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TRACING GYPSY FAMILIES BACK DESPITE THE LACK OF RECORDS NUMBER 51: Joshua and Clarissa Scamp

Eric Trudgill    -    5 August 2017

A Joshua Scamp featured in the burial records of Odstock, Wilts parish church in April 1801 as “a gypsy hanged supposed wrongfully”, and was said thereafter to haunt the church. A contemporary press article reported that he was about 50 when hanged (having been convicted in Salisbury, Wilts in December 1800 of stealing a gelding); that he’d petitioned for clemency claiming he had seven children by his first wife and five young ones by his second; and that his second wife, Clarissa, had attended the hanging with a step-daughter aged about fifteen.

Identifying these children is complicated by the preference of priests at that time with baptisms to record only the father’s forename. But we can be pretty sure of the Thomas Scamp baptised in Wimborne Minster, Dorset in 1782 son of Joshua a stranger, who married (of Odstock) Sarah Burton [baptised in 1785 daughter of Henry and Dove] in Sherston Magna, Wilts in 1809, and who was a tinman and brazier of Odstock near Salisbury when christening a Joshua in E Chinnock, Somerset in 1814 (he also christened a Defiance in 1818 who married Elisha Cooper, and surely a John in 1824 who married Sarah Burton’s niece, Lucy Burton, and christened a Joshua in 1847).

If the Thomas Scamp baptised in Wimborne Minster in 1782 was a child of the Joshua buried in Odstock, so presumably was the Jane Scamp baptised in Wimborne Minster in 1772 daughter of Joshua a stranger. So too presumably was the Joshua Scamp baptised (near Odstock) in Downton, Wilts in 1775 son of Joshua and Tabitha, especially if he was the Joshua who married a Keasy (presumably Keziah) and baptised a Clara in Chaldon Herring, Dorset in 1799 (honouring his step-mother Clarissa), having baptised a Christian in Hilton, Dorset in 1791.

And if Joshua, son of Joshua and Tabitha, was a child of the Joshua buried in Odstock, so too it seems was the Maple Scamp (presumably Mabel) baptised in Trowbridge, Wilts in 1768 child of Joshua and Tabitha gypsy, and the Christian Scamp baptised in Mere, Wilts in 1770 child of Joshua a traveller, whose unusual forename was echoed by Joshua and Keasy in 1791.

If these guesses are correct, it’s possible Joshua and Tabitha had children baptised in 1768, 1770, 1772, 1775 and 1782, with another born between the last two, alive in 1801, and a daughter born about 1785, making a total of seven when the Joshua buried in Odstock was petitioning for clemency.

With respect to the five young children born by Clarissa, the only likely candidate I can currently offer is the Riley Scamp (baptised in Lytchett Minster, Dorset in 1793 son of Joshua) who married Clevansy Lee daughter of Samuel and Hannah. As I noted on this web-site in May 2014, when tracing Riley’s descendants, his traumatic loss of a father in 1801 when he was only eight would explain his re-location from his birth family’s territory: we don’t see him as an adult down in Dorset and Wiltshire, only in the West Country and Wales. Most of his children were named after members of Clevansy’s family, but, if he was a son of Joshua and Clarissa, it may be one day we’ll find a sister for him named Syphorella.

As so often when the records are of limited help in tracing families, we need to make reasonable guesses but also keep an open mind and keep looking (much of the above may not apply to the Joshua buried in Odstock).

Copyright © 2017 Eric Trudgill