The First Family of James Casbon in England

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

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

James Casbon, undated photo; courtesy of Ron Casbon

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

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

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

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

William Casbon (~1836–unknown)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sarah Casbon (~1837–unknown)

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

Lydia (Ann) Casbon (~1840–1885)

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

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

Mary Casbon (~1841–unknown)

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

Thomas Casbon (1844–1924)

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

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

George Casbon (1846–1897)

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

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

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

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

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

John Casbon (1849–1935)

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

Emma Casbon (1851–1853)

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

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

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


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

Occupations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peterborough Group

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

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

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

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

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

Meldreth Group 1

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

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

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

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

Meldreth Group 2

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

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

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

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

Meldreth Group 3

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

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

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

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

Chatteris Group

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

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

General Observations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Going, Going …

The sister villages of Meldreth and Melbourn in Cambridgeshire are my ancestral homeland. Records of Casbon ancestors in these villages go back to the mid-sixteenth century. Families occasionally moved from one village to another, or to other nearby villages, but there was little reason or incentive to go further. The situation remained stable for over 250 years, but in the 1840s, things began to change.

Slowly at first, and then with increasing speed, the number of Casbons in Meldreth and Melbourn began to dwindle. In the 1841 census, there were 7 households with 30 people; in 1851, 7 households with 27 people; 1861 – 4 households/14 people; 1871 – 5 households/12 people; 1881 – 2 households/4 people; 1891 – 2 households/5 people; 1901 & 1911 – 1 household/2 people.[1] (1911 is the last year census records have been made available to the public.) The 1939 register (a census-like record taken before World War 2) shows only one Casbon living in Meldreth.

Chart showing decline in Casbon households and family members in Meldreth and Melbourn from 1841 to 1939. (Click on image to enlarge)

What happened? Where did they go and why did they leave? The reasons are varied, but for the most part revolve around the “three Fs”: finance, family, friends. In the mid-1800s, the growth of cities and improvements in transportation created new job opportunities. The exodus from Meldreth took off after the arrival of the railroad in 1851.[2]

Casbon households in Meldreth, 1841 England Census

The first to leave was my third great grandfather, Thomas (1803–1888), and his family, when they emigrated to the United States in 1846. I’ve written extensively about Thomas and his journey, so will not elaborate further here.

Casbon households in Meldreth & Melbourn, 1851 England Census

The next to go was James Casbon (1806–1871), who moved to the village of Barley in Hertfordshire with his family, probably in the early 1850s.[3] Barley is located about five miles south of Meldreth.

Detail map showing Cambridge, Meldreth, Melbourn, and Barley.[4] (Click on image to enlarge)
James was a landowner, which put him in a different class than his poorer Casbon relatives. He also had a business as a carrier, hauling freight (and perhaps passengers) to and from London. His reasons for moving to Barley are unknown. His sons remained in Barley and established their own families there. Thus, Barley became a new population center for the Casbon surname.

Between 1851 and 1861 the number of Casbon households was further reduced due to deaths, employment, and unknown other reasons. Lydia (Burgess) Casbon, widow of Joseph (abt. 1811–1847), died in 1851.[5] Two daughters, Hannah and Harriet Ann, preceded her in death in 1848 and 1850, respectively, and a third daughter, Emma, died in 1852.[6] Lydia’s surviving daughter, Mary, emigrated to the United States, where she joined her uncle Thomas Casbon, in 1856.[7] “Patty” Barns (née Martha Wagstaff), widow of John Casbon (abt. 1779–1813), died in 1855.[8] After losing his wife, Elizabeth, in 1852, James Casbon (b. abt. 1813) and his family disappeared from view until he emigrated to Indiana in 1870.[9] Mary Ann Casbon (b. 1831, daughter of William, b. 1805), who had been working as a servant in Melbourn in 1851, was employed as a cook in a London public house by 1861.[10]

Casbon households in Meldreth, 1861 England Census

Although the numbers remained relatively stable between 1861 and 1871, some important moves still took place. Three more of William’s (b. 1805) children left for the environs of London: John (b. abt. 1842), Reuben (b. 1847) and Martha (b. abt. 1855). John was working as a Labourer when he was married in Lambeth (now a borough of London) in 1866.[11] Reuben must have moved to the London area in the same time frame, since he and his sister Mary Ann are listed as witnesses on the marriage record. Martha, perhaps following in her brothers’ footsteps, is listed as a sixteen-year-old “domestic servant housemaid” for a suburban London household in the 1871 census.[12]

Casbon households in Meldreth & Melbourn, 1871 England Census

The numbers plunged after 1871, as the “old-timers” – Jane (1803–1872), William (1805-1877) and William (1806–1875) died and their remaining children moved away. Samuel Clark Casbon (b. 1851) moved to Croydon, Surrey.[13] His sister, Jane, married John Camp in 1881.[14] Only the younger William (b. 1835), and John Casbon (b. 1849) remained. William’s three children, Walter (b. 1856), William (b. 1860), and Priscilla (b. 1862), all left home for jobs in domestic service or the railroads.

William (b. 1835) died in 1896. After his death, his wife, Sarah (West, b. abt 1823) moved to Hitchin, Hertfordshire, where she lived with her son, Walter, until her death in 1905.[15] John (b. 1849) died in 1935, followed by his wife Sarah (Pepper, b. abt 1850) in 1938.[16] John and Sarah were the only two Casbons on the 1901 and 1911 censuses for Meldreth.

The memorial stone of William and Sarah (West) Casbon, Holy Trinity Churchyard, Meldreth;
“In/ Memory of/ WILLIAM CASBON/ who died March 7th 1896/aged 61 years/”We hope to meet again at/ The Resurrection of the just/A light is from the household gone/ A voice we loved is stilled/ A place is vacant in our home/ Which never can be filled”./ Also of /SARAH, wife of the above/who departed this life/ December 22nd 1905/ aged 83 years./She hath done what she could/ Her end was peace./”
Photograph by Malcolm Woods; Meldreth History website (http://www.meldrethhistory.org.uk).
(Click on image to enlarge)

Martha Casbon (b. abt. 1855), who spent most of her adult life in domestic service, returned to Meldreth in her later years, and is the sole Casbon listed on the 1939 register.[17] With her death in 1947, the Casbon name became extinct in Meldreth.[18]

[1] Data extracted from England censuses by Jon Casbon.
[2] Happy Birthday, Meldreth Station (no publication details available), leaflet; PDF download (http://meldrethsheprethfoxtonrail.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Meldreth150.pdf : accessed 1 November 2018).
[3] Jon Casbon, “James Casbon, Farmer and Carrier, 1806-1871, Part 1,” 23 Jan 17, Our Casbon Journey (https://casbonjourney.wordpress.com/2017/01/23/james-casbon-farmer-and-carrier-1806-1871-part-1/ : accessed 1 November 2018).
[4] Ordnance Survey of England and Wales (Southampton: Director General at the Ordnance Survey Office, 1903), Sheet 16; online image, A Vision of Britain Through Time (http://www.visionofbritain.org.uk/maps/sheet/new_series_revised_medium/sheet_16 : accessed 1 November 2018).
[5] England and Wales, “Search the GRO [General Register Office] Online Index,” database, HM Passport Office (https://www.gro.gov.uk/gro/content/certificates/indexes_search.asp : accessed 1 November 2018), Lydia Casbon, 2d qtr, 1851, Royston & Buntingford, vol. 6:405.
[6] Ibid., Hannah Casbon (age 5), 2d qtr, 1848, Royston & Buntingford, vol. 6/433. Ibid., Harriet Ann Casbon (age 11), 3d qtr, 1852, Royston & Buntingford, vol. 6/366. Ibid., Emma Casbon (age 7), 2d qtr, 1852, Royston & Buntingford, vol. 3A/131.
[7] Jon Casbon, “From England to Indiana, Part 8,” 18 Nov 2016, Our Casbon Journey (https://casbonjourney.wordpress.com/2016/11/18/from-england-to-indiana-part-8/ : accessed 1 November 2018).
[8] England and Wales, “Search the GRO [General Register Office] Online Index,” (cited previously), Martha Barnes, 4th qtr, 1855, Royston, vol. 3A: 128.
[9] Jon Casbon, “James Casbon of Meldreth, England and Porter County, Indiana,” 29 Nov 2016, Our Casbon Journey (https://casbonjourney.wordpress.com/2016/11/29/james-casbon-of-meldreth-england-and-porter-county-indiana/ : accessed 1 November 2018).
[10] 1861 England Census, Middlesex, Islington, population schedule, district 36, Johnston parish, p. 55 (stamped), schedule 153, Mary Ann Cusbin in household of Richd Munford; imaged on Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=8767 : accessed 1 November 2018), Middlesex >Islington >Islington East >District 36 >image 28 of 84; citing The National Archives, RG 9, piece 146, folio 55, p. 27.
[11] “London, England, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1754-1921,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=1623 : accessed 22 March 2017), Lambeth >St. Mary, Lambeth >1761-1896 >image 337 of 540; citing London Metropolitan Archives, ref. no. p85/mry1/541.
[12] 1871 England Census, Kent, Lewisham, population schedule, enumeration district 4, schedule 214, Martha Casbon (indexed as “Carbor”} in household of John H Greeno; imaged on Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=7619 : accessed 19 March 2018), Kent >Lewisham >Lee >District 4 >image 62 of 80; citing The National Archives, RG 10, piece 763, folio 89, p. 61.
[13] 1881 England Census, Surrey, Croydon, population schedule, enumeration district 35, schedule 256, Samuel Casban; image on Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=7572 : accessed 1 November 2018), Surrey >Croydon >District 35 >image 49 of 66; citing The National Archives, RG 11, piece 816, folio 60, p. 47.
[14] “England and Wales Marriage Registration Index, 1837-2005”, database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:2DRB-92Y : accessed 1 November 2018), Jane Casbon, 1st qtr, 1881, Royston, vol. 3A/323.
[15] Kathryn Betts, “Holy Trinity Churchyard: Monumental Inscriptions.” Meldreth History (http://www.meldrethhistory.org.uk/page_id__484_img__4391.aspx : accessed 1 November 2018).
[16] “England and Wales Death Registration Index 1837-2007”, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QVHV-Q78D : accessed 1 November 2018), John J Casbon, 1st qtr, 1935, Cambridge, vol. 3B/564. Same source (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QVHP-YBY9 : accessed 1 November 2018), Sarah Casbon, 1st qtr, 1938, Cambridge, vol. 3B/553.
[17] 1939 Register, South Cambridgeshire R.D., enumeration district TBKV, schedule 34, Martha Casbon; imaged on findmypast (https://search.findmypast.com/search-world-records/1939-register : accessed 19 November 2016); citing The National Archives, R39/6326/6326I/005/05.
[18] “England and Wales Death Registration Index 1837-2007”, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QVCQ-FH17 : accessed 2 August 2016), Martha Casbon, 1st qtr, 1947, Cambridge, vol. 4A/257.

Serial Offender

I’m constantly amazed at how many people are descended from my 4th great uncle James Casbon (about 1813–1884). He was the brother of my 3d great grandfather Thomas (1808–1888). James had multiple wives – I haven’t been able to identify all of them – who bore him many children. Although he only brought two children with him when he emigrated to the United States, by my estimates, he has just about as many descendants in the US as in the UK (thanks to son Amos!). Not only was James a poor hardworking man, he must have also been a passionate man.

One of those descendants was Walter Leslie Casbon (1913–1991), the subject of today’s post. Walter appears in this May 11, 1940 Buckingham Advertiser.

…Walter Leslie Casbon, 75, High Street, Winslow, was fined 10s, for not carrying a rear light on his motor cycle on April 13th. P.C. Higgins said defendant drove from Horn Street to the Market Square at 1010 p.m. without a rear light. He said the light went out between Aylesbury and Oving and he was unable to get another bulb. At 10.40 p.m. defendant passed him again and still had no rear light.[1]

Walter Leslie Casbon was the great grandson of James Casbon, mentioned above. His grandfather was James’ son Thomas (1844–1924), his father was Walter Casbon (1893–unknown) and his mother was Beatrice Lily (Convine) Casbon (1893–1965). Walter Leslie was born on December 21, 1913 in the vicinity of Ely, Cambridgeshire.[2],[3]

This was Walter’s first documented run-in with the law, but not the last. He and his motorcycle received three more mentions within a 2-1/2 year period.

13 July 1940:

… Mr Aubrey Stonell was taken to his home at Winslow in the ambulance suffering from head injuries as a result of a collision while riding to work at Calvert on the pillion of a motor cycle driven by Mr. Walter Casbon, who received injuries to the hands. The collision was with a lorry of Messrs. Hawtins, of Bristol.[4]

10 January 1942:

… Walter Leslie Casbon, of 15, Buckingham-road, Gawcott, was summoned for leaving a motor cycle in a dangerous position, P.C. Stonebridge stating that at 10.30 p.m. on December 20th he found the cycle stationary in Castle-street, in the corner by the Cannon and leaning against the kerb. The front lamp was very dim and could scarcely be seen and witness walked into the cycle as he crossed from one side of the street to the other. Defendant said that the cycle had only been there about five minutes and when told that he would be reported, replied: “It’s a pity you haven’t something to do; some of you folks ought to be in Russia; I know the law the same as you do.” Referring to defendant’s observations, Supt. Read said that he was aged about 25. He was fined £3.[5]

12 June 1942:

… John Arthur Haywood, soldier, of Rhyll, was summoned for failing to immobilise a motor bicycle in Buckingham Street, Aylesbury, on May 8th. He was also severally summoned for not having efficient brakes and for not having a warning instrument. Walter Lester Casbon, soldier, Bury St. Edmunds, was also summoned for permitting the defendant to use the motor bicycle without efficient brakes and a warning instrument. Both defendants were fined 10s. in each case and Casbon was ordered to pay the costs for permitting the machine to be used without efficient brakes.[6]

Apparently Walter was quite the menace.

I hope my readers will take the time to read the entire articles. Not only do they reveal the minor offenses of the time, but they also give a glimpse into life in wartime England, where blackouts were the norm and fuel was rationed. Walter was probably lucky to have a motorcycle to move about with. The articles are also infused with good will and humor, such as the magistrate who paid a man’s fine, and the farmer who ate three of his “unfit” chickens and “enjoyed them very much.”

The last article mentions that Walter was a soldier at the time. Perhaps that is why he was said to be living in Bury St. Edmunds, in Suffolk, instead of Buckinghamshire. Unfortunately, I have not been able to locate any World War II military records for Walter.

For that matter, I haven’t been able to find many records at all concerning Walter. His marriage to Ottilie Francesca Leipholz was registered in 1949.[7]  This is a German name, and I haven’t been able to find a birth record for her in England. Might this have something to do with his military service? Was he stationed in Germany?

I also have not been able to find any records of children born to Walter and Ottilie. The only records I have been able to find are of Walter and Ottilie’s deaths. Ottilie died in 1986, and Walter followed her in 1991.[8],[9]

[1] “Straying Sheep: Winslow Magistrate’s Comments,” Buckingham (Buckinghamshire, England) Advertiser and North Bucks Free Press, 11 May 1940, p. 5, col. 5; imaged in “British Newspapers 1710-1953,” online archive, findmypast (http://search.findmypast.com/bna/viewarticle?id=bl%2f0001082%2f19400511%2f045 : accessed 24 September 2016).
[2] “England & Wales births 1837-2006,” Ely, Cambridgeshire, vol. 3B: 848; database, findmypast (http://search.findmypast.com/record?id=bmd%2fb%2f1914%2f1%2faz%2f000246%2f106 : accessed 4 May 2017), Walter L Casbon, 1st quarter, 1914. (mother’s last name Convine).
[3] “England & Wales Deaths 1837-2007,” Downham, Norfolk, register 391, vol. 10: 1275; database, findmypast (http://search.findmypast.com/record?id=bmd%2fd%2f1991%2f3%2f78323744 : accessed 3 May 2017), Walter Leslie Casbon (b. 21 Dec 1914), 1st quarter 1991.
[4] “Winslow Week by Week,” Buckingham Advertiser, 13 Jul 1940, p. 4, col. 1; findmypast (http://search.findmypast.com/bna/viewarticle?id=bl%2f0001082%2f19400713%2f048 : accessed 24 September 2016).
[5] “’Not as Loud as the Band’: Soldier’s Reply to Singing Charge,” Buckingham Advertiser, 10 Jan 1942, p. 4, col. 5; findmypast (http://search.findmypast.com/bna/viewarticle?id=bl%2f0001082%2f19420110%2f058 : accessed 24 September 2016).
[6] “Aylesbury Petty Sessions … Motoring Offences,” The Bucks (Buckinghamshire, England) Herald, 12 Jun 1942, p. 8, col. 5; imaged in “British Newspapers 1710-1953,” online archive, findmypast (http://search.findmypast.com/bna/viewarticle?id=bl%2f0000270%2f19420612%2f152 : accessed 24 September 2016).
[7] “England & Wales Marriages 1837-2008,” North Bucks, Buckinghamshire, vol. 6A: 911; database, findmypast (http://search.findmypast.com/record?id=bmd%2fm%2f1949%2f4%2faz%2f000200%2f110 : accessed 3 May 2017), Walter L Casbon, 4th quarter 1949 (married Ottilie Leipholz).
[8] ” England & Wales deaths 1837-2007,” Kings Lynn, Norfolk, vol. 10: 1364; database, findmypast (http://search.findmypast.com/record?id=bmd%2fd%2f1986%2f10%2f75414671 : accessed 4 May 2017), Ottilie Francesca Casbon (b. 28 Aug 1912), 4th quarter, 1986.
[9] “Find a Will: Wills and Probate 1858–1996;” database and images, Gov.UK (https://probatesearch.service.gov.uk/Calendar?surname=casbon&yearOfDeath=1991&page=1#calendar : accessed 4 May 2017), Casbon, Walter Leslie, 16 March 1991.