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Riley Boswell

Eric Trudgill    -    2 June 2013

Riley Boswell (or Boss as he and his children usually called themselves) was born about 1800, and operated as a tinker, horse dealer and criminal mostly on the E Coast of England, from Suffolk through Norfolk and Lincolnshire up to Yorkshire, although he died in 1850 in the Potteries, a London slum, suffering from delirium tremens. He had three wives and was said to have treated them badly.

Riley’s first wife, named as Charlotte Hammond at the baptism of their second child, gave him three children before leaving him for Zachariah Lee: Robert Boswell, christened in Milverton, Wks in 1817, who was transported (with Zachariah Lee) in 1835 to Australia, where he married Elizabeth Letitia Rex in 1844 with Zachariah Lee as witness, had thirteen children by her, and died in 1904;Delorani Boswell, christened (as Lorania) in Woolpit, Sfk in 1820, who married Aaron Heron/Young son of Miller, and had the ten children I described in my article on Miller Young of April 2012; and Elias Boss, christened (as Goliath) in Sudbourne, Sfk in 1826, who was transported in 1844 to Australia, where he married Frances Bonney in 1857, had at least six children, and died in 1919.

Riley’s second wife, named as Shuransa at the baptism of their first child, gave him eleven children (each recorded as a Boss, with Riley once as William Riley and three times as just William, and Shuransa otherwise Susan or Susanna): Lewis, christened in Lt Thurlow, Sfk in 1820, who was said to have married first Rachel Lee and then Alice Gray, and to have had a Wilhelmina Delilah and a number of other children who died young; William, buried in Burton by Lincoln, Lincs in 1843 aged 20; Separi, christened (asDesibera) in Branford, Sfk in 1825, who married Frampton Young and had a Gravelina, Sooby and Delinda Young christened in Yorkshire 1843-52; Britannia, christened in Grasby, Lincs in 1826, who married William Wilson son of James, a hawker, in Sculcoates, Yks in 1848; Newcombe, christened in Burton by Lincoln, Lincs in 1828, who married Ann Smith daughter of Joseph and Sage, and had a Cashmere christened in Lincs in 1849; Wilhelmina Delilah, christened in S Wootton, Nfk in 1830, who married George Wilson, presumably William’s brother, and had a Susan Wilson christened in Lancs in 1849, followed by a Lavinia, Annie, another Susan, Alice, William, John, Arthur and George; Agnes, christened inWootton, Lincs in 1832; Susan, christened (as Leonora) in Preston, Yorks in1834, who married Posthumous (William) Gray, and had a Julia, Mary Ann, Sardinia, Henan and Naomi Gray about 1854 to 1864 (see my Family Tree of Thomas and Elizabeth Gray published in 2012 by the R&TFHS); Penelly, christened in Winteringham, Lincs in 1837; Narelli, christened (as Harroly) in Walsham, Sfk in 1839; and Sarah, christened (as Siarah) in Frithville, Lincs in 1841, who married William Bowstead, and had a Kate and a Miriam, born about 1866 and 1871. Shuransa was still with Riley at his death in 1850, and died herself in 1868 aged 65.

Riley’s third wife, named by the gypsiologists as Lucy Boswell, daughter of Tiso (plausibly so, given the marriage of her last child to a daughter of Maria Boswell, daughter of Tiso, and the marriage of Shuransa’sNewcombe to a daughter of Sage Boswell, daughter of Tiso). Before leaving Riley a few years before his death, Lucy gave him, according to the gypsiologists, seven children: Moellus, who I suspect was the Mowellis christened in Lydd St Mary, Lincs 25/12/1825 s/o John Boswell a travelling gypsy (the priest seems to have got the father’s name wrong and forgotten the mother’s, but everything else looks right); Sylvester, born about 1828, who married (23 son of Riley Boss) Notavena Smith daughter of Elijah in Kirkby, Lancs in March 1851; Naomi, christened in Wootton, Lincs in 1832 daughter of Thomas and Lucy (jointly with Agnes daughter of Riley and Susannah), who was said to have married Joseph Crabtree; Isaac, born in Lincs about 1835, who married a Mary Smith; Lydia/Elizabeth, born about 1836, who married Phoenix Taylor son of Richard Taylor and Lucy Lock, and had, all Taylors, 1856-76 a Phoenix junior, Rhoda, Mackenzie, Walter, Alfred, Sarah, Amy, Reuben and Samson; Nelson, born in Lincs about 1840, who married Sophia daughter of Big Frank Heron and Amy Smith, went to America in1861, and had a Louisa there in Ohio about 1867; and finally Samson, born in Lincs about 1842, who married Susan Gray daughter of Jack by Maria Boswell, and, like his mother and most of her children, went to America, and had there an Oliver, Delilah, Moellus, and Phoebe.

It’s easy enough tracking Riley Boswell’s children. It’s much harder tracking his forbears. George Hall believed he was the son of Leshi (perhaps Elisha) Heron and Seni (sometimes Sarah) Boss, and used the alias James Heron, but I’ve seen nothing to support this. Hall also believed Riley had three siblings, Penny Boss who married Ambrose Boswell, Sarah Boss who married Elijah Heron/Young, and Clara Boss who married Cornelius Smith, and here he was almost certainly right. Ambrose and Penny Boswell christened 1815-28 Tom, Matilda, George,Amy, Bozevannah and Morgiana; Elijah and Sarah Young christened 1821-35 Frampton, Hoshama, Noah, England and Rabbi; Cornelius and Clara Smith christened 1834-55 Lomas, Elijah, Leanabel, Phoebe, Repentance, Liney, Patience, Lydia and Lavinia. A sibling connection would thus give us cousin marriages between Penny’s Morgiana and Sarah’s Rabbi, and between Sarah’s Frampton and Riley’s Separi. On top of this Riley’s Narelli was christened jointly with Clara’s Leanabel.

Penny’s Morgiana, moreover, was christened jointly with Surrender Heron son of Abraham and Nancy (who later christened a Sionetta and a Delilah Heron), which suggests a sibling connection with either Abraham Heron or his wife, if she was a Boss. And we’ve probably got a sixth sibling in the Newcombe Boss,tinman of Norwich, Nfk, who christened a Charlotte in Lincs in 1813 and a Lizzie in Suffolk in 1816, before being transported to Australia in 1819, since Riley gave that very unusual forename to the son he christened in 1828. All of which means we should discount as Leshi and Seni the Elisha and Sarah Boswell who christened a Riley in Rye, Sfk in 1798. Elisha was a different kind of Boswell (christened in Wilts in 1767 son of Edward and Letitia); he married a Sarah Lovell in Cambridgeshire in 1785, with his brother-in-law, the famous Lawrence Boswell, as his witness; and if we put his known children together with the Boss siblings outlined above, they’re both too crowded and too stretched out. Riley Boss’s parents remain unproven.

The same can be said, if not for his third wife, Lucy Boswell, at least for the other two. Charlotte Hammond was said to have been the daughter of an Anthony Hammond and a Paisi (?Pisanna) Heron but I’ve seen nothing to support this. And while Shuransa may have been a Smith (perhaps it was her Newcombe Boss who advertised in Australia in 1870 for news of his uncle, Robert Smith, a fiddler), she certainly wasn’t, as the gypsiologists thought, a daughter of Cornelius Smith’s brother, Elijah, who supposedly married a Sophia Chilcott, nee Buckland: the Elijah Smith in question was christened in 1805, only 14 years before Shuransa’s first child, and he married Sarah Robinson. But his parents were Robert and Margaret Smith, which means Shuransa could be sister of Elijah, not daughter, and thereby sister to Riley’s brother-in-law, Cornelius, and, as daughter of a Robert Smith, plausibly sister to her sonNewcombe’s Uncle Robert. But this is guesswork: we need facts.

Copyright © 2013 Eric Trudgill