My previous post explored the origins of the “Peterborough Casbons,” a line that I’ve traced back to William Caseborne, who died at Littleport, Cambridgeshire in 1699. A chart outlined the first five generations of the family line, beginning with William and his wife Alice. The line of descent from William through the fifth generation is as follows: 1. William Caseborn (married Alice _____) → 2. Thomas Caseborn (baptized 1695, married Ann Kendale) → 3. Thomas Casborn (baptized 1732, married Mary Diamond) → 4. Thomas Casborn (baptized 1776, married Ann Dolby) → 5. Thomas Casbon (born about 1807, married Jane Cooper).
The following chart picks up where the previous one left off, beginning with generation five.
Although the chart begins with Thomas (born about 1807), I’ll start by going back to his father, Thomas Casborn (~1776–1855). Thomas’s line includes the only descendants of William Caseborn (generation one, died in 1699) who carry the Casbon surname today.
Thomas departed from Littleport with his family sometime between 1808 (baptisms of his children Elizabeth and Thomas) and 1812 (baptism of his daughter Sarah), when he was residing at Bluntisham, Huntingdonshire, some 14 miles southwest of Littleport. Thomas was the first member of the family line known to have the occupation of gardener.
Thomas’s last known residence was at Colne, Huntingdonshire (1851 census). His death was registered at St. Ives (which includes Colne) in 1855.
Thomas’s only male child was also named Thomas, born about 1807 at Littleport (baptized 1808). He is at the head of the chart above. Thomas, also a gardener, is noteworthy as the first member of the family to live in Peterborough. I have written several posts about Thomas and his descendants. These can be accessed by clicking on “Peterborough” in the tag menu to the right of this post.
The Casbon surname would have died out in this family line were it not for just one of Thomas’s descendants. In the chart above, you will see that every member of the ninth generation was born to Charles Arthur Casbon (1880–1945) by one of his two wives. The family name did not continue through other family members due to a predominance of female offspring or absence of children born to any male offspring.
The line of descent from Thomas to Charles Arthur is as follows: 5. Thomas Casbon (born about 1807, married Jane Cooper) → 6. John Casbon (born about 1832, married Rebecca Ann Speechly) → 7. Thomas Casbon (born 1854, married Elizabeth Pettifor) → 8. Charles Arthur Casbon (born 1880, married first, Grace Parker; second, Eliza Kate Harvey; third, Ethel Wright).
Charles broke with the family tradition and became a baker instead of a gardener. He served as a horse keeper (groom) for the Army Veterinary Corps and rose to the rank of Corporal during World War I.
I have only limited information on Charles’s children, all of whom are now deceased. Joseph Arthur Casbon joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and achieved a high position within the church. Leslie David Casbon was headmaster of a British School in Ethiopia and started the British International School in Cairo, Egypt. He was awarded the Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (M.B.E.) and later the Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (O.B.E.), the latter presented by the Queen during a state visit to Ethiopia.
Although the chart ends with the ninth generation, William Caseborne’s descendants now extend to at least thirteen generations, many of whom now have the Casbon surname.
 1851 England census, Huntingdonshire, Colne, ED 13, p. 3, line 23; imaged at Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=8978 : accessed 11 Jan 21) > Huntingdonshire >Holywell Cum Needingworth >ALL >District 13>image 3 of 17; citing The National Archives, HO 107/448.  “England and Wales Death Registration Index 1837-2007,” database, FamilySearch https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:2NLY-2KB : accessed 31 Dec 2014); citing General Register Office (Southport), vol. 3B/160.  Church of England, Littleport Parish (Cambridgeshire), Bishop’s transcripts for Littleport, 1599-1857; browsable images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-892X-H3Y1 : accessed 13 Sep 2016) image 511 of 872.  Discharge documents for Charles Arthur Casbon, service no. 3283, 12 Apr 1919; database and images, Findmypast (http://search.findmypast.com/record?id=gbm%2fwo363-4%2f7266171%2f141%2f1926 : accessed 12 March 2017); citing The National Archives, series WO 363.
The Casbon families living in present-day England come from two separate lineages. My line can be traced back to the vicinity of Meldreth, Cambridgeshire from the late 1600s to early 1700s. A separate line that I have labeled the “Peterborough Casbons”—because several generations settled and grew up in the vicinity of Peterborough, Northamptonshire in the mid-1800s—can be traced back to Littleport, a large village about five miles north of the cathedral city of Ely.
Interactive map showing relative locations of Littleport and Meldreth in Cambridgeshire (Google Maps)
In today’s post I will review the earliest known records of this line and trace the line forward to modern times.
The earliest records of the Casb___ surname in Littleport are of the marriage of “William Jhonson” to “Elsabeth Casburn” on 8 July 1612 and the burial of “Robert Casborne Widower” on 29 February 1620. There is a 66‑year gap before another record appears, this being the baptism of “William son of Wm & Alice Casborne” on 4 November 1687.
Because of the absence of details as well as gaps in the records, it is impossible to know whether or how William Casborne (also spelled Caseborne), the father, is related to Elsabeth or Robert from the earlier part of the century. However, a continuous line of descent can be traced from William to the present-day Peterborough Casbons.
The origins of William and Alice are not recorded. Given the timing of their son William’s birth, it is likely that they were married in 1686. However, the records for that year are missing.
The baptisms of four more children of William and Alice are recorded: Alice (1692), Thomas (1695), John and Mary (both baptized and buried in 1699). William’s—the father—burial is recorded at Littleport’s St. George parish church on 5 September 1699.
The first four generations of William’s known descendants are summarized in the chart below. Only the marriages of female descendants are shown, as the chart is intended to show the continuation of the family surname.
I can’t guarantee the accuracy of this chart. For example, Sarah Lee (line 16 of the chart) might have been married to William, baptized in 1716 (line 5) instead of William, baptized 1721 (line 15). However, no baptisms of children to William and Sarah are recorded, so a mistaken connection might be of little consequence. Researchers should review the records and draw their own conclusions.
From the chart, it appears that only Thomas, baptized 1776, and Ann, baptized 1778, had descendants beyond the fourth generation. However, it’s possible that some descendants departed from Littleport and continued their family lines elsewhere. For example, Abraham Casebourn, of Downham Market, Norfolk—only ten miles north of Littleport—had several children, born between roughly 1763 to 1775. He could well be the same Abraham who was baptized in Littleport in 1738, but there is insufficient documentation to prove a connection. It’s possible that he has living descendants today, although their surname must be something other than Casbon.
The line of descent from William to the present-day Casbons is as follows: 1. William Caseborn (married Alice _____) → 2. Thomas Caseborn (baptized 1695, married Ann Kendale) → 3. Thomas Casborn (baptized 1732, married Mary Diamond) → 4. Thomas Casborn (baptized 1776, married Ann Dolby) → 5. Thomas (born about 1807, married Jane Cooper).
The next post will follow the line of descent from generation 5, Thomas (baptized 1807) through 9.
 “England Marriages, 1538–1973 “, database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:NN1M-D9F : accessed 3 Jan 2021), Elisabeth Cas… in entry for Wm. Jhonson, 1612. “England Deaths and Burials, 1538-1991”, database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:JZCR-8NB : accessed 3 Jan 2021), Robert Casborne, 1620.  England, Cambridgeshire, Bishop’s Transcripts for Littleport, 1599–1857 (with gaps); browsable images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/film/004034506?cat=976859 : accessed 4 Jan 21) >image 194 of 872; citing FHL film, item 1.  England, Cambridgeshire, Bishop’s Transcripts for Littleport, 1599–1857 (with gaps); images 199, 201, and 213 of 872.  England, Cambridgeshire, Bishop’s Transcripts for Littleport, 1599–1857 (with gaps); image 213 of 872.
I recently discovered an interesting database called Espacenet. It is an online service for searching patents and patent applications. According to their website, “Espacenet offers free access to information about inventions and technical developments from 1782 to today.” I typed in “Casbon” to see what would happen. Lo and behold—several patents showed up! So, today’s post will recognize two inventors in the family.
The earliest patent dates from 1908 and is titled “Improvements in Safety Labels or Tags or Tag Attachments for Game, Parcels, or Horticultural or the like uses.” The applicant was “Charles Casbon of 5 Rathcole Gardens Hornsey in the County of Middlesex Gentleman.”
In his application, Mr. Casbon explains that, previous to his design, “much labour and material has been expended in order to produce a safety tag which could not be torn from the article to which it was fastened and at the same time would bear the impress or imprint of the name or destination or description of the article.” His improved tag is cut or stamped from a single piece sheet metal, consisting of a tag, a strap, and slots for securing the strap.
I have written about Charles Casbon before. He was the son of Thomas Casbon (1840–1889) and Emily Cantrill (1846–1891) and was born at Peterborough, Northamptonshire 18 June 1866. Thomas and Emily were legally separated in 1868 and Charles was raised by his mother. He became a professional photographer. Charles died in France, 6 August 1930.
I don’t know what led Charles to design a new and improved method of producing safety tags. Perhaps it somehow related to his photography work. I also don’t know whether he profited from his invention in any way
The second inventor was William Casbon. His name appears on several patents dealing with gas an electric lights and heaters. The earliest of these was titled “Improvements in Incandescent Gas Burners” and was applied for in December 1915. This was followed by applications for “An Appliance for Attaching Shades to the Holders of Electric Light Fittings,” “Improvements in Inverted Incandescent Gas Burners,” “Improvements in Atmospheric Gas Burners for Heating Purposes,” and “Improvements in Incandescent Gas Burners,” (apparently an improvement on the earlier patent of the same title). I also found a U.S. patent granted to Yagerphone Ltd. in 1929, listing William as the inventor of a tone arm for gramophones.
Most of these patents gave the names of William Casbon and Arthur James Dunkinson as co-inventors. William described himself as a “gentleman.” Dunkinson’s occupation is written in one application as “General Foremen, Architects Department” for His Majesty’s Office of Works.
Who was William Casbon? Although there were two adult men of that name living at the time of the patent applications, only one is the likely candidate for our inventor. He had a most interesting life. He was born at Meldreth in 1860, the son of William Casbon and Sarah West. Based on census listings, his occupations included “railway signalman” (1881), “baker” (1891), “golf club manager” (1901), and finally, in 1911, “catering.” The latter occupation is understated, as William was serving as Superintendent of the Refreshments Department of the House of Lords. I believe William was also the man who sought a position as a footman in 1884.
I’m confident about William’s identity because of his relationship to his co-inventor, Arthur James Dunkinson. It turns out that Mr. Dunkinson was married to William’s niece, Emily Casbon, daughter of William’s brother, Walter. Emily was listed as a member of William’s household in the 1901 census, so she must have had a close relationship with her uncle.
I don’t know what William did for a living after retiring from the House of Lords position; I have found him listed is residential directories for both Hitchin, Hertfordshire—the location given in the patent applications—and in London. Perhaps he had residences in both locations. Nor do I know how he came to be interested in gas fixtures, electric lights and gramophones. He must have been a man of many interests and an active mind. He died in London 8 September 1939.
It’s interesting that both Charles and William described themselves as gentlemen. In earlier times, the term gentleman referred to a particular social class, associated with the aristocracy, the right to bear arms, and perhaps with independent means. It was understood that manual laborers and tradesmen could not describe themselves as gentlemen. This meaning of the word seems to have become obsolete by the end of the 19th century, and anyone with sufficient means and good manners might be considered a gentleman. Still, it seems odd that Charles and William chose to use the term rather than their professions as photographer and caterer. Perhaps they felt that it would give their patent applications greater standing.
 C. Casbon, patent certificate no. GB190803244A (27 Aug 1908); text and images, European Patent Office, database (http://ep.espacenet.com: accessed 8 Nov 2020).  C. Casbon, patent certificate no. GB190803244A.  Emily Casbon, Petition for judicial separation, 9 May 1868; image included in “England & Wales, Civil Divorce Records, 1858-1918,” Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/2465/ : accessed 1 Dec 20) >1868 >00781-00790 >00787: Casbon >images 7-8 of 9; citingThe National Archives; Kew, Surrey, England; Court for Divorce and Matrimonial Causes, later Supreme Court of Judicature: Divorce and Matrimonial Causes Files; Class: J 77; Piece: 84; Item: 787.  Commune de Levallois-Perret, Saint-Denis, Seine, France, Extract du Registre des Acts de Décés pour l’année 1930 (death on 6-8-30 at Levallois-Perret of Chares Wheeley Cas[b]on); imaged at “UK, Foreign and Overseas Registers of British Subjects, 1628-1969,” Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/1993/ : accessed 1 Dec 20) >RG 32: Miscellaneous Foreign Returns, 1831-1969 >Piece 16: Miscellaneous Foreign Returns, 1927-1931 >image 209 of 716; citing The National Archives, RG 32/16.  W. Casbon, A.J. Dunkinson, patent certificate no. GB191517089A (30 Nov 1916); text and images, European Patent Office, database (http://ep.espacenet.com: accessed 8 Nov 2020).  J. Doble and W. Casbon, patent certificate no. GB109706A (27 Sep 1917); European Patent Office, database (http://ep.espacenet.com: accessed 8 Nov 2020).  W. Casbon and A.J. Dunkinson, patent certificate no. GB107359A (28 Jun 1917); European Patent Office, database (http://ep.espacenet.com: accessed 8 Nov 2020).  W. Casbon and A.J. Dunkinson, patent certificate no. GB126818A (22 May 1919); European Patent Office, database (http://ep.espacenet.com: accessed 8 Nov 2020).  W. Casbon and A.J. Dunkinson, patent certificate no. GB151393A (30 Sep 1920); European Patent Office, database (http://ep.espacenet.com: accessed 8 Nov 2020).  W. Casbon, assignor to Yagerphone Ltd., patent certificate no. 1,713,419 (U.S.A., 1929); European Patent Office, database (http://ep.espacenet.com: accessed 8 Nov 2020).  W. Casbon, A.J. Dunkinson, patent certificate no. GB191517089A.  Transcript of birth registration, William Casbon, mother’s maiden name West, GRO reference 1860 S[eptember] Quarter, Royston, vol. 3A/205; found at “Search the GRO Online Index,” database, HM Passport Office (https://www.gro.gov.uk/gro/content/certificates/indexes_search.asp : accessed 1 Dec 20).  1881 England census, Derbyshire, Breadsall, p. 2, schedule 9, William Caskan in household of Joyce Bailey; imaged as “1881 England Census,” Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/7572/ : accessed 1 Dec 20) > Derbyshire >Breadsall >ALL >District 11 >image 3 of 24; citing The National Archives, RG 11/3393/67.  1891 England census, London, St. George Hanover Square, Mayfair, ED 14, p. 20, schedule 56, William Caston in household of William Bryceson; imaged as “1891 England Census,” Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/6598/ : accessed 1 Dec 20) > London >St George Hanover Square >Mayfair >District 14 >image 13 of 42; citing The National Archives, RG 12/69.  1901 England census, Hertfordshire, Chorleywood, ED 11, p. 19, schedule 136; imaged as “1901 England Census,” Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/7814 : accessed 1 Dec 20) >Hertfordshire >Chorleywood >ALL >District 11 >image 20 of 24; citing The National Archives, RG 13/1322.  1911 England census, Westminster, St. Margaret & St. John, ED 24, schedule 10; imaged as “1911 England Census,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=2352 : accessed 1 Dec 20) > London >St Margaret and St John >St Margaret and St John >24 >image 76 of 227; citing The National Archives, RG 14/489.  “England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1995,” database with images, Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=1904 : accessed 1 Dec 20) > 1944 >Cable-Dziegielewski >image 36 of 395; Wills and Administrations, 1944, p. 70, entry for William Casbon. Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th Edition, “Gassendi, Pierre” to “Geocentric,” Vol. 11, Slice 5, “Gentleman”; downloaded as EPUB, Project Gutenberg (http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/37282 : accessed 1 Dec 20).
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.
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. James and Elizabeth were married at Meldreth 25 July 1835. Elizabeth died of consumption (tuberculosis) 16 August 1852 at the age of 36. 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.
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.
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.
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. 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). 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. 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.” 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. 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. She married, at Chester, Cheshire, 28 August 1859, Daniel Cross. 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.
Mary Casbon (~1841–unknown)
Mary was baptized at Meldreth 19 December 1841. 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. 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.
In 1878 Thomas married Sarah Ann Wyers, a former domestic servant from Mepal, Cambridgeshire. 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. He was 80 years old.
George Casbon (1846–1897)
George was born at Meldreth 28 November 1847 and baptized 16 March the following year. 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.
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. 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 and the couple settled in Fowlmere, a small village about 3 miles from Meldreth. He was listed there as a farm labourer in 1891. 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.
John Casbon (1849–1935)
John was born at Meldreth 10 February 1849, three years before his mother’s death. 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. In 1890 he married Sarah Pepper, a local woman who previously worked as a servant and cook in London. 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.” John died in 1935 and Sarah in 1938.
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.
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. 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.
 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.  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.  England, General Register Office (GRO), death registration (unofficial copy), Royston & Buntingford/Melbourn, 1852, no. 117; PDF copy, author’s collection.  “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.  “British Army, Worldwide Index 1861,” database, Findmypast (https://www.findmypast.com/transcript?id=GBM%2FSOLIDX%2F00170082 : accessed 11 Nov 2016).  “England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:NBFC-TLQ : 6 December 2014).  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.  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.  Parish of Meldreth, register of baptisms (1813–1867), p. 49, no. 390.  Parish of Meldreth, register of baptisms (1813–1867), p. 54, no. 430.  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).  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).  Parish of Meldreth, register of baptisms (1813–1867), p. 55, no. 437.  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.  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.  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.  “England and Wales Marriage Registration Index, 1837–2005”, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:2D5X-CWM: 13 December 2014).  “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.  Parish of Meldreth, register of baptisms (1813–1867), p. 63, no. 501.  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.  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.  “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.  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.  “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).  Parish of Meldreth, register of baptisms (1813–1867), p. 68, no. 540.  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.  “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.  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.  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.  “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>  England, death registration (unofficial copy), Dec qtr 1853, Royston & Buntingford District, vol. 3A/107, Melbourn Sub-district, no. 319; General Register Office (GRO), Southport.  Parish of Meldreth, register of baptisms (1813–1867), p. 75, no. 599.
In “William Problem, Solved!” I mentioned that William Casbon died by suicide. Here is the news article describing his death and the surrounding circumstances. I debated with myself whether to post this because it describes a very private and tragic matter, but I felt that the article was written with sensitivity and worth sharing. I hope my readers agree.
Sad Suicide.—On Saturday the County Coroner (Mr. A. J. Lyon) held an inquest at the Railway Tavern respecting the death of William Casbon, aged 61 years, fruit grower.—Sarah Casbon, the widow, deposed that she last saw the deceased alive at 10 a.m. that day: they were in the garden together. She left her husband and shortly afterwards she was unable to find him. She searched for him and eventually found him in a shed at the bottom of the garden. He had a line round his neck and appeared to be quite dead. She cut the rope and laid him down. She then called to a man named Simpson and Dr. Bindloss was fetched. Her husband had been depressed since he came from the Hospital about two years and a half ago.—Alfred Gray, signalman, in the employ of the G.N.R. Company, at Meldreth, said about 10 10 a.m. Mrs. Casbon said to him “I hope you will be a friend to me, my poor husband has hung himself.” He went into the shed and saw the deceased lying on the ground. There was a cord on his breast and a piece of cord was hanging from a raft. Casbon was warm, but dead.—Mr. Bindloss, surgeon, Melbourn, stated that he was sent for about 10 45 a.m. When he arrived Casbon was dead. He had made an examination of the body. There was a coloured mark round the deceased’s neck as if caused by a cord, and death appeared to be due from the hanging. He attended deceased about two years ago for several weeks. He did not think deceased was bad enough to be placed under restraint, but he recommended a change of scene.—The jury returned a verdict of suicide whilst temporarily insane.
Note the jury’s verdict of “suicide whilst temporarily insane.” This verdict was commonly employed because of the peculiar legal status of suicide in England. Suicide, or “self-murder,” became a crime under under English common law in the 13th century. If proven guilty of this crime, the victim was denied a Christian burial and their property could be confiscated and given to the crown. A jury verdict of temporary insanity was frequently employed to avoid these criminal penalties. A series of Parliamentary acts gradually reduced the penalties for suicide, but it wasn’t until 1961 that suicide was completely decriminalized. Prior to that, survivors of suicide attempts could be fined or sentenced to prison terms for their crime.
I don’t know why William was hospitalized two years before his death, but it appears that he had been clinically depressed for quite some time. There would have been few, if any, resources available to help him. One cannot help but feel sorry for him and great sympathy for his poor widow, Sarah.
References: 1. Gerry Holt, “When Suicide was Illegal,” BBC News Magazine, online edition, 3 Aug 2011 (https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-14374296 : accessed 5 Oct 2020). 2. Georgina Laragy, “’A Peculiar Species of Felony’: Suicide, Medicine, and the Law in Victorian Britain and Ireland,” Journal of Social History, Spring 2013, vol. 46/3, pp. 732–743.
“It” is the marriage certificate for William Casbon and Sarah West that I ordered in late August after writing The Two William Problem. I knew from the General Register Office (U.K.) website that the certificate was dispatched on September 10th and I’ve been eagerly awaiting its arrival ever since.
Readers may recall that two children named William Casbon were born in Meldreth, Cambridgeshire—one to William Casbon and one to his brother James—in the 1835–1836 time frame. One of the two married Sarah West in 1855 and can be traced in records all the way to his death in 1896; the other was lost to follow up. The question was, Which one married Sarah?
To learn the answer, I needed to expend some funds and purchase the actual marriage record of William and Sarah from the General Register Office.
Here is the certified copy of the record …
… and a more detailed view.
The certificate contains a wealth of information. Reading from the top down, we can see that the couple was married in the Baptist Chapel at Melbourn. The marriage took place on 10 November 1855; the bride and groom’s names are given and their ages are listed as 21 and 30 years, respectively. He was a bachelor and she a spinster (i.e., previously unmarried). His occupation was farm labourer and hers dressmaker. Both were residing in Meldreth at the time of the marriage.
Now for the big news: William’s father was William Casbon, farm labourer—not James. Problem solved! We also see that Sarah’s father was John West, a gardener.
Although this confirms what I believed, it contradicts what several others have listed in their online family trees, namely, that James Casbon was the father of William and father-in-law of Sarah. It’s nice (and important) to finally have proof of the correct relationship.
Aside from solving the problem of William’s parentage, the certificate contains several items of interest. The first is the fact that they were married in the local Baptist Chapel. This will not sound unusual to modern ears, but in England it was a relatively new thing in the mid-19th century for marriages to take place in so-called non-conformist denominations. The Marriage Act of 1753 required that all marriages, except those of Jews or Quakers, be performed by the Church of England. If a couple failed to wed in the Anglican Church, they had no legal rights as married people. It wasn’t until 1836 that a new Marriage Act allowed couples to be married in buildings belonging to other religious groups, including Baptists.
Aside from their marriage, I have no evidence that William and Sarah were affiliated with the Baptist Church. Their children’s’ baptisms are not recorded in the Baptist church register, nor in the Meldreth (Anglican) parish register.
William and Sarah’s ages are also interesting. Based on census reports and his age at death, I estimate William’s birth year as 1835. The marriage certificate suggests that he was born in 1834. I wonder if he intentionally overstated his age on the marriage certificate. On the other hand, Sarah’s age was understated. Her baptism occurred in April 1832; therefore, she was already 33 years old when she married William. It was unusual then, as it is now, for men to be so much younger than their wives.
This was not the only important difference between William and Sarah. Although not obvious from the record, they came from different social classes. As the son of a farm labourer and being one himself, William was in the lower working class. Sarah’s father was a gardener. This might not seem significant, but in fact, censuses and other civil registers show that John West was a landowner and had the rights to serve on a jury and to vote. His status was more like that of a skilled tradesman.
In the lower left-hand corner of the certificate, we see that William signed with his mark and Sarah signed her own name. This shows that he was at least partially illiterate, while she was able to read and write. Sarah’s education is confirmed by the 1841 census, where her occupation is given as “school mistress.” Given that children’s education was not compulsory at the time, Sarah’s literacy is probably more unusual that William’s illiteracy and is another reflection of their different social classes.
One other difference not shown in the marriage record is that William and Sarah came from different places. William’s home was Meldreth, in southern Cambridgeshire, and Sarah grew up in Soham, Cambridgeshire, about 22 miles northwest of Meldreth and on the opposite side of Cambridge city.
Although an insignificant difference by today’s standards, the distance is outside of the norm for their time. It would have been unusual to know someone beyond about a ten-mile radius of one’s home village.
How did a farm labourer from Meldreth become acquainted with an educated woman from Soham? This is only a guess, but perhaps Sarah moved to Meldreth or Melbourn for employment purposes. Although she came from a higher social class, her father died in 1853 and probably left his family in a state of financial distress (supported by the fact that his widow, Sarah, was described as a “washerwoman” in the 1861 census). Sarah (the daughter), an educated unmarried woman, might have found employment in Melbourn as a dressmaker or even as a governess. At the age of 33, she might have been more willing to overlook class differences in her quest for a husband. Could pregnancy have been a factor in the marriage decision? It seems unlikely, since their first child was born one year after their marriage.
Whatever the reasons, the couple had a long and fruitful marriage. They had three children, Walter (b. 1856), William (b. 1860), and Priscilla (b. 1862). They had been married more than 40 years when William died (sadly, by suicide) in 1896. Sarah died on 22 December 1905 at the age of 83.
I’m fortunate that my two-William problem had such an easy solution. In many cases, records do not exist or cannot be located to resolve this kind of problem.
 “Marriage Act 1836,” Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marriage_Act_1836 : accessed 28 Nov 20), rev. 13 Sep 20, 15:49.  “England, Select Births and Christenings, 1538-1975,” database, Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=9841 : accessed 28 Sep 20); entry for Sarah West, 6 April 1823, Cambridge, England.  1841 England census, Cambridgeshire, Soham, ED 2, p. 5, line 14; imaged at Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/8978/ : accessed 28 Sep 20) >Cambridgeshire >Soham >ALL >District 2 >image 4 of 17; citing The National Archives, HO 107/73/14.  “England, Cambridgeshire Bishop’s Transcripts, 1538-1983,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/collection/1465708 : accessed 29 Sep 20) >007676701 >image 474 of 520; Soham deaths, p. 182, no. 1449, John West, Soham, 80 yrs old, 2 Dec 1853.  1861 England census, Cambridgeshire, Soham, ED 6, p. 47, schedule 278; imaged at Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/8767 : accessed 29 Sep 20) >Cambridgeshire >Soham >ALL >District 6 >image 48 of 50; citing The National Archives RG 9/1036.  “Meldreth: Sad Suicide,” Herts and Cambs (England) Reporter and Royston Crow, 13 Mar 1896, p. 5, col. 6; online image, “The British Newspaper Archive,” findmypast (http://search.findmypast.com/bna/viewarticle?id=bl%2f0001795%2f18960313%2f075 : 28 July 2017).  “Holy Trinity Churchyard: Monumental Inscriptions,” Meldreth History (https://www.meldrethhistory.org.uk/topics/holy_trinity_church-2-2/churchyard/holy_trinity_churchyard_headstones : accessed 29 Sep 20).
This post describes a situation that is all too common in genealogy research. What happens when you have two people with the same name at the same place and time? How does one connect them to the right parents, wives, and children? This is a big problem when someone is trying to trace their family tree back in time and they discover two people with the same name, either one of whom who might be their ancestor.
I’ll illustrate with two men from Meldreth, Cambridgeshire. Two brothers, William (1806–1875) and James (~1813–1884) Casbon, both sons of Isaac Casbon (~1773–1825), each had a son named William, born within a year or so of each other.
Births were not registered in England at that time, so birth dates must be estimated from other records, such as baptisms and censuses.
Unfortunately, only one of the Williams was baptized, and the baptismal record only confuses the matter.
As can be seen, William was baptized at Meldreth 7 February 1836. He is said to be the son of William and Elizabeth. That seems straightforward, except, there is no record of William Casbon marrying a woman named Elizabeth. His wife’s name was Mary (Cooper) and she died in July 1835.
On the other hand, William’s brother James (b. about 1813) married Elizabeth Waller, who was still alive in 1836.
So, there is a problem with the baptismal record. The name of either the father or mother is wrong. Maybe the vicar or curate was tired and wrote one the names incorrectly. My guess is that he inadvertently replaced the father’s name with that of the child. If so, the baptism applies to the son of James and Elizabeth, but there is no way to know for sure.
But this is only the beginning of our two-William problem. First, how do we even know that both brothers had sons named William? The answer lies in census records. Both Williams appear with their respective families in the 1841 and 1851 censuses. Here are their entries in 1851.
We can see in the upper record that William the father, whose age is incorrectly stated as 40, is a widower and lives with his daughter Elizabeth, age 19, and son William, age 16. This gives us an approximate birth year for William, the son, of 1835. This is consistent with the year his mother died. We can also see in the lower record that James’s family includes his son William, age 15, which gives him a birth year of about 1836.
As we’ve already seen with William the father, ages reported in censuses are frequently incorrect. However, this is less likely to occur with children, and the ages of the two sons in the 1841 census are consistent with the same birth years. So, it is likely that William, the son of William, is about one year older than the son of James.
Unfortunately, the situation becomes unclear from this point forward. We know that a man named William Casbon married Sarah West in 1855. The marriage was registered at Royston, Hertfordshire, a few miles from Meldreth. I only have an index entry of the marriage. This does not include details such as date, location, names and occupations of each party’s father, or names of witnesses. Therefore, I don’t know whose son married Sarah West.
After 1855, I have a complete set of censuses from 1861 through 1891 for William and Sarah. William died at Meldreth 7 March 1896 and Sarah died 22 December 1905.
The inscription reads as follows:
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.
William’s given age of 61 suggests that he was born sometime between March 1834 and March 1835, which would be consistent with him being the son of William (b. 1806). However, this is hardly sufficient to be considered proof.
Of the second William, there is no certain record after the census of 1851. There are no additional census records, no marriage record, and no death or burial records. I have found a couple sources which might refer to him—I will refer to them in a future post—but they provide no clues as to his parentage.
So, we have two Williams, born in about 1835 and 1836. One was married and had a family; we don’t know what happened to the other. One was the son of William (b. 1806) and one was the son of James (b. about 1813), but we don’t know which William was which. This is a problem for the living descendants of William and Sarah West, who can’t determine whether they are descended from William or James.
There are several family trees on Ancestry that list James Casbon as the father of William and father-in-law of Sarah. These do not contain any supporting information or justification for the choice. My own bias is that William (b. 1806) is more likely to be the father of the William who married Sarah West.
Fortunately, there is a potential solution to this problem. I referred above to the marriage record of William and Sarah. The official marriage certificate is supposed to give the names of the bride’s and groom’s fathers. As of this writing, I have ordered a copy of the marriage certificate from the General Register Office in England. When it arrives, I will hopefully have a definitive answer. I will provide an update when I receive the certificate.
Do you have any two-(insert any name) problems in your family tree?
 Parish of Meldreth (Cambridgeshire, England), register of baptisms (1813–1867), p. 40, no. 360; accessed as “Parish registers for Meldreth, 1681-1877,” browsable images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/catalog/210742 : accessed 27 Aug 20) >Film #007567609 >image 219 of 699.  Parish of Meldreth, register of burials (1813–1875), p. 29, no. 232, Mary Carsbon, 28 Jul 1835; accessed as “Parish registers for Meldreth, 1681-1877,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/catalog/210742 : accessed 27 Aug 20) >Film #007567609 >image 457 of 699.  1851 England census, Cambrideshire, Meldreth, ED 5b, p. 7, schedule 28; imaged as “1851 England Census,” Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/8860 : accessed 27 Aug 20) >Cambridgeshire >Meldreth >ALL >5a >image 8 of 25. 1851 England census, Cambrideshire, Melbourn (“Melbourn in Meldreth”), ED 11c, p. 32, schedule 126; imaged as “1851 England Census,” Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/8860 : accessed 27 Aug 20) >Cambridgeshire >Melbourn >ALL >11c >image33 of 36.  “England and Wales Marriage Registration Index, 1837-2005,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:2DQ3-WY3 : accessed 23 September 2015).  Kathryn Betts, “Holy Trinity Church, Meldreth: Monumental Inscriptions,” PDF download, Meldreth History (http://www.meldrethhistory.org.uk/page/holy_trinity_churchyard_monumental_inscriptions?path=0p2p120p53p95p94p : accessed 27 August 2020); entry for William and Sarah Casbon, item 27, unnumbered page 8 of 23.
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.
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).
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
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
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
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.
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.
I have consolidated the occupational data for all of these family groups into a single chart.
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.
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.
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. 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.
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. 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.
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.” 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. Elizabeth’s burial at St. Leonard Church, Shoreditch, was recorded on 29 July 1831. 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. Finally, another son, James, was born at the Shoreditch workhouse on 30 May 1834.
Seven weeks after James was born, Sophia was interviewed at the Shoreditch workhouse and revealed some startling news.
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 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
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
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
6 January 1834: Sophia is admitted, Shoreditch workhouse; discharged 10 January
15 February 1834: Sophia is admitted, Shoreditch workhouse; discharged
24 February 1834: Sophia is readmitted, Shoreditch workhouse; discharged
30 May 1834: James Casbon is born at Shoreditch workhouse (baptized at St. Leonard Church, Shoreditch, 19 June 1834)
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
18 March 1836: Sophia is admitted to Shoreditch workhouse; she dies there 8 July
11 July 1836: Sophia is buried, St. Leonard Church, Shoreditch
1841 census: James, age 7, is living at Enfield, District Workhouse for Shoreditch Poor Children
24 October 1843: James Casbon (age incorrectly listed as 11)—— is admitted to Shoreditch workhouse; unknown discharge date
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.
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.
 “London, England, Workhouse Admission and Discharge Records, 1764–1930,” Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/60391/ : 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.  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 (https://www.familysearch.org/search/film/008040614?cat=110313 : accessed 10 Mar 2020); Film DGS 8040614, item 4, image 774 of 838.  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 (https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/1623/ : accessed 12 March 2020) > Hackney >St Leonard, Shoreditch >1783–1875 >image 25 of 263; London Metropolitan Archives, P91/LEN/A/01/Ms 7498/13.  Peter Higginbotham, “Introduction,” The Workhouse: story of an institution … (http://workhouses.org.uk/intro/ : accessed 13 Mar 2020).  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 (https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/1558/ : 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.  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 (https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/1559/ : accessed 12 Mar 2020) >Hackney >St Leonard, Shoreditch >1829–1832 >image 121 of 153; London Metropolitan Archives, P91/LEN/A/012/MS07499/019.  “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.  “London, England, Workhouse Admission and Discharge Records, 1764–1930,” (same as above), image 36 of 173.  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 (https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/2651/ : 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.  “England, Select Marriages, 1538–1973,” Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/9852/ : accessed 12 Mar 2020), William Casbon & Sophia Phillips; citing FHL film no. 1042319.  “London, England, Workhouse Admission and Discharge Records, 1764–1930,” Ancestry, same as above, image 34 of 173.  “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 (https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/1559/ : accessed 12 Mar 2020) >Hackney >St Leonard, Shoreditch >1831–1833 >image 59 of 61; citing London Metropolitan Archives, DL/T/069/049.  “London, England, Workhouse Admission and Discharge Records, 1764–1930,” (same as above) >image 35
of 173.  “London, England, Workhouse Admission and Discharge Records, 1764–1930,” (same as above).  “London, England, Workhouse Admission and Discharge Records, 1764–1930,” (same as above).  “England, Select Births and Christenings, 1538-1975,” database, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/9841/ : accessed 12 Mar 2020), entry for James Casben.  “London, England, Workhouse Admission and Discharge Records, 1764–1930,” (same as above), image 38 of 173.  “London, England, Workhouse Admission and Discharge Records, 1764–1930,” (same as above), image 40 of 173.  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.  1841 England census, Middlesex, Enfield Parish, schedule for public institutions, Workhouse for Shoreditch Poor Children, p.3, line 15 (James Casburn); Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/8978/ : accessed 12 Mar 2020) >Middlesex Enfield District Workhouse For Shoreditch Poor Children >image 2 of 3; citing The National Archives, HO 107/653/8.  “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.
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.
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.” There was a tax on male servants, so they tended to be employed in larger, wealthier households. The majority of female servants worked in middle-class households; where having at least one servant was considered essential.
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.
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. in the 1851 census, we find her listed as the only servant in the household of John Campkin, a “Grocer & Draper” living in Melbourn. By 1861 Mary Ann was working as a cook in a London public house. I haven’t located her in the 1871 census. In 1875, at the age of forty-four, she married a widower named Joseph Sparrow. She had no children. Her date of death is unknown, but occurred after 1891.
Edith was baptized at Meldreth in 1835. 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). There were also two male servants in the household, a horse keeper and a shepherd. She married William Catley in 1860, and together they had seven children. She died in 1916 and was buried in Melbourn.
Jane was baptized in 1840 at Meldreth. In 1861 she was living at home but listed as “Servant,” so she was presumably working elsewhere. 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. She married John Camp in 1881 and had two children. She died in 1904, age sixty-four.
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. In 1881 she was the sole servant in a small household consisting of a Scottish woolen merchant and his sister. She was again the sole servant in 1891, this time to a chemist and his wife. In 1901 she was the lone servant for a Presbyterian minister and his wife. 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. 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). She died in Cambridge in 1947 and was buried in Melbourn.
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. In 1851, she was the only servant for a widow and her daughter in Chatteris. She married Richard Baker in 1857 and had at least eight children. She died in 1904, age sixty-nine.
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. In the 1881 census, she was employed as the only servant for a banker’s clerk and his wife in Cambridge. In 1891 she was living with her parents at home, with no occupation listed.
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. 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. 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. She married Henry Brassington, a bootmaker, in 1899. They had two sons. Julia was ninety-nine years old when she died in 1965.
Kate was the daughter of John (1843–1927) and Mary Anne (Hall, ~1840–1880) Casban. She was born in 1874. In 1891, at the age of seventeen, she was one of two female servants employed by a single unmarried woman. She married Frederick Gunn in 1898 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, 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. She was one of two servants, the other a footman, working for the proprietor of a pub. She married Thomas William Francis in 1898 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. by 1901, she was the sole servant for a tea buyer and his family, living in Croydon. In 1911, she was one of two servants, the other the cook, for a much larger family, also in Croydon. She married Thomas De Rinzy in 1911 and bore him a son that same year.  Olive died in 1916, thirty-two years old.
Maud Emily was born in 1885. In 1901 at age fifteen, she was working as a kitchen maid in Melbourn, and in 1911 she was the cook for a London single woman. She died later that year at the age of twenty-six.
Hilda Mary was born in 1887. 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. 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. The birth certificate states that she was “a Domestic Servant of 140 Beckenham Road Penge.”
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.”
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.
The youngest sister, Elsie Lydia, was born in 1890. She was the sole domestic servant at the White Ribbon Temperance Hotel located in Cambridge, 1911. I presume that Elsie later found a position in Kensington, London, because that is where here death was registered in 1919. 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.
 “Women and Work in the 19th Century,” Striking Women (http://www.striking-women.org/module/women-and-work/19th-and-early-20th-century : accessed 27 January 2019).  “Who Were the Servants?” My Learning (https://www.mylearning.org/stories/the-victorian-servant/280 : accessed 27 January 2019).  Kate Clark, “Women and Domestic Service in Victorian Society,” The History Press (https://www.thehistorypress.co.uk/articles/women-and-domestic-service-in-victorian-society/ : accessed 27 January 2019).  “The Rise of the Middle Classes,” Victorian England: Life of the Working and Middle Classes (https://valmcbeath.com/victorian-era-middle-classes/#.XE3gilxKiUk : accessed 27 January 2019).  “File: John Finnie. Maids of All Work, 1864-65 (higher colour).jpg,” Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:John_Finnie._Maids_of_All_Work,_1864-65_(higher_colour).jpg : accessed 27 January 2019).  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 (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=8978 : accessed 27 January 2019), Cambridgeshire >Meldreth >District 19 >image 6 of 9; The National Archives (TNA), HO 107/63/19.  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 (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=8860 : accessed 27 January 2019), Cambridgeshire >Melbourn >11b >image 4 of 25; TNA, HO 107/1708/177.  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 (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=8767 : accessed 19 November 2018), Middlesex >Islington >Islington East >District 36 >image 28 of 84; TNA, RG 9/16/55.  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 (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=1623 : accessed 10 Aug 2016), Islington >St Luke, Finsbury >1867-1881 >image 494 of 747; London Metropolitan Archives, record no. p76/luk/058.  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 (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=6598 : accessed 29 October 2018), London >Hackney >West Hackney >District 23b >image 32 of 34; TNA RG12/190/98.  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 (https://familysearch.org/search/film/007567609?cat=210742 : accessed 28 April 2017), image 219 of 699; FHL film 1,040,542, item 5.  1851 England census, Cambridgeshire, Whaddon, ED 4, p. 15, schedule 43, Edith Casbon in household of Elizabeth Bell; Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=8860 : accessed 27 January 2019), Cambridgeshire >Whaddon >4 >image 16 of 23; TNA, HO 107/1708/34.  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 (https://www.familysearch.org/search/film/007567609?cat=210742 : accessed 29 August 2017), image 397 of 699; FHL film 1,040,542, item 9.  “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.  Meldreth, Register of Baptisms, 1813-77, p. 54, no. 429, Jane Casbon, 29 Nov 1840; FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/search/film/007567609?cat=210742 : accessed 28 April 2017), image 224 of 699.  1861 England census, Cambridgeshire, Meldreth, ED 15, schedule 133; J Carston in household of William Caston; Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=8767 : accessed 27 January 2019), Cambridgeshire >Meldreth >District 15 >image 25 of 32; TNA, RG 9/815/64.  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 (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=7619 : accessed 27 January 2019), Cambridgeshire >Meldreth >District 15 >image 22 of 32; TNA, RG 10/1363/25.  “England & Wales Marriages 1837-2008”, database, findmypast (https://search.findmypast.com/search-world-Records/england-and-wales-marriages-1837-2005 : accessed 30 March 2017), John Camp, 1st qtr, 1881, Royston, vol. 3A/323; General Register Office (GRO), Southport.  “Search the GRO Online Index,” HM Passport Office (https://www.gro.gov.uk/gro/content/certificates/indexes_search.asp : accessed 27 January 2019), deaths, Jane Camp, J[un] qtr, 1904, Royston, vol. 3A/299.  1871 England census, Kent, Lewisham, ED 4, p. 61, schedule 214, Martha Casbon (indexed “Carbor” in household of John H Greener (indexed “Greeno”); Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=7619 : accessed 19 March 2018), Kent >Lewisham >Lee >District 4 >image 62 of 80; TNA, RG 10/763/89.  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 ((https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=7619 : accessed 19 March 2018), London >Hammersmith >St Paul Hammersmith >District 28 >image 42 of 68; TNA, RG 11/60/143.  1891 England census, London, Lambeth, ED 20, p. 4, schedule 20, 156 Clapham Rd., Martha Casbon in the household of Frederick Glew; Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=6598 : accessed 27 January 2019), London >Lambeth >Kennington First >District 20 >image 5 of 45; TNA, RG 12/400/96.  1901 England census, London, Hammersmith, ED 3, p. 90, schedule620, 214 Goldhawk Rd., Martha Casbon in household of Henry Miller; “1901 England Census,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=7814 : accessed 20 March 2018; TNA, RG 13/: accessed 20 March 2018; TNA, RG 13/9/124.  1911 England census, London, Lambeth, ED 10, schedule 109, 76 Tulse Hill SW, Martha Casbon in household of Thomas Drake; “1911 England Census,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=2352 : accessed 27 January 2019), London >Lambeth >Norwood >10 >image 220 of 421; TNA, RG 14/2109.  1939 Register, Cambridgeshire, South Cambridgeshire, ED TBKV, schedule 34, High St., Martha Casbon, “1939 England and Wales Register,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=61596 : accessed 27 January 2019), Cambridgeshire >South Cambridgeshire RD >TBKV >image 5 of 9; TNA, RG 191.63261,  “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.  1851 England census, Cambridgeshire, Chatteris, ED 3e, p. 1, schedule 1, Park Rd., Sarah Casborn in household of Ann Curtis; Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=8860 : accessed 27 January 2019), Cambridgshire >Chatteris >3e >image 2 of 48; TNA, HO 107/1765/371.  Ibid.  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 (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=9199 : accessed 19 January 2018), Peterborough, St John >Parish Registers >1855-1859 >image 41 of 66; Northamptonshire Record Office, Northampton.  “Search the GRO Online Index,” deaths, Sarah Baker, M[ar] qtr, 1904, Peterborough, vol. 3B/146.  “Search the GRO Online Index,” births, Priscilla Banks, D[ec] qtr, 1862, Royston, vol. 3A/227.  1881 England Census, Cambridgeshire, Cambridge, ED 2, p. 14, schedule 59, 8 Parker St., Priscilla Casbon in household of Edmund Wilson; Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=7572 : accessed 26 January 2019), Cambridgeshire >Cambridge >St. Andrew the Great >District 2 >image 15 of 48; TNA, RG 11/1669/43.  1891 England census, Cambridgeshire, Meldreth, ED 13, p. 18, schedule 134, Witcroft Rd., Priscilla Casbon in household of William Casbon; Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=6598 : accessed 27 January 2019), Cambridgeshire >Meldreth >District 13 >image 19 of 27; TNA, RG 12/1104/68.  “England & Wales, Civil Registration Marriage Index, 1837-1915,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=8913 : accessed 24 April 2018), Priscilla Casbon, 3d qtr, 1896, Bedford, vol. 3B/732; GRO, London.  “Find A Will,” Gov.UK (https://probatesearch.service.gov.uk/Calendar#calendar : accessed 27 January 2019), Wills and Probate 1858–1996, search terms: “banks” “1904.”  1891 England census, London, Kensington, ED 17, p. 30, schedule 157, 40 Evelyn Gardens, Julia F Casbon in the household of Thomas Fraser; Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=6598 : accessed 27 January 2019), London >Kensington >Brompton >District 17 >image 31 of 51; TNA, RG 12/32/73.  Church of England, Barley (Hertfordshire), Marriage registers, p. 136, no. 271, Henry Brassington & Julia Frances Casbon, 19 Sep 1899; “Hertfordshire Banns & Marriages,” findmypast (https://search.findmypast.com/search-world-Records/hertfordshire-banns-and-marriages : accessed 14 October 2017).  “England and Wales Death Registration Index 1837-2007”, FamilySearch, (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QVCK-W896 : accessed 4 September 2014), Julia F Brassington, 1965, 4th qtr, Harrow, vol. 5B/961/153; citing GRO, Southport.  “Search the GRO Online Index,” births, Kate Casban, M[ar] atr, 1874, Edmonton, vol. 3A: 203.  1891 England Census, Middlesex, Edmonton, ED 1, p. 49, schedule 284, Langhedge House, Kate Casban in household of Maria Rowley; Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=6598 : accessed 28 January 2019), Middlesex >Edmonton >District 01 >image 50 of 54; TNA, RG 14/1081/27.  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 (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=1623 : accessed 22 March 2017), Enfield >St James, Upper Edmonton >1851-1917 >image 206 of 506; London Metropolitan Archives.  “Search the GRO Online Index,” births, Margaret Casbon, D[ec] qtr, 1875, Royston, vol. 3A/320.  1891 England Census, Surrey, Croydon, ED 34, p. 9, schedule 48, 25 Wellesley Rd., Alice Casbar in household of George E Wheeler; Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=6598 : accessed 28 January 2019), Surrey >Croydon >District 34 >image 10 of 89; TNA RG 14/591/44.  Ibid.  “England and Wales Marriage Registration Index, 1837-2005,” FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:269S-X5P : accessed 13 December 2014), Margaret Alice Casban, 2d qtr, 1898, Croydon, vol. 2A/529/38; GRO, Southport.  “Search the GRO Online Index,” births, Olive Louise Casbon, J[un] qtr, 1884, Royston, vol. 3A/444.  1901 England census, Surrey, Croydon, ED 81, p. 8, schedule 45, Olive L Casson in household of John Percy Lewis; Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=7814 : accessed 26 January 2019), Surrey >Croydon >District 81 >image 9 of 55; TNA, RG 13/648/8.  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 (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=2352 : accessed 20 March 2018), Surrey >Croydon >North Croydon >18 >image 126 of 699; TNA, RG 14/3385.  “England and Wales Marriage Registration Index, 1837-2005,” FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:267B-M1S : accessed 14 November 2015), Olive L Casbon, 2d qtr, 1911, Croydon, vol, 2A/631/105.  “Search the GRO Online Index,” births, Thomas Jessop Cavendish De Rinzy, D[ec] qtr, 1911, Croydon, vol. 2A/644.  “Search the GRO Online Index,” deaths, Olive Louise De Rinzy, D[ec] qtr, 1916, Croydon, vol. 2A/473.  “Search the GRO Online Index,” births, Maud Emily Casbon, D[ec] qtr, 1885, Royston, vol. 3A/471.  1901 England census, Cambridgeshire, Melbourn, enumeration district 9, p. 9, schedule 44, Maud Carton in household of Albert Spencer; Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=7814 : accessed 28 January 2019), Cambridgeshire >Melbourn >District 09 >image 10 of 27; TNA, RG 13/1296/9.  1911 England Census, Surrey, Penge, ED 2, schedule 138, Maude Emily Casbon in household of Adele Maude Everest; Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=2352 : accessed 20 March 201), Surrey >Penge >02 >image 276 of 809; TNA, RG 14/3406.  “Search the GRO Online Index,” deaths, Maud Emily Casbon, D[ec] qtr, 1911, Croydon, vol. 2A/408.  “Search the GRO Online Index,” births, Hilda Mary Casbon, D[ec] qtr, 1887, Royston, vol. 3A/466.  1911 England Census, Cambridgeshire, Fowlmere, ED 5, schedule 26, Hilda Casbon in household of Sarah Casbon; Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=2352 : accessed 28 January 2019), Hertfordshire >Fowlmere >05 >image 52 of 265; TNA, RG 14/7557.  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.  Tessa Arlen, “The Redoubtable Edwardian Housemaid and a Life of Service,” Tessa Arlen Mysteries from the early 1900s (http://www.tessaarlen.com/redoubtable-housmaid-life-belowstairs/ : accessed 28 January 2019).  “Search the GRO Online Index,” deaths, Hilda Casbon, J[un] qtr, 1921, Croydon, vol. 2A/312.  “Search the GRO Online Index,” births, Elsie Lydia Casbon, S[ep] qtr, 1890, Royston, vol. 3A/490.  1911 England Census, Cambridgeshire,Cambridge, ED 7, schedule 135, 160-1 East Rd, Elsie Lydia Caslon in household of George W Sheet; Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=2352 : accessed 20 March 2018), Cambridgeshire >Cambridge >St Andrew the Less >07 >image 274 of 313; TNA, RG 14/9107.  “Search the GRO Online Index,” deaths, Elsie Casbon, J[un] qtr, 1919, Kensington, vol. 1A/217.