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Treasures of the Past

Anne-Marie Ford    -    7 July 2013

When Mary Elizabeth Boswell married Fiore Cesario, a street musician, in 1906 atSt Paul’s Church, Dane Bridge, Cheshire, she was 26 years old, and her marriage to a 34 year old Italian immigrant, a widower, may have seemed an adventurous step. However, it is her ancestors who prove even more fascinating and unconventional. The marriage certificate shows that Fiore Cesario was the son of CaitanioCesario, deceased, formerly a wheelwright (this forename is almost certainly a rendering of the Italian ‘Gaetano’), and that Mary Elizabeth’s father was Nathaniel Boswell, a cutler (a member of a significant Romany tribe and sometime horse-dealer).

Italian immigration to American and Britain was not at all unusual; the rural population had suffered from considerable economic hardship in Italy and so, especially during the nineteenth century, many chose to leave their homeland and venture abroad in search of a better life. Why Fiore Cesario should choose the location he did is perhaps best explained by the Italian community already to be found in Cheshire and Lancashire; to know some of the people you were joining, particularly if they were relatives, could only be a positive step. Maybe there were already members of his family there, since the 1891 census records a widow, FaneyCesario, at Preston in Lancashire, in the next county.

Equally interesting is the name of a witness at the wedding of Mary Elizabeth to Fiore Cesario, that of Guiseppe Mancini. Surely it is the same Guiseppe Mancini who can be found in the 1901 census at Manchester in Lancashire, and recorded as a melodeon player and street musician, the same profession as Fiore Cesario. Claiming birth in 1882 in Italy, Guiseppe is the son of Angelo, an ice cream vendor, and his wife, Madelena, and is living with siblings Angelo, aged about 16, and Antonio, aged around 11 who, unlike his brothers, claimed birth in Manchester, so it seems the Mancinis had emigrated between 1885 and 1890. There are other Italians in these lodgings, listed as organ grinders: Luisi Valerio, with his wife, Maria, and son, Pietro;MazitaoSanuzio;Elanterio Rea;Giateno Cuneo.

By 1911 Guiseppe, like Fiore Cesario, is in Cheshire and can be found with his wife in the district of Stockport, where he is recorded as an oilcloth hawker. In the registration district of Warrington, in the March quarter of 1903 Joseph (the English form of Guiseppe) Mancini had married Maria Smith Woods. This may indicate that Guiseppe Mancini and Fiore Cesario had more in common than their nationalities and occupations as musicians; it is possible that they both married into Gypsy families, since Maria, too, is a hawker of oilcloth, an occupation frequently adopted by Gypsies. Maria and Guiseppe have four children at the time of the census, Guiseppe, aged about seven, Madalena, approximately five years of age (named for Guiseppe’s mother), Angelo, aged about three, named after Guiseppe’s father and Adalina, aged 11 months. In addition, Guiseppe’s brother, Antonio, is lodging with them.

Like so many of these Italian born immigrants, Cheshire was to become home for the remainder of Fiore’s life, and his marriage and numerous children can be found in the records of Northwich, Cheshire, where he was eventually buried, aged 73, in the March quarter of 1942. The family Fiore married into, the Boswells,belonged to a distinguished Romany Gypsy bloodline; Mary Elizabeth’s father, Nathaniel, was the last known child of Phoenix and Trinity Boswell, for whom the counties of Cheshire, Nottinghamshire, Staffordshire and Yorkshire were favoured territory (although Nathaniel also travelled regularly to Ireland, presumably owing to his profession as a horse-dealer, for Ireland boasted then, as now, fine examples of horseflesh).

The known children of Phoenix and Trinity were: Israel, baptised at Longford, Derbyshire in 1827, and named for Phoenix’s father; Emmanuel, baptised and buried in Clarborough, Nottinghamshire in 1830, the son of Felix (sic) and Trinity; Phoenix, baptised Newark, Nottinghamshire in 1831, the son of Phoenix and Traynet; Cornelius, baptised in Brayton, Yorkshire in 1834, son of Felix and Trinity; Meshach, born in Wolverhampton, Staffordshire around 1837; Elizabeth, born Shipley, Yorkshire about 1839; Pheasant, born Sheffield, Yorkshire about two years later; Mordecai, baptised at Bunbury, Cheshire in 1843, the son of Felix and Trinity; Jane, born Sheffield, Yorkshire on 15th April 1850, daughter of Phoenix and Trinity (formerly Swales), who married John Poole in 1866.

Nathaniel’s father, Phoenix, was baptised in Headon, Nottinghamshire in 1805, the son of Israel and SiberaniaBoswell, and Nathaniel’s mother, Trinity, born allegedly in Beverley, Yorkshire about 1809, was the daughter of Absalom Boswell and Mary Swales, who married in Sheffield St. Peter the same year, where one of the witnesses was Zachariah Boswell, Absalom’s brother. Trinity was also the name of one of Absalom’s sisters, who married a George Boiling, whilst Zachariah wed George’s sister, Sarah. Unions between siblings from the same families were not at all unusual in the Gypsy tribes. Mary Swales was Absalom’s second wife, his first being her sister, Ann Swales. It was also common amongst the Gypsy fraternity to marry a sister or brother of your deceased spouse; in an insular community, where continuation of the family line was supremely valued, close tribal connections were important, and it is not difficult to see why.

Who Nathaniel Boswell’s partner was is not known, but he can be found in the 1891 census with his daughter, Mary Elizabeth, at a boarding house at Chestergate, Stockport, Cheshire, where he is described as a tinplate worker. It is clear, too, that Mary Elizabeth maintained her links with her father’s family following her marriage. The 1911 census finds her at Poole Court, Northwich, with her husband, three sons and her widowed aunt Jane, Nathaniel’s sister. Jane had married her first husband at the age of just 16 on 26th March 1866 at Barnton in Cheshire, the daughter of Felix Boswell. However, by the 1911 census she appears to have been widowed and remarried and widowed once more, as she was using the surname of Clare in this census. Yet, Jane had remarried, presumably for the third time, in the registration district of Northwich in the December quarter of 1905, over five years before the 1911 census,where she is recorded as Jane Poole, alias Jane Clare, yetshe chooses to use the name of Clare in the subsequent census, rather than her new husband’s.Northwich was, of course, not only the location settled by the Cesario family; it was also a significant spot for the Boswells, and Jane’s father, Mary Elizabeth’s grandfather, Phoenix, had been buried in the registration district of Northwich in the September quarter of 1868, “aged 62.”

The children named in the 1911 census, in which, incidentally, Fiore Cesario’s name has been translated into Flower Treasure, are a son, born about 1907, and named Fiore, after his father, but also recorded as ‘Flower,’ the English translation of Fiore. The ‘North Anne’ on the census is actually Nathaniel, born about 1908 and named after Mary Elizabeth’s father. There is also a two-year-old, recorded as Rylane, but actually bearing a name closer to Kaythan, a rendering of his grandfather’s name, Gaetano. By 1912 a daughter, Rose, has been added to the growing family.

Of the street musician little is known, although his descendants remember that he had a barrel organ and a monkey! The name of Treasure became the one which the family used, and Fiore’s death is recorded under both Treasure and Cesario. But hidden even more deeply than their ancestral links with Italy was, for the Treasures, that of belonging to such an important and distinguished Romany family, a tribe who were a significant preoccupation for the learned Gypsiologists of the day, who strove to study their language, customs and traditions, even as they were disappearing.

It is clear that, having married a gorjer, Mary Elizabeth settled, as many of her tribe were to do during the first half of the nineteenth century, as society itself changed. A photograph taken of Fiore and Mary Elizabeth and their family follows this story, kindly provided by Rosemary Treasure. They are in the backyard of New Street, in Northwich, with their sons and a daughter, Rose. Like many people of the period, several of their young children died, but the name of Treasure, with all its fascinating antecedents, continued to be carried through the generations of the survivors of this couple.

Copyright © 2013 Anne-Marie Ford