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TRACING GYPSY FAMILIES BACK DESPITE THE LACK OF RECORDS NUMBER 34: James and Wisby Robinson

Eric Trudgill    -    5 March 2016

James Robinson and Wisby Smith (the latter baptised in Shillington, Beds in 1791 daughter of John and Martha, gypsies) married as James Robinson and Vesey Smith in Chelmsford, Essex in 1816, witnessed by William Robinson. And they baptised the following children: a presumably short-lived Every Robinson in Hockering, Nfk in 1818 “one of the people called gypsies”; James Smith in Mendlesham, Sfk in 1820; Mary Ann Robinson in Thrandeston, Sfk (close to Mendlesham) in 1824 daughter of James and Weaza, strolling gypsy; Charles Robinson in Scrivelsby, Lincs in 1826; Onan Robinson (presumably a mis-heard or mis-transcribed Honor) in Howerby cum Beesby, Lincs in 1827 daughter of James and Wesbe, tinker; Repentance Robinson in Donington on Bain, Lincs in 1828, tinker; Sampson Robinson in Badingham, Sfk in 1830, travelling tinker of Littlebury, Essex; and finally, presumably a replacement for the Every baptised in 1818, Everard Robinson in Littlebury in 1832, tinker. To these children, if we consider the following evidence, we can surely add Sarah, born about 1814-16, Charlotte, born about 1816 or 1822, and perhaps Richard born in the 1830s.

Sampson Robinson was baptised in Badingham in 1830 jointly with Providence Smith daughter of Elijah and Sarah (Elijah being the well-known son of Robert and Margaret Smith baptised in 1805, and Sarah clearly Sampson’s older sister). Here’s the proof: Providence Smith married Walter Johnson (baptised in Bildeston, Sfk in 1823 son of Richard and Ann, basketmaker) in Stanton St John, Sfk in 1855 with one of the witnesses Matilda Taylor (baptised in Grundisburgh, Sfk in 1836 daughter of William and Sarah); Providence Johnson (who normally claimed to have been born in Badingham) was in Bury St Edmunds, Sfk in the 1871 census, close to a Sarah Taylor (aged 62, born in Fyfield, Essex) and the latter’s mother “Lizzie” (aged 89, born in Shillington, Beds); and Sarah Taylor died in Bury St Edmunds in 1882 aged 68 and the widow of William Taylor, dealer, according to the informant on the death cert, Sarah’s sister Honor Bell (surely baptised as Onan Robinson).

In short, fairly early in the 1830s Elijah Smith disappeared from the scene, perhaps died, and Sarah Robinson took another husband, William Taylor, and had at least three Taylor children: Matilda baptised in 1836, John born in Hinderclay, Sfk about 1837, and James born in Rushbrooke, Sfk about 1841 (James witnessed his sister Matilda’s wedding to Thomas Whatnell in Stow RO, Sfk in 1861, just as Matilda had witnessed her half-sister Providence’s wedding to Walter Johnson in 1855); John Taylor, incidentally, married Sophia Harris in Cockfield, Sfk in 1859 with James Taylor a witness, and James Taylor married Naomi Buckley, daughter of Joiner, in 1861 with Thomas Whatnell a witness.

If the evidence for Sarah being a child of James and Wisby is pretty compelling, the evidence for Charlotte being her younger sister is also pretty strong. At her death in Friston, Sfk in 1906 she was said to be about 100, but was clearly much less (her first known child was born about 1842), and to be the wife of John Taylor, hawker (who died four months later in Friston “aged 85”). Charlotte’s husband John Taylor was of course a younger brother of Sarah’s: baptised in Long Standon, Cambs in 1819 son of William Taylor (a gorjer) and Urania Smith (a Gypsy), who had baptised William junior (Sarah’s future husband) in Long Stanton in 1817.

And if the evidence for Charlotte being a child of James and Wisby is pretty strong, we can’t ignore the Richard Robinson given 10 years gaol for robbery with violence in Sudbury, Sfk (near Bury St Edmunds) in 1866 with Saunders Johnson, a vagrant aged 36 (surely close kin of Providence’s husband, Walter Johnson). Unless of course Everard Robinson was less fond of his forename than his parents and modified the first four letters.

I’m grateful for the help I’ve received researching this article from the ever-generous Sharon Heppell.

Copyright © 2016 Eric Trudgill