Friday 16 August 2013

The Mystery of the Missing Marriage - Matthew Bulmer and Harriett Glover

You would think that in these days of millions of genealogy records online, multiple transcriptions of the birth, marriage and death indexes and sprawling interconnecting global family trees that it would be fairly easy to find one marriage in Barnsley, especially when the time period in which it occurred is fairly narrow.  Well I can't, so the Bulmer/Glover marriage is another of my impenetrable brick walls.

Sometimes working these things out in a blog post has thrown up suggestions for further research, or pointed out irregularities in my previous logic, so Iet's give this brick wall a bashing and see what we get.

Matthew Bulmer (b.1822) was the OH's 3x great grandfather.  Like many of the OH's ancestors Matthew was an incomer to Barnsley in the early mid 19th century.  He was drawn to the town by the growing linen industry - an industry that many people underestimate for its influence on Barnsley's development.  It was huge ... Barnsley attracted thousands of workers leading to a massive explosion of housing in areas like Wilson's Piece on the southern edge of the town centre.  
1871 census snip, Matthew Bulmer (widower) and 10 children
1871 census for 30 Union Street, Barnsley (from Ancestry)

Matthew's birthplace, stated clearly on the census returns of 1851 to 1871, was Osmotherley in North Yorkshire, a place I had never heard of before seeing it on Matthew's census listings.  By 1871 Matthew was widowed and living at 30 Union Street, on the edge of the Wilson's Piece area, and he was still working as a Linen Hand Loom Weaver.  All his children were born in the Barnsley area, although as we can see from the census listing shown above the family did move around a little, two children were born in Gawber and one in Monk Bretton.  Three of his daughters are also working as Linen weavers and his son John is a Linen Warehouseman.  Of the working age children only Luke, aged 16 is working in another industry, he is a Colliery Labourer. 

Unfortunately for the family by 1871 hand loom weaving was not longer the prestigious trade it had been forty or fifty years previously.  Competition from mechanised looms in factories had driven down the value of the material produced by the weavers working in their own cellars and families found themselves reduced to hard times.  The best source I have found for detailed information on linen weaving in Barnsley is a thesis written by Kaijage (1975), see footnote.

However in the 1840s, when Matthew arrived in Barnsley, there was still a demand for the superior work of the handloom weavers, although it was beginning to decline.  It was normal for weavers to have other forms of support, such as a small plot of land for a farm.  This could be the reason that Matthew had tried living in Gawber and Monk Bretton.
1841 census snip Mary Bulmer and her sons plus grandson in Back Lane, Osmotherly
1841 census for Back Lane, Osmotherley (from Ancestry)
We know Matthew had arrived in Barnsley before 1847 as his first daughter Elizabeth was born in Barnsley that year.  He is listed in the 1841 census still living in Back Lane, Osmotherley with his mother Mary, brother Luke and nephew Harry.  Matthew is listed as fifteen years old, however remember that in the 1841 census ages were rounded down to the nearest five years - Matthew was actually nineteen.  Both Matthew and his brother Luke are Linen Weavers.
A colour photo of a narrow winding lane lined with stone houses, they are small with creepers running up the wall, quite pretty
Back Lane, Osmotherley - photo taken in 2005
We have visited Osmotherley several times, it is a pretty village, with a lot of original housing.  Walking through the village it is very easy to imagine it as it would have been 170 years ago.  The village website notes that a Linen Mill was built there at the end of the 18th century which led to its growth from a small farming community.  The buildings of Cote Ghyll mill are still standing and are now holiday accommodation.
Holiday Accommodation in an old linen mill (from the Cote Ghyll website)

It is seventy miles from Osmotherley to Barnsley, what made Matthew move, especially as he had employment locally?  His brother Luke is still working as a Hand Loom Linen Weaver in Osmotherley in the 1851 census.  Could it simply have been the prospect of becoming independent that drove Matthew to leave home, or was there a local downturn in trade?  Only further research will tell.  
Very badly scratched image of 1851 census return for Nook, Barnsley. Matthew Bulmer, wife Harriet and three children.
1851 census for Nook, Barnsley (from Ancestry)

As I noted above Matthew's eldest daughter (that I know of) Elizabeth, was born in Barnsley in 1847.  Looking at the 1851 census return we see Matthew's wife is called Harriet and she was born in Barnsley too.  They have three children by 1851, Elizabeth, Mary and John.  I have been unable to find a marriage between a Matthew Bulmer and a Harriett in Barnsley. I have checked FreeBMD, Ancestry (in both the BMD indices and the West Yorkshire Parish records), Find My Past and Family Search
1853 birth certificate for Sarah Bulmer

Failing that I did send for Sarah Bulmer's birth certificate - Sarah is the OH's 2x great grandmother.  The certificate shows that Harriet's maiden name was Glover - but unfortunately this hasn't helped.  The same searches were carried out using Harriet's surname, just in case Bulmer had been transcribed incorrectly, but I still had no hits.

FreeBMD listing for the June Quarter of 1853 showing Jane and Sarah Bulmer indexed on the same page of the register.
The FreeBMD entry showing two Bulmer births
(From FreeBMD)
The address of Sarah's birth is Nook, the same as the 1851 census - this was a small street in the town centre of Barnsley, later known as Gas Nook after a gasworks was built nearby. 
The usual reason for showing a time on a birth certificate is to differentiate between twins and sure enough checking the Free BMD entry Jane Bulmer was listed on the same page as Sarah.

For some reason Matthew and Harriet did not have any of their children baptised until 1854, when they had five, Bessie (Elizabeth), Mary, John, Jane and Sarah done at the same time in St Mary's, Barnsley.

Because I can't find Matthew and Harriet's marriage, which would have given her father's name, I am also having trouble working out who Harriet's parents were.  The names of their children suggest her mother might have been an Elizabeth - but even this doesn't help as there are numerous Harriet's baptised in the Barnsley area between 1811 and 1831 ten years either side of her probable birth 1822 to 1824 (based on her ages in the 1851 and 1861 census returns) and several have a mother called Elizabeth.

Out of twelve children born to Matthew and Harriet, that I know of, only two die young - the others marry, although with most being girls the Bulmer name is not continued in Barnsley.

Harriet died in 1868 while the family were living in Union Street, where they still were in 1871 (see the first census return I have included above), Matthew died in 1879 and his address at burial was given as 34 Union Street.  They are interred in the same grave in Barnsley cemetery.  The family scatter after their parent's deaths.  John Bulmer goes to Bradford with his daughters and works in the worsted trade there.  Luke Bulmer has a short marriage in Barnsley but then moves away ending up in Hartlepool, Durham.

There is the possibility that Matthew and Harriet did not marry ... either of them may have married previously but unhappily, and thus could or would not marry each other bigamously.  Is the late batch baptism of their children a clue ... did they marry later due to some reason I have yet to discover and not baptise their children until afterwards? They may have married in a Non-Conformist chapel  (which seems unlikely given the baptism of the children in the Anglican church), but even then their marriage should have been entered into the Register Office records and made its way to the index.  There is a chance their marriage may turn up in the Barnsley Register Office, but without an entry in any of the indices I can't request it.  If the Barnsley Indexing Project resumes in the near future I could ask if anyone has seen it ...

Thank you for reading - I've spotted a bit of work I need to do with the baptisms and marriages of the Bulmer children, but I'm no nearer a solution to the missing marriage. 

Further Reading on the Linen Industry in Barnsley:

Kaijage, Fred J. (1975) Labouring Barnsley, 1816-1856 : a social and economic history. PhD thesis, University of Warwick. [online] Available at: [Accessed 7 Aug 2013]

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