later censuses). It’s possible that they were given up to other families after their mother’s death, but this still doesn’t explain their absence from the 1861 census.

Another possibility is that the surname listed on the census is incorrect. What I mean is that it really was James Casbon in Cottenham, but whoever recorded the information made a mistake. How could this happen? The way a census was taken is that a form, known as a schedule, was handed out to each household, to be completed by the head of household.[8] The census enumerator collected the forms on the following day and entered the information from the schedules into the Census Enumerator’s Book (CEB). The original census schedules have not been retained, and it is only the CEB that remains.[9] This is the census record showing James and Thomas Randle, above.

What if the head of household was illiterate? We know from the 1880 U.S. Census that James “cannot write.”[10] So it’s possible that the owner of the public house or someone else completed the census schedule for him. The name could have been written incorrectly; or the enumerator might have transcribed the information incorrectly into the CEB.

Are you convinced? I hope not. All I’ve presented is circumstantial evidence. It’s far from a compelling argument. But I think there’s a decent possibility that I’m right. If I’m wrong, and James Randle was not James Casbon, then who was he?

[1] 1861 census of England, Cambridgeshire, [parish] Cottenham, p. 4, schedule 23, James and Thomas Randle; accessed as “1861 England, Wales & Scotland Census,” image, findmypast (http://search.findmypast.com/record/browse?id=gbc%2f1861%2f1019%2f00680a : accessed 24 February 2017); citing [The National Archives], RG 09, piece 1019, folio 96, p. 4.
[2] “Register of Burials in the Parish of Meldreth in the County of Cambridge,” p. 54, no. 427, Elizabeth Casbon (age 36); FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/film/007567609?cat=210742 : accessed 29 August 2017); citing FHL microfilm 1,040,542, item 10, image 470.
[3] “Register of Burials in the Parish of Meldreth in the County of Cambridge,” p. 56, no. 448, Emma Casbon (age 2); accessed as “Parish registers for Meldreth, 1681-1877,” browsable images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/film/007567609?cat=210742 : accessed 29 August 2017); citing Family History Library (FHL) microfilm 1,040,542, item 10, image 471.
[4] 1851 Census of England, Cambridgeshire, [parish] Melbourn, folio 208 (stamped), schedule 126, entry for James Casbon (age 37); accessed as “1851 England, Wales & Scotland Census,” image, findmypast (http://search.findmypast.com/record?id=gbc%2f1851%2f4356150%2f00401&parentid=gbc%2f1851%2f0006954727 : accessed 1 September 2017); citing [The National Archives], HO 107, piece 1708, folio 208, p. 32.
[5] Register of Burials in the Parish of Meldreth in the County of Cambridge, p. 56, no. 448, Emma Casbon.
[6] “Cambridgeshire Baptisms,” database, findmypast (http://search.findmypast.com/record?id=gbprs%2fb%2f323728303%2f1 : accessed 30 January 2017), Amos James Casben, 3 Aug 1869, Stretham; citing Cambridgeshire parish records (transcribed by Cambridgeshire Family History Society).
[7] “Stretham Marriages 1558 – 1952,” PDF extract, database,  Cambridge Family History Society (https://www.cfhs.org.uk/tokens/tokpub.cfm : accessed 2 September 2017), >Casben >Stretham >Stretham Marriages 1558 – 1952, James Casben & Mary Jackson, 3 Nov 1866; citing Stretham (Cambridgeshire) parish records.
[8] “The Census 1841 – 1911,” para. 7, History House (http://www.historyhouse.co.uk/articles/census.html : accessed 12 September 2017).
[9] “The Census 1841 – 1911,” para. 10.
[10] 1880 U.S. Census, Porter County, Indiana, population schedule, Porter Township, p. 545 (stamped), dwelling 187, family 191, James Casbon; accessed as “United States Census, 1880,” image, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-9YYY-9KW6?i=18&cc=1417683 : accessed 4 July 2016); citing NARA microfilm T9, roll 305.