Posts Tagged ‘research problems’

I am arguably fortunate in having had many of my colonial New England families studied by scholars, sometimes genealogical scholars, sometimes scholars in other fields, sometimes both. Probably the biggest possible down side of this is that well-respected scholars tend to be taken at face value by many genealogists, probably on the belief that since they are well-respected scholars, they are thorough in every aspect of their research. Donald Lines Jacobus, one of the early to mid-20th century leaders in turning American genealogical research from generally consisting of hearsay, family traditions, and fabricated noble/royal lines into a scholarly discipline, researched and published on a number of my colonial New England lines and we are related through at least one ancestral line, the Lymans. Hale, House, and Related Families, Mainly of the Connecticut River Valley by Jacobus and Edgar Francis Waterman (originally published in 1952, a 1978 reprint is available online at HathiTrust) includes a number of my families, and I use it as a reference for sources.

When I was working back on tracing the Pynchons and allied families, I used Jacobus and Waterman’s sources as a starting point. I was able to confirm much of their information via their referenced sources. And then I came to a supposed ancestor named Jane Empson, whom they list as the daughter of Richard Empson, and state that this father named Richard Empson served in the government of English King Henry VII and was one of the two people executed by King Henry VIII right after he ascended to the throne. I was able to confirm their sources on Jane’s adult life. They had stated that widowed Jane Pynchon had married Thomas Wilson and that again-widowed Jane Wilson had left a will that had been proved at the Prerogative Court of Canterbury (PCC). I located her 1576 marriage to Thomas in Terling, Essex, in which she was listed as a widow, and her 1587 PCC will, which listed both her late husband Thomas Wilson and her Pynchon children by her first (known) husband John Pynchon, neatly tying together her adult life. So far this is the earliest extant will I have found that was written by a woman in my own tree. The Pynchon sons listed in her will that she made as Jane Wilson match the sons listed in her previous husband John Pynchon’s 1573 PCC will. Curiously, according to the Terling register, Jane and Thomas married after dispensation by the Bishop of London; so far, I haven’t sorted out what was going on there. (Also curiously, though Jacobus and Waterman reference the dispensation, they seem blasé about it.)

The 1582 PCC will that Jacobus and Waterman ascribe to Jane’s final husband Thomas Wilson, which does indeed seem to me to be the correct will, doesn’t mention Jane at all, and to me seems like it was partially intended to continue his good connections after his death, as his first bequest was to “my goode and loving friende Sir Ffranncis Walsingham, knighte,” who was one of Queen Elizabeth’s major advisors, and his second and third bequest recipients were his brother-in-law (who was another knight) and an esquire. After that, Thomas made bequests to his children. Once I got to the part in his will that specified that he had living biological children (a fact not mentioned in the book) I understood why his will seemed aimed to continue his good connections after he died. Connections like Francis Walsingham were extremely good ones for his children to have.

Jacobus and Waterman say that Jane’s absence from the will was “presumably because she had been provided for in a prenuptual contract,” but as the “presumably” indicates, they provide no source to back this up. Jane’s previous husband John Pynchon had willed her all of his property in County Essex for “her natural life,” and none of the conditions placed on the bequest included that she remain a widow. Whether her next husband would consider this enough for his widow, I cannot say for sure, but I think it is also a plausible scenario. Thomas did not mention any properties in Essex in his will, so it seems that even if the property Jane inherited should have technically legally been his after marriage, rights to it may have been retained by Jane, whether by a marriage settlement (to oversimplify, a 1500’s version of a prenuptual contract) or some other way. In Jane’s own will, she bequeathed the aforementioned Essex properties to her eldest son William, and rights to a dwelling-house in Thomas’s beloved London to her youngest son Edward. (Her middle son, John, was bequeathed money.) All of this was after their father had already bequeathed directly to them as well as to Jane.

But after researching Jane’s adult life, there was still the problem of Jane’s origins. Jacobus and Waterman referred to Jane as one of her alleged father Richard Empson’s heirs (more precisely, as a “coheir”), so I figured they had estate papers to back up their claim of parentage. But then I started researching the life of Richard Empson – not particularly difficult to do since he was a major figure in England’s government – and realized that the math didn’t add up. Richard’s execution was before it was particularly plausible that Jane was born given the documentation I did have, and Jane was not listed as one of his heirs in anything I reviewed. While it had been possible that she could have been an heir as, say, a grandchild or cousin, if she wasn’t listed as an heir at all and that was listed as the proof that she was his daughter, then what to do next? I have had this issue before, including with some much more recent scholarly genealogical publications, so my next strategy was two-fold – try to see if Jane even was an Empson by birth (whomever her parents were), and try to find the real source of this statement.

Unfortunately trying to find Jane’s origins is not an easy slog in surviving records of 16th century England. She could have married or been baptized in any of a number of parishes in a variety of counties, and could have even been married by license, which would have been separate from parish records. Additionally, only some parishes have extant registers from this period, so even a thorough search would not necessarily be able to conclusively prove that Jane was not an Empson unless a record were found that definitively showed her maiden name as something else, as there would be a good possibility that the relevant records don’t exist any more. So far I haven’t found a record of her marriage to John Pynchon. Without knowing her maiden name for sure, I don’t really see a point in trying to find her baptism record at this point, since even if I found a Jane Empson baptized in a time period that fit, that wouldn’t necessarily mean she was the person who married “my” John Pynchon.

Finding the origin of a questionable statement is almost always an interesting challenge to me. I located a number of 19th century authors that claimed Jane was the daughter and heir of the Richard Empson who was beheaded by King Henry VIII, which may be where Jacobus and Waterman found it and accepted it as fact (since they don’t share a source, I don’t know for sure). I eventually found an author who attributed the claim, listing Morant’s book on Essex as their source. It didn’t take much searching to find Morant’s wonderfully-lengthily-titled The history and topography of the county of Essex, comprising its ancient and modern history. A general view of its physical character, productions, agricultural condition, statistics &c. &c (1831) nor to discover that it is now online. For some reason searching the text for “Pinchon” does not turn up any hits even though there are multiple mentions of the surname, so I went through the “Writtle” mentions until I found the statement in question. Morant seems to have been a very enthusiastic local historian, but once I saw the Empson comment in context I realized that his genealogical work is, shall we say, not up to the par of the 1800’s, much less today. Quoted in part below, it is riddled with errors:

Nicholas Pinchon, of Wales, was one of the Sheriffs of London in 1532; he left John Pinchon, Esq., of Writtle, who married Jane, daughter of Richard Empson, (beheaded in 1509,) one of the hated ministers of King Henry the Seventh. This Nicholas died in 1573, and, with his wife, was buried in the north aisle of the church; his sons, were William, John of Springfield, and Edward, who was knighted. He had also two daughters; Elizabeth, wife of Geofrey Gates, of St. Edmunds; and Jane, the wife of Andrew Paschal, of Springfield. William Pinchon, Esq., of Writtle, married Rose, daughter of Thomas Redding, Esq., of Pinner, in Middlesex, by whom he had six sons and three daughters; of these, Joan was married to Sir Richard Weston, of Skreens, in Roxwell, chancellor of the exchequer, made baron of Stoke-Neyland, and earl of Portland. . . . (p. 171)

It is difficult to say where Morant got any of his information, since the only thing that seems to clearly be from a specific source is the information on where certain family members are buried in the church in Writtle (most likely from a church visit, but who can say definitively?). What I can say for sure is that the Nicholas Pynchon who was a sheriff in London in 1532 appears to have been from Writtle, and his PCC will names four sons, not three – Edward, William, Robert, and John – as well as his wife Agnes and a cousin John Pinchon of Writtle. Note that Morant has either latched onto the wrong Nicholas or made a serious typo with the death date, as the Nicholas who was sheriff left a will proved in 1533, a far cry from Morant’s claim of a 1573 death. As to saying Nicholas Pinchon was “of Wales,” I honestly have no idea so far as to where he got that, and I was able to find some later writers who had been equally baffled by Morant’s “of Wales” reference. (My only idea so far is that perhaps he badly misread a handwritten mention of “Writtle.”) The William Pinchon that Morant lists as Nicholas Pinchon’s son was really Jane and John’s son.

More digging on my part resulted in my locating what I believe was the likely origin of Morant’s information on the Pinchons, the 1612 Visitation of Essex, which was published by the Harleian Society and is now available online. The Pinchon pedigree in the Visitation states that John Pinchon’s wife was “Jayne daugh. and heire to Sr Richard Empsone Kt. She after mar. to Secretary Wilsone.” (there should be a few superscript letters in that quote). Note that the Visitation was in 1612, over a century after the Richard Empson who served Henry VII was beheaded. Note also that the pedigree does not state that her father was the same Richard Empson who was beheaded; if the pedigree is correct (and there’s no guarantee that it is), could she be the daughter of another Richard Empson? There are some errors in Morant that aren’t in the Visitation, so my educated guess is that the information had probably made at least a couple of hops on its way to Morant, like the game we called “Telephone” when I was a child, where you would whisper something to the person next to you, who would whisper it to the person on their other side, and so on, until what eventually came back to you was a garbled – or sometimes completely different – version of what you said.

In addition to my trawling through records long-distance, folks have gone to various archives in England to look through specific records for me, and it has proved fruitful. So far the clearest evidence that there was a connection between the Pynchon and Empson families is through heraldry. A manuscript identifies Jane’s son and daughter-in-law William and Rose (Redding) Pynchon as having had a shield design that was half Pynchon, one-quarter Empson or Epsom, and one-quarter Orchard. While this certainly doesn’t definitively show Jane as an Empson/Epsom by birth, it indicates there was some connection between the families. The manuscript is similar to the description of the shield design in the 1612 Visitation of Essex, though it appears that by the time of the 1612 Visitation whomever held the rights to it had added a symbol of an additional surname to the shield, that of a Weston family.

Whomever Jane was by birth, she seems to have been a shrewd and savvy 16th century Englishwoman. She married a man who was either wealthy to start or became wealthy over the course of his life, and in his will she was given the rights to property with no condition that she remain a widow. After at least three years operating her late husband’s property as a widow, she chose her next husband extremely well; the year after Jane and Thomas married, he was appointed joint Secretary of State, serving alongside his friend Francis Walsingham after another of his friends (and Walsingham’s prior co-secretary), Thomas Smith, died. Then, again a widow, Jane made a will that gave her sons additional benefits beyond those they had already gotten through their late father. For a woman of her time and place, marrying well and leaving children that were living, and living comfortably at that, when she died was about the best that she could hope to do with her life.

I was going to make this another two-person 52 Ancestors post, but this post is already pretty long and involved, and Thomas Wilson’s story is also long and intricate, so I’ll devote a future post to him.

For me, history is not something static – it is a constant flow in which those of us alive are participating now. Two hyacinths and a tulip that were introduced while Elizabeth I was queen of England are blooming in my garden now. While Thomas and Jane had died before the tulip’s 1595 introduction in the Netherlands, many of their children and grandchildren were still alive and may have walked past it, seen a painting that included it, or even grown it in their gardens. Additionally, it was one of the parent tulips for many of the tulips that came shortly after it. Every time I walk past that little tulip blooming in my urban garden, I think of how much history is stored in that bulb, how much has changed in the world since then, and how few cities there even were in the world in 1595. Could Jane have even imagined that one of her grandchildren would be one of the major early colonizers of what would become known as New England, or envisioned that the actions of her grandson and his fellow Massachusetts Bay Colony leaders would reverberate down the centuries and drastically change the world? Just before she died in 1587, did she think England’s efforts in colonizing distant locales would go anywhere at all?

Tulip Duc van Tol Red and Yellow

1595’s tulip ‘Duc van Tol Red and Yellow’ blooming in the author’s urban American garden this week. (Photo by the author.)

Pink Roman hyacinth

The pink-colored Roman hyacinth is known to have been in gardens starting in 1573, the year Jane’s late husband John Pynchon’s will was proved; it is blooming in the author’s urban US garden this week. (Photo by the author.)


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If you haven’t already, please first read “Connecting the dots: Charles Evans (Part 1).”

Did Charles Evans have two families?

Charles Evans seemingly disappeared from England after the 1851 census and seemingly reappeared in England on the 1871 census, newly with a wife named Catherine and a son named William. In 1871 William was reportedly age 8 & born in Scotland. Since searches of the 1861 England & Wales census had gone nowhere, a search was conducted of the 1861 Scotland census. Evans may be a very common surname in Wales and a relatively common one in England, but it is an uncommon surname in Scotland, and there were very few Charles Evanses of any age listed in the index to the 1861 Scotland census.

A Charles Evans in Scotland

A Charles Evans was located in the district ScotlandsPeople calls “Shipping” and I used some of my credits to purchase the scan of the census page. Rather unusually for Scotland censuses of the time period, Charles Evans’s exact birth place in England is listed – “Devon Hartland.” Charles Evans is listed as married, age 32, and an “A.B.” (which stands for Able-Bodied Seaman). The enumeration page doesn’t list any details at all at the top, but thanks to a tip from Kirsty of The Professional Descendant, a search for the citation on Ancestry yielded an enumeration district of “Hogue” in Greenock, Renfrewshire. I developed the theory that the enumeration district was the name of a ship. It took much less time than I expected to discover that a ship named H.M.S. Hogue was serving as a Coast Guard ship out of Greenock at the time, according to this site. This is the only Charles Evans who was indexed as being within 2 years of “my” Charles’s estimated age; the next closest one was listed as 5 years younger than “my” Charles.

A search for births of children named William Evans in Scotland similarly yielded a small number in the entire country. One of them was indexed as having been born in Greenock, Renfrewshire, in 1862, and I used some of my ScotlandsPeople credits to purchase the record, which turned out to be a wise purchase. The birth record for William John Evans listed his father as Charles Evans who was serving on the Hogue, but any hopes of discovering Catherine’s maiden name and confirming this was the same family were shattered. Rather, William’s mother was listed with the maiden name of Susan Stokes. Scottish birth records handily also list a marriage place and date, and Charles, who reported the birth, listed their marriage date as 23 December 1859 and the place as “South M__ Middlesex,” the __ being difficult to read on the scan. William John Evans’s exact birth date was listed as 1 September 1862 at 3 a.m.

A search of “Scotland, Births and Baptisms, 1564-1950” on FamilySearch did not turn up any further births of an Evans child to a Stokes mother in Scotland. This index-only database allows for searching by the maiden name of the mother in the mid- to late 1800’s, which ScotlandsPeople’s site does not.

A Charles Evans in Middlesex

Using the information from William’s birth record, a banns record was located for Charles Evans and Susannah (not Susan) Stokes in the London Metropolitan Archives records that have been scanned onto Ancestry, their banns taking place in January 1860 at St. Giles in South Mimms, Middlesex. They subsequently married at St. Giles in South Mimms on 23 March 1860, exactly three months after the marriage date that Charles listed on William’s birth record. This initially puzzled me, as William wasn’t born until over 2 years later, so why lie?

A possible answer was quickly discovered. On the 1861 census, Susannah was not in Scotland but in the parish of South Mimms, living with her brother Andrew Stokes’s family and with a 1-year-old child named Charles Evans. Susannah’s age was listed as 36. Susannah had no occupation listed, not even a reference to her husband’s occupation, though the latter was included on English censuses for many other women who had husbands working away from home and no paid job of their own. Susannah and Andrew’s widowed mother Ann Stokes was living next door with John and William Stokes, sons who reportedly had never married.

Younger Charles Evans’s baptism record, at Christ Church in Barnet, lists his name as Charles Evens Evans (that’s not a typo) and his parents as Charles and Susannah Evans; the baptism occurred on 29 April 1860, a day that two other baptisms also occurred at the church. FreeBMD has an index of the birth of a Charles Evans Evans (also not a typo) in the 1st Quarter of 1860 in Barnet Registration District, which includes both Barnet and South Mimms; the certificate has not been reviewed.

It seems that perhaps marrying a bit longer before the birth of his apparent first child (or possibly “before at all”) was more acceptable to the elder Charles, though apparently only enough to lie about it to others, not to do it. It is particularly interesting to note that the banns took place two months before the marriage. A fellow researcher believes that some men wanted to wait to see whether their pregnant and betrothed girlfriend was very likely to carry the fetus to term as a living infant before going through with the marriage. It seems that the Charles Evans/Susannah Stokes marriage could be used as an example of that researcher’s theory, regardless of whether that is a correct interpretation of Charles’s behavior.

“You’re the best he’s had, you’re the best so far

All the way to the church from the back of a car.”

The Beautiful South

Susannah on Her Own

In 1871 Susannah, age 37, listed as married and still listed with the surname “Evans,” was living with her widowed mother Ann Stokes, age 76, and (only) a third child, Sarah Ann Evans, age 4, in South Mimms at a “Brewers Company Almshouse,” of which Ann is described as an “Inmate.” This almshouse seems to have been exclusively for widows, as everyone listed as an inmate of it in 1871 was also listed as a widow. By this point Susannah is listed with a paid job as a dressmaker. It took little time to determine that by “Brewers Company,” the enumerator meant the Brewers’ Livery Company of the City of London, which had run almshouses at South Mimms since 1686. Ann Stokes’s exact connection to the Brewers’ Livery Company is unknown so far.

Sarah Ann’s baptism was not until 11 September 1876, but the baptism record lists a birth date of 13 March 1867, consistent with Sarah Ann’s 1871 census enumeration. Listed as Sarah Anne Evans on the baptism record, her parents are listed as Charles and Susannah Evans, but it is the only baptism in the surrounding 4 pages of 1876-1877 baptisms at St. Giles where the father’s profession is left blank. There was no space provided for listing the mother’s profession.

Had Susannah and her husband Charles split up by this point? Was Susannah supporting herself and her daughter on her own? Was Charles’s profession blank on Sarah Ann’s baptism because Susannah now did not know for sure what it was?

Is this Charles the same Charles Evans who in 1871 was reportedly married to Catherine Evans and was living with a William Evans who was described as a son, 8 years old, and born in Scotland? The William John Evans who was born in Greenock in September 1862 would have been 8 years old when the census was taken in April 1871. But just because it could be the same William, that doesn’t necessarily mean it is. In 1871 this Evans family was living in Mile End Old Town; while it was near the other end of Middlesex from South Mimms, it was within the same county.

No matching Charles Evans has been found on the 1871 Scotland census.

More Questions Than Answers

So far, the 1876 baptism record of Sarah Ann Evans is the most recent record located that lists Susannah (Stokes) Evans. It is possible that Susannah shortly remarried or died. A search by birth place of the 1881-1901 censuses on FindMyPast did not reveal any Susanna(h)/Susan Evans who reported her birth place as South Mimms (or variant spellings) nor Potters Bar (the parish next to South Mimms, Potters Bar had been part of the parish of South Mimms when Susannah was born and was where Susannah generally stated on censuses that she had been born). The search did locate a few women named Susanna(h)/Susan who were living in various places around the UK and were married to other men. While almost all of the households had children who were born before Susannah would have remarried, without having done further research tracking the other families back in time, I must keep in mind that it is possible that they were the wife’s stepchildren.

There is no definitive indication of what happened to Susannah and Charles’s first child, Charles, after his 1861 enumeration, though he may be the Charles Evans who is indexed as having died in South Mimms’s registration district, Barnet, in the 1st Quarter of 1864; the certificate has not been reviewed. A burial record was found in the St. John the Baptist in Potters Bar burial records for a Charles Evans who died at age 4 and was buried on 27 Mar 1864; while this is consistent with what is known so far about Charles Evans Evans, nothing in the record clearly identifies this Charles as Charles Evans Evans. This is the only Evans burial that matches this family in the digitized burial records from St. John the Baptist in Potters Bar and from St. Giles in South Mimms.

While a separate parish named Potters Bar was created in 1835, St. John the Baptist was a part of South Mimms parish even though it was called St. John the Baptist at Potters Bar. Similarly, the Stokes family seems to have lived in the section of Potters Bar that remained part of South Mimms parish when Potters Bar parish was spun off, as the family’s records usually refer to the children as born in Potters Bar, the 1841 census says they are living in Potters Bar in South Mimms parish, and the family primarily used St. John the Baptist after it was opened in 1835 as the second church in South Mimms parish. This map shows South Mimms parish in 1842, when Susannah would have been about 9 years old, and includes part of Potters Bar near the upper right edge of South Mimms. The railway came to the area in 1850, with a station opening at Potters Bar/South Mimms, and apparently drastically changed the area. There is more on the Potters Bar and South Mimms area at Potters Bar History Online, where I found the linked map and station photo.

To date there is also no indication of what happened to Sarah Ann Evans after her 1876 baptism. An initial census search for a Sarah Ann Evans or Sarah Evans who was born in South Mimms or Potters Bar did not return any good hits past the 1871 census. This isn’t conclusive that she died; for example, if Susannah (Stokes) Evans remarried, Sarah Ann could be enumerated under her stepfather’s surname. There are also no indexed deaths of a Sarah Evans or Sarah Ann(e) Evans dying in Barnet Registration District between 3rd Quarter 1876 and 2nd Quarter 1881, though this could just mean she wasn’t properly indexed (misindexed or not indexed at all) or that she died elsewhere.

Leads on Charles Evans

The records tell more than what I have revealed so far.

The 1860 records indicate that the Charles Evans who married Susannah Stokes and had a child Charles Evans Evans with her was living in South Mimms at the Militia Barracks there, working as a “Sarjeant Middlesex Rifles” (marriage record)/”Staff Sergeant of Militia” (baptism record). South Mimms was in the corner of Middlesex on the Middlesex/Hertfortshire border and was already occasionally listed on records as being in Hertfordshire, which it would later officially become. The younger Charles’s baptism record says that the family was living on New Road in Barnet at the time of the baptism, but since this was only about a month after the marriage record that listed both adults as living in South Mimms, it is unclear whether this is correct. It is possible that the family had the child baptized in a different church than where they were married so that they would be interacting with a Curate that didn’t know they had married around the time of their child’s birth, and consequently they may have deliberately lied about their residence.

Unfortunately the banns and marriage records only list Charles and Susannah as of full age. However, the marriage record, which correctly (based primarily on censuses so far) lists Susannah Stokes’s father as Andrew Stokes, Wheelwright, lists Charles Evans’s father as John Evans, Pensioner. This fits with the large amount of known information on “my” Charles’s father, but since John Evans is such a common name overall in the UK, it could simply be a coincidence. To date, the only record that definitively ties Charles and Susannah together and lists an age for Charles is the 1861 Scotland census, which lists his age as 32. This age is most consistent with the stated age of the Charles Evans who was discharged from the Army in (probably) September 1850 at a stated age of 22. This does not necessarily mean that it is the same Charles Evans, nor that it rules out the possibility of a deliberately or mistakenly given incorrect age on any record. If it is the same Charles Evans who enlisted in the Army, it could even be that the military already had an incorrect age from his previous service and simply continued using it.

A Search for Military Records

A search of digitized militia records has so far not revealed a Charles Evans serving in that area at that time, although the search is ongoing, as a thorough review of the files necessitates going through each one page-by-page to confirm that the indexing is accurate and the file holds no additional information that might confirm or discount that it is the correct Charles Evans. Based on Charles Evans showing up on the 1861 census serving in the Coast Guard, he appears to have transferred to the Coast Guard before the 1861 Army Census, but I searched the Army Census as well to be thorough, and did not find any matching Charles Evanses.

In My Ancestor Was in the British Army, Watts and Watts help explain why I have had so little success so far, such as: “It must be noted, however, that much material relating to the militia was never collected centrally and should be sought in County Record Offices and private collections.” According to them, so far no full book has been published on militia records, though they believe the subject deserves one. Through reading on the National Archives site and other websites I grasped that: 1) the militia consisted of volunteers by the time that Charles Evans the Sergeant or Staff Sergeant was serving in it; 2) the militia was generally a part-time job; 3) the militia group known from 1794-1813 as “the Volunteers” was, to quote the National Archives site, “revived as the Rifle Volunteers in 1859.” This fits perfectly with Charles Evans being listed as in the Middlesex Rifles in 1860. If the two Charles Evanses are one, the typical part-time nature of the work could help explain how Charles would have had the time to pick up the trade of tailoring.

While Coast Guard files are digitized as part of the Royal Navy files on the National Archives site, when I didn’t find any matching Charles Evanses nor any matching people from Hartland in the indexed files, I reviewed the section on possible reasons why the person one is seeking may not be indexed even if they did serve in the Royal Navy, and determined that people who were serving as early as Charles seem to only be included in the digitized but unindexed register, not the indexed files. I downloaded the Coast Guard register, but it is 202 pages of handwritten lists of names that aren’t indexed and aren’t listed chronologically by enlistment date nor alphabetically by name, so searching it has been extremely slow going. The only relevant things I have managed to determine so far are that people from the time period Charles enlisted and people who enlisted directly onto the HMS Hogue are both included in the register. Unfortunately the register only lists the name of the first ship onto which the person enlisted, so if Charles initially enlisted onto a different ship, scanning for the word Hogue wouldn’t help locate him. So far I have failed to find him in it. If I do locate him, it would give me the number through which his Coast Guard file could be located.

How Many Charles Evans from Hartland Are There?

So far it seems reasonably clear that a single Charles Evans reportedly was in the militia in Middlesex (apparently in the one known as the Middlesex Rifles, though googling that gets one, um, interesting results) and married Susannah Stokes in South Mimms and had at least two children – Charles Evans Evans and William John Evans – and probably a third, Sarah Ann Evans. Because of William John Evans’s birth record, it also seems reasonably clear that this same Charles Evans transferred from the militia in Middlesex to the Coast Guard and was stationed up in Greenock, Renfrewshire, Scotland, by April 1861, and that Susannah went up to Greenock to give birth in 1862. Something happened to Charles Evans Evans between 1861 and 1871, but while it was most likely death, that is not clear. William John Evans was not enumerated as living with Susannah (Stokes) Evans in 1871, but whether he had died or was living elsewhere, perhaps with his father, is also unclear.

Susannah was listed as married in 1871 but also still as an “Evans,” suggesting that she was still married to Charles Evans and likely at a minimum believed her husband was still alive, but whether he really was alive and where he was, if so, is not clear from the census. There is a Susannah Evans indexed in Barnet Registration District as dying in the 2nd Quarter of 1877 at age 43, which is consistent with what is known to date about Susannah (Stokes) Evans, though the certificate has not been reviewed. This is the only indexed death for a Susanna(h) Evans at any time in Barnet Registration District, although Susannah (Stokes) Evans could have remarried and/or could have died in another registration district.

As mentioned, William John Evans could be the William Evans living with Charles and Catherine Evans in Mile End Old Town in 1871, but that is not clear. There is a William Evans, 18, b. Scotland, living in Hertfordshire on the 1881 census (when William Evans is not living with Charles and Catherine); he is boarding with a family and listed as being in the Militia. So far no militia record has been located for a William Evans that even roughly matches the census information, so it is unclear whether this 1881 William Evans has any relationship to any of these other Evanses. To date no marriage record has been located for Charles and Catherine (___) Evans in England & Wales or in Scotland. While at this point it seems possible that they did not officially marry, that is far from definitive. Even if they did not officially marry, that does not necessarily mean that “Charles Evans the common-law husband of Catherine ___ and apparent father of William Evans” is the same person as “Charles Evans the husband of Susannah Stokes and father of Charles Evans Evans, William John Evans, and probably Sarah Ann Evans.”

And one overarching question lingers: If this isn’t the same Charles Evans, then where was “my” Charles Evans from 1851 to 1871?

“Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”

[genealogical saying]

Major Additional Steps Taken So Far

  1. Contacted someone researching the Stokes family and Susannah’s Charles (no response yet)
  2. Searched digitized newspapers without success
  3. Traced some, but not all, of the Stokes family members looking for further clues to Susannah and Charles and their children, since Susannah and (at least some of) the children seem to have spent most of their time living with her biological family rather than with her husband

Planned Next Steps

  1. Continue searching for/through military records from afar
  2. Order more certificates from England
  3. Continue tracing Stokes family members looking for clues to what happened to the Evans family
  4. Attempt to determine connection to unidentified marriage witness (one witness was Hannah Stokes, probably Susannah’s brother Andrew’s wife; the connection, if any, of the other witness to the couple is unknown)



Due to a small but significant editing error on my part, when I initially published “Connecting the dots: Charles Evans (Part 1),” one bullet point was missing a “not.” While I corrected my error in my post when I realized it, I am also noting it here for anyone who may have read that post before the correction. The bullet point should have read, “In these census searches it was also noted that there did not appear to be any other Charles Evanses living in England & Wales who reported a similar age and a birth place of Hartland” (with emphasis on the “not” added here for clarity).

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A child, likely an infant, named Charles Evans was baptized in the parish church in Hartland, Devon, England, on 15 October 1826, his parents listed as John and Ann Evans. What happened to Charles?

Here are some possibilities:

  1. In 1845 a Charles Evans, who reported his birthplace as Hartland and his age as 16 years and 10 months, enlisted in the Army in Monmouthshire. He was discharged in 1850 due to health issues. His file is now in the Chelsea pensioners record set.
  2. In 1851 a Charles Evans, age 24, “Chelsea pensioner & Keeps a Night School,” is living with John K. Evans, Ann Evans, and Grenville Wakely in Hartland, Devon, England. Everyone in the household was reportedly born in Hartland.
  3. In 1871 a Charles and Catherine Evans, listed as a married couple, are living with William Evans, age 8, in Mile End Old Town, London. Charles is listed as age 44 and a “Military Tailor,” and Catherine as age 54 and with no occupation listed. William’s relationship to head-of-household is described as “Son.” Charles is listed as b. Hartland, Catherine as b. Bideford, Devon, England, and William as b. Scotland.
  4. In 1881 a Charles and Catherine Evans, listed as a married couple, are living in Islington, London. There is no son William but there is a boarder, Henry Ratcliffe. Charles is listed as age 54, born Hartland, and Catherine probably as age 64 (a mark over her age makes it difficult to read), born Bideford. Charles is listed as a “Tailor” and Catherine has no occupation listed.
  5. In 1891 a Charles and Catherine Evans, listed as a married couple, are living at 1A Geneva Place in Bideford, Devon. Charles is listed as age 64, b. Hartland, “Tailor,” and Catherine as age 76, b. Bideford, no occupation listed. They have two lodgers, George Cheveroll(?) and Catherine Hobbs.
  6. According to the FreeBMD index, a Charles Evans died in Bideford Registration District in the 1st Quarter of 1896 at age 69, and a Catherine Evans died in Bideford Registration District in the 2nd Quarter of 1899 at age 80.

Some things to keep in mind about summarizing research as in the list above are that it makes research seem fast and easy, leaves out the reasoning behind each step, and in this list, also leaves out negative results, which are key to keep in mind when doing research. So before going any further in the search for Charles Evans, let me explain some of the research steps I took to compile the above list and some of the reasoning behind those steps.

  • Charles Evans, son of John and Ann Evans, was not listed as living with them in 1841 yet had returned to living with them in 1851. What happened to Charles to make him absent in 1841? Using the “Chelsea pensioner” reference in 1851 as a clue, I searched the Chelsea pensioner record set and yielded a possible match; the birth place matches but the age is off. The age being off does not necessarily rule him out, as many people lied about their ages or simply did not know their correct age. Unfortunately Charles Evans’s Chelsea pensioner file does not include information on family members as many of those files do, so it doesn’t indicate one way or the other whether this is the same Charles Evans.
  • Charles is indexed on the National Archives catalog as having been discharged in 1850, but the original image in the Chelsea pensioner file says 23 Sep’t 185_ with the “_” probably being a “0” but possibly being a “1,” though if it was 1851, he would have spent 1 1/2 years being treated after leaving for England, as he “Embarked for England 25 January 1850,” according to the file. The surgeon also dated his opinion “Chatham Aug. 20 1850,” which would fit well with being discharged in Chatham about a month later. On the other hand, the final discharge also lists him as age 22, which would only match his stated age at enlistment if he was discharged in 1851, though being discharged at age 22 in 1850 would more closely match “my” Charles’s age than the stated enlistment age of 16 years, 10 months. However, according to the file his original enlistment paper has been transcribed into this file, so it is possible that it has been transcribed incorrectly; it is of course also possible that Charles deliberately or unknowingly gave an incorrect age. Regardless, the probable 1850 discharge of the Chelsea pensioner Charles Evans would have given John and Ann’s Charles time to be back in Hartland by 1851; however, even if the Charles Evans of the file was discharged in 1850, this does not necessarily mean it’s the same Charles as John and Ann’s son.
  • I also searched the National Archives [UK] catalog for anyone in the Chelsea pensioner record set who had the phrase “Hartland, Devonshire” (as the catalog puts it) in their file description. The search did not yield anyone else from an even marginally close time period with the surname Evans nor any variations on the surname. This does not necessarily mean that another Charles Evans of approximately the same age from Hartland is not among the Chelsea pensioner files, just that if he is, he didn’t report his birth place as Hartland, his birth place isn’t in the file, or his birth place and/or name isn’t/aren’t properly transcribed into the catalog. It is also possible that the file has not survived; according to My Ancestor Was in the British Army by Michael J. Watts and Christopher T. Watts, a number of discharge papers, especially for many Chelsea pensioners who were discharged overseas, have been lost. Indeed, a search of some other record sets in the National Archives catalog that were recommended in that book yield a good number of various Evanses (with a variety of given names/initials), including many with catalog descriptions saying that their discharge papers had been lost, but few of them have specific dates or birth places listed in the catalog. (Unfortunately, as I discovered upon contacting the National Archives, their staff will not copy these records for a copy fee even if the researcher provides the exact reference number, as they consider the task of looking them up to be research rather than copying.)
  • The 1845 enlistment date on the file does not explain where Charles would have been in 1841 even if he is the same Charles who has a Chelsea pensioner file. However, the possible enlistment provides a new clue; the Charles who enlisted reported his birth place as Hartland, Devon, yet enlisted in Monmouthshire, Wales, not in Devon. What was he doing in Monmouthshire? Could he have already been there in 1841? Unfortunately it can be difficult to find lone people on the 1841 England & Wales census, since the enumeration does not list exact birth places – only whether or not the person was born in the county in which they were residing, which I have not always found to be accurate – and enumerators were instructed to round off ages above approximately age 15. It can be particularly hard in 1841 to locate a lone person with a common name like Charles Evans. While there are not too many Evanses in North Devon, there are a tremendous number of them in Wales. So far no one has been located that seems very likely to be the Charles Evans who would enlist in 1845 nor the Charles Evans who was born to John and Ann Evans of Hartland.
  • Charles’s brother John and most of John’s family, including John’s adult children, left for Canada in the 1870’s, yet a Charles Evans was listed as a witness on the marriage in Bideford in 1887 of the one niece/nephew that research indicated remained in England. An obituary for one of Charles’s nephews/nieces in Canada also states that there was only one niece/nephew from Charles’s brother John’s line still living in England. Charles’s nephew Charles (presumably named after his uncle) had died in England before John’s family left for Canada – the death certificate confirmed it was the nephew – so the brother Charles could not have been the Charles Evans at the wedding. It is quite possible that the Charles Evans that attended the wedding was Uncle Charles. If this is correct, it means Uncle Charles was still alive in 1887 and was able to make it to Bideford for the wedding.
  • A search of 1861 England & Wales census enumeration transcriptions for a Charles Evans born in Hartland in approximately 1827 (factoring in that his birth date seemed to be later in the year than the census enumerations, causing his birth year to generally be estimated at 1827 in census indexes) yielded no results. A search of 1871 census enumeration transcriptions yielded the result that searching for someone by using a birth place on FindMyPast in 1871 does not work. So I jumped ahead to 1881 and did the same search, finding a Charles and Catherine Evans in Islington, London. Working backwards, I found them in 1871 in metropolitan London as well (Mile End Old Town in Tower Hamlets), this time living with someone described as a son to head-of-household. They were in metropolitan London both times, albeit different districts, and on both enumerations Charles is listed as a tailor. The birth place of reportedly 8-year-old William – Scotland – could explain why the family does not seem to appear on the 1861 England & Wales census – though that is certainly not the only possible explanation.
  • A search forward found Catherine and Charles Evans in Bideford on the 1891 census enumeration. Bideford was where Catherine had reported all along that she was born, so it seemed plausible that they would return to it later in their lives. Later, going over a timeline, I realized that if Charles and Catherine had moved there by 1887 it would make it very easy for them to attend his niece’s wedding in Bideford, or that if they had visited for the wedding perhaps that had sparked a desire to move back.
  • In these census searches it was also noted that there did not appear to be any other Charles Evanses living in England & Wales who reported a similar age and a birth place of Hartland.
  • No one that definitely appeared to be Catherine nor Charles was found on the 1901 census enumeration indexes on multiple sites; searching for them as a couple and separately did not yield any good hits.
  • I searched FreeBMD’s death indexes for Bideford District from Quarter 2 1891 to Quarter 2 1901 for deaths for Charles Evans and Catherine Evans. The searches yielded a good match for Charles’s known information and a possible match for Catherine’s known information. Catherine’s age fluctuated a bit more on censuses than Charles’s did, so the fact that the age was within the known age range for Catherine was taken into account. The theory that perhaps they both died between 1891 and 1901 was formed.
  • Since Charles and Catherine were both from the same region of Devon, I hypothesized that they had met and married before leaving Devon, and searched FreeBMD’s marriage indexes for Bideford District from Quarter 2 1851 to Quarter 2 1863 (the former being around the time of the 1851 census and the latter being William’s approximate birth) to see if a Charles Evans had married a Catherine (or variant) during this time period. There were no hits at all.

It is important to stress at this point that while the records and indexes I have found are relatively consistent with a single Charles Evans, born in Hartland, Devon, England, in approximately 1826, it does not necessarily mean that they are a single Charles Evans. Go back to the first list in this post and reread it. To me, the situations detailed in that list can be clustered into three groups:

  • The Charles Evans who was born to John and Ann Evans, was baptized in Hartland, and was living with them in 1851 when it was reported by an unknown informant (possibly Charles himself, but not necessarily) that he had been born in Hartland, was age 24, and was a Chelsea pensioner and kept a night school.
  • The Charles Evans who enlisted in the military in Monmouthshire in 1845, reporting his birth place as Hartland and his age in 1845 as 16 years and 10 months, and was discharged in 1850.
  • The Charles Evans who married Catherine ___, had a son named William, was a tailor, was reportedly born in Hartland in approximately 1827, and lived in Mile End Old Town in London, Islington in London, Bideford in Devon, and possibly Scotland (based on his son’s reported birth place, although it is possible that that is incorrect or that Charles was not with Catherine [or an unknown mother] when she gave birth). This Charles appears to have died in 1896 in Bideford Registration District, but the certificate has not yet been reviewed.

While it is certainly possible that these three groups are a single Charles Evans, right now they are dots in a child’s book of games – disparate and awaiting connection.


One of the accidental benefits of my tendency to write part to most of a post and save it in a draft file to finish or polish later is that sometimes I get answers to some posed questions before I publish the post on my blog. Around the time I started this post, I sent away for the Bideford District death certificates that seemed to fit Charles and Catherine (___) Evans. Enough time has passed that I have received the certificates here in the States. They connected more dots than I had expected.

Charles Evans died on 11 March 1896 at a reported age of 69 in Bideford. He is listed as a “Tailor (Journeyman)” and Catherine Evans reported his death. Catherine is listed as his widow and as present at the death, and says that Charles died at 32 Albert Place, Bideford, the same address she gives as her own residence. It also lists that Charles died of “Phetrisis[?].” This certificate tells me some information but not too much – it strongly suggests that the Charles Evans on this death record is the same Charles Evans who was reportedly married to Catherine ___ and who was living in Islington and Mile End Old Town with Catherine. The fact that he was reportedly a journeyman tailor – a part of the story not on the census enumerations found for the family – also helps explain why the family was so mobile.

But Catherine’s death certificate tells a much more connecting story. Catherine is not a blood relative of mine, and it would seem that Catherine herself had no blood relatives of her own in her area by the time she died. She died on 23 May 1899 at a reported age of 80 at the “Alms Houses Bideford,” and her occupation is listed as “Widow of Charles Evans Tailor (Journeyman).” Jane Copp reported her death, listing herself as present at the death and her residence as 1 Tydenham Place, Bideford. My most recent blog post went into some detail about Jane Copp and her family and in-laws; I already know that Jane Copp was the sister of “my” Charles Evans, but even if I had not known before receiving this certificate, Jane is listed on it as Catherine’s sister-in-law.

While Catherine’s death certificate very clearly connected the dots between the Charles Evans who was born in Hartland, Devon, England, baptized there in 1826, and living with John and Ann Evans there in 1851, and the Charles Evans who was reportedly married to Catherine (__) Evans, lived in Greater London and Bideford, was a tailor, and apparently had a son named William, I still haven’t proven or disproved connections between these connected end dots and the dots that cluster in the long gaps between the bookends of Charles’s life. Once the  certificates arrived, I began working on the family again to try to figure out what had happened between 1826 and 1851 and between 1851 and 1871. Subsequent research has not only failed to definitively answer these questions, but has raised new questions. I will post more about it all in a second post on this family.

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In the past few weeks I have very successfully added several more files to my blog drafts file while not publishing any actual finished posts. So I thought I would provide a bit of an update to a post from last November, “In defense of going down the chipmunk tunnel.”

As I noted in that post, the cause of the research that I turned into the post was my intent to mail off an order for a marriage record, and wanting to check to see if there was a second marriage amongst the siblings in the same city before sending it off, so that I could pool my order. In the end I discovered the other couple married in Ohio, and sent off the single request as originally planned.

But I never did hear back from the city. In my years of long-distance research, I’ve learned that there can be any number of reasons why a repository’s response never reaches me, from banal ones like a piece of mail getting lost to, as happened to me last year, the new archivist at an archive determining that as far as discernible, the previous archivist had cashed my check and never done the promised research. So after a while longer has passed than the estimated time for a response, I like to politely follow up with the repository to try to determine what happened. In this case, my second letter was answered with a letter from the city vital records stating that they could find no record of the marriage in their archive.

This provides an interesting research problem.

The marriage information I had was obtained from alumni listings. Those are generally provided by the alumni themselves, and then compiled into a listing by someone else. So a few of the major reasons I can see for this outcome are:

  1. The staff missed the marriage, possibly because a surname is misspelled. Unlikely but always possible.
  2.  The couple married there but had obtained their license elsewhere and/or went on to register their marriage elsewhere. I’m not sure yet of the law on this in this place and time, so I don’t know how likely it is that there would be no record at all of the marriage in the location where they were married.
  3. The alumni listings are wrong. Always possible as well since it is secondary information (which in this case specifically means after-the-fact information provided by one of the parties who was there) that has probably been compiled from alumni information by a third party, leaving additional room for error.

First next steps:

  1. Check on marriage laws at this time and place. Start with searches at Google Books and Internet Archive, as they have a lot of governmental publications and writings on the law (and not just for the US), including a number of past published state statutes.
  2. Depending on outcome of (1), widen search for marriage record and/or marriage license, and/or do further research on the couple aiming to find further marriage clues.

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Many long-time genealogy researchers tend to find just about everything interesting. A common comment for being more efficient with research time is the need to limit what I call “Shiny Object Syndrome” – the fascination with anything interesting that is wandering into the research view – and what many other researchers call something such as “following rabbit trails.”  While this is certainly important when one is researching for someone else or researching at a repository for a very limited amount of time, sometimes following the path wherever it leads can be beneficial.

Chipmunks, a Northeastern North American mammal that burrows in the ground, are fascinating creatures.  They usually have at least three entrances/exits to their tunnels so that they can come in or out at will, escaping predators and other chipmunks.  They also typically have multiple food stores in their tunnels, because chipmunks have a propensity to raid each others’ food stores, and this way, their entire cache of food won’t be wiped out in a single raid.

What on earth, you are likely thinking, does any of this have to do with genealogy?  I posit a somewhat offbeat idea – that sometimes going down the chipmunk tunnel will lead you to a cache.

For some days, I had a piece of mail almost ready to go, waiting to be sent to a vital records department.  Like some other vital records repositories, this one requires a money order to process, so I hadn’t taken the final step of getting one.  When I have to take an extra step like that, I like to pool my order if I can.  Since this couple had gotten married in a particular town, and I believe they likely did so because a sibling lived there at the time, I wanted to try one more time to find some indication of where the sibling’s marriage took place before sending the letter in, so that I could request both records at once if it turned out to be in the same locale.

I started by searching for an obituary of the husband.  I knew his death date from family papers that had been passed down to me, and had previously confirmed the place and date with an online index, but had not looked for an obituary nor ordered the original record yet.  (I had previously searched multiple times for an obituary of the wife, who outlived him by 34 years, but had never found one.)  I found a death notice in a newspaper, and then found a full-page article about his life and death in a trade magazine on Google Books.  The article went into great detail about his life, but only gave a year for the marriage, and no place.

I had not researched his family of origin at all, though, and the lengthy article mentioned his father’s name and that his father died in the Civil War the same year he was born.  So out of curiosity I checked to confirm (or refute) his father’s service and death, and when I discovered it appeared to be true, I thought I’d check to see if the widow (the husband’s mother) filed for a pension.  I confirmed this easily on Ancestry’s pension index cards, and then went to check the other record set of pension index cards, since the two sets often contain different information.  Much to my shock, Fold3 turned out to contain the entire pension file – the first time I have found a Civil War pension file on there (they are very slowly indexing them, and were up to 3% complete the last time I checked), though I know a few other researchers who have found several.  I ended up very glad that it was on there, as it was by far the smallest Civil War pension file I’ve ever seen, and if I had ordered it from NARA at their flat rate of $75 per pension file for up to 100 pages, it would have cost about $3 per page.

After spending a bit of time skimming through the file, I went back to working on my original goal – when and where the couple married.  I found that the husband had published some articles in the trade magazine prior to his sudden death, and that those are online too.  I also found in googling that the wife had applied to the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), and did a descendant search for her on DAR’s database, hoping the application would include marriage information, as many of them do.  I discovered that she applied under a different ancestor than the one I knew served in the Revolutionary War.  I paid for and downloaded the PDF of her application, as well as a later application for the same ancestor that would likely be more detailed.  This is for a line that I haven’t really done much work on – I’m not stuck on it, I just haven’t done much to date.  Her application was bare-bones like many of the early DAR ones, and did not include any marriage information.  But the other application was very detailed, and will be useful for clues as I work on this line.

And then I turned back to searching and found a scanned “social register” which listed his marriage to his wife – in 1896, in the city she was from.  The article about his life and death had stated that they had married in 1898, and the estimate based on the 1900 census data was for a marriage in 1897.  Most interesting of all – at least to me – is that the social register had two different marriage dates listed, one under each of their cross-referenced names!  The dates were only two days apart, so at least it gave me a narrow window to focus my initial search.

So I went to FamilySearch, as I knew from other research that they had updated their “Ohio, County Marriages, 1790-1950” database with more records this year, and I figured it was worth a try to see if they had been added.  I searched for them, and there they were!  One of the two dates in the social register was correct.  I was sure I had the right couple, because the husband had a fairly unusual last name and a very unusual middle name.

I had the answer to my question, and new records to add to my files.  And I went ahead and stopped by the bank that day to get a money order, and sent the lone marriage record request on its way.

This may seem like a convoluted way to reach my destination.  But even if I hadn’t gotten the answer to my question, I still think it would have been a valuable pursuit.  Here are some of the things I learned in my two hours of research:

  • The death notice states that he died “suddenly.”
  • The article on his death provided a very large amount of information I had not already had. While it will need to be confirmed with other records (as shown by the marriage year being incorrect), what has been checked so far has mostly turned out to be accurate.
  • Finding the article on his death and the articles he had published in the trade magazine both show that Google Books has added more trade magazines. This is worth pursuing for other folks in my tree as well.
  • The trade magazine’s extremely detailed article on his life and death also showed just what a rich source of information they can be, and emphasized that it would be wise to give them more priority in relevant searches.
  • Fold3 is continuously adding to their Civil War pension files, and it is worth checking any time a new pensioner is discovered in my research.
  • At least for this one widow, the fact that her husband died during the war and she applied nearly immediately appears to have gotten her a pension quite quickly – much different than what I am used to seeing in my Civil War pension research. But she was also dropped from the rolls after some time of failing to collect her pension, according to the last page of the file; this is not something I have encountered before, and plan to explore what it means more.
  • The pension file also indicates that he was the only child of this couple.
  • The DAR applications suggest a possible path for a line I haven’t done much work on, as well as some sources to try for it. Her application and acceptance also tell me that she was a DAR member, and that she knew enough about her lineage to apply through one of her ancestors.
  • It’s always worth trying googling for a research question. (Just a self-reminder of something I already knew, but it’s always nice to have confirmation.)
  • It seems worthwhile to try the rest of my names of people who may have married in Ohio, since FamilySearch’s “Ohio, County Marriages, 1790-1950” seems to have expanded so much this year.
  • The date and place of the marriage, with a scan of the original record now added to my files.

And in my wanderings through the chipmunk tunnel, I found a cache.

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