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20 Sep 2015

Crowing over new Jen: untangling 1780s baptisms in mine-boom Cornwall

My hapless forebear Francis Harris made the genealogical error of witnessing the wrong wedding. He was invited along to the wedding of his wife Anne's sister Elizabeth Jennings and also, in the same year to the ceremony of another Elizabeth Jennings, doubtless related, though quite how is so far unfathomable. This was in the year 1809, at Crowan Parish Church, Cornwall.

The problem is compounded by the fact both Elizabeths have parents called John and Anne, and for good measure both had sisters called Anne as well.  They were born in consecutive years (1785 and 1786), marry as stated, in the same year and place, with very similar witnesses and have children with no distinguishing names. Harrumph!

By thoroughly shaking the tree, and running both Elizabeths to ground - in Stithians a central mining village and Tywardreath, a settlement a good way along the coast, I capture their ages at burial. This will be crucial.  Although it turns out both ladies were the right age to be buried at Stithians, the younger lady would have nearly three full years on the clock too few to be underground at 69 at Tywardreath. Tywardreath lady was assumed to be from the younger set of parents as this made her sister to Mary and the younger Jennings children... Because the younger Jennings children were born after one Mother Anne had died, and it had to be the elder Mother Anne as the younger Mother Anne was the one with known siblings' names that matched some of these younger children... And Mary's granddaughter later (eighty years later) is a visitor with Tywardreath lady's son John... And we can be certain of that relationship because John's will names as a sister a widow-woman whose children Tywardreath lady is guarding in 1851 as her 'grandchildren'. This is backed up by the parish registers which record the baptism of the likely future Tywardreath lady as child of the 'junior' parents.

So, by elimination, Stithians lady is from the elder (my) set of parents. And the parentage of John Jennings baptised 1792 can now be resolved. He marries at Stithians in 1821 (coincidential location? I don't think so). Then a dozen years later, after having been forcibly removed from his eventual home of Mabe, he names a daughter Elizabeth Oppy Jennings [destined for Donkey Hill Mine], this being derived from the married name of Stithians lady. If he was as I suspect, orphaned age three, and was living at Stithians in maybe his teens and certainly his twenties, then this sounds likely to be his homage to Stithians lady, who is a much better fit to be his sister than Tywardreath.

So, after all this new Jen on the Jennings, and much impenetrable Crowing from the Crowan registers, we un-tease the puzzle. And present Anne, wife of the embattled Francis Harris, with two bright shiny (and productive) siblings: John Jennings granite worker of Mabe, and Elizabeth Oppy of Carnmenellis Wendron and later Crellow in Stithians town.

This proved a harder challenge than untangling the 1800s Roddas with the three couples of the same firstnames, being a generation earlier. Fortunately some elementary errors by Entropy and her cohort meant that firm clues were left lodged in the soil, so that the trail could be followed 215 years later, without prejudice.


(The picture had been further muddied by the presence of multiple James/Elizabeth Oppy and James/Elizabeth Holman couples in and around the right area. Fortunately the listing of whole families in the 1841 census, the giving of fathers' names in marriage records and the fact only a few events happened at Crowan, helped home-in on the correct couples in this next generation.)

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