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Thomas Welch

Eric Trudgill    -    28 March 2013

Between 1796 and 1814 Thomas Welch and his wife, Mary, christened six children on a small patch in N Herts: Esther in Barley in 1796 (travellers), William in Clothall in 1804, the twins, Sarah and John, in Sandon in 1807 (travellers), Priscilla in Clothall in 1810 and James in Clothall in 1814 (vagrant sievemaker) – a sieve was a large basket. They christened two more children close by, just over the county line in S Cambs: Jemima in Comberton in 1802, and Moses in Fowlmere in 1812. At the three baptisms in Clothall Thomas was asked where he came from and replied from the parish of St Michael’s in St Albans, Herts, by which as a short traveller (St Albans isn’t that close) he probably meant his ancestral “home” (there were a number of gorjerWelches, respectable and unrespectable, in and around that parish at that time).

Of his children Jemima Welch married in 1829 in Madingley, Cambs (very close to Comberton, where in 1802 she’d been christened) Radford Rayment, who’d been born and grown up in Madingley: Jemima at the wedding was a single woman of Sawston (where her elder sister, Esther, had christened a child months earlier), and in the census twice said she had been born in Comberton. She and Radford christened six children in Madingley 1831-44: Eliza in 1831, Frances in 1833, Esther in 1836, George in 1841, and two Alices in 1838 and 1844 respectively, who were buried there in 1841 and 1860. Radford and Jemima themselves were buried in Madingley, on the same day, in 1869, Jemima aged 67. Jemima clearly married a gorjer and settled, but at least three, I believe four, of her siblings married into well-known Gypsy families.

The aforementioned Esther Welch married the Gypsy William Shaw (baptised in Comberton, Cambs in 1795 son of John and Sarah) in 1816 in Barley, Herts, where she had been baptised in 1796. We can document eight of their children, all christened as Shaws on a small patch close to her father’s: Edward in Abbotsley, Hunts in 1820, Aaron in E Hatley, Cambs in 1822, Jonas and Cornelius jointly in Hauxton, Cambs in 1826, Naomi in Sawston, Cambs in 1828, William in Blunham, Beds in 1831, and Hester and John jointly in Ardeley, Herts in 1837. The gap between Esther’s wedding and Edward’s baptism may well have been filled by the untraced Jasper Shaw who was said by the gypsiologists to have married his cousin, Consuletta Shaw. Of the others Edward Shaw married a Martha and christened an Eliza in 1843, Jonas married a Susan and christened five children in Pampisford, Cambs, Cornelius married his cousin, Elizabeth Shaw, and christened a Sophia in 1853, and Naomi married Frederick Chipperfield in 1854, christened an Aaron Chipperfield in 1861, and had at least five other children yet to be found in the birth records.

William Welch, baptised in 1804, married the Gypsy Sophia Maclean (baptised in Elsworth, Cambs in 1802 daughter of Charles and Sophia) in 1827 in Baldock, Herts, and christened their first two children, Esther and William jun (born 1828 and 1829) jointly in Ashwell, Herts in 1829, both locations very close to his father’s patch and William described each time as of St Albans. William and Sophia christened Moses and Elias (born about 1835 and 1841) jointly in Everton, Hunts in 1841 (gypsy sievemaker of St Albans), very close to his father’s patch and to Northill, Beds, where he and Sophia appeared in the census 1861-81 and were buried respectively in 1882 and 1884. Of the above children Moses (bach 32 son of William hawker) married Mary Ann Harris (spin 27 daughter of Williambasketmaker) in 1868 in HighamGobion, Beds with a Charles and Ann Welch as their witnesses (marking and signing respectively), Charlesbeing surely another child of William and Sophia, born between William jun and Moses; and Elias (21 son of William hawker) married Ann Hare (d/o John lab) in Northill in 1863. Moses and Mary Ann christened seven children in Northill 1870-81, and Elias and Ann christened seven children in Shillington, Beds (on the Herts border) 1865-83, Elias being buried there in 1884.

John Welch, baptised in 1807, (and discussed by Anne in her Welch article this month) seems to me to have married twice. By a Clarissa he had Cinderella christened in Gamlingay, Cambs in 1831 (on Thomas’ patch), John described as gypsy of St Albans. By William’s sister-in-law, Chrisanny Maclean (baptised in Sandy, Beds in 1813 daughter of Charles and Sophia fiddler and tinker) John had Mendoza born in Guilden Morden,Cambs in 1851 (close to Gamlingay) less than two months after Cinderella’s death. It’s unclear as yet which wife bore him the Isabella Welch, born about 1833, who married (daughter of John lab) John Hale in Biggleswade, Beds in 1857: the fact that Chrisanny was described as John Hale’s mother-in-law in the census and on her death certificate doesn’t mean she wasn’t Isabella’s step-mother. Clarissa may also have been the mother of the Mary Welch, born about 1835, who married Cornelius Smith, the Priscilla Welch, born about 1837, who married Tobias Shaw, and the Lucy Welch, born about 1839, who married Tobias’ brother, Rodney Shaw. But equally Chrisanny may have been the mother of all the children after Cinderella and I’m pretty sure at least she was the mother of, besides Mendoza, the John Welch jun, born about 1845, who married (23 son of John hawker) Levithan Draper (21 daughter of Joseph hawker) in Eaton Socon, Beds in 1868 (just before she took up with the famous Ambrose Thorpe) with John and Isabella Hale as witnesses.

And I’m fairly sure we can add another son to the roster of Thomas and Mary Welch’s children, the Richard Welch, born about 1798 (see my Fletcher article March 2012), who married the Gypsy Siberetty Fletcher in 1820. The forenames of the eleven children Richard christened 1822-44 don’t suggest he was son of Thomas and Mary and brother of their children. His travel profile, on the other hand, does. His children were mostly christened on his in-laws’ territory, but three were christened in Beds and one in N Herts; more strikingly in 1844 he described himself as a tinman of Toddington, Beds (not so far from William’s patch), where one son had just got married and another was soon to christen a child, just as in 1822 Richard had described himself as a tinman of Haddenham, Cambs (not so far from Comberton where Thomas had christened Jemima); and more strikingly still, in 1842, when Siberetty seemingly was taking a four-year break from constant child bearing, and when John Welch’s interest seems to have moved from Clarissa to Chrisanny, we find in Gamlingay, Cambs (eleven years after John and Clarissa’s Cinderella was christened there) the baptism of Stephen Thomas Welch son of Richard and Clarissa, lab of Haddenham. The conjunction of Clarissa and Gamlingay, and Richard and Haddenham seems to me too remarkable to be coincidental. I think Richard was having a bit on the side with his brother’s ex-wife, and belongs in the gap in Thomas Welch’s children between Esther and Jemima.

Copyright © 2013 Eric Trudgill