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Elijah Boswell

Eric Trudgill    -    29 June 2017

Elijah Boswell “of Retford, Nottinghamshire” was a famous “Gypsy King” in the East Midlands for much of the nineteenth century; and infamous too (a priest baptising one of his granddaughters in Haxey, Lincs in 1870 inserted a one word comment, “Retford!”). He was baptised in 1801 son of the famous Viney Boswell by his brief attachment to Lucy Boswell (almost certainly daughter of Richard and Phyllis), and baptised as Lazarus (Elijah’s alternate forename six times at the birth or wedding of his children) in Markham, Notts (his birthplace in the 1871 census).

He was famous and infamous not just for his criminality but also for siring at least 24 children by three concurrent wives: after he and two of his sons had been gaoled by the Retford Magistrates in 1853 a local journalist helpfully recorded the forenames and birth locations of 14 of his children. The gypsiologists gave him a fourth wife, Delizanna Smith, but I haven’t found her and suspect, if she existed, she was a non-childbearing companion of his old age.

He married his first wife, Harriet Woodward, in Walesby, Notts in 1820, and they baptised five children as Boswells before her death in 1832: Adam in Walesby in 1820, Isaiah in Welbourn, Lincs in 1823, Riley (recorded as Herilah) in Bole, Notts in 1827, Asher in Babworth, Notts in 1830, and Sidney in Walesby in 1831.

Of these Adam by a Jane Boswell seemingly had a William, Thomas, John, Richard and George; Isaiah by a Maria Smith had a Robert Augustus, Adely, Lucretia and Sarah; Riley by Levanci Charlotte daughter of John Charlotte and Sophia Smith had an Ezrie, Eva, Mary Ann, Aaron, Sophia, Ellen and Riley junior all baptised as Boswells, Lemontina baptised as a Boss, Israel and Mary Ann baptised as Smiths, and a William; Sidney by Ellen Charlotte daughter of John and Sophia had an Edmund Boswell; and Asher was perhaps the Anthony Boswell in the census who by an Elizabeth had an Alfred and Evergreen.

Elijah’s second wife was Charlotte Smith (baptised in 1805 daughter of William and Charlotte), who died in 1857. They baptised the following children: Elijah junior as a Smith in Sturton, Notts in 1825 son of Charlotte gypsy, William as a Boswell in Gamston, Notts in 1827, Erydina (Adeline) in Upper Langwith, Derbyshire in 1830 illegitimate daughter of Elijah Boswell and Charlotte Smith, Annis as a Boswell in E Markham, Notts in 1832, Joseph in Clarborough, Notts in 1837 son of Elijah Boswell and Charlotte Smith, Harriet as a Boswell in Mattersey, Notts in 1840, and Lucy as a Boswell in Scotter, Lincs in 1846; there was also a Henry born near W Stockwith, Notts about 1843.

Of these William married Bethia Gray daughter of William and Tabitha, and had an Adam, Gehazi, Adelina, Elijah, Riley, William, Thomas, Elias and Lucy; Erydina married her cousin Render Boswell son of her father’s half-brother Moses; Harriet by an unknown partner had an Evergreen Boswell; Lucy seemingly married first John Charlotte son of John and Sophia, and had a Frances, Edward, Phoenix and Isabella, and married second her cousin Tennant Smith son of Dennis; Henry married Mary Ann Brown daughter of Thomas, but like Erydina seems to have had no offspring.

Elijah’s third wife was surely, as the gypsiologists claimed, his sister-in-law Alice Smith, daughter of William and Charlotte. They baptised the following children as Boswells: a short-lived Cinnementy in Treswell, Notts in 1828 daughter of Lazarus and Alice, Okey in Sutton cum Lound, Notts in 1830, Jeremiah in Babworth in 1832 son of Alice, Magnus in Longford, Derbyshire in 1834 son of Lazarus and Alice, a short-lived Rudolphus in Babworth in 1836, Palistia in Althorpe, Lincs in 1841, and Walter in Kneesall, Notts in 1851 son of Alice; there were also an Alfred baptised as a Smith in Treswell, Notts in 1848, a Henrietta born about 1838, an Eliza born in Mansfield, Notts in 1841 and birth-registered as a Boswell, and a Deloreni born in Worksop, Notts about 1854.

Of these Okey (sometimes known as James) married seemingly his cousin Maraniel Smith, daughter of Sidney son of William and Charlotte, and had (baptised as a Boswell or Smith or both) a William, Mazaneel, Albert Edward, Edingale, Henrietta Victoria, Ammoriah, Oakey junior, Cinamenti, Emily, Edith and Charles; Eliza married Francis Smith/Mobbs, and had a Delizanna, Francis, Cornelius, Eliza junior, Avelina, Elisha, Bethina, Delarina and Wilhelmina; and Deloreni married Rabbi Smith son of Moses and Eldery, and baptised or birth-registered as Smiths a Sarah, Annie, Moses, Walter, Mary Jane, Eldery, Arthur (short-lived), Rabbi, Joseph, John Thomas and another Arthur. Less prolifically Jeremiah, by his first marriage to Salome Gray, had a Hannah; Magnus, by Mary Ann Gray daughter of William and Tabitha, had an Albert, Magnus and Palistia; while Henrietta, by a William Boswell, had an Evergreen, and by a brief liaison with her sister Eliza’s husband, Francis Smith/Mobbs, had an Emily.

If you want more information about Elijah Boswell’s descendants, forebears and wider family, you’ll find his grandfathers, Richard and John Boswell, are two of the ten major mid-eighteenth century Boswell patriarchs I trace in detail into the beginning of the twentieth century in one of my eight forthcoming Family Tree books.

Copyright © 2017 Eric Trudgill