Ancestral Profile: Mary SMITH (c1807-1891?)

6 Dec

In recent weeks I have been jumping from branch to branch of my family tree when it came to choosing a subject for my weekly Ancestral Profile post, but this week I thought I would follow up last week’s post (featuring George MITCHELL) by writing about his wife Mary SMITH, my 4x great-grandmother.

Although Mary outlived her husband by nearly 50 years I know very little about her, this is not helped by the fact that her maiden name was SMITH and her married name was MITCHELL, neither of which are particularly uncommon. It also doesn’t help that each census return seems to give different information from which to calculate her date and place of birth.

The marriage to George MITCHELL took place on the 29th September 1828 in the parish of Cuckfield, Sussex. As I mentioned last week I haven’t checked the original marriage record for extra information. I also wrote last week that George and Mary had six children:

  1. Eliza MITCHELL (baptised 7th December 1828 in Cuckfield, Sussex)
  2. Mary Ann MITCHELL (baptised 30th January 1831 in Cuckfield, Sussex)
  3. Harriett MITCHELL (born c1834 in Slaugham, Sussex) [my 3x great-grandmother]
  4. Caroline MITCHELL (born Q3 1838 in Slaugham, Sussex)
  5. Alfred George MITCHELL (born 23rd February 1841 in Bolney, Sussex)
  6. William MITCHELL (baptised 14th April 1844 in Balcombe, Sussex)

It seems that her husband George died in October 1844 as the result of being hit by a steam engine, leaving Mary as a widow with six children. The 1851 census shows her as a pauper living in Slaugham, Sussex with her four youngest children.

I haven’t found Mary in the 1861 census, although there are several possibilities. In the 1871, 1881 and 1891 census she is living with (or next door to) her youngest son William and his family, initially in Bolney, Sussex and then Slaugham, Sussex. All of these show her as a widow and only the 1871 lists an occupation, which is “washerwoman”.

Below are the ages and places of birth from the various census years. In 1841 the age was rounded down, but taking the other years it looks like we are looking at a year of birth about 1807 +/- 2 years. All the places are quite consistent, in the same general area in mid sussex within a few miles of each other.

1841 – aged 30, born in Sussex
1851 – aged 42, born Cuckfield, Sussex
1861 – not found yet
1871 – aged 64, born Staplefield, Sussex
1881 – aged 76, born Cuckfield, Sussex
1891 – aged 84, born Slaugham, Sussex

There is a baptism in Cuckfield which seems to fit, Mary SMITH daughter of Samuel and Mary SMITH, baptised on 1 Nov 1807. Unfortunately there is also a Mary SMITH baptised in Cuckfield in 1805 who could just as easily be the one. Clearly more evidence is needed.

It seems likely that Mary died later in 1891. There is an entry in the GRO indexes for the death of an 85 year old in Q3 1891 in the Cuckfield Registration District. All of the parishes listed were in Cuckfield Registration District. I really need to buy the certificate to see if this is my Mary MITCHELL.

There is a corresponding burial in Balcombe, Sussex of an 85 year old Mary MITCHELL on the 19th September 1891. This would make sense if her husband was buried in Balcombe, but it looks like he was buried in Cuckfield. Why would she be buried in Balcombe when the 1891 census has her living in Slaugham? Did she spend her last few months living with someone else in Balcombe? Am I barking up the wrong tree?

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