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James and Tranet

Anne-Marie Ford    -    4 September 2016

On 29th December 1817 a Traveller, Thomas Isaacs, married Jane Mills at Reading St Mary in Berkshire. Their known children were almost all baptised in Wiltshire: Elizabeth at Easton Royal on 20th February 1820, daughter of Thomas and Jane Isaacs, travellers; James, baptised at Broad Hinton on 3rd March 1822, son of Thomas and Jane Isaacs, tinman “of Marnhull, Dorset;” Alice, at the same location, on 28th March 1824, daughter of Thomas and Jane Isaacs, travellers; Henry at Little Somerford on 26th March 1826 and Matthew at Froxfield on 12th May 1833. Their last known child, a daughter, Harriet, was baptised at Bray in Berkshire on 27th February 1831, the county where Thomas and Jane had married. Later records of Thomas Isaac’s offspring sometimes quote the location of Marnhull as home territory, and perhaps they were right to do so.

On 3rd October 1782 a Thomas and Rebecca Isaacs baptised three sons, William, Henry and John at Marnhull, and the following year, in the spring of 1783, the couple can be found in Marnhull workhouse, with children Thomas, Rebecca, James and the three sons they had so recently baptised. It is just possible that the union between a Thomas Isaacs and Rebecca Newman in Fareham, Hampshire on 14th November 1869 refers to this couple, and also the baptism of a Mary Isaacs, daughter of Thomas and Rebecca, at the church of St Peter and St Paul, Fareham on 18th March 1770.

What we do know is that Thomas and Jane’s eldest son, James, married Tranet/Trinity Hicks, the daughter of Edward Hicks, hawker, in Andover, Hampshire on 12th February 1844, and, can be found in the north of Dorset, on the boundary with Wiltshire, in the 1861 census. James Isaacs is recorded as a hawker, claiming birth at Marnhull, Dorset, and is with his wife, Tranet, and their substantial family, at Gillingham Mere, Wiltshire. Henry, 16; Jane, 14; Alice, 12; Daia (Delilah), 10; John, 8; Mary, 6; Betsy, 4; Louisa, 2. With them are Henry Isaacs, James’ brother, Henry’s wife, Harriet, and children James, 13; Caroline, 4; Ellen, 2.

Dorset in particular remained a key location for the family, but they also travelled into Somerset, as is evident in the baptismal records of James’ and Tranet’s children. Jane, named after James’ mother, was baptised at Tarrant Gunville, Dorset, on 12th April 1846; the following year, on 19th December, an Alice Isaacs, the daughter of James and Harriet (sic) Isaacs, pedlar, was baptised at Kilve, Somerset at the church of the Blessed Virgin Mary; Betsy is almost certainly the daughter baptised at Mere, Wiltshire, just over the Dorset border, on 16th May 1852, daughter of James Isaacs, traveller, and actually 8 years old by the 1861 census. John was baptised at Piddlehinton, Dorset on 16th July 1854, son of James & Tranet, travelling tinkers, and there is a Walter Isaacs, son of James and Trinity, travelling hawkers, at Gare Hill Chapel, Marston Bigot, Somerset, on 23rd July 1854. Is this the same child baptised twice in different locations, with a different name, just a week apart? There may, of course, be some confusion in the clerical records. There is another couple with James and Trinity, also travelling hawkers, William and Jessica Isaacs, and they, according to the records, baptise their son John, possibly the wrong children are being given the wrong parents by a cleric baptising two boys from the same extended family at the same time.

Mary’s baptism, is also recorded at the Gare Hill Chapel, Marston Bigot, Somerset on 25th May 1856, the daughter of James and Trenat Isaacs, hawker; Charlotte Ann was baptised at the same location on 31st May 1857, but does not appear in subsequent census records and may have died in infancy; another daughter, Louisa, was baptised at Upwey, Dorset, on St Valentine’s day 1858; a sister, Victoria, on 8th May 1859 at Bourton, Dorset. James and Tranet also had an Analetta (surely a corruption of the name Amaletta that is found amongst some Traveller families in Dorset), baptised at Purse Caundle on 11th November 1860, daughter of James and Trinot (sic), although the baby is not mentioned in the census.

By 1862 little Thomas Isaacs, named for James’ father, was baptised in Bourton, Dorset on 9th February, but after this the family are baptising their children exclusively in Somerset, where they are found in the 1871 census. James Maurice Isaacs is baptised on 22nd November 1863 at Penselwood, Somerset, Samson at the same location on 1st April 1866, and Augusta on 7th February 1869. In each case they are referred to as the children of a horse dealer. By the time of their last known child’s birth James and Tranet’s eldest daughter Jane had married Thomas James, a dealer, son of John James, horse dealer, back in Weymouth, Dorset, on 30th November 1868. The 1871 census finds her there, with a baby son, John, and a visitor, her sister, Alice Isaacs.

At the 1881 census James and Tranet are still at the same spot in Penselwood, James still plying the trade of horse dealer, although Tranet is now recorded as Janet, and they are accompanied by Delilah, Mary Ann and Arabella (Analetta), all pedlars, and sons Thomas, Samson and Morris (sic), working as horse dealers, like their father, as well as 12-year-old Augusta and a ‘father-in-law,’ James Harding, a pedlar; perhaps he is actually a step-father. He claims birth in 1804 or thereabouts at Harwell, Berkshire. When Tranet married, naming her father as Edward, he was not recorded as deceased, but it is possible, surely, that this James Harding, found with his wife Mary Ann, in census records for 1861 and 1871 is the same man now listed as a ‘father-in-law’ of James Isaacs? Is it possible that the marriage of a Mary Ann Hicks, widow, and James Harding, bachelor, on 1st January1833, in the parish of Enmore, Somerset is the union of this couple?

In the 1861 census there is a James Harding, traveller, born in 1804 at Harwell, Berkshire, with his wife, Mary, born in 1805, and sons John, born in 1837 and Thomas, born in 1838, at Andover, Hampshire. Ten years later, lodging in an inn at Winterborne St Martin, Dorset, a James Harding, aged 67, a licensed hawker, born in Berkshire in 1804, is with Mary Ann, born in 1803 in Hungerford, Berkshire, and son John Harding, a licensed pedlar, born in Chickerell, Dorset. Is Mary Ann the mother of Tranet? It’s tempting to think so and, of course, Tranet, who, like Mary Ann, claimed birth in Berkshire, used the combination for a daughter of her own, a daughter who, coincidentally or not, married into the Hicks family.

Of James and Tranet’s children most seem to have favoured Somerset and Dorset. Elizabeth Isaacs, daughter of James, horse dealer, married a William Burge, also a horse dealer, son of Caleb Burge, at the church of St Michael’s, Penselwood, Somerset, in 1876, with her siblings John Isaacs and Delilah Isaacs as witnesses. Future census records find this couple at Haselbury Bryan, Sturminster, Dorset, where they are sometimes listed as basket makers and sometimes as licensed hawkers. Delilah married John Fry, son of James, in a double wedding with her sister, Mary Ann, who married Henry, the son of Maurice Hicks, in 1881, and both marriages were witnessed by Analetta and Thomas Isaacs. Delilah and her family were generally to be found in Somerset or Dorset and Mary Ann, who was widowed by 1891, in the Wincanton area. Victoria Isaacs married John Long and was at Shepton Mallet, Somerset in 1891 and 1901, but by 1911 John had retired and they had settled at Portsmouth in Hampshire. John Isaacs married Eliza Kiddle, and remained in the Wincanton area; James Maurice wed Anna Hicks, possibly a cousin, the daughter of Maurice and sister, it would seem, to Henry Hicks, James’ brother-in-law. Harriet Isaacs, who married Robert Birch, also favoured the county of Somerset. Alice Isaacs married the brother of a brother-in-law, too; in 1881 she wed Mark Fry, son of James, in the registration district of Wincanton, and this couple also favoured Somerset.

It was to be daughters Louisa and Analetta who travelled much more widely than their siblings; they married brothers – Louisa united with Job Camfield, son of Edward, a publican in a double wedding with her sister, Victoria, who married John Long, on 1st July 1880 at Penselwood, Somerset. In the 1881 census Job and Louisa Camfield are in Southampton, Hampshire but 1891 finds them in a van in Smithfield, Staffordshire, with seven children, whilst Analetta is with her husband, Albert Camfield, now a carpet dealer, at St Helier, in the Channel Islands, with daughter Florence, and a nephew, Henry Fry, aged 14. Henry is still with this couple in 1901, along with Florence, 12; Annie, 7; Albert, 1; and they are now in Bristol, where Albert is trying his hand at being an inn keeper. Their final move was to Cardiff, in Wales, where the 1911 census records Albert as a house furnisher, Analetta, and children Florence, a music teacher, Annie, Albert, Nora and Gwenyth.

James and Trinity/Tranet Isaacs themselves had long lives, and both died and were buried in the registration district of Wincanton, Somerset; James on 26th January 1905, a horse dealer, aged 86 and Tranet as Janet Isaacs, widow of James, in the third quarter of the same year, aged 83.

Copyright © 2016 Anne-Marie Ford