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24 Feb 2018

The Teenagers

When I first heard that Henry VII's mother was only 14 at the time she have birth to him I was understandably appalled.

It is very rare in my family for couples to marry below the age of 21, and I can only think of one example where the bride was below 18. That was Mercy Haine an orphan who married at 16 in East Pennard, Somerset, sailed to Prince Edward Island and gave birth to her great child the following year, 1834 age 17. She was a remarkable lady having 12 children in all and becoming the first lady of the Island.

Consequently, I was highly sceptical of the published dates of Hannah Bagshaw (1792) and her eldest son John (1808). Was she only sixteen? I ignored the problem as she was a healthy 34 when my ancestor Milly came along in 1826.

We eventually found the marriage for Hannah to Mr Bagshaw and it was in 1807 so she was in fact only fifteen. I had never heard of such a marriage. It took place in Rotherham where the records were shockingly bad. Money must surely have changed hands here.

Hannah's daughter Milly and Milly's daughter both had their first child age 19/20. So this makes already the generations of young relationships, 15, 20, 19.

Going back into Hannah's past was going into the unknown. Her father's mother was only sixteen when she got married back on Christmas Day 1767 in Dudley.  Dudley at Christmas would be bad enough perhaps... (I'm sure its lovely!)

Hannah's mother marries at the church of the unusual spire, Chesterfield, and the record is beautifully kept - unlike that of the next generation at Rotherham. We don't know her age for sure but with a husband of 23 she has to be fairly young. The handwriting says as much. We think she was 17, as a candidate of that age fits all the naming patterns and biographical setting.

So we have Ellen 19, mother Milly 20, mother Hannah 15, mother Ann 17?, mother in law Sarah 16. Five generations of inexperienced women becoming wives and mothers, surely a recipe for disaster and social ills.

I am absolutely not condoning the circumstances under which these women might have lived, but they were not sixteen forever. They lived, mostly, to become wise elders offering counsel and guidance to the next generation.

This series of episodes remained hidden in our family tree until last year but covers I suppose the periods 1767-1808 plus 1846-65. I am aware that at least two of the girls were in service when they fell pregnant, while two may have been romances and the other a rational choice to escape a family situation.

Sarah has then the dubious honour of being my youngest six x great-grandmother. I recently walked in her footsteps of the family move in south Staffordshire from the 1760s.

There is more yet to find about these folk.

3 Feb 2018

Tracing Cousins, an Index to Articles

List of topics

Tracing cousins:

6 Jan 2018

Daughters of Hannah

Many of you will know the story of Henrietta Lacks, whose body kept on giving before death (in the form of lots of babies), and after death (in the form of her cancer cells which have divided at an incredibly rapid rate). Keeping up with her descendants, or the location of all her cancer cells, would keep someone occupied for a long long time.

I gave given myself the task of finding the descendants of Hannah Shaw born 134 years earlier in Derbyshire 1776, around the time we lost the American Colonies. There are loads. At first I thought there would hardly be any, as only a rag-taggle bunch are still at home in 1841. Hannah really struggled to get going, finally getting a good rhythm with her cousin (and husband) in her late 30s. It was Ellen, born when she was 37, who really got the tree moving. I am losing track of all of her granddaughters, and great-granddaughters.

My plan is to find one descendant of Ellen (and Hannah) in the female line each week. So that by June 2018 I will have a suitable candidate from Hannah's line ready to do a DNA test. The candidate must be in the female line, in other words 'of the body' of Hannah.

We have my cousin Klaus waiting in the wings, descendant of Hannah's older sister Ann. Hannah and Ann lived very different lives but much seems to link them together. Until we do the DNA test we won't know for sure they were sisters. The test will very much cement together exactly what happened in those key years 1790-1 in the family tree.

Putting it crudely, who exactly screwed who.

I am flitting back to Bonsall Bank where much of the action took place with a view to establishing even more postcodes of living relatives, of the body of Hannah, who will be suitable for the DNA project. Watch this space.