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 ( (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” ( 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 ( (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 ( : 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 ( : 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 ( : 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 ( : accessed 11 Nov 2016).
[6] “England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975,” database, FamilySearch ( : 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 (( : 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 (, 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 (
[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 ( :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 ( : 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 ( : accessed 23 Aug 20) >Cambridgeshire >Barrington >ALL >2 >image 15 of 31.
[17] “England and Wales Marriage Registration Index, 1837–2005”, FamilySearch ( 13 December 2014).
[18] “England and Wales Death Registration Index 1837–2007,” FamilySearch ( : 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 ( : 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 ( : 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 ( : accessed 26 September 2015), George Casbon, 1881; from “England & Wales Marriages, 1837-2005,” database, findmypast ( : 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 ( : 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 ( : 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 ( : accessed 24 Aug 20) >Cambridgeshire >Meldreth >ALL >15 >image 7 of 32.
[27] “England and Wales Marriage Registration Index, 1837–2005”, FamilySearch ( : 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 ( : 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 ( : 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,” ( : 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.


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.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Another newspaper made these observations:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Digging into the Aylesworth Story

My last post introduced the Aylesworth family and described the two marriages that tied the Casbon and Aylesworth names together: Sylvester Casbon and Mary Adaline Aylesworth, married in 1860, and Amos Casbon and Carrie Belle Aylesworth, married in 1900. Today I delve more deeply into the history of the Aylesworth family and how their story converged with that of the Casbon family.

I refer once again to the diagram I introduced in the last post, showing how the Aylesworths of Porter County, Indiana, descended from Arthur1 Aylworth, the original immigrant from England. The superscript numbers in the chart (“Arthur1”) represent the respective generations of each person. In order to minimize confusion, I am using generation numbers corresponding to those in the diagram throughout the post.

Descendancy chart of the Aylesworth family, beginning with the original immigrant, Arthur1 Aylworth and ending with Carrie Belle9 and Mary Adaline7 Aylesworth in their respective branches (Click on image to enlarge)

First, let me say a few words about spelling. In the diagram, I’ve followed the spelling conventions used in the Aylesworth Family genealogy, using the Aylworth spelling for the first five generations and Aylesworth for later generations.[1] In fact, as was typical of the times, many different spellings are found in records, each spelling being determined arbitrarily by whomever made the entry in a given record. Thus, we see Aleworth, Aylsworth, Aulsworth, and Elsworth, among many others. Today’s Aylesworth spelling became fixed sometime in the 19th century. That said, the editors of History of Porter County spelled the name as Ellsworth when the book was published in 1912.[2]

It is unknown when Arthur1 Aylworth, the original immigrant from England, arrived in the New World. However, it must have been sometime before 29 July 1679, because on that date his name appears on a list of signatures in a petition from the inhabitants of Narragansett country [Rhode Island] to King Charles II of England.

Arthur1 Aylesworth’s name, seen in this detail from “Copy of a Petition of the Inhabitants of Narragansett Country, King’s Province, to King Charles II,” 29 Jul 1679; Yale University Library, Digital Collections ( (Click on image to enlarge)

Arthur1 settled in an area known as Quidnessett, now part of North Kingston Township in Washington County, Rhode Island.[3] His son Arthur2 lived in what is now West Greenwich Township.[4] Philip3, grandson of the first Arthur, moved to Coventry Township in about 1745.[5] His son, Philip4 Jr., left Coventry and lived in Pownal, Vermont, for several years before migrating to Milford, Otsego County, New York.[6] John5 Aylworth, the common ancestor of Mary Adaline7 and Carrie Belle9 Aylesworth, was born in Rhode Island. Like his father, he ended up in Milford, New York, where he died in about 1810.[7]

Elizabeth (Humphrey) Aylesworth, the widow of John5, and two of her adult sons, Ira6 and Philip6, moved from New York to Ohio, beginning in about 1815. We are told that Elizabeth, with her children, moved to “Ashland or Wayne Co., Ohio, or perhaps near the line dividing these two counties, where she died.”[8] Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find any trace of Elizabeth in Ohio records. She does not appear in census, marriage, or death records. However, both Ira6 and Philip6 can be found in the 1820 Ohio census of Wayne County, living in Pike and Mohican Townships, respectively. Giles6, the younger brother of Ira and Philip, does not appear in the census until 1840, when he was living in Prairie Township, Holmes County (immediately south of Wayne County).[9]

Giles6 was the first member of the family to move to Indiana. We are told that in the autumn of 1842 he “moved here [Porter County, Indiana] with his wife and 5 children. He brought 2 wagons, household goods, various tools, grub hoe, axe and musket. Sealed in a false bottom of a dinner bucket was $2,000 in gold with which he bought the farm.”[10] His daughter Mary Adaline7, having been born in April 1842, must have been only a few months old when the family made the move. Giles’s6 brother Philip6 bought a 160-acre tract of land in Porter County in 1842, but he never moved to Indiana. Instead, he sold the land to his son Ira B.7 Aylesworth, who came to Porter County in 1845.[11]

Detail from a map of the northeastern United States, showing the locations associated with the Aylesworth
family, beginning with Arthur1 and ending with Giles’s6 and Ira B.7; approximate locations: 1. Quidnessett,
Rhode Island; 2. Pownal, Vermont; 3. Milford, New York; 4. Wayne County, Ohio; 5. Porter County, Indiana;
adapted from A.K. Johnston, “Map of part of North America to illustrate the naval and military
events of 1812-13-14,” (London: William Blackwood & Son, 1852); David Rumsey Map Collection (

Thomas Casbon arrived in Wayne County, Ohio, from England in 1846, and later moved to Holmes County. Presumably, Thomas and his family met members of the Aylesworth family who were still living in Ohio. After Thomas’s son Sylvester completed his education, he “taught one term at Mt. Ollie [sic. Olive], Ohio. Then acting under the persuasion of a friend Mr. Ellsworth [my emphasis], who had settled in Porter County, Indiana, and also from his own wish to locate further west, Mr. Casbon came to this [Porter] county in 1859 and began teaching in what was known as the Ellsworth school, which he conducted successfully for three terms.”

The identity of “Mr. Ellsworth” is unknown to me. It seems unlikely that he would have been either Giles6 or Ira B.7 Aylesworth, since they had already been living in Indiana for many years. It seems more likely that he would have been a contemporary who grew up with Sylvester in Ohio and then later moved to Porter County. Two likely candidates are the brothers Elias8 and Sylvenus8 Aylesworth, who were nephews of Ira B.7 Aylesworth. They were born in 1834 and 1836, respectively,[12] and moved to Porter County from Wayne County, Ohio, sometime between the 1850 and 1860 censuses.

The exact identity and location of the “Ellsworth school” is also unknown to me, but my best guess is that it was located near the north line of Section 9 in Boone Township, near what is now the intersection of S 225 W and W 700 S. An 1875 plat map of the township (the oldest available to me) shows a school at that location on land owned by Ira B.7 Aylesworth.

Detail from a plat map of Boone Township, Porter County, Indiana, 1876, showing location of the district 1 school (circled) and outline of lands owned by Giles6 and Ira B.7 Aylesworth at the time; from “Boone Township Maps,” Porter County Indiana (GenWeb), ( (Click on image to enlarge)

Sylvester Casbon would have been teaching at this school when he met his bride-to-be, Mary Adaline7Aylesworth. It is even possible that he was living in one of the Aylesworth households at the time.

Amos Casbon was only two years old when arrived in Porter County directly from England (via New York City) in early 1871. I don’t know how or when Amos and Carrie Belle9 Aylesworth met and began their courtship. Amos had a hard life in his early years, especially after his father, James, died in 1884. He probably worked on several farms during this time and might have met Carrie Belle in the course of his work.

How does all of this pertain to Our Casbon Journey? Well, I guess the point is that family history doesn’t occur in a vacuum. Even though the emphasis of this blog is on the history of the Casbon family, that history is affected at every point by the histories of other families. Perhaps, in knowing how we are connected through our ancestors, we can achieve a greater sense of connection with our living, but more distant, relatives. The fact that descendants of both Sylvester and Amos Casbon—now third, fourth, and fifth cousins, once removed—share a connection through the Aylesworth family gives us one more thing in common and hopefully binds us more closely together.

[1] Howard Aylesworth, Aylesworth Family, 2d ed., updated and reprinted by Joyce Knauff, et al. (Privately printed, 1984).
[2] History of Porter County, Indiana: A Narrative Account of its Historical Progress, its People and its Principal Interests (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company, 1912).
[3] Homer Elhanan Aylsworth, Arthur Aylsworth and His Descendents in America (Providence, R.I.: Narragansett Historical Publishing Co., 1887), p. 36; online image, Internet Archive ( : accessed 1 January 2019).
[4] Arthur Aylsworth and His Descendants, p. 42.
[5] Arthur Aylsworth and His Descendants, p. 50.
[6] Arthur Aylsworth and His Descendants, p. 71.
[7] Arthur Aylsworth and His Descendants, p. 112.
[8] Arthur Aylsworth and His Descendants, p. 112.
[9] 1840 U.S. census. Holmes County, Ohio, Prairie Township, p. 228, line 10 (FamilySearch)
[10] “Transcribed Biography of Aylesworth,” Porter County, Indiana (GenWeb) ( : accessed 1 January 2018); citing Mrs. John C Aylesworth, “Aylesworth Family of Porter County,” in American Revolution Bicentennial Committee of Porter County, A Biographical History of Porter County, Indiana (Valparaiso, Indiana: American Revolution Bicentennial Committee of Porter County, Inc., 1976), p. 76.
[11] “Transcribed Biography of Aylesworth.”
[12] Arthur Aylsworth and His Descendants, p. 431.

James Casbal of Therfield

Much of today’s post is based on supposition. I will try to distinguish between firm conclusions and those based on weaker evidence.

Our story begins with a marriage that took place 23 November 1778 in the village of Therfield, Hertfordshire. James Casbal, a cordwainer (shoemaker) and bachelor, married Sarah Crouch, a spinster (unmarried woman).[1]

Excerpt from Therfield parish records, showing marriage of James Casbal and Sarah Crouch, 23 November 1778 (Click on image to enlarge)

The marriage record tells us that both James and Sarah were from the parish of Therfield. We can also see that both signed with their mark, an indication of some degree of illiteracy. Therfield is a small village in Hertfordshire, located about 2 ½ miles southwest of Royston, and more importantly, about 6 miles from Meldreth, Cambridgeshire. Meldreth is the ancestral home of many of the today’s Casbons, Casbans and Casbens.

Detail of a map of England showing southern Cambridgeshire (green), northern Hertfordshire (red, bottom center), and adjacent counties; the relative locations of Meldreth, Therfield, and Litlington are indicated; adapted from John Cary, “A new map of England, from the latest authorities” (London: John Cary, 1809); downloaded from David Rumsey Map Collection (; Creative Commons License

The marriage of James and Sarah is the first instance where “Casbal” or related surnames appear in Therfield records, so we can make a safe assumption that James was not born there. Casb—l was an early variant of the Casbon surname and appears in various parish records during the late 1700s. Members of the Crouch family had been living in Therfield for several generations.

James and Sarah had a daughter, Ann, who was baptized at Therfield 24 January 1780.[2] However, the birth apparently caused Sarah’s death, since her burial was recorded on
21 January.[3]

James was soon remarried, this time to Martha Crouch, on 13 August 1780.[4] Sarah and Martha were probably cousins. James and Martha had a daughter, Lydia, who was buried on 24 October 1782, just 10 days after her baptism.[5]

Lydia’s burial marks the last record of this family in Therfield. This suggests that the family might have moved to a different location.

I believe that location was Litlingon, Cambridgeshire. Litlington is another small village, located about 3 ½ miles north of Therfield and 4 ½ miles from Meldreth (see map, above). Litlington parish records reveal that James Causbell, a shoemaker, was buried there on 31 August 1804.[6]

Burial record of James Causbell; detail from Litlington parish registers, 1804 (Click on image to enlarge)

Although I can’t be certain, the fact that he was a shoemaker provides circumstantial evidence that James of Litlington was the same man who was married at Therfield in 1778. There just weren’t that many men with that surname or its variants and I have been able to account for most of the others.

Where did James come from? I believe he was the son of John (about 1721–1796) and Ann (Chamberlain) Casborn of Meldreth. We have met John before. Born in Orwell, he served his apprenticeship in Meldreth and presumably stayed there for the rest of his life. He was also appointed as the parish clerk in his later years. John is one of the earliest identified ancestors of many of today’s living Casbons (also Casbans and Casbens). John and Ann had two sons named James; the first died in infancy. The second was baptized at Meldreth
6 November 1748.[7]

Detail from Meldreth parish registers showing the baptism of James Casbull in 1748 (Click on image to enlarge)

It is notable that John Casborn was also a cordwainer. This is part of the reason I believe James of Therfield to be his son. The other reason is that I can find no other records—no burial or marriage record—of James in Meldreth. My theory is that James learned the shoemaking trade from his father and then moved to Therfield, where he was married and started a family. He moved to nearby Litlington some time before his death in 1804. Unfortunately, his age is not given in the burial record, so this cannot be used as another point of comparison.

There is one other piece of evidence that supports the theory. It is the record of baptism for James Causbell at Litlington 29 March 1819.[8]

Detail from Bishop’s Transcripts, Litlingon Parish, Cambridgeshire, 1819, showing the baptism of James Causbell 29 March 1819 (Click on image to enlarge)

The record tells us that James was the “baseborn [illegitimate] son” of Ann Causbell. The father’s name is not given, but other records suggest that his name was Thomas Taylor, a labourer. Remember that James of Therfield had a daughter named Ann from his first marriage. The fact that the child’s name was James is also significant. Traditionally a first son would be named after the father’s father and the second son would be named after the mother’s father. But this was not a hard and fast rule, and in the case of illegitimacy, using the mother’s father’s name would be understandable.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find any other records relating to Ann or her son James, so their story ends in 1819. Nor have I been able to find any other records of James’s (of Therfield) second wife, Martha.

It’s a circumstantial case, but I think it’s reasonable to believe that the men named James Casbal/Causbell of Therfield and Litlington, and the child baptized as James Casbull at Meldreth in 1748 are the same person. If so, he would have been the brother of Thomas Casbon (about 1743–1799), my fifth great-grandfather.

[1] Hertfordshire, Therfield Parish, Register of Marriages, 1778, p. 27, no. 112; imaged as “Hertfordshire Banns & Marriages,” Findmypast ( : accessed 15 Feb 2017).
[2] “England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975,” FamilySearch ( : accessed 19 Mar 2020).
[3] Hertfordshire, Therfield Parish, general register, “Burials 1780”; imaged as “Hertfordshire Burials,” Findmypast ( : accessed 15 Feb 2017).
[4] “England Marriages, 1538-1973,” FamilySearch ( : accessed 19 Mar 2020).
[5] Hertfordshire, Therfield Parish, general register, “Burials 1782”; imaged as “Hertfordshire Burials,” Findmypast ( : accessed 15 Feb 2017).
[6] Cambridgeshire, Litlington, Bishop’s Transcripts, 1804; browsable images, “Bishop’s transcripts for Litlington, 1599-1864,” FamilySearch (catalog) ( : accessed 19 Mar 2020) >DGS Film no. 007561135 >image 186 of 460.
[7] Parish of Meldreth (Cambridgeshire, England), General Register Volume P118/1/1 [1682–1782], n.p. (baptisms 1746-50), James Casbull, 6 Nov 1748; accessed as “Parish registers for Meldreth, 1681-1877,” browsable images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 29 August 2017) >DGS film no. 007567609 >image 110 of 699.
[8] Cambridgeshire, Litlington, Bishop’s Transcripts, baptisms, 1819; browsable images, “Bishop’s transcripts for Litlington, 1599-1864,” FamilySearch (catalog) ( : accessed 19 Mar 2020) >DGS Film no. 007561135 >image 231 of 460.

Shoreditch—a Tale of Woe

Today’s post starts with a record I recently found on Ancestry. The record comes from a register of admissions and discharges from the Shoreditch workhouse in London.[1]

Detail from an alphabetical register of admissions and discharges, Shoreditch workhouse, 1827, showing entries for William and Sophia Casbon, admitted on 13 March and again on 11 April. (Click on image to enlarge)

The record shows that William Casbon, age 43, and Sophia Casbon, age 27, were admitted to the workhouse 13 March 1827 and discharged 9 April “with 3/ [shillings?].” They were admitted again from 11 to 30 April 1827, and this time discharged “with 25/ to redeem his Furniture [or Furnishing?].” They were admitted to wards 8 and 10, presumably men’s and women’s wards, respectively.

Who were William and Sophia Casbon and why were they in the Shoreditch workhouse? A marriage record from 1822 shows that William Casbon, a bachelor, married Sophia Phillips, a spinster, in the Parish of St. Matthew, Bethnal Green, London, on 1 December 1822.[2] Bethnal Green is a short distance east of Shoreditch. I know this is the correct couple because of another record presented later in this post.

Detail from Register of Marriages, St. Matthew, Bethnal Green, 1822. Note that William and Sophia each signed with their marks

Based on the ages written in the workhouse register, William would have been born in about 1784 and Sophia in about 1800. I have an extensive database of baptismal records for Casbon and related surnames throughout England. Baptisms were recorded for William Caseburn in 1780 (Downham, Norfolk), William Casebourn in 1788 (Soham, Cambridgeshire), and William Casbolt in 1789 (Linton, Cambridgeshire), but there is nothing to connect them to William of Shoreditch. The marriage of John Casbon to Elizabeth Toon was recorded at St. Leonard’s Shoreditch in 1783, so it’s possible they were either William’s parents or related to him in some way.[3] There is no evidence that William comes from the Meldreth or Peterborough Casbon lines.

Sophia Phillips was a common name and there are many corresponding baptismal records. Without knowing the names of her parents, it is impossible to tell where or when she was born.

Shoreditch is an ancient suburb of London and is now part of inner London. By the early to mid 1800s, it was mainly a lower and working class area.

Detail of an 1827 map of London; approximate location of Shoreditch is circled; arrow points to St. Leonard’s Church; John & Christopher Greenwood, “Map of London, From an actual Survey made in the Years 1824, 1825 & 1826” (London: Greenwood, Pringle & Co., 1827); digital image, David Rumsey Historical Map Collection ( : accessed 13 Mar 2020); Creative Commons License. (Click on image to enlarge)

Workhouses were institutions designed to support the poor with food, lodging and medical care. While charitable in nature, conditions in the workhouses were often so bad that only the truly desperate would seek admission. “Men, women, children, the infirm, and the able-bodied were housed separately and given very basic and monotonous food such as watery porridge called gruel, or bread and cheese. All inmates had to wear the rough workhouse uniform and sleep in communal dormitories.”[4] Thus, we can infer that William and Sophia were admitted to the workhouse because of difficult circumstances. They would have desired to get out as soon as their situation allowed.

The couple had at least three children. A daughter, Elizabeth, was baptized at the City of London Lying-in Hospital, St. Luke’s Parish, on 26 August 1829.[5] Elizabeth’s burial at St. Leonard Church, Shoreditch, was recorded on 29 July 1831.[6] A son named Joseph or John (both names are used in different records) was born in about December 1832 and died at Shoreditch workhouse one year later.[7] Finally, another son, James, was born at the Shoreditch workhouse on 30 May 1834.[8]

Seven weeks after James was born, Sophia was interviewed at the Shoreditch workhouse and revealed some startling news.[9]

Statement of Sophia Casbon, Shoreditch Poor Law Union, 21 Jul 1834. (Click on image to enlarge)

                 July 21
Sophia Casben – No 5 New Court Webb Sqr
Saith that she is 33 years of age is the wife
of Wm Casben to whom she was married in
Bethnal Green Church on 1st Decr – 1821 and
by him hath one child named James aged
7 weeks –
She has been informed that when she was
married to him he had a wife then living.
So she was informed by a Mrs Thompson who
then lived in No [blank] Brick Lane above[?] a
silk winder –
That she hath not seen him for above
4 months – that she doth not know where
he resides or is to be found –

So, we learn the terrible news that Sophia has been abandoned by her husband and that he married her when he was already married to another woman.

There is a marriage record of William Casbourn to Margaret Black at St. James Church, Westminster in May 1817[10] and records of children born to this marriage, but there is insufficient evidence to prove that he is the man who later married Sophia. It is not possible to positively identify William through later census or death records. Thus, we lose track of him at Sophia’s last sighting in early 1834.

I’ve drawn up a chronology of this family’s story as far as I’ve been able to trace it.

  • About 1784: William Casbon is born, location unknown
  • About 1800: Sophia Phillips is born, location unknown
  • 1 December 1822: William and Sophia are married, St. Matthew Church, Bethnal Green
  • 13 March 1827: William and Sophia are admitted to Shoreditch workhouse; discharged
    9 April
  • 11 April 1827: William and Sophia are admitted to Shoreditch workhouse; discharged 30 April
  • 26 August 1829: Elizabeth Casbon, daughter of William & Sophia, is baptized, City of London Lying-in Hospital, St. Luke Parish, Westminster
  • 29 Jul 1831: Elizabeth is buried, St. Leonard Church, Shoreditch
  • About December 1832: Joseph/John Casbon is born (based on age given in subsequent records)
  • 26 September 1833: Sophia and Joseph/John Casbon are admitted to Shoreditch workhouse; discharged 5 October[11]
  • 10 October 1833: Sophia and Joseph/John Casbon are admitted to Shoreditch workhouse; Joseph/John dies there 7 December and is buried 17 December at St. Leonard Church, Shoreditch; Sophia is discharged 18 December[12]
  • 6 January 1834: Sophia is admitted, Shoreditch workhouse; discharged 10 January[13]
  • 15 February 1834: Sophia is admitted, Shoreditch workhouse; discharged
    24 February[14]
  • 24 February 1834: Sophia is readmitted, Shoreditch workhouse; discharged
    27 February[15]
  • 30 May 1834: James Casbon is born at Shoreditch workhouse (baptized at St. Leonard Church, Shoreditch, 19 June 1834)[16]
  • 21 July 1834: Sophia reports her husband missing for the previous four months
  • 15 August 1835: Sophia and James are admitted to Shoreditch workhouse; both are transferred to Enfield (poor house for infants) 20 August[17]
  • 18 March 1836: Sophia is admitted to Shoreditch workhouse; she dies there 8 July[18]
  • 11 July 1836: Sophia is buried, St. Leonard Church, Shoreditch[19]
  • 1841 census: James, age 7, is living at Enfield, District Workhouse for Shoreditch Poor Children[20]
  • 24 October 1843: James Casbon (age incorrectly listed as 11)—— is admitted to Shoreditch workhouse; unknown discharge date[21]

We can see that from September 1833 until her death on 8 July 1836, Sophia was admitted to the Shoreditch workhouse on multiple occasions. Although the circumstances are not described, we can assume that she must have been desperately poor, and possibly ill for much of this time. Her young son Joseph died at the workhouse in 1833 and her next son, James, was born there five months later. In August 1835, Sophia and James were transferred to the Shoreditch Infant Poor House located at Enfield, about 10 miles north of London. James probably remained there throughout his early childhood. Sophia was probably in the final stages of an illness (tuberculosis?) when she was admitted to the Shoreditch workhouse for the last time in March 1836 and remained there until her death in July.

James, now an orphan, was still in the Children’s workhouse at Enfield when the 1841 census was taken. The last record we have of him is his admission to the Shoreditch workhouse in October 1843. It is unknown what happened to him after that, but as an orphan in Victorian London, it is unlikely that his story had a happy ending.

Detail from an alphabetical register of admissions and discharges, Shoreditch workhouse, 1843, showing admission of James Casborn on 24 October; the meaning of the “X” markings under “Discharged” and “Remarks” is unknown. (Click on image to enlarge).

The story of William and Sophia Casbon and their family is a sad addition to Our Casbon Journey. Their tragic tale would have been fitting for a Charles Dickens novel, minus the happy ending.

[1] “London, England, Workhouse Admission and Discharge Records, 1764–1930,” Ancestry ( : accessed 10 Mar 2020) >Hackney >Shoreditch >Alphabetical List Workhouse Admissions with Subsequent Discharges, 1823–1831 >image 51 of 190; citing London Metropolitan Archives; reference no. P91/LEN/1336.
[2] St. Matthews, Bethnal Green, Register of Marriages, vol 12 [1818–1823], p. 224, no. 672; imaged as “Parish registers for St. Matthew’s Church, Bethal Green, 1745–1900,” browsable images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 10 Mar 2020); Film DGS 8040614, item 4, image 774 of 838.
[3] Westminster, St. Leonard Parish, Register of Marriages [1883–1785], p. 49, no. 145; imaged as “London, England, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1754–1932, Ancestry ( : accessed 12 March 2020) > Hackney >St Leonard, Shoreditch >1783–1875 >image 25 of 263; London Metropolitan Archives, P91/LEN/A/01/Ms 7498/13.
[4] Peter Higginbotham, “Introduction,” The Workhouse: story of an institution … ( : accessed 13 Mar 2020).
[5] Middlesex, Saint Luke Parish, City of London Lying in Hospital, Register of baptisms, 1829, p. 25, no. 196; imaged as “London, England, Church of England Births and Baptisms, 1813–1917,” Ancestry ( : accessed 12 March 2020) > Islington >City of London Lying-In Hospital, City Road, Finsbury >1820–1837 >image 161 of 296; London Metropolitan Archives, DL/T/013/017.
[6] Middlesex, St. Leonard Shoreditch, Register of Burials [1829–1832], p. 237, no. 1893; imaged as “London, England, Church of England Deaths and Burials, 1813–2003,” Ancestry ( : accessed 12 Mar 2020) >Hackney >St Leonard, Shoreditch >1829–1832 >image 121 of 153; London Metropolitan Archives, P91/LEN/A/012/MS07499/019.
[7] “London, England, Workhouse Admission and Discharge Records, 1764–1930,” >Hackney >Shoreditch >Alphabetical List Workhouse Admissions with Subsequent Discharges, 1832–1836 >image 34 of 173; London Metropolitan Archives, P91/LEN/1337.
[8] “London, England, Workhouse Admission and Discharge Records, 1764–1930,” (same as above), image 36 of 173.
[9] Shoreditch, Westminster, England, Poor Law settlement papers, vol. “H” [Dec 1833–May 1838], p. 63, 21 Jul 1834; imaged as “London, England, Selected Poor Law Removal and Settlement Records,” Ancestry ( : accessed 10 March 2020) >Shoreditch >Settlement Papers >1833 Dec–1838 May >image 74 of 309; citing London Metropolitan Archives, London; reference no. P91/LEN/1270.
[10] “England, Select Marriages, 1538–1973,” Ancestry ( : accessed 12 Mar 2020), William Casbon & Sophia Phillips; citing FHL film no. 1042319.
[11] “London, England, Workhouse Admission and Discharge Records, 1764–1930,” Ancestry, same as above, image 34 of 173.
[12] “London, England, Workhouse Admission and Discharge Records, 1764–1930,” (same as above). Also, Middlesex, St. Leonard Shoreditch, Record of Burials [1832–1833], p. 241, no. 1921 (buried as “John Casburn); imaged as “London, England, Church of England Deaths and Burials, 1813–2003,” Ancestry ( : accessed 12 Mar 2020) >Hackney >St Leonard, Shoreditch >1831–1833 >image 59 of 61; citing London Metropolitan Archives, DL/T/069/049.
[13] “London, England, Workhouse Admission and Discharge Records, 1764–1930,” (same as above) >image 35
of 173.
[14] “London, England, Workhouse Admission and Discharge Records, 1764–1930,” (same as above).
[15] “London, England, Workhouse Admission and Discharge Records, 1764–1930,” (same as above).
[16] “England, Select Births and Christenings, 1538-1975,” database, Ancestry ( : accessed 12 Mar 2020), entry for James Casben.
[17] “London, England, Workhouse Admission and Discharge Records, 1764–1930,” (same as above), image 38 of 173.
[18] “London, England, Workhouse Admission and Discharge Records, 1764–1930,” (same as above), image 40 of 173.
[19] Middlesex, St. Leonard Shoreditch, Record of Burials [1834–1837], p. 188, no. 1497; Ancestry > Hackney >St Leonard, Shoreditch >1834–1837 >image 95 of 151; citing London Metropolitan Archives, P91/LEN/A/012/MS07499/021.
[20] 1841 England census, Middlesex, Enfield Parish, schedule for public institutions, Workhouse for Shoreditch Poor Children, p.3, line 15 (James Casburn); Ancestry ( : accessed 12 Mar 2020) >Middlesex Enfield District Workhouse For Shoreditch Poor Children >image 2 of 3; citing The National Archives, HO 107/653/8.
[21] “London, England, Workhouse Admission and Discharge Records, 1764–1930,” Ancestry >Hackney >Shoreditch >Alphabetical List Workhouse Admissions with Subsequent Discharges, 1837–1845 >image 72 of 387; London Metropolitan Archived, P91/LEN/1338.

More Servants!

My last two posts profiled two individuals who entered into domestic service as a ladies-maid and footman, respectively. Before I leave the topic altogether, I want to pay tribute to many other Casbon family members who worked as domestic servants. I’ve combed through my files to find those Casbon relatives who were listed as servants on census or other records. It turns out there were quite a few! I know precious few details about most of them, but collectively, I think their stories are worth the telling.

All of the servants featured in today’s post are women. This should come as no great surprise. Employment opportunities for women during this time frame (mid 1800s to early 1900s) were limited, and domestic service was one of the most common occupations for working-class women. In 1911, although the numbers were already declining, twenty-eight percent of working women in England were employed in domestic service.[1]

Men constituted a much lower percentage of the domestic service workforce. Men had access to a much greater variety of trades and occupations.“Most of those employed in domestic service in Victorian times were women, outnumbering men at over 20 to one by 1880.”[2] There was a tax on male servants, so they tended to be employed in larger, wealthier households.[3] The majority of female servants worked in middle-class households; where having at least one servant was considered essential.[4]

Here are the Casbon women I’ve discovered who were domestic servants at one time or another. They are presented in roughly chronological birth order and grouped by families.

John Finnie (1829-1907), “Maids of All Work” (1864-5), ©The Geffrye Museum of the Home.[5]

Mary Ann, Edith, Jane and Martha Casbon

I’ve listed these four together because they were the daughters of William (1805–1807) and Ann (Clark, ~1812–1869) Casbon, of Meldreth, Cambridgeshire. William was an agricultural labourer with a large family.

Mary Ann was born about 1831 in Meldreth.[6] in the 1851 census, we find her listed as the only servant in the household of John Campkin, a “Grocer & Draper” living in Melbourn.[7] By 1861 Mary Ann was working as a cook in a London public house.[8] I haven’t located her in the 1871 census. In 1875, at the age of forty-four, she married a widower named Joseph Sparrow.[9] She had no children. Her date of death is unknown, but occurred after 1891.[10]

Edith was baptized at Meldreth in 1835.[11] In 1851, sixteen-year-old Edith was working as a “house servant” in the home of Elizabeth Bell, a widow in Whaddon, Cambridgeshire, with a farm of 166 acres (quite large for that time).[12] There were also two male servants in the household, a horse keeper and a shepherd. She married William Catley in 1860,[13] and together they had seven children. She died in 1916 and was buried in Melbourn.[14]

Jane was baptized in 1840 at Meldreth.[15] In 1861 she was living at home but listed as “Servant,” so she was presumably working elsewhere.[16] In 1871, she was listed as “House Keeper,” again in her father’s household, so it is unclear whether she was keeping his or someone else’s house.[17] She married John Camp in 1881[18] and had two children. She died in 1904, age sixty-four.[19]

Martha, who was twenty-four years younger than her sister Mary Ann, spent most of her life as a domestic servant in London. In 1871, Martha was listed as “Housemaid” along with one other female servant (the cook) in the household of a civil engineer.[20] In 1881 she was the sole servant in a small household consisting of a Scottish woolen merchant and his sister.[21] She was again the sole servant in 1891, this time to a chemist and his wife.[22] In 1901 she was the lone servant for a Presbyterian minister and his wife.[23] The last record we have of Martha as a servant is in 1911 (the last year census records are available). At that time fifty-six-year-old Martha was serving as the cook in a household with three other servants.[24] Their master and mistress were a retired draper and his wife. Quite a few servants for two people! Martha never married. Sometime before 1839, she retired to Melbourn, Cambridgeshire (the sister village to Meldreth).[25] She died in Cambridge in 1947 and was buried in Melbourn.[26]

Sarah Casbon

Sarah was the daughter of Thomas (~1807–1863) and Jane (Cooper, ~1803–1874) Casbon. Thomas was the patriarch of the “Peterborough Casbons.”  Sarah was born about 1834 in Somersham, Huntingdonshire.[27] In 1851, she was the only servant for a widow and her daughter in Chatteris.[28] She married Richard Baker in 1857[29] and had at least eight children. She died in 1904, age sixty-nine.[30]

Priscilla Casbon

Priscilla was the daughter of William (~1835–1896) and Sarah (West, ~1823–1905) Casbon of Meldreth. William was an agricultural labourer and Priscilla his only daughter. She was born in 1862.[31] In the 1881 census, she was employed as the only servant for a banker’s clerk and his wife in Cambridge.[32] In 1891 she was living with her parents at home, with no occupation listed.[33]

Priscilla’s story has an interesting twist. When she was thirty-four, in 1896, she married a seventy-seven-year-old widowed gentleman named Charles Banks.[34] He was definitely a “sugar daddy.” He never had children. When he died in 1904, his estate was valued at
£12, 232, divided between Priscilla and two other beneficiaries.[35] There is evidence that she remarried a man named John Wilson in 1908 and was still alive in 1939, but I’m not certain this is her. I would love to know more about her story!

Julia Frances Casbon

Julia was born in 1866, the daughter of George S (~1836–1914) and Sarah (Pryor, ~1831–1903) Casbon. George was a wheelwright in Barley, Hertfordshire, and originally from Meldreth. In the 1891 census, we find Julia working as one of three female servants in the household of a retired Army officer in Kensington, London.[36] She married Henry Brassington, a bootmaker, in 1899.[37] They had two sons. Julia was ninety-nine years old when she died in 1965.[38]

Kate Casban

Kate was the daughter of John (1843–1927) and Mary Anne (Hall, ~1840–1880) Casban. She was born in 1874.[39] In 1891, at the age of seventeen, she was one of two female servants employed by a single unmarried woman.[40] She married Frederick Gunn in 1898[41] and had two children. I haven’t been able to pin down the date of her death.

Margaret Alice Casban

Born at Melbourn in 1875,[42] the daughter of Samuel Clark (1851–1922) and Lydia (Harrup, ~1853–1924) Casban, “Alice,” like her cousin Kate, was already working as a servant in 1891.[43] She was one of two servants, the other a footman, working for the proprietor of a pub.[44] She married Thomas William Francis in 1898[45] and had seven children. Date of her death is uncertain.

Olive Louise, Maud Emily, Hilda Mary, and Elsie Lydia Casbon

These four sisters were the daughters of George (1846–1897) and Sarah (Pearse, ~1847–1912) Casbon. George was originally from Meldreth but settled in nearby Fowlmere where he was a farm labourer. The family was probably quite poor. Sarah, the mother, went to work as a charwoman after George’s death. The daughters would have had few other options than going into domestic service as soon as they reached a suitable age. A striking feature of this family is that all four daughters died at an early age. I don’t know the cause of death for any of them.

Olive Louise, the oldest, was born in 1884.[46] by 1901, she was the sole servant for a tea buyer and his family, living in Croydon.[47] In 1911, she was one of two servants, the other the cook, for a much larger family, also in Croydon.[48] She married Thomas De Rinzy[49] in 1911 and bore him a son that same year. [50] Olive died in 1916, thirty-two years old.[51]

Maud Emily was born in 1885.[52] In 1901 at age fifteen, she was working as a kitchen maid in Melbourn,[53] and in 1911 she was the cook for a London single woman.[54] She died later that year at the age of twenty-six.[55]

Hilda Mary was born in 1887.[56] In 1911 she was living with her mother in Fowlmere, but occupation was listed as “General (Domestic),” which suggests that she was doing service work outside of the home.[57] By 1914, she was working as a domestic servant in Surrey. We know this because of the fact that she gave birth to a son in June 1914.[58] The birth certificate states that she was “a Domestic Servant of 140 Beckenham Road Penge.”

Birth certificate of George Casbon, 11 June 1914. (Click on image to enlarge)

An unwanted pregnancy was possibly the worst-case scenario for an unmarried female servant. If she became pregnant, she could be “immediately turned out of the house without a character to join the ranks of the unemployed.”[59]

I have handwritten notes from a relative stating that Hilda abandoned her son at the Croydon Infirmary, and that he was later taken in by the Mission of Good Hope, a well-known organization that placed children for adoption. This fills in some blanks in another story, that of how young George came to be placed with Dr. Barnardo’s Homes and then sent to Canada as a sort-of indentured servant.

I don’t know what became of Hilda after the birth, except for her death, at age thirty-three, in 1921.[60]

The youngest sister, Elsie Lydia, was born in 1890.[61] She was the sole domestic servant at the White Ribbon Temperance Hotel located in Cambridge, 1911.[62] I presume that Elsie later found a position in Kensington, London, because that is where here death was registered in 1919.[63] She was thirty years old.

The stories of these thirteen women are in many ways typical for female domestic servants of their era. With the exception of Martha, they did not work as servants for the greater part of their lives. Most of them started work in their teens and continued until they found husbands and had families of their own. They generally worked in smaller middle-class homes with one or two servants. Other than the four daughters of George and Sarah (Pearse) Casbon, they generally lived “normal” lifespans.

This is far from an adequate description of their lives, since it is based largely on “snapshots” taken every ten years with the census. Nevertheless, their stories provide insights into our shared heritage and deserve to be told.

[1] “Women and Work in the 19th Century,” Striking Women ( : accessed 27 January 2019).
[2] “Who Were the Servants?” My Learning ( : accessed 27 January 2019).
[3] Kate Clark, “Women and Domestic Service in Victorian Society,” The History Press ( : accessed 27 January 2019).
[4] “The Rise of the Middle Classes,” Victorian England: Life of the Working and Middle Classes ( : accessed 27 January 2019).
[5] “File: John Finnie. Maids of All Work, 1864-65 (higher colour).jpg,” Wikimedia Commons (,_1864-65_(higher_colour).jpg : accessed 27 January 2019).
[6] 1841 England census, Cambridgeshire, Meldreth, ED 19, p. 9, High St., Mary Ann (age 10) in household of William Casbon; imaged as “1841 England Census,” Ancestry ( : accessed 27 January 2019), Cambridgeshire >Meldreth >District 19 >image 6 of 9; The National Archives (TNA), HO 107/63/19.
[7] 1851 England census, Cambridgeshire, Melbourn, ED 11b, p. 3, schedule 8, Church Lane, Mary Casbon in household of John Campkin; imaged as “1851 England Census,” Ancestry ( : accessed 27 January 2019), Cambridgeshire >Melbourn >11b >image 4 of 25; TNA, HO 107/1708/177.
[8] 1861 England census, Middlesex, Islington, ED 36, p. 27, schedule 153, Mary Ann Cusbin in household of Richd Munford; imaged as “1861 England Census,” Ancestry ( : accessed 19 November 2018), Middlesex >Islington >Islington East >District 36 >image 28 of 84; TNA, RG 9/16/55.
[9] Church of England, Parish of St. Lukes Finsbury (Middlesex), Marriage Records, 1871-6, p. 245, no. 489, Joseph Sparrow & Mary Ann Casbon, 26 Dec 1875; imaged as “London, England, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1754-1921,” Ancestry ( : accessed 10 Aug 2016), Islington >St Luke, Finsbury >1867-1881 >image 494 of 747; London Metropolitan Archives, record no. p76/luk/058.
[10] 1891 England census, London, Hackney, ED 23b, p. 31, schedule 47, 33 Benyon Rd, Mary A Sparrow (indexed as “Spawn”); imaged as “1891 England Census,” Ancestry ( : accessed 29 October 2018), London >Hackney >West Hackney >District 23b >image 32 of 34; TNA RG12/190/98.
[11] Church of England, Meldreth (Cambridgeshire), Register of Baptisms, 1813-77,. 44, no. 345, Edith Casburn, 29 Mar 1835; imaged as “Parish registers for Meldreth, 1681-1877,”FamilySearch ( : accessed 28 April 2017), image 219 of 699; FHL film 1,040,542, item 5.
[12] 1851 England census, Cambridgeshire, Whaddon, ED 4, p. 15, schedule 43, Edith Casbon in household of Elizabeth Bell; Ancestry ( : accessed 27 January 2019), Cambridgeshire >Whaddon >4 >image 16 of 23; TNA, HO 107/1708/34.
[13] Meldreth, Register of Marriages, 1837-75, p. 50, no. 99, William Catley & Edith Casbon, 13 Oct 1860; imaged as “Parish registers for Meldreth, 1681-1877,” FamilySearch ( : accessed 29 August 2017), image 397 of 699; FHL film 1,040,542, item 9.
[14] “Index of Cambridgeshire Parish Records,” database/transcriptions, Cambridge Family History Society, Edith Catley, bu. 22 May 1916 at Melbourn; print copy in author’s personal collection.
[15] Meldreth, Register of Baptisms, 1813-77, p. 54, no. 429, Jane Casbon, 29 Nov 1840; FamilySearch ( : accessed 28 April 2017), image 224 of 699.
[16] 1861 England census, Cambridgeshire, Meldreth, ED 15, schedule 133; J Carston in household of William Caston; Ancestry ( : accessed 27 January 2019), Cambridgeshire >Meldreth >District 15 >image 25 of 32; TNA, RG 9/815/64.
[17] 1871 England census, Meldreth, enumeration district (ED) 15, p. 21, schedule 125, High St., Jane Casbon in household of William Casbon; “1871 England Census,” Ancestry ( : accessed 27 January 2019), Cambridgeshire >Meldreth >District 15 >image 22 of 32; TNA, RG 10/1363/25.
[18] “England & Wales Marriages 1837-2008”, database, findmypast ( : accessed 30 March 2017), John Camp, 1st qtr, 1881, Royston, vol. 3A/323; General Register Office (GRO), Southport.
[19] “Search the GRO Online Index,” HM Passport Office ( : accessed 27 January 2019), deaths, Jane Camp, J[un] qtr, 1904, Royston, vol. 3A/299.
[20] 1871 England census, Kent, Lewisham, ED 4, p. 61, schedule 214, Martha Casbon (indexed “Carbor” in household of John H Greener (indexed “Greeno”); Ancestry ( : accessed 19 March 2018), Kent >Lewisham >Lee >District 4 >image 62 of 80; TNA, RG 10/763/89.
[21] 1881 England census, London, Hammersmith, ED 28, pp. 41-2, schedule 186, 100 Godolphin Rd., Martha Casbon in household of John Weir; “1881 England Census,” Ancestry (( : accessed 19 March 2018), London >Hammersmith >St Paul Hammersmith >District 28 >image 42 of 68; TNA, RG 11/60/143.
[22] 1891 England census, London, Lambeth, ED 20, p. 4, schedule 20, 156 Clapham Rd., Martha Casbon in the household of Frederick Glew; Ancestry ( : accessed 27 January 2019), London >Lambeth >Kennington First >District 20 >image 5 of 45; TNA, RG 12/400/96.
[23] 1901 England census, London, Hammersmith, ED 3, p. 90, schedule620, 214 Goldhawk Rd., Martha Casbon in household of Henry Miller; “1901 England Census,” Ancestry ( : accessed 20 March 2018; TNA, RG 13/: accessed 20 March 2018; TNA, RG 13/9/124.
[24] 1911 England census, London, Lambeth, ED 10, schedule 109, 76 Tulse Hill SW, Martha Casbon in household of Thomas Drake; “1911 England Census,” Ancestry ( : accessed 27 January 2019), London >Lambeth >Norwood >10 >image 220 of 421; TNA, RG 14/2109.
[25] 1939 Register, Cambridgeshire, South Cambridgeshire, ED TBKV, schedule 34, High St., Martha Casbon, “1939 England and Wales Register,” Ancestry ( : accessed 27 January 2019), Cambridgeshire >South Cambridgeshire RD >TBKV >image 5 of 9; TNA, RG 191.63261,
[26] “Melbourn Burials 1739–1950,” p. 73, Martha Casbon, 19 Jan 1947; transcriptions, Cambridge Family History Society, Melbourn burials, Martha Casbon, bu. 22 May 1916 at Melbourn; print copy in author’s personal collection.
[27] 1851 England census, Cambridgeshire, Chatteris, ED 3e, p. 1, schedule 1, Park Rd., Sarah Casborn in household of Ann Curtis; Ancestry ( : accessed 27 January 2019), Cambridgshire >Chatteris >3e >image 2 of 48; TNA, HO 107/1765/371.
[28] Ibid.
[29] Church of England, Peterborough (Northamptonshire), St. John Parish, Marriages, 1855–1866, p. 76, no. 152, Richard Baker & Sarah Casbon, 22 Jun 1857; imaged as “Northamptonshire, England, Church of England Marriages, 1754-1912,” Ancestry ( : accessed 19 January 2018), Peterborough, St John >Parish Registers >1855-1859 >image 41 of 66; Northamptonshire Record Office, Northampton.
[30] “Search the GRO Online Index,” deaths, Sarah Baker, M[ar] qtr, 1904, Peterborough, vol. 3B/146.
[31] “Search the GRO Online Index,” births, Priscilla Banks, D[ec] qtr, 1862, Royston, vol. 3A/227.
[32] 1881 England Census, Cambridgeshire, Cambridge, ED 2, p. 14, schedule 59, 8 Parker St., Priscilla Casbon in household of Edmund Wilson; Ancestry ( : accessed 26 January 2019), Cambridgeshire >Cambridge >St. Andrew the Great >District 2 >image 15 of 48; TNA, RG 11/1669/43.
[33] 1891 England census, Cambridgeshire, Meldreth, ED 13, p. 18, schedule 134, Witcroft Rd., Priscilla Casbon in household of William Casbon; Ancestry ( : accessed 27 January 2019), Cambridgeshire >Meldreth >District 13 >image 19 of 27; TNA, RG 12/1104/68.
[34] “England & Wales, Civil Registration Marriage Index, 1837-1915,” Ancestry ( : accessed 24 April 2018), Priscilla Casbon, 3d qtr, 1896, Bedford, vol. 3B/732; GRO, London.
[35] “Find A Will,” Gov.UK ( : accessed 27 January 2019), Wills and Probate 1858–1996, search terms: “banks” “1904.”
[36] 1891 England census, London, Kensington, ED 17, p. 30, schedule 157, 40 Evelyn Gardens, Julia F Casbon in the household of Thomas Fraser; Ancestry ( : accessed 27 January 2019), London >Kensington >Brompton >District 17 >image 31 of 51; TNA, RG 12/32/73.
[37] Church of England, Barley (Hertfordshire), Marriage registers, p. 136, no. 271, Henry Brassington & Julia Frances Casbon, 19 Sep 1899; “Hertfordshire Banns & Marriages,” findmypast ( : accessed 14 October 2017).
[38] “England and Wales Death Registration Index 1837-2007”, FamilySearch, ( : accessed 4 September 2014), Julia F Brassington, 1965, 4th qtr, Harrow, vol. 5B/961/153; citing GRO, Southport.
[39] “Search the GRO Online Index,” births, Kate Casban, M[ar] atr, 1874, Edmonton, vol. 3A: 203.
[40] 1891 England Census, Middlesex, Edmonton, ED 1, p. 49, schedule 284, Langhedge House, Kate Casban in household of Maria Rowley; Ancestry ( : accessed 28 January 2019), Middlesex >Edmonton >District 01 >image 50 of 54; TNA, RG 14/1081/27.
[41] Church of England, London, Edmonton, St James, Marriages 1851-1917, p. 159, no. 318, Frederick Gunn & Kate Casban, 9 Apr 1898; “London, England, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1754-1932,” Ancestry ( : accessed 22 March 2017), Enfield >St James, Upper Edmonton >1851-1917 >image 206 of 506; London Metropolitan Archives.
[42] “Search the GRO Online Index,” births, Margaret Casbon, D[ec] qtr, 1875, Royston, vol. 3A/320.
[43] 1891 England Census, Surrey, Croydon, ED 34, p. 9, schedule 48, 25 Wellesley Rd., Alice Casbar in household of George E Wheeler; Ancestry ( : accessed 28 January 2019), Surrey >Croydon >District 34 >image 10 of 89; TNA RG 14/591/44.
[44] Ibid.
[45] “England and Wales Marriage Registration Index, 1837-2005,” FamilySearch ( : accessed 13 December 2014), Margaret Alice Casban, 2d qtr, 1898, Croydon, vol. 2A/529/38; GRO, Southport.
[46] “Search the GRO Online Index,” births, Olive Louise Casbon, J[un] qtr, 1884, Royston, vol. 3A/444.
[47] 1901 England census, Surrey, Croydon, ED 81, p. 8, schedule 45, Olive L Casson in household of John Percy Lewis; Ancestry ( : accessed 26 January 2019), Surrey >Croydon >District 81 >image 9 of 55; TNA, RG 13/648/8.
[48] 1911 England Census, Surrey, Croydon, ED 18, schedule 63, 18 Avenue Rd, Norwood S.E., Olive Louise Casbon in household of Reuben Glasgow Kestin; Ancestry ( : accessed 20 March 2018), Surrey >Croydon >North Croydon >18 >image 126 of 699; TNA, RG 14/3385.
[49] “England and Wales Marriage Registration Index, 1837-2005,” FamilySearch ( : accessed 14 November 2015), Olive L Casbon, 2d qtr, 1911, Croydon, vol, 2A/631/105.
[50] “Search the GRO Online Index,” births, Thomas Jessop Cavendish De Rinzy, D[ec] qtr, 1911, Croydon, vol. 2A/644.
[51] “Search the GRO Online Index,” deaths, Olive Louise De Rinzy, D[ec] qtr, 1916, Croydon, vol. 2A/473.
[52] “Search the GRO Online Index,” births, Maud Emily Casbon, D[ec] qtr, 1885, Royston, vol. 3A/471.
[53] 1901 England census, Cambridgeshire, Melbourn, enumeration district 9, p. 9, schedule 44, Maud Carton in household of Albert Spencer; Ancestry ( : accessed 28 January 2019), Cambridgeshire >Melbourn >District 09 >image 10 of 27; TNA, RG 13/1296/9.
[54] 1911 England Census, Surrey, Penge, ED 2, schedule 138, Maude Emily Casbon in household of Adele Maude Everest; Ancestry ( : accessed 20 March 201), Surrey >Penge >02 >image 276 of 809; TNA, RG 14/3406.
[55] “Search the GRO Online Index,” deaths, Maud Emily Casbon, D[ec] qtr, 1911, Croydon, vol. 2A/408.
[56] “Search the GRO Online Index,” births, Hilda Mary Casbon, D[ec] qtr, 1887, Royston, vol. 3A/466.
[57] 1911 England Census, Cambridgeshire, Fowlmere, ED 5, schedule 26, Hilda Casbon in household of Sarah Casbon; Ancestry ( : accessed 28 January 2019), Hertfordshire >Fowlmere >05 >image 52 of 265; TNA, RG 14/7557.
[58] England, birth certificate (PDF copy) for George Casbon, born 11 Jun 1914; registered June quarter, Croydon district 2A/618, West Croydon Sub-district, Surrey; General Register Office, Southport.
[59] Tessa Arlen, “The Redoubtable Edwardian Housemaid and a Life of Service,” Tessa Arlen Mysteries from the early 1900s ( : accessed 28 January 2019).
[60] “Search the GRO Online Index,” deaths, Hilda Casbon, J[un] qtr, 1921, Croydon, vol. 2A/312.
[61] “Search the GRO Online Index,” births, Elsie Lydia Casbon, S[ep] qtr, 1890, Royston, vol. 3A/490.
[62] 1911 England Census, Cambridgeshire,Cambridge, ED 7, schedule 135, 160-1 East Rd, Elsie Lydia Caslon in household of George W Sheet; Ancestry ( : accessed 20 March 2018), Cambridgeshire >Cambridge >St Andrew the Less >07 >image 274 of 313; TNA, RG 14/9107.
[63] “Search the GRO Online Index,” deaths, Elsie Casbon, J[un] qtr, 1919, Kensington, vol. 1A/217.

“Situations Required”

The title for today’s post comes from the July 22, 1887 London Morning Post.[1]


Detail of “Situations Required” classified advertisements, The (London) Morning Post, July 22, 1887; Newspaper image © The British Library Board. All rights reserved. With thanks to The British Newspaper Archive ( (Click on image to enlarge)

We see that “E Casbon” is seeking a position as a “Maid to One or Two Ladies.” She is twenty-five years old, has experience as a dressmaker, belongs to the Church of England, and has “good references.” She is living at 22 Mansfield Street, Portland Place, London.

Who was E Casbon? Her age tells that she was born in 1861 or 1862. There is only one woman with that name who was born in that time frame: Elizabeth, daughter of John (1832–1885) and Rebecca (Speechly, ~1823–1886) Casbon of Peterborough. We’ve met her father, John, before. He was in the third generation of gardeners who eventually settled in Peterborough. John suffered through bankruptcy proceedings in 1870-71, but was eventually able to recover financially.

Elizabeth was one of John and Rebecca’s five children who survived into adulthood. Little information is available about her life.  We find her in the 1881 census, either living with or visiting her older brother Thomas in Peterborough.[2]

Detail from 1881 census, Peterborough, Northamptonshire. (Click on image to enlarge)

We see that Elizabeth is unmarried, nineteen years old, and employed as a dressmaker.

Dressmaking was a very common occupation for women at the time. It’s likely that Elizabeth had completed a two-year apprenticeship.[3] She might have worked from home or worked in a shop. She probably used a sewing machine, but would have had to do much of the work by hand. Dressmakers could make a decent living, but often faced long hours and difficult working conditions. For more information about dressmaking in Victorian England, I refer you to an excellent blog post, “D is for Dressmaker,” by Amanda Wilkinson.

“The Seamstress” (1897), Josef Gisela (1851-1899), original in Vienna Museum (accessed via Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain; This file has been identified as being free of known restrictions under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights)

Despite my best efforts, I haven’t been able to find Elizabeth in the 1891 and 1901 England censuses. That’s where the “Situations Required” ad helps out. We know from the advertisement that she had been working as a servant, probably a lady’s maid, at the house on Mansfield Street. She must have started her employment there some time after the 1881 census was taken.

What can we find out about the residence on Mansfield Street? The 1881 census helps us out. It turns out that 22 Mansfield Street was occupied by a wealthy gentleman named Charles J.T. Hambro, whose father founded one of the United Kingdom’s largest investment banks.[4] The family’s main home was at Milton Abbey, in Dorset, so the Mansfield Street residence would have been their London home. Charles J.T. Hambro held the offices of Deputy Lieutenant and Justice of the Peace for Dorset, and was a Member of Parliament from 1868 to 1874 and again from 1886 until his death in 1891.[5]

When the 1881 census was taken, the household on Mansfield Street was occupied by Charles Hambro, his wife Susan, daughter Agneta, and eleven servants, consisting of a cook, two kitchen maids, two housemaids, two lady’s maids, one butler, two footmen and one page.[6] That is an impressive number of servants, and indicates the Hambros’ significant wealth and position in society.

How is it that Elizabeth left her employment as a dressmaker in Peterborough to become a lady’s maid in London? That is unknown. Elizabeth must have thought there were better opportunities for her in domestic service compared to her previous occupation, and London certainly offered a greater number of potential employers. She might have started in a lower maid’s position before being promoted to the position of lady’s maid. Being new to the job, she probably served one of the daughters of the house. Her dressmaking experience would have been a great asset, as it was considered a prerequisite for lady’s maid duties.[7]

What were those duties? Anyone who has watched Downton Abbey will have some idea of what was involved, thanks to the trials and tribulations of Anna Bates, Lady Mary’s long-suffering personal maid.

Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) and Anna Bates (Joanna Froggatt) in Downton Abbey

In the hierarchy of female servants, the lady’s maid was the second highest in rank, after the housekeeper.[8] Her position was unique in that she had a much closer relationship to her mistress than the other servants.[9] A partial list of her duties is given in The Duties of Servants (1890).

To bring up the hot-water for her mistress in the morning and at various times of the day as required.
To bring her an early cup of tea.
To prepare her things for dressing.
To assist her in dressing.
To put her room in order after dressing.
To put out her things for walking, riding, and driving, both in the morning and afternoon.
To assist her in taking off her out-door attire.
To put in readiness all that her mistress may require for dressing in the evening.
To assist her to dress for dinner.
To put everything in order in her mistress’s room before leaving it.
To sit up for her, and to assist her to undress on her return, and to carefully put away her jewels and everything connected with her toilette.
To keep her mistress’s wardrobe in thorough repair, and to do all the dressmaking and millinery required of her.
To wash the lace and fine linen of her mistress.[10]

She was essentially at the beck and call of her mistress, in order to look after her every need.

Because of her proximity to the lady of the house, it was vitally important that she be circumspect in her behavior, and perhaps most importantly, maintain strict confidentiality concerning her mistress’s activities and conversation. “She ought, therefore, to possess the qualifications of propriety and polite behaviour; and her conduct should be uniformly influenced by correct principles, and strict regard to religious and moral obligations.”[11]

In turn, lady’s maids received perks not available to other servants. They were likely to receive their mistresses’ cast-off clothing, which they could alter to fit themselves or sell to others.[12] They might receive commissions from tradespeople who did business with their mistresses.[13] They had opportunities to travel, when their mistresses went abroad or were guests in other households.[14]

This tells us quite a bit about Elizabeth’s responsibilities after coming to London, and perhaps something about her character as well. She was probably somewhat better educated than the other female servants and was able to conduct herself in a manner fitting of the position.[15] The fact that she had “good references” tells us that she performed her duties satisfactorily.

We don’t know why she left her employment with the Hambro family in 1887, although it seems to have been under favorable circumstances. Perhaps one of the daughters was no longer living at home, or the family was downsizing the London home and no longer needed as many servants.

We do know that Elizabeth was successful at finding new employment, given that she placed this advertisement in 1890.[16]

“Want Places,” London Morning Post, June 4, 1890. (Click on image to enlarge); Newspaper image © The British Library Board. All rights reserved. With thanks to The British Newspaper Archive (

The fact that she had “2 ½ years’ good character” tells us that she must have been hired soon after the previous (1887) advertisement was placed. Note also that she was now living in Millfield, Peterborough, her home town. This suggests that her employment had already ended.

We don’t know what happened for the next seventeen years of her life, since she doesn’t seem to appear in the 1891 and 1901 censuses. The next record I have of Elizabeth is for her marriage in 1907 to William Buxton, a widower from Doncaster.[17] As of 1926, William and Elizabeth were still living in Doncaster.[18] I haven’t been able to pin down their death dates.

Elizabeth’s story, though incomplete, is interesting because it reflects the experiences of many women in late Victorian England. As dressmaker and domestic servant, she worked in two of the most common occupations (along with factory work) of her era.[19] Though typical, it probably wasn’t an easy life. As with so many of our family stories, I wish I could know more.

[1] “Situations Wanted,” The (London, England) Morning Post, 22 Jul 1887, p. 7, col. 8; online image, British Newspaper Archive ( : accessed 4 September 2017).
[2] 1871 England Census, Northamptonshire, Peterborough, district 33, p. 5, schedule 28, Elizabeth Casbon in household of Thomas Casbon ; imaged as “1881 England Census,” Ancestry ( : accessed 17 January 2019), Northamptonshire >Peterborough >District 33 >image 7 of 23; citing The National Archives, RG 11/1595.
[3] Sally Mitchell, Daily Life in Victorian England (Westport, Connecticut: The Greenwood Press, 1996), p. 62.
[4] “Charles J.T. Hambro,” Wikipedia ( : accessed 18 January 2019), rev. 19 Oct 18, 08:28.
[5] Ibid.
[6] 1881 England Census, London, Marylebone, Cavendish Square. District 8, p. 22, schedule 68, Charles Hambro; imaged as “1881 England Census,” Ancestry ( : accessed 17 January 2019), London >Marylebone >Cavendish Square > District 8 >image 23 of 47; citing The National Archives, RG 11/140/57.
[7] Isabella M Beeton, Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management: a Guide to Cookery in All Branches, “new” ed., (London: Ward, Lock & Co., 1907), p. 1773; online image, Internet Archive ( : accessed 14 January 2019).
[8] Pamela Horn, The Rise and Fall of the Victorian Servant (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1975), p. 55.
[9] Ibid.
[10] The Duties of Servants: a Practical Guide to the Routine of Domestic Service (London: Frederick Warne & Co., 1890), pp. 99–100; online image, Internet Archive ( : accessed 18 January 2019).
[11] The Family Manual and Servants’ Guide, 9th ed. (London: S.D. Ewins, 1859), p. 97; online image, Google Books ( : accessed 14 January 2019).
[12] Lucy Lethbridge, Servants: A Downstairs HIstory of Britain from the Nineteenth Century to Modern Times (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2013), p. 78.
[13] Ibid.
[14] Ibid.
[15] Horn, The Rise and Fall of the Victorian Servant, p. 57.
[16] “Want Places,” The (London, England) Morning Post, 4 Jun 1890, p. 11, col. 3; online image, British Newspaper Archive ( : accessed 4 September 2017).
[17] Church of England, Peterborough (Northamptonshire), St Paul’s, Register of Marriages, vol. 2 (1905–1921), p. 30, no. 60, William Buxton & Elizabeth Casbon, 19 May 1907; imaged as “Northamptonshire, England, Church of England Marriages, 1754-1912,” Ancestry ( : accessed 18 January 2019), Peterborough, St Paul >Parish Registers >1905-1912 >image 18 of 54; citing Northamptonshire Record Office; Northampton.
[18] Yorkshire (West Riding), Autumn Register 1926, Doncaster Parliamentary Division, Polling District L, St. James Ward, p. 31, nos. 1750-1, 6 Roberts Rd., William & Elizabeth Buxton; imaged as “West Yorkshire, England, Electoral Registers, 1840-1962,” Ancestry ( : accessed 18 January 2019), Doncaster >1926 >image 666 of 773; citing West Yorkshire Archive Service, Leeds.
[19] Mitchell, Daily Life in Victorian England, p. 62.

Musings on John, Continued

In the last post, I hope I made a convincing argument that John, baptized Casborn in Orwell, 1721, is the direct ancestor of myself and many of today’s Casbons, Casbans and Casbens.

However, I pointed out one inconsistency in the records. John was trained as a cordwainer, or shoemaker. However, the man who was buried in 1796 was recorded as parish clerk. The essential question is, “could he have been both a cordwainer and a parish clerk?”

I’ll start by exploring the meaning of the word clerk and the historical background of parish clerks in England. When I first saw the term parish clerk, I saw it with my twenty-first century eyes, and assumed it referred to someone who was literate and kept various church records. However, the meaning of the word clerk has changed considerably over time, as have the duties and qualifications of parish clerks.

Clerk derives from the Latin clericus, which means priest, clergyman, cleric, or scholar.[1] The English word clerk has had different meanings over time. Originally, it referred to “any one who took part in the services of the Church, whether he was in major or minor orders.”[2] Over time, the meaning of clerk changed to refer to anyone who could read or write, then later to “an assistant in public or private business,” and eventually to “a retail salesman” and “an employee who registers guests in a hotel.”[3]

Likewise, the meaning of the term parish clerk has changed over time. In early times, parish clerks “were formerly clerks in orders, and their business at first was to officiate at the altar.”[4] The clerk’s main duties were to “to be able to sing; to read the epistle; and to teach.”[5]

Embellished letter ‘E’ from an illuminated manuscript: priest giving communion to a sick man in bed, described in Ditchfield, The Parish Clerk, as “The Clerk Accompanying the Priest when Visiting the Sick.”[6] The British Library ( on image to enlarge)

After the Commonwealth period in English history (1649–1660), the rank and status of parish clerks was diminished.[7] “Now they are laymen, and have certain fees with the parson, on christnings [sic], marriages, burials, etc. besides wages for their maintenance.”[8] Qualifications for the position included the following: “the said Clerk shall be of Twenty Years of Age at the least, and known … to be of honest Conversation, and Sufficient for his Reading, Writing, and also his competent Skill in Singing,” although the requirement for singing seems to have been optional.[9] Parish clerks were generally nominated by the minister, and appointed for life.[10]

Besides serving as an assistant to the minister, the clerk had a multitude of other duties.

He attended practically every service, keeping dogs out and people awake and collecting pew rents and customary fees. He wrote the accounts if the wardens and overseers were illiterate, made out fair copies of the lists of church rates, assisted officers in their collection, and was capable of dealing with intransigent Independents and Quakers, perhaps assisted in a town by a beadle. He collected tolls on sheep pastured in the churchyard (too sour for cattle), on those who hung their washing there and from those who set up stalls along the path on market days.[11]

“The Sleeping Congregation,” 1728, William Hogarth; courtesy of the Minneapolis Institute of Art (; Public Domain.
(Click on image to enlarge)

In small parishes (such as Meldreth), the clerk might also carry out the duties of sexton. “He was responsible for the care of the churchyard as well as the inside of the church. He looked after the vestments and the vessels, rang the bells, opened and closed the church doors and dug the graves.”[12]

How does all this apply to John, the parish clerk of Meldreth? It suggests to me that he was probably a man held in esteem by the local vicar or curate, and probably by other members of the community. He was probably literate to a certain degree. Since Meldreth was a small parish, he probably performed many of the sexton’s duties as well as those of clerk. He would have been paid for his duties, though possibly not enough for a living.

This brings me back to the original question of whether John could have been both a cordwainer and parish clerk. There is nothing in the description of a parish clerk’s duties that tells me that the position would be incompatible with other occupations. Many of the responsibilities were carried out on days of worship, and it seems like the remaining duties could generally be done on a part-time basis.

Furthermore, there is strong evidence supporting the idea that parish clerks might have other occupations. The author of The Parish Clerk’s Guide (1731), when referring to “the poorer sort of Country-Clerks,” writes that “their In-come is so very small, generally speaking, that they are forc’d to employ their Time for Bread, rather than to have leisure to qualify themselves for the Business of a Parish-Clerk.”[13] I believe this means that many parish clerks needed to work at other occupations in order to supplement their meager wages.

An example is given in The Parish Clerk (1841), in which the English novelist Joseph Hewlett describes his protagonist, Davy Diggs, as

a shrewd, clever, uneducated, or rather half-a-quarter educated fellow, who combined in his own person the trades and occupations of parish clerk and sexton—parish Sunday-school master—parish tailor—and, what suited him best, parish gamekeeper and parish fiddler[14]

Clearly, the parish clerk could wear many hats!

I chanced upon further confirmation when I was looking through the Orwell parish registers. The burial of “John Lawrence Labourer and Church Clerk (my emphasis)” was recorded in 1755.[15]

Based on these examples, I think there can be no doubt that John, the cordwainer, could have also been the parish clerk.

John wasn’t appointed as the clerk until relatively late in life. I learned this when I found the burial record for his predecessor in the Meldreth parish register. “John Green, Clerk of the Parish” was buried on January 29, 1782.[16] If our John was appointed as parish clerk in that year, he would have been about sixty-one years old. By that time, it’s possible that his work of making shoes was occupying less of his time (or generating less income), or that it had been turned over to his former apprentice. The additional wages as clerk would have been a welcome supplement.

I’ll close with a famous painting, “The Parish Clerk.” It depicts Edward Orpin, parish clerk of Bradford-upon-Avon. Like our John, he was a tradesman, having been a cooper before assuming the duties of clerk.[17] He appears to be a man of devotion and some prominence. I would like to imagine that John shared these attributes, even if he was of humbler means.

“The Parish Clerk,” c.1760–70, formerly attributed to Thomas Gainsborough (1727–88); photo © Tate, Creative Commons license CC-BY-NC-ND 3.0 (Unported), (
(Click on image to enlarge)

[1] “clericus (Latin),” Dictionary ( : accessed 28 December 2018).
[2] Peter Hampson Ditchfield, The Parish Clerk (London: Methuen & Co., 1907), p. 16; online image, Hathi Trust Digital Library ( : accessed 18 December 2018).
[3] “clerk (n.),” Online Etymology Dictionary ( : accessed 28 December 2018).
[4] Giles Jacob, compiler, updated by Owen Ruffhead & J. Morgan, A New Law Dictionary: Containing the Interpretation and Definition of Words and Terms Used in the Law, 9th ed. (London: W. Strahan & M. Woodfall, 1772), n.p. “PAR” section, entry for “Parish Clerk,” imaged on Internet Archive ( : accessed 21 December 2018).
[5] J. Wickham Legg, ed., The Clerk’s Book of 1549 (London, n.p., 1903), p. xviii; online image, Hathi Trust Digital Library ( : accessed 18 December 2018).
[6] James le Palmer,”Omne Bonum (Ebrietas-Humanus),” c. 1360- c. 1375, manuscript, Royal 6 E VII, f. 70; online image, The British Library ( : accessed 28 December 2018).
[7] Ditchfield, The Parish Clerk, pp. 61-2.
[8] Jacob, , A New Law Dictionary, entry for “Parish Clerk.”
[9] B.P., Parish Clerk, The Parish Clerk’s Guide: or, the Singing Psalms used in the Parish Churches Suited to the Feasts and Fasts of the Church of England and most other Special Occasions (London: reprinted by John March for the Company of Parish Clerks, 1731), pp. 20-1; online image, Google Books ( : accessed 28 December 2018).
[10] Jacob, , A New Law Dictionary, entry for “Parish Clerk.”
[11] “Parish Administration in England and Wales,” FamilySearch Wiki ( : accessed 20 December 2018), rev. 3 Feb 16, 05:11.
[12] “Georgette,” “Church related professions,” Family Tree Forum ( : accessed 20 December 2018).
[13] B.P., The Parish Clerk’s Guide, p. 3.
[14] Joseph Hewlett, The Parish Clerk, Theodore Hook, editor (London: Henry Coburn, 1841), vol. 1, p. 23; online image, Hathi Trust Digital Library ( : accessed 28 December 2018).
[15] Church of England, Orwell (Cambridgeshire) Parish, General Register, 1653–1805, burials 1755; digitized as “Parish registers for Orwell, 1560-1877,” browsable images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 26 December 2018), image 326 of 695; citing FHL microfilm 1,040,543, item 9.
[16] Church of England, Meldreth (Cambridgeshire), General Register, 1682–1782, burials 1782, John Green, 29 Jan; accessed as “Parish registers for Meldreth, 1681-1877,” browsable images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 18 December 2018), image 66 of 699; citing FHL microfilm 1,040,542, item 2.
[17] “‘The Parish Clerk’ (Edward Orpin, Parish Clerk of Bradford-upon-Avon),” Tate [museum] ( : accessed 28 December 2018).

Musings on John

This is a follow-on to an earlier post titled “Stuck on John,”  in which I described how my research into the origins of the Meldreth branch of the Casbon family hit a “brick wall.” I had been able to trace the ancestry to a John Casborn who married Anne Chamberlain in 1742.[1] The problem was that there were at least two men named John Casb___ living in or near Meldreth at the time, and there wasn’t enough information to know for certain which one was the husband of Anne. But now, I’ve discovered evidence that puts me on much firmer ground about who “my” John might be.

First, let’s review what I know about my ancestor John. After their marriage, John and Anne had five children, according to baptismal records: Thomas (my ancestor, baptized in 1743), James (1747, buried 1748), James (1748), Mary (1750), and Anna (1754).[2] Anne, John’s wife, died in 1770.[3] John was described as “parish clerk” when he was buried in 1796.[4]

Detail of burial record, 1796, from Meldreth Parish registers. “John Casborn, Parish Clerk, aged 75. January 4.” (Click on image to enlarge)

We can be reasonably sure that all of these records refer to the same man because there are no other men named John Casb___ listed in the parish records of Meldreth and its vicinity during this time frame. Since the burial record gives his age as seventy-five, we can extrapolate a birth year of 1720 or 1721. This is very helpful.

The only person I have found who matches all of this information is John Casborn, the son of Thomas and Mary (Jeap), who was baptized in the village of Orwell, about two and one-half miles from Meldreth, in November 1721.[5]

Detail of baptism record, 1721, Orwell Parish registers, 1560-1877. “Nov. 26 John y[e] Son of
Thomas & Mary Casborn.” (Click on image to enlarge)

Map of southwestern Cambridgeshire, showing villages of Orwell and Meldreth. (Google Maps);
zoom in for greater detail

Notably, aside from his baptism, John does not appear again in Orwell parish records. This suggests that he moved elsewhere before his marriage and/or burial. How can we know if he is the same man who moved to Meldreth and later married Anne?

Here’s where the new evidence comes in, in the form of registers of duties paid for apprentices’ indentures. When a master took on (i.e., indentured) a new apprentice, he was paid a fee, usually by the parents of the apprentice. The master was required to pay a tax, or duty, on this fee. Records of apprenticeships, fees and duties were created by the Board of Stamps, and are now maintained by The National Archives of the UK.[6] These records can be searched at

I found this record in the collection (you’ll need to click to be able to read it).

Detail from Register of Duties Paid for Apprentices Indentures, 9–12 July 1736.[7] (Click on image to enlarge)

This record shows that “Will. Casbill of Mildred in Cambridge Cordwr. [cordwainer]” received a fee of four pounds, eleven shillings for the indenture of “John Casbill of Orwell” for a duration of four years, nine months, beginning “24 June last.” William Casbill was required to pay a duty of two shillings, three and one-half pence, based on the indenture fee.

The record is important because it connects John of Orwell to the village of Meldreth. He would have been about fifteen years old in 1736, an appropriate age for an apprentice. It’s odd that the term of indenture is only four years, nine months, since the usual apprenticeship was for seven years. It makes me wonder if William had been training John “off the books” for a couple of years before he paid the tax.

Who was his master, William Casbill? I don’t know for certain. One candidate is William Casbel, who was born in Meldreth in 1703 and was orphaned when his mother died in 1718.[8] Another candidate is John’s paternal uncle, William Casbolt, baptized 1695 in nearby Barrington. There are burial records for William Casbel in 1741 and William Carsburn in 1756.[9] Unfortunately, neither of these provide information about the deceased’s ages or occupations.

Incidentally, cordwainer is the old term for a shoemaker. There seems to have been a succession of cordwainers from Meldreth named Casb——. I wrote previously about John Casball, cordwainer, who paid duties for an apprentice in 1718 and died in 1727 (“a poor shoemaker”). He was followed by William of the 1736 indenture, who was followed by John of Orwell. Given the surname, it’s hard to believe these men weren’t all related in some way. It seems likely that the earlier John trained William to be a cordwainer, although I haven’t found any such records.

Getting back to John of Orwell, another apprenticeship record shows us that he remained in Meldreth as a master cordwainer following completion of his own apprenticeship.

Detail from Register of Duties Paid for Apprentices Indentures, 24–28 January 1774.[10] (Click on image to enlarge)

This record shows that on January 28, 1774 “John Casbon of Meldreth in Co. of Cambridge Cordwainer” paid the indenture duty for an apprentice named Thomas Wing.

Thus, we have several points that can be connected to describe John’s life from his baptism in Orwell to his burial in Meldreth. Using the available records we can create this chronology:

  • 1721: John Casborn, son of Thomas and Mary (Jeap), is baptized in Orwell
  • 1736: John Casbill of Orwell is indentured as an apprentice to William Casbill of Meldreth
  • 1742: “John Casborn of the Parish of Meldreth and Ann Chamberlain of this Parish” are married in Wimpole, Cambridgeshire, 18 January 1742
  • 1743–1754: five children are born to John & Ann, including Thomas (baptized 1743)
  • 1770: “Anne Casbull Wife of John Casbill” is buried at Meldreth
  • 1774: John Casbon, cordwainer, indentures Thomas Wing as apprentice
  • 1796: “John Casborn, Parish Clerk, aged 75” is buried at Meldreth

You may notice an inconsistency in this chronology. The burial record of 1796 describes John as the parish clerk, but not as a cordwainer. Could he have been both parish clerk and cordwainer? I believe the answer is yes. I’ll address this in the next post.

Considering all the evidence, I’m confident that this “brick wall” is gone, i.e., I believe John Casborn, baptized 1721 in Orwell, is my direct ancestor and the common ancestor for all the Casbons, Casbans and Casbens who descended from his children. What do you think?

As an epilogue to John’s story, we find that in 1797, Thomas Wing, John’s former apprentice and now a master cordwainer himself in Meldreth, indentured an apprentice of his own.[11] The torch was passed.

[1] Church of England. Wimpole Parish (Cambridgeshire, England), Bishop’s transcripts for Wimpole, 1599-1857, Casborn–Chamberlain marriage (1742); digital images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 7 June 2016), image 122 of 799.
[2] Church of England, Meldreth Parish registers; accessed as “Parish registers for Meldreth, 1681-1877, FamilySearch (, images 109-111 of 699; citing FHL microfilm 1,040,542, item 2.
[3] Ibid, image 61 of 699.
[4] Ibid, image 129 of 699; citing FHL microfilm 1,040,542, item 3.
[5] Church of England, Parish of Orwell (Cambridgeshire), Parish Registers; accessed as “Parish Registers, 1560-1877,” browsable images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 26 December 2018), image 278 of 695; citing FHL microfilm 1,040,543, item 9.
[6] “Board of Stamps: Apprenticeship Books,” The National Archives ( : accessed 23 December 2018).
[7] “UK, Register of Duties Paid for Apprentices’ Indentures, 1710-1811,” database with images, Ancestry ( : accessed 19 December 2018), 1735-1739 >image 339 of 909, 10 Jul 1736; citing The National Archives, IR-1/14, Kew.
[8] Church of England, Meldreth Parish registers; accessed as “Parish registers for Meldreth, 1681-1877, FamilySearch (, images 48 & 101 of 699; citing FHL microfilm 1,040,542, item 2.
[9] Ibid., images 54 & 57 of 699.
[10] “UK, Register of Duties Paid for Apprentices’ Indentures, 1710-1811,” Ancestry ( : accessed 10 May 2018), 1770-1774 >images 732-3 of 1930, 28 Jan 1774; citing The National Archives, IR1/28, Kew.
[11] “UK, Register of Duties Paid for Apprentices’ Indentures, 1710-1811,” Ancestry ( : accessed 23 December 2018), 1794-1799 >imgs 424-5 of 1960, 20 Apr 1797; citing the National Archives, IR 1/ 68.