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TRACING GYPSY FAMILIES BACK DESPITE THE LACK OF RECORDS 20 MATTHEW & WILLIAM JEFFS

Eric Trudgill    -    3 January 2015

Thomas and Joanna Jeffs christened a Matthew Jeffs in Waddesdon, Bucks in 1783. An older Matthew Jeffs married Ann Gutteridge in Waddesdon in 1786, and christened a Thomas there two months later, followed by Elizabeth in 1788 and Benjamin in 1791. The two husbands were not identified as Gypsies in these records, and perhaps they weren’t. But some Jeffs (often recorded as Juffs) had been Gypsies for at least a couple of generations (a Joseph Jeffs was christened in 1743 “son of a poor traveller” in Bletchingdon, Oxf, about sixteen miles from Waddesdon), and a William Jeffs, when christening a son in 1798 in Deddington, Oxf, about 8 miles from Bletchingdon, described himself as a traveller of Waddesdon. Since the son in question was a Thomas, brother almost certainly of a Matthew, this William looks pretty much like a brother of the two husbands with whom I began.

I don’t as yet know the name of William’s wife or, except with one, when or where they christened their children, but I’m pretty sure William fathered the Mary Jeffs who married in Noke, Oxf in 1803 Joseph Bland, son of John and Ann (see my December article), and I think it likely he fathered the Rose (Rosanna) Jeffs who married Joseph Bland’s brother, John, in Noke in 1819, and the Jemima Jeff who married Hezekiah Alford in Noke in 1823. And besides the Thomas christened in Deddington in 1798, I’m pretty sure William also fathered a William junior and a Matthew Jeffs, both husbands of a Mary.

I’m pretty sure William junior was a younger brother of the Mary Jeffs who married in 1803, because a sibling connection between them is the obvious explanation for the forenames and marriages of their children. Mary’s Matthew Bland, christened in Chiselhampton, Oxf in 1813, married William and Mary’s Naomi Jeffs, christened in Etchilhampton, Wilts in 1818, whilst William and Mary’s Matthew Jeffs, christened in Marshfield, Glos in 1816, married Mary’s Elizabeth Bland, christened in Marcham, Berks in 1815. And, as I mentioned last month, Matthew and Elizabeth Jeff’s Matthew compounded the intermarrying by wedding Matthew and Naomi Bland’s Phoebe. William and Mary Jeffs’ later children included Ruth Jeffs, christened in Bix, Oxf in 1820 (where Matthew and Elizabeth Jeffs’ Phoebe was christened in 1841), and a William, christened in Keynsham, Somerset in 1829 (hawker of Buckingham).

I’m pretty sure Matthew Jeffs, husband of Mary, was a brother of Mary and William junior (both of whom named sons after him). If William Jeffs junior, husband of Mary, was a “hawker of Buckingham” who christened children in Gloucestershire and Somerset, Matthew Jeffs, husband of Mary, was a hawker of Buckinghamshire when christening a Hester/Esther in Ditcheat, Somerset in 1828, and a tinman from Buckinghamshire when christening a Henry in Thornbury, Glos in 1831.

The migration from Buckinghamshire to Somerset and Gloucestershire, evident in William junior and Matthew, was evident too in the Thomas christened in Deddington in 1798. In 1818 Thomas married a Susanna Buckland in Stokenchurch, Oxf, now Bucks, and they christened an Elizabeth Jeffs in Ludgershall, Bucks in 1819 (gypsy), a Riley Jeffs in Sutton Courtenay, Berks in 1821, and an Edith Jeffs in Oakley, Bucks in 1832 (pauper travellers). By the early 1840s Thomas had married Sarah Buckland, who as Sarah Smith had married George Buckland in Bow Brickhill, Bucks in 1830. In the 1851 census in Kilmersdon, Somerset we find a Thomas Buckland (born in Deddington about 1797), his wife Sarah, their children Misella and Plato Buckland (Sarah’s by her first marriage) and Matthew Buckland (Sarah’s by Thomas Jeffs), and their “niece” Edith Jeffs, born in Oakley, Bucks about 1832. In the 1861 census we find Thomas, Sarah and Matthew Jeffs in Clifton, Glos, where Matthew was to christen in 1873 his son, Henry Tenant Jeffs.

The “Tenant” there was a compliment to this Matthew’s half-brother, the famous Tenant Buckland (christened in 1831 son of George and Sarah), who wasn’t with Thomas, Sarah, Misella and Plato in 1851, because he was with his new wife, his cousin by marriage, Keziah Jeffs (christened in Batheaston, Somerset in 1833 daughter of Matthew and Mary, licenced hawker). Tenant and Keziah Buckland’s children included an Edith named after Tenant’s step-sister, Keziah’s cousin) and an Esther (named after Tenant’s step-cousin, Keziah’s sister), who, like her brother Plato, married a Jeffery – but that’s another story.

Copyright © 2015 Eric Trudgill