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Edward Boswell

Eric Trudgill    -    5 June 2011

The “Gypsy King” Daniel Boswell who was buried in Selston, a little north of Nottingham, in 1821 “aged 73”, claimed at the baptism of one of his children to be the son of Edward and Jane Boswell and the husband of Sarah Wenderick: his mother was, I’m sure, the Jane Boswell, Gypsy, buried in Whitwell, Derbyshire in 1811 “aged 100” along with an infant, Israel Boswell; and his wife was the Sarah Boswell, Gypsy, who died in Nottingham in 1838 “aged 93”, having allegedly produced marriage lines showing she’d married her dead husband, Daniel, 72 years before. Daniel, I’m also sure, was not, as the pioneer gypsiologists claimed, grandfather of the famous Elijah, Mordecai and Appy Boswell, by his alleged children, Elijah, Edward and Trinity.

He and Sarah seem to have been long travellers, before confining themselves for their last 30 or so years together to the Nottingham area, which perhaps partly explains why I’ve found baptisms for only three children, Robert and Lazarus sons of Daniel and Sarah, a little south of Nottingham in 1788 and 1797, and Richard son of Daniel, in Bishop Auckland, Durham in 1781. Richard and his wife, Sarah (identified as a Smith at the baptism of one of their children, just as Richard was identified as of Bishop Auckland at two others), had an interesting progeny: their son, Richard, was plausibly the one who married Catherine Evans and established a Boswell colony in Wales, and their son, Frederick, was certainly the one who married Harriet Boswell in 1845 and established a Boswell colony on the Isle of Man.

To these three sons I believe we can add another, even without unambiguous evidence: Lewis Boswell (father by his wife Delita of Vashti, Frampton, Gravel Hannah, Rabbi and Asuba), who like Daniel in Selston was given the spectacular funeral of a “Gypsy King” (in Eastwood, very close to Selston, in 1835 “aged 42”), and was indeed confused with Daniel by a local journalist reporting Sarah’s death in 1838. I believe we can possibly also add, though he might be Daniel’s brother, Thomas Boswell, father by a Sarah of the Handford Boswell christened in Kegworth, Leicestershire in 1794, and by a Phyllis of the James Boswell christened in Bunny, Nottinghamshire in 1799 (Kegworth and Bunny are both very close to Sutton Bonington and Ruddington, where Daniel christened Robert and Lazarus).

To these four or five sons we can clearly add two more by the wife Daniel took when Sarah was past child-bearing, Phyllis, mother of Daniel born about 1802 (he was said in the Nottingham press to be 22 when he was sentenced to death in 1824 for horse-stealing), and Starkey christened in 1804. Phyllis was clearly Phyllis Blewitt, probably christened in 1760, mother of the Absalom Boswell who was imprisoned with her, Daniel junior and Starkey in 1812, and thereby wife, before she took up with Daniel senior, of Absalom’s father, Richard Boswell. Given the readiness with which Gypsy men of this period, whether single or married, took on wives of brothers who had died or been transported, Richard, whose forename was given to one of Daniel’s sons, was surely Daniel’s brother and another son of Edward (along with the James Boswell who was baptised in Hougham, Lincolnshire in 1760, son of Edward and Jane, travellers, and probably the famous Ambrose Boswell, another “Gypsy King”, who was buried in Laneham, Nottinghamshire in 1837 “aged 99”). And it was Richard, not Daniel, who was grandfather of the famous Elijah, Mordecai and Appy.

I believe this despite having found only one certain baptism for a child of Richard and Phyllis, the fore-mentioned Absalom, in Buckinghamshire in 1785, Absalom being the father, not the gypsiologists’ Edward, in 1820 of the famous Mordecai (and also of the Harriet Boswell who married in 1845 Frederick, the son of Absalom’s cousin, Richard). Only Absalom is a documented son of Richard and Phyllis, but to him we can clearly add Trinity Boswell, mother of the famous Appy (by her husband, George Boiling, according to his baptism in 1821, but almost certainly in fact by Trinity’s temporary lover, Anselo/Joseph Boswell), for Trinity was identified as Absalom’s sister when they were arrested for theft in 1810, and as Trinity Boiling was imprisoned with him and Phyllis in 1812. And to Absalom and Trinity we can surely add the Zachariah Boswell who witnessed Absalom’s wedding in 1809, and who eight days after Trinity married George, also in 1809, married George’s sister, Sarah Boiling.

To these three children of Richard Boswell and Phyllis Blewitt I believe we can add three more. The first is the Josiah Boswell/Blewitt who christened four daughters as Boswells between 1808 and 1818 and four sons as Blewitts between 1821 and 1838 (the last seemingly by a second wife): Josiah’s son, Elisha, in the 1851 census is described as the brother of Absalom’s son, Mordecai, whose younger brother, Josiah, seems to have been named after his uncle.

The second is the Israel Boswell who claimed to have been born in Long Whatton, Leicestershire, very close to Kegworth and Sutton Bonington, and to Thringstone, where Absalom twice claimed to have been born. Israel christened a daughter, and buried her and a son and his wife, Felicia, in that area between 1799 and 1803. He then moved to the area around Retford, Nottinghamshire associated from about 1805 very much with Richard and Phyllis’ children, but not much with Daniel’s. He christened there two children by a Siberani, the first of whom, Phoenix, married Absalom’s daughter, Trinity, and then several children by an Ann Boiling (presumably related to George and Sarah), of whom the first was the infant buried in Whitwell in 1811 with Jane Boswell, widow of Edward, and the last, Martha, married, surely her cousin, Elisha Blewitt, “brother” of Absalom’s son Mordecai(Martha like her brother, Phoenix, and Mordecai having adopted the surname Wainwright).

The third sibling I think we can add to Absalom, Zachariah and Trinity is Lucy Boswell, the mother of the famous Elijah, who was baptised as Lazarus Boswell (Elijah’s alternate forename six times at the birth or marriage of his children) in Marnham, Notts (his birth-place in the 1871 census) in 1801 son of Viney and Lucy, and the mother subsequently by John Vernon of the Cinamenta Boswell who married John Heaps in 1828, and the Eliza Boswell who was christened in Bolsover, Derbyshire in 1816 daughter of Lucy, and married Israel Smith and Henry Booth.

Lucy’s first partner was surely the Viney Boswell who christened his earliest child by Comfort Woods in 1804, which raises interesting possibilities I’m working on with Jo Major (who discovered Cinamenta’s self-descriptions as a daughter of both Lucy Boswell and John Vernon). The gypsiologists were surely right to suggest Viney and his brothers Anselo/Joseph and Ambrose were sons of John Boswell and cousins of Peter, a son of John’s brother, Edmund Boswell. But they were possibly wrong to suggest John and Edmund were sons of an otherwise unknown Old Jack Boswell.

When we consider that Viney and Anselo/Joseph both seem to have had temporary marriages with daughters of Richard and Phyllis, that Peter was at the 1854 death of a daughter misreported to be the brother of Josiah Boswell, clearly the son of Richard and Phyllis, and that Ambrose shared his fairly unusual forename with Richard’s probable brother, the two marriages and the seeming brotherliness look like connections between cousins, and John and Edmund look like the sons of, not Old Jack, but Edward Boswell, husband of Jane.

Copyright © 2011 Eric Trudgill