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Smith Book

Eric Trudgill    -    4 May 2018

An up-date for new visitors to this site

After posting two articles a month for nearly seven years, Eric is devoting a year to polishing the contents and format of eight Family Tree books he’s written on the Romany Boswells, Bucklands, Lees and Smiths and, more briefly, on thirty other families arranged in three books geographically. All eight books will be published by the Romany and Traveller FHS, the first some time before Christmas, and in the meantime two pages from each book are being posted here each month in lieu of two articles. This month, the fifth, it’s the turn of Ten Major Smith Families Part Two, covering six major families of the English Midlands and South.


Ambrose and Elizabeth Smith’s Family: Explanations

Ambrose was baptised in Calne, Wil in 1760 son of Arthur and Mary (tinker and stranger), a long travelling couple who had baptised a John in Corsham, Wil (about ten miles from Calne) in 1753, but also a Charles in Bury St Edmunds, Sfk in 1755 and a Henrietta in Banbury, Oxf in 1757 (tinker). Arthur and Mary’s son was surely the Ambrose Smith sentenced to seven years transportation at Gloucestershire Assizes 26/3/1788 for stealing she-asses in Old Sodbury and Chipping Sodbury on Christmas Day 1787; Old Sodbury and Chipping Sodbury are not that far from Calne, and the Ambrose Smith imprisoned in Plymouth, Dev 24/6/1789, prior to transportation, was recorded as aged 27 (he was despatched to Australia on The Neptune in late 1789 and died the following June before it reached Sydney).

Arthur and Mary’s son was surely also the Ambrose Smith who, before his transportation, had married an Elizabeth and fathered by her three well-documented children: Ferdinand Smith born about 1783, married in Wells, Nfk, and father of the Ambrose immortalized as Jasper Petulengro in George Borrow’s novel Lavengro; Ambrose Smith junior baptised in Bergh Apton, Nfk in 1785 and father by Mirelli Draper of children baptised in Norfolk; and Susannah Smith baptised in Gt Yarmouth, Nfk in 1787. Calne, let alone Old and Chipping Sodbury, is a long way from Norfolk, but numerous Gypsy families at that time, including Arthur and Mary Smith’s, regularly travelled between Wiltshire and East Anglia, and more importantly there are connections between the Ambrose who was baptised in Calne and died on the way to Australia in 1789 and the Ambrose who fathered Ferdinand, Ambrose junior and Susannah.

First, Ambrose’s widow Elizabeth married the well-known John Chilcott, himself a widower, in Bethnal Green, London in 1792 and baptised her first child by John in 1793 in the church in Gt Yarmouth where she had baptised her last child by Ambrose in 1787. Second, Ferdinand and Ambrose junior look very much like sons of the Ambrose sentenced to transportation for theft in 1788: both were themselves sentenced to transportation for theft, Ferdinand in 1822, and Ambrose in 1837 along with possibly two sons, Henry and Saunders.

To Ferdinand, Ambrose junior and Susannah, the three well-established children of Ambrose and Elizabeth, we can probably add Robert Smith, born about 1781 and allegedly of Hargrave, Sfk, and possibly Elijah Smith, born in Suffolk about 1779 and sentenced to transportation for theft in 1820, two years before Ferdinand (English and Australian prison records give Elijah’s birth respectively as in 1777 and 1781).

Robert Smith married Margaret Mills, and had two children marry into Ambrose and Elizabeth’s family: their daughter Tralia was the first wife of Ambrose Smith son of Ferdinand, and their son Francis married Honor Smith daughter of Ambrose Smith junior and Mirelli. Elijah Smith married Sophia Lee, and although their children weren’t obviously connected to Ferdinand, Ambrose junior and Susannah (except perhaps through the forename of seemingly their first child, Susan), they were connected to Robert, who baptised his first child with the name Elijah, and had a son marry a sister of Riley Boss, the husband of Elijah’s daughter Susan and father, by another wife Lucy Boswell, of the husband of Elijah’s last child, Notavina.

Baptisms have been found for none of Elijah’s children, but the six from Isabella onwards were present with their mother in Chelmsford Gaol, Ess in 1820 and Elijah junior joined them in Beccles Gaol, Sfk in 1823. This leaves only Lydia, whose son Noah contracted surely a cousin marriage with Isabella’s daughter Britannia, and Susan, whose step-son Sylvester Boss married Elijah and Sophia’s Notavina. Baptisms have been found for all of Robert’s children except Senna (Selina/Sarah) and Tralia, but both appeared with their parents and siblings Cornelius, Francis, Urania and Charlotte at a settlement hearing in Sawbridgeworth, Hrt in 1820 (Tralia, born she claimed in Eye, Sfk, was baptised as Priscilla in nearby Burgate). The William Smith aged 18 imprisoned with Cornelius and Francis in Cambridge in 1839 may have been another child, born perhaps in late 1820.

Baptisms have been found for three of Ferdinand’s children: the gypsiologists’ Lydia seems from the census to fit between Prudence and Ferdinand junior, and I’m guessing Elizabeth came before Ambrose, since her spouse was baptised a dozen years before either of Ambrose’s, and her first child was baptised five years earlier than his. Baptisms have been found for all five of Ambrose junior’s daughters, and I’m guessing the Henry and Saunders transported for theft in 1837 were his sons. The Saunders Smith baptised in Rendham, Sfk in 1819 son of Ambrose and Sarah (cutler and brazier of Norwich) may have been son of the Ambrose Smith who married Sarah Cross in Denver, Nfk in 1813 slightly more than two months before Ambrose and Mirelli baptised a daughter in Suffolk, but Rendham is where Ambrose and Mirelli’s Honor baptised a child in 1841, and a Saunders baptised in 1819 and a Henry born in Kings Lynn, Nfk about 1809 (Australian Convict Records) would fit very neatly into the roster of Ambrose and Mirelli’s children.


James and Jemima Smith’s Family: Explanations

James Smith was not I think, as has been claimed, “Jemmy the Gypsy King” buried in Launton, Oxf in 1830 allegedly aged 95, but his wife surely was the Jemima Smith buried as a Gypsy in Roxton, Bdf in 1804 four years after her grandson John was christened there. James and Jemima christened on either side of Bedfordshire an Edward in Buckinghamshire in 1763 and a Jemima junior in Huntingdonshire in 1767, and in Bedfordshire itself a Viraminta, John (parents unnamed) and Sophia in 1769, 1773 and 1784, in each case being identified as a Gypsy or traveller (with the priest making a fine distinction when christening Jemima junior as the base born daughter of James Smith, a gypsy man, and Jemima Smith, a travelling woman). To these we can probably add the James junior baptised in Bedfordhire in 1764 with no comment on his parents’ ethnicity.

I’ve found no plausible spouses for James and Jemima’s probable James junior, and I’m unconvinced by claims that Jemima junior, was the Jemima Smith who married in Bedfordshire in 1787 the well-known Moses Shaw (also baptised in 1767), and that James and Jemima’s Sophia may have been the Sophia Smith who married in Bedfordshire in 1807 the well-known Israel Draper baptised in 1786. I do believe, however, we can trace the families of James and Jemima’s Edward, Viraminta and John.

The John Smith James and Jemima baptised in Clophill, Bdf in 1773 clearly married a Mary: as the brother of a Jemima and Sophia, he honoured the first by christening a Jemima in 1816 (brazier of Clophill), and honoured the second by christening a Sophia (in Clophill) in 1822. Fortunately the parents of the John Smith junior baptised in Brington, Hun in 1818, and of the Sophia Smith baptised in Clophill in 1822, were clearly the same John and Mary: John junior, born in Brington, and Sophia, born in Clophill, were travelling together with their spouses and children in Cambridgeshire in the 1861 census. And the Jemima Smith baptised in 1816 in Lt Staughton, Bdf (between Brington and Clophill) was clearly their sister: she married Stephen Smith in Keysoe, Bdf next door to Lt Staughton, baptised their two children in Winwick, Hun very close to Brington, and later married the well-known Edmund Heron in Thurning, Nth, a mile or so from Winwick. To these well-documented children of John and Mary I’ve added the somewhat uncertain Louisa and Richard baptised in 1805 and 1807, plus the virtually certain Prudence, wife of Spencer Smith, who was found travelling with the Jemima christened in 1816 and their husbands and children in Newent, Gls in the 1871 census.

Prudence’s children by Spencer Smith are unproblematic once you recognize that Faith and Hope, though not Charity, were male, and that Faith’s baptism in Bishops Cleeve, Gls (where in the census he was said to have been born) was compromised by clerical error (his parents were recorded as Spencer and Ann). Jemima’s children by Edmund Heron are also unproblematic, apart from the elusiveness in the records of their daughter Lurina’s children: you’ll notice Jemima’s grandson Stephen (by her first marriage) named his first three children Jemima after his grandmother, Lurina after his mother’s half-sister, and Reynolds after his step-grandfather’s half-brother or his own second-cousin Caleb’s son. John junior’s children by an as yet unidentified Ann, and Sophia’s children by Elias Gray, are also unproblematic: you’ll notice Sophia’s first son, Golias Gray, married a sort of cousin, Amelia Heron daughter of Edmund by his first wife, Christiana Smith.

The Viraminta Smith James and Jemima baptised in 1769 clearly married William Curtis, and was thus the woman known to the gypsiologists as the mother of sons who used the surnames of both parents: Despair has been found so far only as a Curtis, like John and James at their baptisms, while Abraham (known to the gypsiologists as a Curtis/Smith) has been found so far only as a Smith, like the adult Edward who’d been christened as a Curtis, while Edward’s first son, Hemlock, who’d been christened as a Smith often (according to the local press) passed as a Curtis. The Edward Smith whom James and Jemima baptised in 1763 surely married the gypsy woman buried in Shillington, Bdf in 1809 (with a forename, Alithea, that seems to have confused four priests), buried in 1809 in Shillington it should be noted, alongside their recently buried 20 year old son Mendoza.

However, Jemima’s daughter Alice by her first husband, Stephen Smith, and Alice’s offspring, are distinctly problematic. The gypsiologists believed Alice had two children, Madona and Stephen, by her step-father Edmund Heron, but Madona’s baptism and Stephens’s wedding data both named their father as Samuel Smith, who according to the gypsiologist E O Winstedt was a brother of Shadrach (who named a son Samuel) and Wisdom, sons of John and Ann (see pp 17-18). This looks persuasive given that Madona’s son Shady (Shadrach) was recorded in the 1911 census, with his wife and children, including a Wisdom, travelling with Shadrach Smith, his wife Emily Loveridge, and their children Wisdom, Samuel, Emily and Eliza. I’m guessing that Samuel Smith, son of John and Ann, after siring Madona and Stephen, moved on from Jemima’s Alice to the Louisa Fletcher identified by Winstedt.

Copyright © 2018 Eric Trudgill