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TRACING GYPSY FAMILIES BACK DESPITE THE LACK OF RECORDS SEVENTEEN: George and Ann Florence

Eric Trudgill    -    5 October 2014

George Florence married Ann Bailey in Leigh, Staffs in 1780. They christened a Susanna in Leigh on Christmas Day 1783 and six children in Burton upon Trent, Staffs, an apparently short-lived George junior in 1787, a probably short-lived Maria Jane in 1795, a definitely short-lived Charlotte in 1798, and another George, Jane and Henry William jointly nine days into 1807 (they had already christened this George and Jane jointly in Ilkeston, Derbyshire in 1804). Of these certain children the second George married a Lucy/Tryphena Price, Jane married a John Mayer, and Henry William, dropping the Henry, married an Alice. Clearly with George and Ann having their last child a good 26 years after their wedding they must have had a number of other children, for whom as yet no baptisms have been found.

We can plug two gaps, I believe, with a Richard and an Edward Florence, both in the census claiming to have been born in Burton upon Trent, and both recorded as a travelling brazier or tinker. Richard was born about 1793, before Maria Jane, married an Emily, and christened their first known child in 1817. Edward was born about 1791, married a Mary Ann Florence in Westbury, Shropshire in 1816, and christened their first known child two months later in Measham, Derbyshire (following up with two more children christened in Measham and two in Burton). It’s possible of course that Edward’s wife, Mary Ann Florence, who also claimed to have been born in Burton, about 1797, was George and Ann’s child and Edward her cousin or uncle, which brings us to the question of a possible brother or older son for George who might have fathered Mary Ann or Edward.

Let’s start with two possible younger sisters or older daughters. An Ann Florence married Nathaniel Boswell (possibly a son of Daniel and Sarah) in Burton in 1807 ten months after George had christened his three youngest children there. An Ellen Florence had a Starany Florence, who was aged 21 and an illegitimate daughter of Frederick Price according to the wedding certificate for her 1839 marriage in Delamere, Cheshire to Thomas Boswell. Thomas Boswell was a son of Richard and thereby brother of a Nathaniel Boswell, and grandson of Daniel and Sarah, which makes him look like a nephew of Ann Florence’s husband, Nathaniel Boswell. Ann could have been George’s child, named after his wife, and born between his wedding and procreation of Susanna or between the births of the first George junior and Edward. Either way she looks more like an older daughter than a (much) younger sister. And so even more, on the available evidence, does Ellen.

The witnesses at Ann’s wedding in Burton in 1807 were Thomas Florence and Sarah Hudson, and Thomas looks to me more like Ann’s brother than her uncle. Thomas in 1807 may have had a legal wife: a Thomas and Millicent Florence christened a Timothy in Burton in 1798, and a Thomas and Mary Florence christened a Susanna, perhaps named after his nearest born sister, in Ilkeston in 1804 jointly with the two children of George and Ann. Certainly Thomas was a widower (and brazier son of George Florence, late brazier) in Uttoxeter, Staffs in 1839, when he finally formally married Sarah Hudson (spinster daughter of Mark, late woolcomber), having had eight children by her between 1814 (an Ann seemingly named after his mother and sister) and 1834; indeed he’d perhaps started having children by her, whom we haven’t found, some years earlier.

Thomas was recorded as 65 years old in the 1841 census (when enumerators were encouraged to give approximate ages): if he was 65, he was surely George and Ann’s son, and the Thomas who christened Timothy in 1798 possibly his uncle. He was recorded as 84 years old in the 1851 census, perhaps exaggerating his age like many elderly Gypsies of his vintage. My guess is he was probably born soon after his parents’ wedding in 1780, and followed by Susanna, Ann, the first George, Edward, Richard, Maria Jane, Charlotte, Ellen, the second George, Jane and Henry William. Unless of course more information about Edward’s wife, Mary Ann Florence, throws a spanner in the works.

Copyright © 2014 Eric Trudgill