Mean Streets

The nave of St Mary the Virgin. The Georgian rebuilding (1777-1781) created a remarkably airy and spacious interior. Note the oak box pews.
St Marys, Tetbury

A first blog

Until now I’ve used this site merely as a useful way of recording and broadcasting episodes in the lives of my ancestors; but today I shall embark on a genuine blog, if I understand the term correctly. What follows are the puzzled ramblings of a family historian on the main problem facing all genealogists: proof.

It has been stated that at least two independent sources for a fact are required to assume it is correct, and the more the better. When tracing a direct line I have always tried to stick with this, although the further back one progresses, the harder it is to find a second source for any relationship. If a baptism occurs in the right parish at the right time and there is no conflicting evidence – such as family with similar names in the same locality or surrounding parishes – then that is often as much as one can hope for, especially if one is dealing with a family that owned no property nor left any wills or other documentation.

When one comes against a genuine brick wall, where even an expected record is missing, the question is: how to proceed and what to accept as being the most probable fact. Can one indeed accept a theory because there is enough information that points to a likely outcome even though the evidence is not there?

George Street & Elizabeth Rousom marriage 1824
Which brings me to my ggg grandfather, George Street, who died in St James parish, Bristol in 1868. The earliest record I have found for George is this marriage, on January 28th 1824 to Elizabeth Rousom, which took place at the Church of St Philip & St Jacob, Bristol and both parties possessed fine, clear signatures. It would seem, by using the information they gave in later years in the various Censuses, that George was about 19 years old at the time of his marriage and Elizabeth possibly a year or so older. They also identify their respective places of birth in the same records. Elizabeth hailed from Dublin in Ireland, and George was born in Tetbury, Gloucestershire. Their union produced seven children, three girls and four sons who were duly baptised in the Catholic chapel of St Josephs in Trenchard Street.

Many years ago, having found most of this information, I visited the Record Office in Gloucester to continue my research on the Street family, and hopefully find a baptism for George. Despite discovering a good deal about the family, from the registers and other documentation, the expected baptism was not to be found. There was no George Street in either the baptismal register nor in the Bishops Transcripts – the copy that was sent to the Diocesan Office every year. There was however, a possible family for George.

John Street and his wife, Sarah (nee Cave) had married at St Marys, Tetbury (full name, the Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin and St Mary Magdalene) on 7th May 1799 and from then until Sarah’s untimely death in 1808, had seven children baptised there. The Cave family originated in Owlpen, a few miles to the northwest of Tetbury, but Sarah’s father John had taken on a farm in the village of Long Newnton, now in Gloucestershire, but then in Wiltshire, which lies just a mile to the east of the town. By contrast, John’s father Thomas (like John himself), was a cordwainer (shoemaker) living in Lacock, Wiltshire, although his mother, Martha Hawkes was born in Tetbury and had siblings still living there. John and Sarah’s seven children arrived (judging by their baptismal dates) with almost mathematical regularity, which was not uncommon at the time, beginning with Thomas (1800) and continuing with John (1801) Hannah (1802) William (1803); a break then occurs until the baptism of Philip Cave (1806) Robert (1807) and finally Sarah, whose birth in August 1808 probably led to the death of her mother Sarah in September; baby Sarah followed the following month and was buried with her mother in Long Newnton churchyard.

Cave & Street grave crop

At first, I found the gap in the baptisms of John and Sarah’s children significant. It could be, of course that Sarah had simply been ill or unwilling to have further children after William in 1803, but it seemed more likely to me that George had been born in the gap and either his baptism was missed from the register or that he had been baptised elsewhere. Baptisms were missed from registers (another ancestor, James Emery of Ashwick in Somerset was a parish clerk and on two occasions the vicar wrote in the registers admonishing James for his errors and omissions in the recording of entries) and the register at Tetbury shows clearly that it was not written up on a daily or even a weekly basis – as was common, it would have compiled, possibly once a year from notes made at the time of the various ceremonies; there was plenty of scope for an entry to be missed.

I searched further for a baptism for George, at first in the other parishes connected to the families, Owlpen, Long Newnton and Lacock, and then in the surrounding parishes to Tetbury; modern databases have enabled me to search Bristol and the whole of Gloucestershire, but to no avail. Assuming the period between the births and the baptisms of the Street children to be more or less uniform, we find the gaps between them to be 15, 14, 14, 33, 13 and 12 months. By analysing the ages given by George in the Census and the age on his death certificate, a birth date of April-June 1805 is arrive at. This fits almost exactly in the middle of the period of 33 months between William and Philip; this was the first coincidence that might justify assuming George belonged to the Tetbury Streets.

The second fact which reinforces the idea that George was the son of John and Sarah was discovered when researching Bristol marriage records. On 22nd May 1824, at the church of St James in Bristol, the eldest son of John and Sarah Street, Thomas, married Mary Stockham of Lea in Wiltshire.

Thomas Street Marriage 1824

This was four months after the wedding of George and Elizabeth, and it can clearly be seen that they witnessed this marriage. In addition the manner in which both George and Thomas formed the name “Street” is eerily similar. This must indicate that the two men were close, even if not brothers – but no other option seems likely. There were no other Street families in Tetbury (or nearby) at the time of George’s birth, and the name “George” itself was never used by the Lacock Streets, whereas it was regularly used in the Cave family. Thomas and Mary called their second son George and another brother used it for one of his children too. Furthermore, it is surely significant that George was, by trade a slipper maker. Of all of John and Sarah’s children, none followed their father and grandfather into the occupation of shoemaking and it would seem odd if at least one of the children was not apprenticed to their father at some stage.

Several members of the Street family moved to Bristol in the years following and most of them lived, at least for a time in St James, where George and Elizabeth appear to have spent their whole married lives. Another son of John and Sarah, Philip Cave Street lived in central Bristol, marrying twice and finally being buried at St James (although both his marriages and the baptism of a daughter took place in other churches). Again interestingly, Philip’s second wife was a widow, Jane Lee whose father’s name on the marriage certificate (1843) is given as Evan Francis. In the 1841 Census an Evan Francis is the next-door neighbour to George Street in Cannon Street, St James.

Well, this blog turned into an article after all, but have I convinced myself? Have I convinced you? Do I accept that George was a son of John and Sarah Street of Tetbury and amalgamate all the data into my tree? Does anyone else care?

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Stephen Bumstead

I'm retired and live in Devon, England. I have been researching my family for forty years and am also the OPC (online Parish Clerk) for Chewton Mendip in Somerset. I have helped transcribe registers for FreeReg and wills for Oxfordshire FHS.

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