Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A Surprise in a Christmas Card

It's those little things that come in Christmas cards that are so precious to a family historian/genealogist. A few years ago, I received a copy of a death record which launched a new research project on my mother's side of the family. This year I received a beautiful card from England and cousin Margaret's card held a photocopy of a Settlement Examination dated 1811 for George Portas and family. This also launched an interesting search into one of my collateral lines – Margaret's family. 

George, my second cousin five times removed [2C5R] was baptized 1783 in Benniworth, Lincolnshire (A), and died 1868 in Hainton (B). Hainton isn't too far from Benniworth as you can see in the map below. Benniworth is not one of the parishes we visited this past July on our trip. I wish it were, but our next trip I will have it on our schedule for sure. Proximity of places is important when researching a family's event history.
"A" is Benniworth, "B" is Hainton, a little over 2 miles away,
and another 5 miles to "C" - Wragby which is mentioned in the Settlement.

[Image is from Google Maps, UK.]
Because George is a distant cousin on a collateral line, one which comes down from my 6x great grandparents William and Isabel (Salmon) PORTAS through their son Thomas, I am slowly adding that information to my tree program. George's family information was part of my "fill-in" fun at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City last October which has now turned into part of my "drudge work" fun since I've been home.

What is a "settlement examination?" It is a way of one parish to accept a person or family from another parish thus transferring the responsibility of taking care of that family if they needed the welfare from one parish settlement to another. According to Lincolnshire pages on GENUKI
Not all Examinations were for Poorlaw entitlement. However, on this web page we will stick to those that were for Poorlaw purposes. Some Examinations Papers still exist, but are organized by Riding or section of Lincolnshire. For example, the Kesteven Quarter Sessions Settlement Examinations from 1700 - 1847. The main towns in Kesteven are Sleaford, Bourne, Folkingham, Stamford and Grantham. Many examinants gave their age and place of birth, place and date of marriage, names of former husbands or wives, relatives and employers. The Board of Guardians for a Poor Law Union might want the local parish to "show cause" for why someone was not "settled" in the parish. 
The examination I received is one page, written in a very legible script. Even though this isn't for a direct line relative, I thought it was pretty interesting and it helped me verify the family unit I had questions on a few weeks before. (A transcription is further on in this post.)

The question I had asked of cousin Margaret was about the children. That's what started me on this little adventure. On the family card in my tree program, I have four children listed. Between Frances baptized 1810 in Muckton, Lincs, and the next child Thomas baptized 1816 in Hainton, there is a large gap where other children could possibly have been born. I have not been able to find any children to fill the gap. I thought maybe Margaret had more information. 

Maybe George and Mary lived in another parish which both Margaret and I haven't discovered yet where more children could have been born, but with Margaret's research prowess, I'm sure if there was another place, she would have found it in the last 40 years of looking.

I was also miffed by Frances being baptized in Muckton, Lincs. George and Mary (Neal) were married 25 Aug 1810 in Louth, Lincs, four months prior to the baptism of Frances. George may have been in service in Muckton where he met Mary. Muckton (A) is close to Louth (B). While looking for Frances' baptism entry I did see a few Neal surnames in the register in Louth. Or could Muckton be where Mary was from? 

"A is Muckton, "B" is Louth, a little over 5 miles away,
and another 11 miles to "C" - Benniworth.
 [Image is from Google Maps, UK.]
I was given Mary NEAL's baptism date 10 Oct 1794, Louth, but no source. I'm sure I got it from Margaret, but didn't enter any source. I turned to the Lincolnshire Archives Lincs to the Past website for some verification. If this were the date, Mary would have been about 16 years old when she gave birth to Frances. That is fairly young, but not a possibility.

The LA has been busy digitizing parish records and putting them online free for the viewing. Even though there are watermarks on the view, they don't obstruct the words written on the page. If I want to order an image, I can do so online and the image -- without watermarks -- will be sent to me by e-mail within a few days for a nominal cost in British pounds. That's a far cry from the old way of waiting several weeks for "snail" mail.

Well, I went to the Louth parish record page for 1794. There I did find that date recorded for a Mary...Mary daughter of William SCALES and Mary his wife. SCALES? Hmmm. I looked closer. Yes, it said SCALES. Could this be a mistake in the surname I was given? Could it be a mistake of the curate in the church who recorded the baptism? 
Scales was a surprise surname. It isn't NEAL. Compare the "Sc" in
 Scrivenor at the top of the image above -- they are the same. 

[Screenshot of entry on Lincs to the Past.]
Yet George & Mary's marriage record clearly states Mary NEAL. Someone is mistaken. Looking at the image below, I can see how it could be taken for Neale.
Fourth entry from the bottom is the marriage entry for George Portas & Mary Neal. 
[Screenshot of entry on Lincs to the Past.]

I contacted Margaret who was sure she had so many years ago found the right baptism date for Mary Neal, but a few days later she wrote in an e-mail that she had a copy of their marriage bond which kind of proves we need to look for Mary Neal somewhere else. (We are both up to the challenge.)

Margaret writes in a 23 Dec e-mail: "That Mary Neal is causing real problems. I know it is definitely Neal because I have the marriage bond details. George and Mary were married by Licence at St James Church Louth on 25th August 1810. They were both 24. Bt and Sp. making them both born 1786.
George Portas was buried 3rd Jan 1868 at St Mary Hainton age 87 and Mary was  buried 14th May 1849 age 64 at St Mary Hainton.
Going by these ages at death, that makes Mary born 1785. We have her bap as 25th Oct 1794. If Mary was 24 on her marriage in 1810 that makes her born 1786. George was 87 that makes him born 1781. George Portas was 55 on the 1841 Census and Mary was also 55 on the 1841 Census. so that makes her  born 1786, and George also 1786. George was bap in 1783.  I know you cannot trust dates or ages." 

In this document both Mary and George were 24 when they married. That would mean they were born about 1780s and not in the 1790s. Finding Mary's baptism record is our next task. I have a feeling her baptism is in Muckton, but then again it could be in Louth. 

Does the examination tell me anything? Could there be any clues for me to go on?
Burgh on Bain 13/1/7: Lincolnshire Archives Lincolnshire parts of Lindsey to wit: The Examination of George Portas of Burough cum Girsby [Burgh on Bain] in the said parts touching the place of his last legal settlement taken on the complaint of the churchwardens and overseers of the poor of the Parish of Brough cum Girsby aforesaid that he and Mary his Wife & Frances their Daughter aged about 6 months do now inhabit there not having produced a certificate owning them to be settled elsewhere and are likely to become chargeable to the said parish before us George Lister Esquire and William Chaplin Clerk two of his Majesty’s Justices of the Peace in and for the parts aforesaid this fourth Day of July 1811.
    This Examinant upon his Oath saith that he was born at Benniworth in the County of Lincoln as he has been informed and believes that he is 28 years of age or thereabouts that sometime before May day 1810 he hired himself to William Brooks of Hainton in the said parts Farmer for a year that he entered upon and duly performed the whole of the said Service in the said parish of Hainton and received the whole of his Wages accordingly that he was hired at Wragby Statue held previous to May day 1810 & after he had been in his Service a few months he intermarried with his present Wife but continued in his said Masters Service during the Whole Year in the said parish of Hainton under the Contract made at the Statute without any fresh or new hiring in consequence of his said Marriage and duly performed the Whole of his Service as aforesaid & hath not since to his knowledge done any Act to gain a Settlement elsewhere.
[not shown on front]
Taken & Sworn Before Us   George Lister    Wm Chaplin
George X Portas [his mark]
The document does reveal a few things, but nothing about Mary's baptism. 

May day 1810, George hired out with a farmer in Hainton and was with him for the whole year. He had been there a few months before he "intermarried with his present Wife" [Mary]. That 25 Aug 1810, Louth. Gives proof to the name of their daughter Frances and about when she was born. Frances was baptized 16 Dec of that year in Muckton. A good guess is that Mary was pregnant sometime around April and told George sometime around July. He made good and married her. 

The word "intermarried" according to Anne on the Lincolnshire Mail List, "It's simply just another way of saying 'married'. The word appears so often in old documents that it cannot mean anything else." I wasn't sure, so I posed the question to the "Lincs List" in order to be sure to have the meaning in the right context.

This PORTAS family of three asked permission to settle in Burgh on Bain, dated 4 Jul 1811 when daughter Frances was about six months old. Could there have been others born in Burgh? I've looked on Lincs to the Past, but that register hasn't been digitized yet for those years. So I will have to put it on my ToDo list for my next trip to Salt Lake City. I checked -- nothing; -- nothing. 

As you can see in my tree entries below, the family was in Hainton by Thomas' 1816 baptism. It is curious there are three gaps in the baptism dates. Frances to Thomas - six years; Thomas to Elizabeth - four years; Elizabeth to Sarah - six years. Were there any more children born and baptized and possibly died within those other two gaps? I haven't been able to find any to fill those gaps...yet.

There is a possibility that Muckton is where Mary was baptized. Many times the pregnant wife goes to be with her mother for the birth of her child(ren). Or was Louth Mary's home parish. Since we know her age from the marriage bond, it should be easy to check both parishes quickly.

As you can see, there is a little more work to be done on this little mystery. It is going to be interesting to see what can turn up. It is also good to be able to correct anything found to be less than accurate. As research progresses, we all have to be ready to make those changes, or to go in a different direction if it calls for it. This is what makes our research so interesting.

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