Tag Archives: cuckfield

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?

Ancestral Profile: George MITCHELL (1806?-1844?)

29 Nov

I have already written about one George MITCHELL in my family tree, but he was on my mother’s side of the family, this one is on my father’s side and was probably unrelated. This George MITCHELL was my 4x great-grandfather and in contrast with the other George MITCHELL I know almost nothing about his life.

The first record I have is his marriage to my 4x great-grandmother Mary SMITH. The marriage took place on the 29th September 1828 in the parish of Cuckfield, Sussex. As the marriage was before 1837 there is no mention of his father’s name, all I have is that they were both from Cuckfield and neither had been married before. I haven’t checked the original record, so there may be additional clues in the names of the witnesses, it is worth a look anyway.

In the 1841 census George and Mary are living in Bolney, Sussex but I can’t make out the name of the farm on which they are living. They have four children: Mary Ann, Harriett, Caroline and Alfred. The 1841 census provides the only piece of evidence for George’s birth, his age is given as 35 years and he was born in Sussex. In theory this should mean that George was aged between 35 and 39 years old, but this is by no means guaranteed.

By the 1851 census George has died and Mary is living as a widow, with four children: Harriett, Caroline, Alfred and William. This provides the only real evidence for George’s death, seemingly some time between the birth of William in 1844 and the 1851 census. Mary is shown as a pauper, so there may be some further clues among the records of the Poor Law Guardians.

It seems that George and Mary had six children, but apart from Harriett (my 3x great-grandmother) I know very little about what became of them. They were:

  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)
  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)

The fact that William was baptised in Balcombe possibly provides a clue to the death of George. There is a burial recorded in Cuckfield on the 30th October 1844 of a 38 year old George MITCHELL from Balcombe. It seems quite likely that this was my 4x great-grandfather, and there is a chance that he was the victim of an accident on the London to Brighton railway. The Times newspaper refers to the victim as Thomas MITCHELL, but I can’t find a death registration for either Thomas or George MITCHELL in the right place at the right time. Local newspapers my clarify this situation as The Times might have got his name wrong.

Ordering two birth certificates for my Christmas Tree Project

8 Oct

Last night I ordered two birth certificates from the GRO as part of my Christmas Tree Project. Both were in an attempt to find the maiden names of two of my 4x great grandmothers.

The first was for William GEERING, my 3x great grandfather (who may or may not have married Ellen NICHOLLS). His birth was registered in the Lewes Registration District in Q3 1843. I am sure it is the right William GEERING because I have his baptism in Lewes around the same time.

The only problem with this one was reading the page reference, it looks like 383 to me, but that middle number is not clear. I am expecting that it will show his mother’s maiden name as RICHARDSON, as that is the closest match I can find for a marriage between Richard GEERING and Eliza.

The marriage took place in Brighton on the 7th June 1829. To be honest if the marriage was in Lewes, Sussex I would probably have accepted it, but Brighton is just that bit further away so I want to be certain.

The second certificate is for Alfred George MITCHELL, he was the younger brother of my 3x great grandmother Harriet MITCHELL. His birth was registered in the Cuckfield Registration District in Q1 1841.

I wouldn’t normally bother with getting the birth certificates for siblings of my ancestors, unless I was doing an in depth study of the family, but Harriet was born three or four years before the start of civil registration in 1837. Annoyingly I already have the birth date for Alfred George MITCHELL from his baptism record, but he was the easiest of Harriet’s brothers and sisters to locate in the indexes.

I am expecting this one to show that his mother’s maiden name was SMITH. My heart sank when I was searching for possible marriages and found the most likely one was between George MITCHELL and Mary SMITH in Cuckfield, Sussex on the 29th September 1828.

I suppose it inevitable that I would come across a SMITH in my direct ancestry eventually, I just hope there weren’t too many SMITHs in that part of Sussex at that time.

Madness Monday: George Thomas GASSON wasn’t just a lunatic

8 Jun

So far pretty much all I have written about George Thomas GASSON concerns his time at the asylum and his mental illness. I wouldn’t want you to think that George Thomas GASSON was just a lunatic, he was a normal son, brother, husband and father for a large part of his life. So to put my previous posts in some perspective here is a summary of what I also know about George Thomas.

George Thomas GASSON was born in Slaugham, Sussex on the 13th November 1853 and was baptised in the parish church on the 29th January 1854. His birth was registered under the surname GASTON, on the 25th December 1853 by his grandmother Mary MITCHELL, which presumably accounts for the incorrect spelling of his surname (I say incorrect because this is the only time I have seen him referred to as GASTON not GASSON).

He was the eldest child of Thomas GASSON (1830-1914) and Harriet MITCHELL (c1835-1904) who were married in the parish church at Slaugham, Sussex on the 17th September 1853. They went on to have twelve children in total, eight boys and four girls.

Around 1859-60 Thomas, Harriet and their three children at the time (George Thomas, Margaret and Alfred) moved to Edmonton, Middlesex whilst Thomas was briefly in the Metropolitan Police. The family are there for the 1861 census and had another child there (Edward, registered Q3 1860). Before long the family were back in Sussex (probably Slaugham), as their next child, a daughter named Harriett was registered in Cuckfield District in Q1 1863.

It is not clear when George Thomas left the family home, he was certainly with his parents during the 1871 census, when the family was in Slaugham, and sometime around 1874-75 the family moved to Bolney, Sussex. It was in Bolney that George Thomas married Mary Ann WALDER at the parish church on the 30th December 1876.

George Thomas and Mary Ann’s first child, George, was born in 1877 (baptised on the 29th April 1877) about the same time as George Thomas’ youngest brother Michael. George Thomas and Mary Ann had fourteen children in total, including in 1893 my great grandmother May GASSON. The youngest was Harold, born in 1898. During this time they were living in Bolney, in the 1881 census at Bee Houses and in 1891 at Chatesgrove.

I have been unable to trace any record of George Thomas’ schooling, if there was any. His working life was spent as a labourer, although there is no evidence that shows where and for whom, presumably he was an agricultural labourer working on one of the farms in the parish.

A couple of their children had died before George Thomas was admitted to the asylum, Edward in 1894 (aged 15) and Albert Henry also in 1894 (aged just 3 months). One son was killed during the First World War, William James (in 1915). The youngest Harold served in the navy during the First World War, but I have been unable to discover where and with whom the others served.

After George Thomas was admitted to the asylum the family seems to have drifted eastwards, firstly to Cuckfield (Cuthedges in 1901) and then to Hurstpierpoint (Gorewood Green in 1911). It was in Hurstpierpoint that Mary Ann died in 1935 aged 78, although she was buried back in Bolney churchyard.

As far as I can tell the majority of their children married, with a couple of exceptions (my great grandmother being one of them) and many went on to have large families (at last count I had positively identified 34 grandchildren).

Some workhouse housework

25 Apr

Today I have been going through the last of the data I gathered at the West Sussex Record Office last Saturday, typing up my notes and entering what I can in my family history software.

The research I did into the Cuckfield Workhouse has thrown up a couple of interesting issues which I wasn’t expecting. This is the first time I have really had to look into the Poor Law records for any of my family and the results were quite surprising.

Firstly there is my 3x great grandfather Thomas GASSON (1830-1914) who I found in the Cuckfield Workhouse in the 1911 census and started off this line of investigation. I had expected to see him admitted to the workhouse some time after 1901 and there he would stay until his death in 1914.

What I discovered however was that he was in and out of the workhouse quite frequently (a dozen times between 1904 and 1910). I am intrigued now as to what he was doing on these breaks from the workhouse? (Also how I am going to record all these admissions and discharges on my family tree without clogging it up?)

Sometimes he was out for as short as a week, sometimes as long as a month. Was he trying to live on his own or with one of his children? Was he given money to get out and find work and accommodation? Did he want to get out or was the master of the workhouse trying to get rid of him? Was he simply too old and not fit enough to live on his own?

It is quite interesting that his first admission to the workhouse was on the 23rd November 1904, just a couple of months after the death of his wife Harriet. This makes me think he was probably not healthy enough to cope on his own after she died and had to seek help from the Poor Law Union.

The second curiosity I discovered was that at the same that Thomas GASSON was in the workhouse so was his great granddaughter Lilian GASSON. She was admitted on the 24th January 1910 and discharged on the 30th January 1910.

The unusual thing is that she had just turned three years old when she was admitted. It appears that none of her other family were admitted at the same time,  so I suspect that for Lilian the workhouse was serving as a hospital rather than a poor house.

There are several other GASSONs in the workhouse records, but I haven’t been able to make any connections with my ancestors yet. I am sure given time they will all find a home on my family tree.

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