Wednesday, 13 January 2021

Child Bride? James Crabtree and Mary Senior who married 27 May 1804 All Saints, Silkstone and their Family

In recent months I have been noticing the surname Senior in the Barnsley area. It crops up in my husband's (the OH) tree, in the tree of his friend that I researched over the Christmas break, and the other day it appeared in the tree of some First World War soldiers named Law whose family lived on Waltham Street in 1891.

There appear to be a lot of Senior families in Barnsley, and many of them can be traced back to the 18th and early 19th centuries, before the census started in 1841 and before reliable, clear, parish records. Standard formats were introduced in 1754 for marriages, 1813 for baptisms, and revised in 1837 for marriages which were henceforth centrally registered. Happily in some parishes the clergy kept detailed records before the arrival of these standard formats, in particular the Dade style registers and Barrington style registers. In Barnsley the Methodist New Connexion church (established 1797) on New Street kept detailed baptism registers in the early 19th century and these have been transcribed with images attached on Find My Past. In particular they give the maiden name of the mother of the child, and sometimes her father's full name, occupation and abode. 

1822 Baptism at Barnsley Methodist New Connexion, RG4/3645 (from Find My Past)

The above example reads:
Hannah Crabtree Born 9th of Augt - Baptized - 15th Sepr 1822 daughter of James Crabtree Weaver Barnsley, Silkstone, by Mary daughter of William Senior, Tailor, Barnsley etc J Manners

I think the last was the name of the clergyman who recorded or performed the baptism as higher up the page the names J Manners or Joseph Swift are preceded by the word 'by'. 

This detailed record set me off on a path to try to integrate the Crabtree and Law families into one or another of the Senior family lines I had already researched.

The only marriage of a James Crabtree and a Mary Senior that I can find in Barnsley is in 1804, at All Saints Silkstone. This appears on Ancestry in the West Yorkshire Church of England records. Non-conformist couples married in Anglican churches before 1837. The only exceptions were Quakers and Jewish couples.

1804 marriage in the Parish of Silkstone (from Ancestry)

The current church building in Barnsley town centre, St Mary's, dates from 1822, but there was a church on the site long before that. It was a chapel in the Silkstone parish until it became a parish in its own right. The Barnsley Family History Society index for marriages at St Mary's Church begins in 1800 and does not list the marriage of James and Mary seen above so that suggests that they married in the mother church of All Saints at Silkstone.

The above reads:
Banns of Marriage - of - Parish
No.186. James Crabtree and Mary Senior, both of this Parish of Silkstone were Married in this church by banns this twenty seventh Day of May in the Year One Thousand Eight Hundred and Four by me Jos Wilkinson Curate.
This marriage was solemnized between Us - James Crabtree / Mary Senior X mark
In the presence of Joshua Jackson / Francis Gothard

The form originally stated 'the Year One Thousand Seven Hundred' etc, but the Seven was struck through and Eight written in the margin.
The witness Francis Gothard acted as a witness in many of the marriages on the nearby pages, suggesting he was attached to the church in someway rather than being a family member or friend.

James and Mary Crabtree had at least thirteen children, the first four I have found were baptised at St Mary's in Barnsley between 1805 and 1810 and the following nine at Methodist New Connexion church between 1811 and 1829.

We know that Mary's father was William Senior, a tailor from Barnsley, based on the evidence in Hannah Crabtree's baptism entry above, and the earliest census returns supply an indication of her age, which can be used to make an approximate calculation of the year in which she was born.

In 1841 census return for Park Row, Barnsley, James Crabtree was 60 years old and Mary 55 years old. But we have to remember that the instructions for the 1841 census were to round down the ages of anyone over 15. So James could have been aged between 60 and 64 and Mary between 55 and 59 years old. The 1851 census return for Barnsley town centre, including Park Row, is damaged and Mary's age is on the edge of a missing portion - but I think it says 66. She was born in Barnsley. James has passed away and Mary is a widow. From these ages we can calculate that Mary was born between 1782 and 1786 with a weighting towards 1785. Or so she claims ... This would have made her 19 years old at her marriage in 1804, which sounds perfectly reasonable.

From the various baptisms I have made a list of James and Mary's children:
Elizabeth    bap. 23 Jan1805
Ann            bap. 1 Mar 1807
Joseph        bap. 2 Apr 1809
William      bap. 23 Sep1810
John            bap.1811
Sarah          bap.1815
William      bap.1816 (so what happened to the William from 1810?)
Mary          bap. 7 Mar 1819
Jane or James bap.1820 (the record looks like Jane but refers to the 'son' of James & Mary)
Hannah       bap. 15 Sep 1822 (see image above)
Elizabeth Ann  bap.1824

Thomas      bap.1825
Elizth         bap.1828 (the name Elizabeth has been used three times?!)

James and Mary's daughter Mary married John Law at St George's church in Barnsley on 25 December 1838 and she was living with her parents in 1841 with two children, Elizabeth and Fergus, although there was no sign of her husband. I had already found the Law family, headed by Fergus Law (b.1841), grandson of Mary Senior, on Waltham Street in 1891 as I mentioned at the start of this post.

In the 1841 census return were:

James Crabtree aged 60
Mary Crabtree aged 55
John Crabtree  aged 25 years
Thomas Crabtree aged 15 years
Elizabeth Crabtree aged 13 years
Mary Lawe aged 20 years (Lawe or Law - the married name of Mary Crabtree b.1819)
Elizabeth Lawe aged 2
Fergus Lawe aged 2 months 

Everyone bar the two small children were listed as Linen Weavers. Nearly every adult in the other seven households visible on the double page spread of the 1841 census containing the Crabtree family are also listed as Linen Weavers. The exceptions are a Cordwainer (shoemaker), a Waggoner and a Sadler, and one elderly lady living on 'Independent Means' (income from rents or her savings).

John Crabtree has probably also had his age rounded down, as if he is the John baptised in 1811 he should have been 29 or 30 in 1841.
Mary Lawe (nee Crabtree) appears a good fit for the Mary baptised in 1819.
Elizabeth Crabtree was probably the final, of three, Elizabeth's born to James and Mary, baptised in 1828.

It seems that a number of James and Mary's children died young - at least the first William, and the earlier two Elizabeths.

The Barnsley Family History Society have indexed the burials at St Mary's Church, Barnsley from 1800 to 1840. 

The burial of William Crabtree - noted as the son of James & Mary Crabtree - took place on 2 October 1810, he was only one day old.
The burial of a second William Crabtree took place on 28 April 1819, he was aged 2 years, so probably the boy baptised in 1816.
The burial of Elizabeth Crabtree age 16 took place on 24 August 1821 - this is probably the eldest daughter of James and Mary Crabtree.
The burial of Ann Crabtree aged 14 took place on 6 January 1822 - this is probably the Ann baptised in 1807.
The burial of Jane Crabtree aged 1 year took place on 12 May 1822 - this could be the girl baptised in 1820.
The burial of Elizabeth Ann Crabtree age 1 took place on 25 September 1824 - their second Elizabeth.
The burial of Sarah Crabtree age 20 took place on 17 November 1835 - that makes her a possibility for the girl baptised in 1815.
The burial of Hannah Crabtree aged 17 took place on 19 June 1840 - just a year before the census was taken - this was probably the girl whose baptism I have used as an example above.

I found eight burials before the 1841 census which may have been James and Mary Crabtree's children. Four children appeared in the 1841 census return, that leaves us with only Joseph, baptised in 1809, unaccounted for from the thirteen baptisms I have identified. I believe he is probably the Joseph Crabtree, from Barnsley, aged 42, so born about 1809, who appears in the 1851 census in Kimberworth, near Rotherham, married to Hannah, with no children listed.

In the 1851 census return in Barnsley, living on Park Row still, which I have already mentioned,  there were:

Mary Crabtree Head Widow [age] 66 Weaver [born] Barnsley, Yorkshire
Elizabeth Crabtree Daughter Unmarried [age] 22 Power Look Weaver [born] Barnsley, Yorkshire
Thomas Crabtree Son Married [age] 25 Weaver [born] Barnsley, Yorkshire
Jane Crabtree Dau-in-Law Married [age] 20 Weaver [born] Barnsley, Yorkshire
Feargus Lowe Grandson -- [age] 9 -- [born] Barnsley, Yorkshire
Hannah Sykes Lodger Widow [age] 23 Power Loom Weaver [born] Barnsley, Yorkshire
Mary Ann Sykes Lodger -- [age] 4 -- [born] Barnsley, Yorkshire
George Crabtree Grandson -- [age] 2 -- [born] Barnsley, Yorkshire

Until I found the burials of the various Crabtree children I did wonder if Hannah Sykes was Mary's daughter, married and widowed, but having checked the GRO indexes I saw that Mary Ann Sykes, born in the Ecclesfield Registration District (RD) in Q3 1847 (the only entry that fits the child listed in the 1851 census return above) has a mother's maiden name of Fox, not Crabtree. So Hannah Sykes is not a family member, just a lodger as it states on the census return, and the death of Hannah Crabtree in 1840 is still likely to have been one of James and Mary's children.

Mary Crabtree reports in the 1851 census return that she is a widow. The death of a James Crabtree aged 68 in the GRO indexes in the Ecclesfield RD appears to fit the age I estimated from the information in the 1841 census. Combining this information suggests a birth date of 1779 for James Crabtree.

Mary Crabtree, the widow, does not appear in the 1861 census return. The only death for a Mary Crabtree that I can find in the Barnsley area in either the GRO indexes or on FreeBMD after 1851 and before 1861, is in the second quarter of 1855. The GRO index gives her age at death as 70 years. That suggests that she was born in 1785 - agreeing with her declared age in 1851. A Mary Ann Crabtree dies in 1856, but the GRO index, which includes age unlike the FreeBMD index, notes that she was under 1 year old.  

I can find no burial record for a Mary or James Crabtree on either Ancestry or Find My Past (which has no Barnsley burials in its Yorkshire burial index but does include the various Latter Day Saints indexes for England and Wales). The Barnsley Family History Society Burial Indexes (for sale via Genfair, see above) only go up to 1840 for St Mary's and 1850 for St George's. Barnsley Cemetery's records don't begin until 1861, so they have to have been buried in a church yard.  Ancestry's records for St Mary's church burials don't start until 1859 - but I visually checked St George's and All Saints Silkstone for 1855 just in case there had been a transcription error. No luck. Maybe their burials were at St Mary's - but unfortunately 1847 and 1855 fall in the gap between my sources.

Going to the beginning of her life I searched the baptism records on Ancestry and Find My Past for girls called Mary Senior who were baptised in the Barnsley area from 1780 to 1790. I found four, but only one had a father named William.

Baptisms from the beginning of 1790 at St John the Baptist, Royston, near Barnsley (from Ancestry)

Note the last baptism on the snip above is for:
Mary Dau of William & Mary Senior of M: Bretton 21

In other words, a baptism on 21st March 1790 for Mary Senior daughter of William and Mary of Monk Bretton (which was a village, now suburb, near Barnsley).

If this indeed the correct baptism for the Mary Senior who married James Crabtree in 1804, and it took place within the usual few days of her birth this suggests that she was only 14 years old when she married. James' birth in 1779 or thereabouts suggests he was 25 years of age when he married in 1804. A possible reason for this might be that James and Mary anticipated the marriage somewhat (I am being polite) because their first child, Elizabeth, was baptised on 23 January 1805, only eight months after their marriage.

It is odd, but until I can find any evidence that suggests this is not the right baptism I'll put in in the Senior/Crabtree family tree with a note attached saying *probable*. It feels strange to our modern sensibilities for a girl of 14 to have married a man of 25 in 1804, even if there were extenuating circumstances, and to have had at least thirteen children with him in the next fourteen years. I do feel rather sorry for her. 

Rebecca Probert, in her book Marriage Law for Genealogists, the definitive guide, notes that with parental consent for minors under the age of 21 years, the minimum marriage age for girls was legally 12 years of age and 14 years of age for boys. This was the case until as late as 1929, when both were increased to 16 years.

I will now return to constructing the family tree of the Crabtree Law family to bring it up to date with the research I have already carried out on the 1891 census when the Law family lived on Waltham Street.

Thanks for reading. 


This post was updated on 14 and 16 Jan 2021 after initially posting on 13 Jan 2021, after I discovered, on Ancestry, the first four children of James and Mary who were baptised at St Mary's Barnsley - these births are not listed on Find My Past which misled me for a while.

Thursday, 7 January 2021

First World War Soldier's Story: Riley Willerton from Willingham by Stow

Over the Christmas and New Year period I have myself two weeks off from my PhD studies - however as my main hobby is family history it was inevitable that I would come across some First World War (FWW) connections eventually. 

I am currently researching several friends' family trees alongside my own and my husband's (the OH). I have a theory, often mentioned on these pages, that if a person can trace their family history back to the 19th century in Barnsley then the chances are very good that they are related to the OH. This sometimes makes me wander off down branches that I might not otherwise have researched in the search for FWW associated men and women. When I do discover FWW servicemen in our friends' trees they are often unaware of the connection - for example in a tree I did last year I found five men killed, including two brothers from Barnsley who were the subject's great-uncles on her mother's side.

The OH's tree currently includes 139 men who served in the FWW and of those 42 lost their lives. Ten of the men who died are close enough relatives for my family tree software (Family Historian) to have defined their relationship automatically. Forty-three of the men who survived also have a close relationship which has been automatically calculated and displayed, for the others I can find their relationship (usually some complex mixture of cousin and marriage connections) by using Family Historian's built in 'How Releted' tool.

Using the 'How Related' tool in Family Historian

Yesterday I added another man to the roll of honour of the OH's relatives who were killed or died in the war. Riley Willerton is the OH's first cousin three times removed. This is quite a close connection but I had not found it previously as most of the Willertons had not moved to Barnsley. His aunt, Charlotte Willerton was the OH's great, great grandmother (see above) who was from Lincolnshire and who had moved here to Barnsley between 1884 and 1887 (based on the birth places of her children). 

Riley Willerton was born in Holton Beckering in Lincolnshire (which lies between Market Rasen and Wragby) on the 13 April 1893. His parents were Thomas Willerton and Eliza Sheppard who had married in Langriville Chapel in Lincolnshire on 11 January 1876. The OH's great, great grandfather Joseph Croft was one of the witnesses to their marriage, although he could not write his name and signed the register with a X, as did Thomas Willerton. The bride and the female witness Elizabeth Willerton (presumably Thomas and Charlotte's sister) signed the register and both had quite nice handwriting. Does that say something about education opportunities for girls in nineteenth century Lincolnshire, or the lack of them for boys? At a guess the latter, for boys were probably expected to start work on the farm at a young age and may have missed a lot of school as a consquence.

Riley was the eighth of Thomas and Eliza's eleven children. 

Thomas and Eliza Willerton's travels plotted on Google Maps

Thomas and Eliza moved around Lincolnshire a great deal after their marriage, presumably following the availabilty of work. In 1911 the family are living Greetwell Hollow, which is on the outskirts of Lincoln itself and Thomas is a horseman on a farm, Riley, aged 18, is a ploughboy which sounds as if he might be an assistant to his father. Two of his brothers are listed as labourers on the farm - whether or not they all work on the same farm is impossible to tell from the census return.

By the time Riley enlists in the Lincolnshire Regiment, on 9 November 1914, not long after the outbreak of the war, he is 21 years of age and gives his occupation as waggoner. Fortunately his Army Service records have survived, if in a damage state, and we can see lots of detail of his enlistment and service. He was 5' 5.5" tall and his physical development was good, he had a 39 inch chest and perfect vision. He gives his next of kin as his parents, Thomas and Eliza, who by this time are living in Willingham by Stow which is near Gainsborough. He gives his own address as Kir(k)by Green which is over 25 miles away from his parents' home and close to Sleaford, and states that he has been living away from his father's house for over three years.

Active Service page from Riley Willerton's Army Service Records (from Ancestry)

Riley left England at the end of February 1916 and was assigned to the 2nd Battalion on 13 March 1916, but in July 1917 he was transferred in the field to the 25th Trench Mortar Battery. It looks as if he had leave to the UK between 4 and 14 September 1917. He was killed in action on 24 November 1917. His records say 'Place not Stated', but as he is remembered on the Tyne Cot Memorial he must have been in the Ypres area when he was killed, and he either had no known grave or it was lost before the end of the war. The Long, Long Trail website notes that the 2nd Battalion of the Lincolnshire Regiment were involved in some of the battles making up the Third Ypres, but not in any particular action at the time of Riley's death. I have not yet found the War Diaries for the period.

Willingham by Stow from War Memorials Online

Riley Willerton is remembered on the war memorial in St Helen's church in Willingham by Stow, which is a small brass plaque commemorating eleven men. As he was living with his parents in Greetwell Hollow near Lincoln in April 1911 and stated he had lived at Kirkby Green, near Sleaford for at least three years in late 1914 it might be suggested that he was not a resident of Willingham by Stow, but his parents were obviously able to get the local war memorial committee to include his name on their plaque. He is not named on the plaque in the church in Kirkby Green. 

I have just noticed that the name above Riley's on this memorial is Arthur Willerton - could he be Riley's brother - if so how dreadful for Thomas and Eliza. I will investigate tomorrow.

Lest We Forget