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Location, location, location.

Anne-Marie Ford    -    1 November 2015

Removal records offer a useful method of exploring the family lines of the Gypsy and Traveller population, especially in the eighteenth century, when other records are often scarce. In following the Grays who favoured Cambridgeshire and Suffolk such records have revealed some interesting detail. Take, for instance, the removal of Thomas Gray, tinker, from Burwell, Cambridgeshire to the parish of Horningsea in the same county. On 11th April 1777 he and his family lodged an appeal against the order. He is with his wife, Elizabeth, and their five children, Elizabeth, about 14 years of age; George, 11; Patience, 5; Amy, 4; Cadilla (?Cordelia), 3.

Obviously, the appeal did not go well, as the next child of this couple, Ossory, can be found being baptised at Horningsea on 20th April 1777. Elizabeth’s advanced state of pregnancy probably played a part in the parish’s determination to move this traveller family on, so that the new-born child could not claim settlement in Burwell. Yet Burwell was an important location for this family, to which they returned, since both Amy Gray, who had been baptised at March, Cambridgeshire on 11th October 1772, and Cadilla, baptised at Fordham, Cambridgeshire on 27th October 1774, were married at Burwell. Amy Gray married Edward Clark on 12th May 1790 and Cadilla, as Diligence, married Meshach Smith on 17th June 1791. Meshach, who upon Cadilla’s death, apparently married her cousin, Constance, was also the subject of a settlement examination at Fordham, Cambridgeshire, in 1804; he claimed, probably much to the consternation of the parish, that he had been “born at sea.”

It’s tempting, too, to consider the marriage of a Patience Gray to Robert Harding in March, Cambridgeshire on 26th December 1786 as a possible union for Thomas and Elizabeth’s daughter, Patience. Patience and Robert Harding had several children, amongst them an Amy, a George and an Elizabeth. Common names, it’s true, but also the names of Patience’s siblings. Interestingly, a John Harding was to be a witness at Amy Gray’s wedding four years later. Circumstantial evidence, perhaps, but thought-provoking.

Thomas Gray’s siblings, Cordelia, George and Fowk, all make appearances in various Cambridgeshire records, as well as in the counties bordering Cambridgeshire. Fowk’s son, Thomas, together with his wife, Susanna Faben, found themselves sent, in 1797, to the little village of Benington, Hertfordshire, since Thomas had been baptised there. The local church records a Thomas Gray, baptised on 23rd August 1772, the son of Fulke (sic) and Mary Gray. The elder Thomas and his wife, Elizabeth, also baptised their son, George, mentioned in the 1777 removal record, in Hertfordshire, in Ashwell in 1867, where they are listed as travellers. Ashwell, in particular, continued to figure in removal records relating to the Gray tribe.

On 9th March 1821 a Mary Gray, who was apprehended as a “rogue and vagabond” at Brandon in Suffolk, together with her two children, Matilda, 8, and John, 1,was removed to Ashwell, where her husband, Abraham Gray, claimed settlement. In her statement Mary said she had married Abraham about 15 years earlier, and indeed she had, for on 28th May 1806 at Isleham, Mary Gammon had married into the Cambridgeshire Grays, with Abraham’s brother, Riley, as a witness.

In the autumn before their union Abraham Gray had himself been a witness at the wedding of William Gammon and Martha Wire (?Ware), who married at Isleham on 28th October 1805, already considered, it would seem, a brother-in-law. Both William and Mary Gammon appear to be the children of Joseph and Jesse/Jezabel/Jessamy Gammon, a Talbot before her marriage, who had themsleves married at Isleham in 1774. Mary had been baptised at Isleham on 18th March 1787, the daughter of Jesse and Joseph Gamon (sic).

Isleham was therefore clearly ‘home’ for Abraham and especially for Mary, and they baptised all their known children there: Silva in 1807; Lydia in 1809; Myrtilla in 1812 (the Matilda mentioned in the removal order); Jessamy in 1814 (presumably in tribute to Mary’s mother); Abraham in 1816. I have no idea who the John is who is mentioned in the removal order, but clearly Mary made her way back to Isleham without too much difficulty, as she subsequently baptised a daughter, Mary, there on 2nd May 1822, daughter of Abraham and Mary Gray, tinker. (This just nine days after her brother-in-law, Riley, and his wife, Lydia, had baptised Mahala in the same parish.)

Like Abraham’s wife, Mary, some of the Grays had little choice in returning to Ashwell. Riley Gray, Abraham’s brother, was also the subject of a removal order in May 1835, when he and his family were moved from Herringswell, Suffolk to Ashwell, Hertfordshire. At his examination Riley claimed to be 50 years of age, although he was a little younger, and is with his wife, Lydia, as well as children Lydia, 18; Sophy, 16; Mahala, 14; Riley, 11; Lawrence, 8; Honor, 6; Joseph, 4; Christiana, 2. Although born in Fen Ditton, Cambridgeshire, Riley claimed settlement in Ashwell, because of his father’s baptism.

This enforced trip to Ashwell does not seem to have been Riley’s first; the Cambridgeshire removal records list a Riley Gras (the result of a lazily written letter ‘y’ ), being removed to Ashwell in 1817. He is, by this time, 28 years of age, with a wife and young family, but these are not mentioned in the earlier record.

Charles Gray, Abraham’s and Riley’s father, had been baptised in Ashwell, Hertfordshire on 26th December 1765, the “base born” son of Cadilla (Cordelia) Gray. Although Charles and his wife, Aquilla Smith, were to baptise almost all of their children in Cambridgeshire, they clearly returned to Ashwell in their travels, and a WilliamGray was baptised there on 3rd July 1791, son of Charles and Equilla (sic) Gray, Gypsies.

In addition, Charles Gray’s son, another Charles, and his wife, Mary Anne Thorpe, baptised a daughter, Vashti, in Ashwell on 9th January 1819, who had been born on Christmas day. (She was to live only a short while and was buried at Isleham, Cambridgeshire, aged three months.)Charles and Aquilla’s son John and his wife, Margaret, can also be found in Ashwell, baptising David, son of John and Margaret Gray, tinker, on 7th September 1834, having been born the previous February, and Moses, born in March 1836, and baptised as the son of John and Margaret Gray, tinker, on 17th April the same year.

Most intriguing of all the Ashwell entries regarding the Grays is that of an apprenticeship record for Charles Gray’s son, Peter, baptised in Isleham on 29th March 1807. On December 17th 1825 Peter Gray “aged 17”, son of Charles Gray of Ashwell, is bound as apprentice to Michael Mortlock, blacksmith of Isleham, until he is 21 years of age. The amount paid for such an apprenticeship in the early nineteenth century indicates that Charles, although father of a large family, was certainly not without means. It cost him £15 to apprentice his son, who can be found in several subsequent census records plying his trade as a blacksmith.

Copyright © 2015 Anne-Marie Ford