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2 Jul 2016

Who's the daddy

Betty Airey born 1821 apparently at Lindeth, Westmorland, was a bit of a mystery. Illegitimate, she seems the only contender to marry way over at Old Hutton, near Kendal, to seasoned farmer who we shall call 'J. R.'

He had a pretty rare name which I don't really want his descendants to see, for reasons I'm about to explain.

The marriage certificate doesn't give fathers for either party as a matter of local policy. Not helpful! I rule out Betsy daughter of Benjamin as she's still at home in Preston, Lancashire age 28.

Although J.R. was clearly wealthy, this was at definite odds with Betty, illegitimate as she was. Plus she declared she was born in Kendal, AND her mother went on to have another Elizabeth by a new partner, her husband.


I'd like you to remember the name Farleton and I'll quiz you at the end of this article. Distinctive, isn't it?

The tiny village concerned popped up in the midst of this. You see, Betty's cousin Isabella got herself into hot water and gave birth to an illegitimate child here in 1851. You might ask, well if she was in service, why didn't she just come home (to Windermere) and have the baby there? Well, she just didn't! And reason is starting to dawn...

Fast forward to 2016 and time for another look. There's no fresh censuses to mull over but there are key bits of background.

Betty Airey's mother definitely lived at Kendal during the 1820s (with her husband), and possibly before. Quite possibly she was a servant in the town from an early age. (A younger sister also married here.)

The Airey family were pretty 'tight'. Cousins occasionally married and were certainly in each other's houses at census time. My own great-grandfather had letters from cousins from the Lakes at his death pre-war.

In fact, when Isabella died in 1880, one cousin stepped in and took on the widower. How's that for family loyalty?

Thirty years earlier and it's obvious to me she came to J.R.'s farm as a maid or nursery nurse, age 20, for the young children of her cousin Betty.

Note the years of birth of these children: 1845, 1848, erm..., er, 1855! Something seems to have happened at Farleton around the year 1851. What could that be?

Betty was clearly a forgiving lady judging by the resumption of marital relations, and I am sure that she provided a home for her young cousin, under the same roof as her straying husband, to make sure she and the baby were ok.

Her troubled cousin was as important as her husband, if not possibly more so.

Thus we have a picture of the character of this lady, for whom we really only have a baptismal record. Illegitimate, likely traded at the Kendal Hiring Fair, displaced by another Elizabeth by her mother, did she really make it to become chatelaine of Brook House? It seems she did.

Now for the final thought. Why did Betty's mother call her youngest child Elizabeth. I believe Betty had already left home, and this girl, always known as Betsy (1840) was 'young Betty' in her honour.

If naming is important, note that the baby born in 1851 was named Mary after maternal grandmother (despite having likely half sister of this name!) and Elizabeth most likely after our heroine.

Two questions. Was this at Farlingdale or Farleton, and... Who's the daddy?

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