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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.

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