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8 Feb 2012

Not so fertile

Thomas Henry Craig Stevenson in 1909 postulated that working-class women would have large families than those higher up the income chart.  In 1911, he and Sir Bernard Mallett, the Registrar-General, included the famous fertility question in the census, which now makes us consider the number of Victorian infant deaths (10 or more years earlier) rather than there being 'too many living children' from the poor.

However, as someone for whom those details have been most revealing in conducting my research, I was of course surprised to find Stevenson among my cousins.  Or rather, I wasn't.

As soon as I found my relative had married Miss Catherine De Boudry in Bristol, I was pretty sure we'd be surfing a genteel wave for at least a couple of generations, Stevenson in fact was going to marry Miss De Boudry's grandddaughter.

Just a week ago I despaired of finding out the stories of the 6 Scott children baptised at Ditcheat and environs in the 1780s.  Their cousins set off for Monmouthshire and all sent for each other: though as butchers and factory workers, Chepstow was an odd choice to say the least.  But the 6 Scotts in question didn't go to Chepstow, they went to Britain's second city around the corner, Bristol.  I have no idea why Bristol got routinely ignored by my Somerset farming families.  They were happy to retire to regency, tasteful, Bath; but for a farmer, the true county town of Bristol seemed to offer nothing.

To inhabit Bristol with the same style as a yeoman farmer you needed a much higher income.  When I examined the PCC wills more closely I saw that Benjamin and William Scott were corn factors (as was an unmarried sister), while youngest sister Susanna had married an accountant, Henry Northcote.  William's father-in-law had kept a school at Kingsdown, personally approved by John Wesley.

Northcote stole £10,000 in 1839 and was transported on the Barossa, begging to be given Sunday school duties as he commenced his long sentence.  I haven't checked to see if he survived, but his wife died of shame.  There's a clue in her will 'wife of Henry, LATE of the City of Bristol': she having been given a house in Sidney Place through a marriage settlement, which did not form part of her husband's debts.

Benjamin Scott sailed for America after his mother-in-law had died, leaving his eldest child behind with brother William, presumably to claim her inheritance; and also as his poor wife still had no children.  Matilda rejoined the others 18 years later and was still alive age 90, unmarried, according to my reading of US tax records.  (And in 1880 living with E D Scott, Minneapolis.)

That just leaves William and Miss De Boudry to continue the line in England, and as Stevenson might have guessed (with 3 children and no heirs himself) we are shortly and swiftly led to the single descendant - a fundraising expert in Cheshire.

Small wonder I've not been besieged by enquiries about these Bristolians.  It's yet possible that the oldest sister, Grace Scott, had surviving children by her husband James Hill, but I'm not hopeful!  They just had too much money to be fertile.

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