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Phoenix Boswell

Eric Trudgill    -    3 June 2012

Phoenix Boswell, son of Viney and Comfort, was christened in Horkstow, Lincs in 1831, jointly with his nephew, Elijahnesus Boswell, son of Moses and Esther. And he was buried in Gorton, Lancs in 1923 aged allegedly 99. He married first his niece Maria, daughter of Delilah Boswell by an as yet unknown husband; and he married second his niece Honora, daughter of Delilah Boswell by a later and younger husband, Major Lovell, christened in 1821 son of William and Sarah. The half-sisters seem to have been consecutive, not concurrent, wives: in the 1871 census Maria was with a new partner, Absolom Boiling, and her last two sons by Phoenix, all using their Absolom’s surname, whilst Phoenix was starting his new family with Honora; but in the 1911 census, with Honora having died in 1897, Maria was back with Phoenix.

By Maria Phoenix had the following children: Honora Boswell, born about 1852, who married Guilderoy Heron/Boswell, son of Big Frank Heron and Selina Boswell (possibly Phoenix’s cousin, the daughter of Moses and Esther); Emma Boswell, born probably about 1854, who married Samuel Lovell son of Major and Sarah; Walter Boswell, baptised in Mossley, Cheshire in 1856 son of Felix and Maria gypsies of Macclesfield, and buried shortly after; George (often Georgina) Boswell, born about 1861, who married first his cousin Matilda Boswell (daughter of George) in 1882, second his cousin Gravelina (Matilda’s sister) in 1887, and then shortly after, informally, his cousin Plancelia Boswell (daughter of Othea); and finally another Walter Boswell, baptised in Wincle, Cheshire in 1863 (born 30/4/1863), who married first his niece by marriage, Leah Lovell daughter of Samuel and Rosina, and then in 1891 his niece by blood, Pambla Lovell (Leah’s half-sister) daughter of Samuel and Emma.

Phoenix and Maria quite possibly had another child, Drusilla Boswell, baptised in Middlewich, Cheshire in November 1862 daughter of Salathiel and Maria chairbottomer of Macclesfield. The baptismal date is awkward (there’s nothing in the register to suggest a late baptism). But the mother’s forename, the father’s place of abode, the unusual family name (two of Phoenix’s brothers had a son christened Salathiel, and another a grandson), and the family church (two of Phoenix’s brothers christened children there 1858-59), all of these point to Phoenix as Drusilla’s father.

I haven’t tracked Drusilla, but I have tracked all but the short-lived first Walter of Phoenix and Maria’s established children. Honora had by Guilderoy Heron/Boswell an Edward Boswell christened in 1871, who married his cousin, Selina Smith, in 1897, a Louis Herring christened in 1876, a George born about 1878, and then 1880-99 (all christened as Boswells in Cheshire or Lancashire) Gravelina, Cornelius, Herbert, Ernest, Ada Annie, John William, Alga, Mary, December, and Teresa. Emma had by Samuel Lovell the aforementioned Pambla Lovell, christened in Yorkshire in 1875 but born in 1872, and Edgar and WillowmenaLovell, christened in Lancashire in 1877 and 1884 respectively. George had by Plancelia Boswell (all christened as Boswells in Lancashire 1889-1900) Pamela Madonna, Kenza, Raoul Asprey, Sarah, Maria, Miss May, and Nation.

Walter and his wives, half-sisters like his father’s, deserve a paragraph to themselves. By Leah Lovell Walter had in Cheshire or Lancashire from about 1881 to 1893 (all Boswells) Merryfield, Susanna, Guilderoy, Edgar, Pambledoona, Cinderella and Walter. And by Pambla Lovell he had from 1892 to 1905 (all Boswells) Lavinia Delia, Tyler, Harold, Georgina Aaron, Hannah, Angelina, and Deliah. As so often with Gypsy families the sisters seemed quite comfortable about sharing a husband. Leah had five children by Walter before his wedding to Pambla; she christened another in 1891, six days after the wedding, in the church the newly-weds used to christen one of theirs the following year; she christened another child by Walter in 1893; and in the 1901 census she was travelling with his half-brother, Noah Boswell; whilst in 1906, after Walter’s death, Pambla witnessed the wedding of one of Leah’s sons.

The first child of Phoenix and Honora seems to have been Lavinia Delia Boswell, christened in Macclesfield St Peter, Cheshire in 1872. Then came Rowarasbah Boswell, christened in Mobberley, Cheshire in 1874 son of Felix and Honour: Rowarasbah was presumably a garbled Raoul Asprey, and seems to have given way to Noah, since Phoenix and Honora’s son of that name three times claimed to have been born in 1874, though at his wedding in 1895 to Clara Bradburn daughter of William he did claim to be 24. Then cameHonora Boswell, born about 1876, who married Walter Boss son of Charles and Siarra in 1894. Aaron and Phoebe Ann Boswell were christened jointly in Wilmslow, Cheshire in 1882 children of Felix and Honour. And Maude Boswell was christened in Lower Peover, Cheshire in 1883 daughter of Phoenix and Hannah, jointly with Susanna Boswell daughter of Walter, Maude’s half-brother, and Leah (Maude said she was 30 when marrying Thomas Henry Brennan son of Thomas in 1912).

Of these children of Phoenix and Honora Noah had by Clara a Doney, Phoenix and Ivy Boswell, christened in Lancashire 1896-1901, and a Delia and a Harold, born in Cheshire from about 1903 to about 1908; whilst Honora junior had by Walter Boss from about 1894 to 1907 in Lancashire or Cheshire (each one a Boss) Louis, Emperor, Alma, Hilda, Elva, Vera, and John Columbus.

If you’re familiar with the account of this branch of the Boswells given by the great gypsiologists a hundred years ago (one of their very best efforts), you’ll find that a lot of their work needs enlarging and correcting from the records. They couldn’t check the records: so few were available. We can: and I have no doubt our best efforts will in turn be enlarged and corrected as new records become available.

If you want more detailed documentation of Phoenix’s family, you’ll find it in my Family Tree booklet on Viney Boswell to be published later this year or early next in the Romany and Traveller Family History Society’s series on Famous Romany Families.

Copyright © 2012 Eric Trudgill