“Situations Required”

The title for today’s post comes from the July 22, 1887 London Morning Post.[1]

1887 ad cropped
Detail of “Situations Required” classified advertisements, The (London) Morning Post, July 22, 1887.
(Click on image to enlarge)

We see that “E Casbon” is seeking a position as a “Maid to One or Two Ladies.” She is twenty-five years old, has experience as a dressmaker, belongs to the Church of England, and has “good references.” She is living at 22 Mansfield Street, Portland Place, London.

Who was E Casbon? Her age tells that she was born in 1861 or 1862. There is only one woman with that name who was born in that timeframe: Elizabeth, daughter of John (1832–1885) and Rebecca (Speechly, ~1823–1886) Casbon of Peterborough. We’ve met her father, John, before. He was in the third generation of gardeners who eventually settled in Peterborough. John suffered through bankruptcy proceedings in 1870-71, but was eventually able to recover financially.

Elizabeth was one of John and Rebecca’s five children who survived into adulthood. Little information is available about her life.  We find her in the 1881 census, either living with or visiting her older brother Thomas in Peterborough.[2]

Eliz 1881 census
Detail from 1881 census, Peterborough, Northamptonshire. (Click on image to enlarge)

We see that Elizabeth is unmarried, nineteen years old, and employed as a dressmaker.

Dressmaking was a very common occupation for women at the time. It’s likely that Elizabeth had completed a two-year apprenticeship.[3] She might have worked from home or worked in a shop. She probably used a sewing machine, but would have had to do much of the work by hand. Dressmakers could make a decent living, but often faced long hours and difficult working conditions. For more information about dressmaking in Victorian England, I refer you to an excellent blog post, “D is for Dressmaker,” by Amanda Wilkinson.

“The Seamstress” (1897), Josef Gisela (1851-1899), original in Vienna Museum (accessed via Wikimedia
Commons, Public Domain; This file has been identified as being free of known restrictions under
copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights)

Despite my best efforts, I haven’t been able to find Elizabeth in the 1891 and 1901 England censuses. That’s where the “Situations Required” ad helps out. We know from the advertisement that she had been working as a servant, probably a lady’s maid, at the house on Mansfield Street. She must have started her employment there some time after the 1881 census was taken.

What can we find out about the residence on Mansfield Street? The 1881 census helps us out. It turns out that 22 Mansfield Street was occupied by a wealthy gentleman named Charles J.T. Hambro, whose father founded one of the United Kingdom’s largest investment banks.[4] The family’s main home was at Milton Abbey, in Dorset, so the Mansfield Street residence would have been their London home. Charles J.T. Hambro held the offices of Deputy Lieutenant and Justice of the Peace for Dorset, and was a Member of Parliament from 1868 to 1874 and again from 1886 until his death in 1891.[5]

When the 1881 census was taken, the household on Mansfield Street was occupied by Charles Hambro, his wife Susan, daughter Agneta, and eleven servants, consisting of a cook, two kitchen maids, two housemaids, two lady’s maids, one butler, two footmen and one page.[6] That is an impressive number of servants, and indicates the Hambros’ significant wealth and position in society.

How is it that Elizabeth left her employment as a dressmaker in Peterborough to become a lady’s maid in London? That is unknown. Elizabeth must have thought there were better opportunities for her in domestic service compared to her previous occupation, and London certainly offered a greater number of potential employers. She might have started in a lower maid’s position before being promoted to the position of lady’s maid. Being new to the job, she probably served one of the daughters of the house. Her dressmaking experience would have been a great asset, as it was considered a prerequisite for lady’s maid duties.[7]

What were those duties? Anyone who has watched Downton Abbey will have some idea of what was involved, thanks to the trials and tribulations of Anna Bates, Lady Mary’s long-suffering personal maid.

Mary and Anna
Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) and Anna Bates (Joanna Froggatt) in Downton Abbey

In the hierarchy of female servants, the lady’s maid was the second highest in rank, after the housekeeper.[8] Her position was unique in that she had a much closer relationship to her mistress than the other servants.[9] A partial list of her duties is given in The Duties of Servants (1890).

To bring up the hot-water for her mistress in the morning and at various times of the day as required.
To bring her an early cup of tea.
To prepare her things for dressing.
To assist her in dressing.
To put her room in order after dressing.
To put out her things for walking, riding, and driving, both in the morning and afternoon.
To assist her in taking off her out-door attire.
To put in readiness all that her mistress may require for dressing in the evening.
To assist her to dress for dinner.
To put everything in order in her mistress’s room before leaving it.
To sit up for her, and to assist her to undress on her return, and to carefully put away her jewels and everything connected with her toilette.
To keep her mistress’s wardrobe in thorough repair, and to do all the dressmaking and millinery required of her.
To wash the lace and fine linen of her mistress.[10]

She was essentially at the beck and call of her mistress, in order to look after her every need.

Because of her proximity to the lady of the house, it was vitally important that she be circumspect in her behavior, and perhaps most importantly, maintain strict confidentiality concerning her mistress’s activities and conversation. “She ought, therefore, to possess the qualifications of propriety and polite behaviour; and her conduct should be uniformly influenced by correct principles, and strict regard to religious and moral obligations.”[11]

In turn, lady’s maids received perks not available to other servants. They were likely to receive their mistresses’ cast-off clothing, which they could alter to fit themselves or sell to others.[12] They might receive commissions from tradespeople who did business with their mistresses.[13] They had opportunities to travel, when their mistresses went abroad or were guests in other households.[14]

This tells us quite a bit about Elizabeth’s responsibilities after coming to London, and perhaps something about her character as well. She was probably somewhat better educated than the other female servants and was able to conduct herself in a manner fitting of the position.[15] The fact that she had “good references” tells us that she performed her duties satisfactorily.

We don’t know why she left her employment with the Hambro family in 1887, although it seems to have been under favorable circumstances. Perhaps one of the daughters was no longer living at home, or the family was downsizing the London home and no longer needed as many servants.

We do know that Elizabeth was successful at finding new employment, given that she placed this advertisement in 1890.[16]

1890 ad
“Want Places,” London Morning Post, June 4, 1890. (Click on image to enlarge)

The fact that she had “2 ½ years’ good character” tells us that she must have been hired soon after the previous (1887) advertisement was placed. Note also that she was now living in Millfield, Peterborough, her home town. This suggests that her employment had already ended.

We don’t know what happened for the next seventeen years of her life, since she doesn’t seem to appear in the 1891 and 1901 censuses. The next record I have of Elizabeth is for her marriage in 1907 to William Buxton, a widower from Doncaster.[17] As of 1926, William and Elizabeth were still living in Doncaster.[18] I haven’t been able to pin down their death dates.

Elizabeth’s story, though incomplete, is interesting because it reflects the experiences of many women in late Victorian England. As dressmaker and domestic servant, she worked in two of the most common occupations (along with factory work) of her era.[19] Though typical, it probably wasn’t an easy life. As with so many of our family stories, I wish I could know more.

[1] “Situations Wanted,” The (London, England) Morning Post, 22 Jul 1887, p. 7, col. 8; online image, British Newspaper Archive (https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/ : accessed 4 September 2017).
[2] 1871 England Census, Northamptonshire, Peterborough, district 33, p. 5, schedule 28, Elizabeth Casbon in household of Thomas Casbon ; imaged as “1881 England Census,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=7572 : accessed 17 January 2019), Northamptonshire >Peterborough >District 33 >image 7 of 23; citing The National Archives, RG 11/1595.
[3] Sally Mitchell, Daily Life in Victorian England (Westport, Connecticut: The Greenwood Press, 1996), p. 62.
[4] “Charles J.T. Hambro,” Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_J._T._Hambro : accessed 18 January 2019), rev. 19 Oct 18, 08:28.
[5] Ibid.
[6] 1881 England Census, London, Marylebone, Cavendish Square. District 8, p. 22, schedule 68, Charles Hambro; imaged as “1881 England Census,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=7572 : accessed 17 January 2019), London >Marylebone >Cavendish Square > District 8 >image 23 of 47; citing The National Archives, RG 11/140/57.
[7] Isabella M Beeton, Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management: a Guide to Cookery in All Branches, “new” ed., (London: Ward, Lock & Co., 1907), p. 1773; online image, Internet Archive (https://archive.org/details/mrsbeetonshouse00beetuoft : accessed 14 January 2019).
[8] Pamela Horn, The Rise and Fall of the Victorian Servant (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1975), p. 55.
[9] Ibid.
[10] The Duties of Servants: a Practical Guide to the Routine of Domestic Service (London: Frederick Warne & Co., 1890), pp. 99–100; online image, Internet Archive (https://archive.org/details/b2152810x : accessed 18 January 2019).
[11] The Family Manual and Servants’ Guide, 9th ed. (London: S.D. Ewins, 1859), p. 97; online image, Google Books (https://books.google.com/books?id=gkACAAAAQAAJ&source=gbs_navlinks_s : accessed 14 January 2019).
[12] Lucy Lethbridge, Servants: A Downstairs HIstory of Britain from the Nineteenth Century to Modern Times (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2013), p. 78.
[13] Ibid.
[14] Ibid.
[15] Horn, The Rise and Fall of the Victorian Servant, p. 57.
[16] “Want Places,” The (London, England) Morning Post, 4 Jun 1890, p. 11, col. 3; online image, British Newspaper Archive (https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/ : accessed 4 September 2017).
[17] Church of England, Peterborough (Northamptonshire), St Paul’s, Register of Marriages, vol. 2 (1905–1921), p. 30, no. 60, William Buxton & Elizabeth Casbon, 19 May 1907; imaged as “Northamptonshire, England, Church of England Marriages, 1754-1912,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=9199 : accessed 18 January 2019), Peterborough, St Paul >Parish Registers >1905-1912 >image 18 of 54; citing Northamptonshire Record Office; Northampton.
[18] Yorkshire (West Riding), Autumn Register 1926, Doncaster Parliamentary Division, Polling District L, St. James Ward, p. 31, nos. 1750-1, 6 Roberts Rd., William & Elizabeth Buxton; imaged as “West Yorkshire, England, Electoral Registers, 1840-1962,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=3057 : accessed 18 January 2019), Doncaster >1926 >image 666 of 773; citing West Yorkshire Archive Service, Leeds.
[19] Mitchell, Daily Life in Victorian England, p. 62.



Musings on John, Continued

In the last post, I hope I made a convincing argument that John, baptized Casborn in Orwell, 1721, is the direct ancestor of myself and many of today’s Casbons, Casbans and Casbens.

However, I pointed out one inconsistency in the records. John was trained as a cordwainer, or shoemaker. However, the man who was buried in 1796 was recorded as parish clerk. The essential question is, “could he have been both a cordwainer and a parish clerk?”

I’ll start by exploring the meaning of the word clerk and the historical background of parish clerks in England. When I first saw the term parish clerk, I saw it with my twenty-first century eyes, and assumed it referred to someone who was literate and kept various church records. However, the meaning of the word clerk has changed considerably over time, as have the duties and qualifications of parish clerks.

Clerk derives from the Latin clericus, which means priest, clergyman, cleric, or scholar.[1] The English word clerk has had different meanings over time. Originally, it referred to “any one who took part in the services of the Church, whether he was in major or minor orders.”[2] Over time, the meaning of clerk changed to refer to anyone who could read or write, then later to “an assistant in public or private business,” and eventually to “a retail salesman” and “an employee who registers guests in a hotel.”[3]

Likewise, the meaning of the term parish clerk has changed over time. In early times, parish clerks “were formerly clerks in orders, and their business at first was to officiate at the altar.”[4] The clerk’s main duties were to “to be able to sing; to read the epistle; and to teach.”[5]

Priest clerk giving communion (1)
Embellished letter ‘E’ from an illuminated manuscript: priest giving communion to a sick man in bed, described in Ditchfield, The Parish Clerk, as “The Clerk Accompanying the Priest when Visiting the Sick.”[6] The British Library (https://www.bl.uk).(Click on image to enlarge)

After the Commonwealth period in English history (1649–1660), the rank and status of parish clerks was diminished.[7] “Now they are laymen, and have certain fees with the parson, on christnings, marriages, burials, etc. besides wages for their maintenance.”[8] Qualifications for the position included the following: “the said Clerk shall be of Twenty Years of Age at the least, and known … to be of honest Conversation, and Sufficient for his Reading, Writing, and also his competent Skill in Singing,” although the requirement for singing seems to have been optional.[9] Parish clerks were generally nominated by the minister, and appointed for life.[10]

Besides serving as an assistant to the minister, the clerk had a multitude of other duties.

He attended practically every service, keeping dogs out and people awake and collecting pew rents and customary fees. He wrote the accounts if the wardens and overseers were illiterate, made out fair copies of the lists of church rates, assisted officers in their collection, and was capable of dealing with intransigent Independents and Quakers, perhaps assisted in a town by a beadle. He collected tolls on sheep pastured in the churchyard (too sour for cattle), on those who hung their washing there and from those who set up stalls along the path on market days.[11]

The sleeping congregation Hogarth (1)
“The Sleeping Congregation,” 1728, William Hogarth. Courtesy of the Minneapolis Institute of Art, https://collections.artsmia.org/art/10451/the-sleeping-congregation-william-hogarth. Public Domain.
(Click on image to enlarge)

In small parishes (such as Meldreth), the clerk might also carry out the duties of sexton. “He was responsible for the care of the churchyard as well as the inside of the church. He looked after the vestments and the vessels, rang the bells, opened and closed the church doors and dug the graves.”[12]

How does all this apply to John, the parish clerk of Meldreth? It suggests to me that he was probably a man held in esteem by the local vicar or curate, and probably by other members of the community. He was probably literate to a certain degree. Since Meldreth was a small parish, he probably performed many of the sexton’s duties as well as those of clerk. He would have been paid for his duties, though possibly not enough for a living.

This brings me back to the original question of whether John could have been both a cordwainer and parish clerk. There is nothing in the description of a parish clerk’s duties that tells me that the position would be incompatible with other occupations. Many of the responsibilities were carried out on days of worship, and it seems like the remaining duties could generally be done on a part-time basis.

Furthermore, there is strong evidence supporting the idea that parish clerks might have other occupations. The author of The Parish Clerk’s Guide (1731), when referring to “the poorer sort of Country-Clerks,” writes that “their In-come is so very small, generally speaking, that they are forc’d to employ their Time for Bread, rather than to have leisure to qualify themselves for the Business of a Parish-Clerk.”[13] I believe this means that many parish clerks needed to work at other occupations in order to supplement their meager wages.

An example is given in The Parish Clerk (1841), in which the English novelist Joseph Hewlett describes his protagonist, Davy Diggs, as

a shrewd, clever, uneducated, or rather half-a-quarter educated fellow, who combined in his own person the trades and occupations of parish clerk and sexton—parish Sunday-school master—parish tailor—and, what suited him best, parish gamekeeper and parish fiddler[14]

Clearly, the parish clerk could wear many hats!

I chanced upon further confirmation when I was looking through the Orwell parish registers. The burial of “John Lawrence Labourer and Church Clerk (my emphasis)” was recorded in 1755.[15]

Based on these examples, I think there can be no doubt that John, the cordwainer, could have also been the parish clerk.

John wasn’t appointed as the clerk until relatively late in life. I learned this when I found the burial record for his predecessor in the Meldreth parish register. “John Green, Clerk of the Parish” was buried on January 29, 1782.[16] If our John was appointed as parish clerk in that year, he would have been about sixty-one years old. By that time, it’s possible that his work of making shoes was occupying less of his time (or generating less income), or that it had been turned over to his former apprentice. The additional wages as clerk would have been a welcome supplement.

I’ll close with a famous painting, “The Parish Clerk.” It depicts Edward Orpin, parish clerk of Bradford-upon-Avon. Like our John, he was a tradesman, having been a cooper before assuming the duties of clerk.[17] He appears to be a man of devotion and some prominence. I would like to imagine that John shared these attributes, even if he was of humbler means.

The Parish Clerk (1)
“The Parish Clerk,” c.1760–70, formerly attributed to Thomas Gainsborough (1727–88).
Photo © Tate, Creative Commons license CC-BY-NC-ND 3.0 (Unported), https://www.tate.org.uk.
(Click on image to enlarge)

[1] “clericus (Latin),” WordSense.eu Dictionary (https://www.wordsense.eu/clericus/ : accessed 28 December 2018).
[2] Peter Hampson Ditchfield, The Parish Clerk (London: Methuen & Co., 1907), p. 16; online image, Hathi Trust Digital Library (https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/011590202 : accessed 18 December 2018).
[3] “clerk (n.),” Online Etymology Dictionary (https://www.etymonline.com/word/clerk : accessed 28 December 2018).
[4] Giles Jacob, compiler, updated by Owen Ruffhead & J. Morgan, A New Law Dictionary: Containing the Interpretation and Definition of Words and Terms Used in the Law, 9th ed. (London: W. Strahan & M. Woodfall, 1772), n.p. “PAR” section, entry for “Parish Clerk,” imaged on Internet Archive (https://archive.org/details/in.ernet.dli.2015.93143 : accessed 21 December 2018).
[5] J. Wickham Legg, ed., The Clerk’s Book of 1549 (London, n.p., 1903), p. xviii; online image, Hathi Trust Digital Library (https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/001653725 : accessed 18 December 2018).
[6] James le Palmer,”Omne Bonum (Ebrietas-Humanus),” c. 1360- c. 1375, manuscript, Royal 6 E VII, f. 70; online image, The British Library (https://www.bl.uk/catalogues/illuminatedmanuscripts/welcome.htm : accessed 28 December 2018).
[7] Ditchfield, The Parish Clerk, pp. 61-2.
[8] Jacob, , A New Law Dictionary, entry for “Parish Clerk.”
[9] B.P., Parish Clerk, The Parish Clerk’s Guide: or, the Singing Psalms used in the Parish Churches Suited to the Feasts and Fasts of the Church of England and most other Special Occasions (London: reprinted by John March for the Company of Parish Clerks, 1731), pp. 20-1; online image, Google Books (https://books.google.com/books?id=lBplAAAAcAAJ : accessed 28 December 2018).
[10] Jacob, , A New Law Dictionary, entry for “Parish Clerk.”
[11] “Parish Administration in England and Wales,” FamilySearch Wiki (https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Parish_Administration_in_England_and_Wales : accessed 20 December 2018), rev. 3 Feb 16, 05:11.
[12] “Georgette,” “Church related professions,” Family Tree Forum (http://ftfmagazine.lewcock.net/index.php/volume-one-new/july-2008/413-church-related-professions : accessed 20 December 2018).
[13] B.P., The Parish Clerk’s Guide, p. 3.
[14] Joseph Hewlett, The Parish Clerk, Theodore Hook, editor (London: Henry Coburn, 1841), vol. 1, p. 23; online image, Hathi Trust Digital Library (https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/000483146 : accessed 28 December 2018).
[15] Church of England, Orwell (Cambridgeshire) Parish, General Register, 1653–1805, burials 1755; digitized as “Parish registers for Orwell, 1560-1877,” browsable images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/film/007567608?cat=210878 : accessed 26 December 2018), image 326 of 695; citing FHL microfilm 1,040,543, item 9.
[16] Church of England, Meldreth (Cambridgeshire), General Register, 1682–1782, burials 1782, John Green, 29 Jan; accessed as “Parish registers for Meldreth, 1681-1877,” browsable images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/film/007567609?cat=210742 : accessed 18 December 2018), image 66 of 699; citing FHL microfilm 1,040,542, item 2.
[17] “‘The Parish Clerk’ (Edward Orpin, Parish Clerk of Bradford-upon-Avon),” Tate [museum] (https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/gainsborough-the-parish-clerk-edward-orpin-parish-clerk-of-bradford-upon-avon-n00760 : accessed 28 December 2018).

Musings on John

This is a follow-on to an earlier post titled “Stuck on John,”  in which I described how my research into the origins of the Meldreth branch of the Casbon family hit a “brick wall.” I had been able to trace the ancestry to a John Casborn who married Anne Chamberlain in 1742.[1] The problem was that there were at least two men named John Casb—— living in or near Meldreth at the time, and there wasn’t enough information to know for certain which one was the husband of Anne. But now, I’ve discovered evidence that puts me on much firmer ground about who “my” John might be.

First, let’s review what I know about my ancestor John. After their marriage, John and Anne had five children, according to baptismal records: Thomas (my ancestor, baptized in 1743), James (1747, buried 1748), James (1748), Mary (1750), and Anna (1754).[2] Anne, John’s wife, died in 1770.[3] John was described as “parish clerk” when he was buried in 1796.[4]

Casb John bu 1796 Meldreth Detail of burial record, 1796, from Meldreth Parish registers. “John Casborn, Parish Clerk, aged 75. January 4.”
(Click on image to enlarge)

We can be reasonably sure that all of these records refer to the same man because there are no other men named John Casb—— recorded in the parish records of Meldreth and its vicinity during this time frame. Since the burial record gives his age as seventy-five, we can extrapolate a birth year of 1720 or 1721. This is very helpful.

The only person I have found who matches all of this information is John Casborn, the son of Thomas and Mary (Jeap), who was baptized in the village of Orwell, about two and one-half miles from Meldreth, in November 1721.[5]

Casborn John bp Orwell 1721
Detail of baptism record, 1721, Orwell Parish registers, 1560-1877. “Nov. 26 John y[e] Son of
Thomas & Mary Casborn.” (Click on image to enlarge)

Map of southwestern Cambridgeshire, showing villages of Orwell and Meldreth.
(Google Maps – zoom in for greater detail

Notably, aside from his baptism, John does not appear again in Orwell parish records. This suggests that he moved elsewhere before his marriage and/or burial. How can we know if he is the same man who moved to Meldreth and later married Anne?

Here’s where the new evidence comes in, in the form of registers of duties paid for apprentices’ indentures. When a master took on (i.e., indentured) a new apprentice, he was paid a fee, usually by the parents of the apprentice. The master was required to pay a tax, or duty, on this fee. Records of apprenticeships, fees and duties were created by the Board of Stamps, and are now maintained by The National Archives of the UK.[6] These records can be searched at Ancestry.com.

I found this record in the collection (you’ll need to click to be able to read it).

Merged 1736 apprent duties
Detail from Register of Duties Paid for Apprentices Indentures, 9–12 July 1736.[7] (Click on image to enlarge)

This record shows that “Will. Casbill of Mildred in Cambridge Cordwr. [cordwainer]” received a fee of four pounds, eleven shillings for the indenture of “John Casbill of Orwell” for a duration of four years, nine months, beginning “24 June last.” William Casbill was required to pay a duty of two shillings, three and one-half pence, based on the indenture fee.

The record is important because it connects John of Orwell to the village of Meldreth. He would have been about fifteen years old in 1736, an appropriate age for an apprentice. It’s odd that the term of indenture is only four years, nine months, since the usual apprenticeship was for seven years. It makes me wonder if William had been training John “off the books” for a couple of years before he paid the tax.

Who was his master, William Casbill? I don’t know for certain. One candidate is William Casbel, who was born in Meldreth in 1703 and was orphaned when his mother died in 1718.[8] Another candidate is John’s paternal uncle, William Casbolt, baptized 1695 in nearby Barrington. There are burial records for William Casbel in 1741 and William Carsburn in 1756.[9] Unfortunately, neither of these provide information about the deceased’s ages or occupations.

Incidentally, cordwainer is the old term for a shoemaker. There seems to have been a succession of cordwainers from Meldreth named Casb——. I wrote previously about John Casball, cordwainer, who paid duties for an apprentice in 1718 and died in 1727 (“a poor shoemaker”). He was followed by William of the 1736 indenture, who was followed by John of Orwell. Given the surname, it’s hard to believe these men weren’t all related in some way. It seems likely that the earlier John trained William to be a cordwainer, although I haven’t found any such records.

Getting back to John of Orwell, another apprenticeship record shows us that he remained in Meldreth as a master cordwainer following completion of his own apprenticeship.

merged 1774 apprent duties
Detail from Register of Duties Paid for Apprentices Indentures, 24–28 January 1774.[10] (Click on image to enlarge)

This record shows that on January 28, 1774 “John Casbon of Meldreth in Co. of Cambridge Cordwainer” paid the indenture duty for an apprentice named Thomas Wing.

Thus, we have several points that can be connected to describe John’s life from his baptism in Orwell to his burial in Meldreth. Using the available records we can create this chronology:

  • 1721: John Casborn, son of Thomas and Mary (Jeap), is baptized in Orwell
  • 1736: John Casbill of Orwell is indentured as an apprentice to William Casbill of Meldreth
  • 1742: “John Casborn of the Parish of Meldreth and Ann Chamberlain of this Parish” are married in Wimpole, Cambridgeshire, 18 January 1742
  • 1743–1754: five children are born to John & Ann, including Thomas (baptized 1743)
  • 1770: “Anne Casbull Wife of John Casbill” is buried at Meldreth
  • 1774: John Casbon, cordwainer, indentures Thomas Wing as apprentice
  • 1796: “John Casborn, Parish Clerk, aged 75” is buried at Meldreth

You may notice an inconsistency in this chronology. The burial record of 1796 describes John as the parish clerk, but not as a cordwainer. Could he have been both parish clerk and cordwainer? I believe the answer is yes. I’ll address this in the next post.

Considering all the evidence, I’m confident that this “brick wall” is gone, i.e., I believe John Casborn, baptized 1721 in Orwell, is my direct ancestor and the common ancestor for all the Casbons, Casbans and Casbens who descended from his children. What do you think?

As an epilogue to John’s story, we find that in 1797, Thomas Wing, John’s former apprentice and now a master cordwainer himself in Meldreth, indentured an apprentice of his own.[11] The torch was passed.

[1] Church of England. Wimpole Parish (Cambridgeshire, England), Bishop’s transcripts for Wimpole, 1599-1857, Casborn–Chamberlain marriage (1742); digital images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-89PH-H6G9?i=121&cat=1317069 : accessed 7 June 2016), image 122 of 799.
[2] Church of England, Meldreth Parish registers; accessed as “Parish registers for Meldreth, 1681-1877, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/catalog/210742), images 109-111 of 699; citing FHL microfilm 1,040,542, item 2.
[3] Ibid, image 61 of 699.
[4] Ibid, image 129 of 699; citing FHL microfilm 1,040,542, item 3.
[5] Church of England, Parish of Orwell (Cambridgeshire), Parish Registers; accessed as “Parish Registers, 1560-1877,” browsable images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/film/007567608?cat=210878 : accessed 26 December 2018), image 278 of 695; citing FHL microfilm 1,040,543, item 9.
[6] “Board of Stamps: Apprenticeship Books,” The National Archives (http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C9339 : accessed 23 December 2018).
[7] “UK, Register of Duties Paid for Apprentices’ Indentures, 1710-1811,” database with images, Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=1851 : accessed 19 December 2018), 1735-1739 >image 339 of 909, 10 Jul 1736; citing The National Archives, IR-1/14, Kew.
[8] Church of England, Meldreth Parish registers; accessed as “Parish registers for Meldreth, 1681-1877, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/catalog/210742), images 48 & 101 of 699; citing FHL microfilm 1,040,542, item 2.
[9] Ibid., images 54 & 57 of 699.
[10] “UK, Register of Duties Paid for Apprentices’ Indentures, 1710-1811,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=1851 : accessed 10 May 2018), 1770-1774 >images 732-3 of 1930, 28 Jan 1774; citing The National Archives, IR1/28, Kew.
[11] “UK, Register of Duties Paid for Apprentices’ Indentures, 1710-1811,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=1851 : accessed 23 December 2018), 1794-1799 >imgs 424-5 of 1960, 20 Apr 1797; citing the National Archives, IR 1/ 68.

A Christmas Baptism

This is a short post, just to celebrate the season. Here is the barely legible baptism record of my third great-grandfather, Thomas Casbon (1803–1888).

Thom C bp 1802Detail from Parish Register, Meldreth, Cambridgeshire: Baptisms, 1802.[1]

The register is written on parchment. In this case, in addition to smudges, the ink has degraded or flaked off. Here’s what the entry says:

[Born] Novr. 3d. Thomas, son of Isaac & Susanna Casbon, [Baptized] Decr. 25.

This is the only Casbon baptism I have found that occurs on Christmas Day. Was Thomas baptized on Christmas Day because it was a special day, or was it simply a matter of convenience? I’ve tried to find out whether Christmas baptisms were considered special in England in the early 19th century, but haven’t found any evidence to support this. I have found discussions suggesting that fees were not charged for baptisms and marriages held on Christmas and Easter, but no sources are provided. Another suggestion is that church attendance in England was required at least twice a year (possibly Christmas and Easter),[2] so these days were more likely to see increased numbers of marriages and baptisms for those who only attended on those days.

Were any of your ancestors baptized on Christmas Day?

To all my readers, I wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

[1]Parish of Meldreth (Cambridgeshire), Parish Registers, 1783–1812, unnumbered page, baptisms 1802–6, Thomas Casbon, 25 Dec 1802; accessed as “Parish registers for Meldreth, 1681-1877,” browsable images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/sea1040542rch/film/007567609?cat=210742 : accessed 22 December 2018), image 136 of 699; citing FHL microfilm 1,040,542, item 3.
[2]“Church Attendance,” Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church_attendance : accessed 22 December 2018), rev. 21 Oct 18, 16:58.


“You never get away from that thing in your hometown that it has over you. You don’t outgrow where you come from.” – Brian Fallon

As a child of a military family, I never had a hometown. We moved every few years to a variety of locations in and out of the United States. The closest things to hometowns were the cities my parents came from: Racine, Wisconsin, and Valparaiso, Indiana. I’ve mentioned Valparaiso before, because it is the seat of Porter County, where my Casbon ancestors settled in the 1860s. It’s where my father grew up. We visited Valparaiso from time to time to see grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. It was the only place in the world that I knew where other Casbons existed. I’ve only gone there a couple of times as an adult, but when I go, it still has a special place in my heart.

I’m pretty sure the same feeling applies to many of the Casbans in England, except they would say their home town* is Croydon, Greater London. A couple of the Casbans from Croydon have been kind enough to correspond with me and share some of their stories.

What makes a place a hometown? In the simplest sense, it’s the place where you grew up or come from. But in a broader sense it implies something more than just a place. It embodies the ideas of permanence, relationships, and familiarity. When people talk about their hometowns, they might also be talking about their families, childhood friends, favorite foods or familiar places. For many, a hometown is a place they feel comfortable and secure. For some, it is a place they can’t wait to get away from.

So, how did Croydon become the home town for the Casbans? It all started with Samuel Clark Casban (1851–1922). Samuel was the third son of William (~1805–1877) and Ann (Clark, ~1812–1869) Casbon, and grew up in Meldreth, Cambridgeshire. Like his father and brothers, he went to work at an early age, being listed as a labourer in the 1861 census.[1] Samuel (with surname spelled Casban) married Lydia Harrup in 1872,[2] and the couple had four children while still living in Meldreth: Anne, 1872;[3] Samuel Clark, 1874;[4] Margaret Alice, 1875;[5] and Elizabeth Emma, 1879.[6]

Elizabeth died in 1879, within months of her birth,[7] and sometime within the next several months, Samuel and his family moved to Croydon. His move was probably influenced by the fact that his sister Mary Ann, and two brothers, John and Reuben, had lived in the environs of London since the 1860s. More importantly, his brother-in-law, John Harrup, had been working for the Brighton and South Coast Railroad since 1874, and was presumably able to help Samuel secure employment there in January, 1880.[8]

Samuel C employment record 1880 Detail from London, Brighton & South Coast Railway employee records, 1880, showing entries for John Harrup and Samuel Casban. This is the earliest record showing Samuel in Croydon. (Click on image to enlarge)

Croydon was originally a town in Surrey, about ten miles south of London.[9] Due to its position between London and the South Coast of England, and the arrival of the railroads, Croydon became an important transportation hub, and experienced a 23-fold increase in population between 1801 and 1901.[10] When Samuel arrived in 1879–80, Croydon was still an independent entity from London. As London expanded, Croydon soon became a part of the London metropolitan area, and in 1965 became a borough of London and no longer part of Surrey.[11] Croydon is now the most populated borough in London, with a population of 363,378 in 2011.[12] It is a city within a city.

Outer London map 1901
Detail from 1901 map of Outer London (pink shading).[13] Numerous rail lines converge or pass through the vicinity of Croydon, which is located near the bottom, center. (Click on image to enlarge)

Contemporary map showing the Borough of Croydon (shaded). (Google Maps)

Samuel and Lydia’s family continued to grow in Croydon. William was born in 1880; Elizabeth Emma (“Lizzie”), 1881; Florence Edith (“Florie”), 1884; Albert Edward (“Bertie”), 1885; Leonard, 1887; Ernest Charles, 1890.[14] Anne, Samuel, Alice, Lizzie, and Bertie married and raised their families in or near Croydon. William never married, but remained in Croydon. Florie died in 1904.[15] Leonard and Ernest were killed in the first World War.[16] (Ernest had married in 1913 and had a daughter, who died in 1915.[17]) Some of Samuel and Lydia’s great-great-grandchildren and at least one third-great-grandchild have been born in Croydon. Thus, six generations of Casbans lived or were born in Croydon, establishing a strong sense of permanence and identity with the place.

Lorna Thomas (neé Casban) shared these interesting facts about Croydon with me. The London Croydon airport was the first major international airport in England and remained so until Heathrow was developed in the late 1940s. Amy Johnson departed from there on a historic solo flight to Brisbane, Australia in 1930.[18] The international “Mayday! call was invented there.

Croydon airport
Photo of ‘Hengist’ plane flying over Croydon Airport. Courtesy of Local Studies Library & Archive and the Museum of Croydon, http://www.museumofcroydon.com.

A quick search on 192.com shows that only a handful of Casbans live in Croydon today. This is not surprising, given the ease of transportation and mobility within our society. However, I’m sure that many still consider Croydon to be their home town. Are you a “Croydon Casban”? I would love to hear from you, either in the “Leave a Reply” section or through the “Contact” link!

*In preparing this post I learned that the single word hometown is more common in American English and home town – two words – more common in British English.

[1] 1861 England Census, Cambridgeshire, Meldreth, p. 24, schedule 133, William Carston; imaged on findmypast (http://search.findmypast.com/record?id=gbc%2f1861%2f0005027198 : accessed 23 March 2017); citing [The National Archives], RG 09, piece 815, folio 64, p. 24.
[2] “England Marriages, 1538–1973 ,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:NVCX-8N1 : accessed 2 August 2016), Samuel Casban and Lydia Harrup, 02 Nov 1872; FHL microfilm 1,040,541.
[3] General Register Office (GRO), “Search the  GRO Online Index,” database, HM Passport Office (https://www.gro.gov.uk/gro/content/certificates/indexes_search.asp : accessed 7 November 2017), search on births, “Harrup,” 1872, Annie Harrup, J[un] qtr, 1872, Royston, vol. 3A/325.
[4] Ibid., search on birth, “Casban,” 1874, Samuel Casban, M[ar] qtr, 1874, Royston, vol. 3A/316.
[5] Ibid., search on birth, “Casban,” 1875, Margaret Casban, D[ec] qtr, 1875, Royston, vol. 3A/320.
[6] Ibid., search on births, “Casban,” 1879, Elizabeth Emma Casban, M[ar] qtr, 1879, Royston, vol. 3A/369.
[7] Ibid., search on deaths, “Casban,” 1879, LIzzie Casban, J[un] qtr, 1879, Royston, vol. 3A/220.
[8] London, Brighton & South Coast Railway: General Manager’s Register of Staff Commencing 1880, p. 87, Croydon Goods Station, John Harrup, Feb 1874, and Samuel Casbon, Jan 1880; imaged as “UK, Railway Employment Records, 1833-1956,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=1728 : accessed 20 September 2018), London, Brighton and South Coast >1838-1884 Traffic Appointments >image 119 of 452.
[9] “Croydon,” British History Online (https://www.british-history.ac.uk/london-environs/vol1/pp170-201 : accessed 2 December 2018).
[10] “Croydon,” Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Croydon : accessed 2 December 2018), rev. 28 Nov 18, 16:19, paras. 20-21.
[11] “London Borough of Croydon,” Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London_Borough_of_Croydon : accessed 2 December 2018), rev. 24 Nov 18, 18:33, para. 2.
[12] “London Borough of Croydon,” Wikipedia, para. 48.
[13] Edward Stanford, “Outer London,” map, Stanford’s London Atlas of Universal Geography Exhibiting the Physical and Political Divisions of the Various Countries of the World (London: Edward Stanford, Ltd., 1901); online image, David Rumsey Map Collection (https://www.davidrumsey.com/luna/servlet/detail/RUMSEY~8~1~34248~1171163:Outer-London- : accessed 1 December 2018).
[14] General Register Office (GRO), “Search the  GRO Online Index,” database, HM Passport Office (https://www.gro.gov.uk/gro/content/certificates/indexes_search.asp : accessed 2 December 2018), search on births, “Casban,” 1880–90), Croydon, vol. 2A, pp. 209, 213, 228, 238, 260, 264.
[15] Ibid., search on deaths, “Casban,” 1904, Florence Edith Casban, Croydon, vol 2A/153.
[16] “Every One Remembered”, database, Royal British Legion (https://www.everyoneremembered.org), search on “Casban,” Ernest, 25 Sep 1914, Leonard, 1 Apr 1917; citing Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
[17] Ibid., search on deaths, “Casban,” 1915, Nellie Rhoda Casban, M[ar] qtr, 1915, Croydon, vol 2A/153.
[18] “American Experience: Fly Girls, Amy Johnson,” PBS.org (https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/flygirls-amy-johnson/ : accessed 2 December 2018).

New Homes, New Names

First, let me wish all of my readers a Happy Thanksgiving!

I recently documented how the numbers of Casbon ancestors living in Meldreth, Cambridgeshire, dwindled, beginning in the mid-nineteenth century.[1] Today I’ll highlight two brothers who left Meldreth in the 1860s. Not only did they leave the ancestral home, but they also left the spelling of their old surname behind in Meldreth. The two brothers were John Casban and Reuben Casben.

This marriage record is a good place to start.

John Casban Mary Hall M Lambeth 1866 (1) Marriage record of John Casban to Mary Hall, St. Mary Parish, Lambeth, Surrey, 9 October 1866.[2]
(Click on image to enlarge)

We can see that John was a widower. He was married in 1863 to Ann Barnes, in Meldreth.[3] She died in Meldreth in April 1864. Their daughter, Eliza Ann, was baptized in Meldreth on June 4, 1864.[4] John relocated to Lambeth, in Surrey, sometime after Eliza’s baptism, but before his remarriage in 1866.

Lambeth is now a borough of London, but was once a separate parish in the county of Surrey.[5] It is south of the City of London and the River Thames, and east of Westminster.

Lambeth map (1)
Detail of map showing Lambeth (area east of River Thames) and Westminster (west of Thames).[6] St. Mary’s church is circled. Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland. (Click on image to enlarge)

Lambeth seems to have been only a temporary stopping point for John. I haven’t been able to find him in the 1871 census, but all of his children’s births, beginning in 1871, were registered in Edmonton, a district in northern London, about nine miles from Lambeth. Besides his daughter Eliza, John and Mary had three children: George William, born in 1871; Kate, 1874; and Edward, 1878.[7] Eliza died in 1873, and young Edward died before his first birthday, in 1879, leaving only George and Kate to survive into adulthood.[8]

John C b1842 Meldreth 1881 census Tottenham (1) Detail from 1881 England Census, Tottenham, showing John and his family. (Click on image to enlarge)

John’s wife, Mary, died in 1880, at the age of 40.[9] He married again later in the same year, this time to a widow named Sarah Cave, neé Lawrence.[10] John and Sarah lived together in Edmonton until she passed in 1913.[11] John died in 1927 at the age of 86.[12] John held a variety of jobs in his life, including labourer, carman (driver of horse drawn vehicle for transporting goods), gardener, and labourer at a gasworks. Some of today’s Casbans are descended from John, through his son George William. (Other Casbans descend from John’s brother, Samuel Clark Casban, who will be featured in a future post.)

I don’t know when John adopted the Casban spelling of his name. He used it for his first marriage to Ann Barnes in 1863, while still living in Meldreth. My theory is that he was taught to read and write during the seven years he spent in a boys’ reform school, and that he was taught to spell his name with the -ban ending.

Going back to the marriage record at the beginning of this post, you can see that the two witnesses to the ceremony were John’s brother and sister, “Ruben” Casben and Mary Ann Casban. Mary Ann was the first of the siblings to leave Meldreth, having acquired a job as a cook in a London public house by 1861.[13] Mary Ann married a man named Joseph Sparrow in 1875.[14] They continued to live in the Shoreditch and Hackney neighborhoods of London.

It isn’t known when Reuben left Meldreth for London, but it must have been before John’s wedding in 1866. Reuben was living in Kennington, a part of Lambeth, when he married Elizabeth Mary Neyland in February 1869.[15] They remained in Lambeth for the rest of their lives.

Reuben C and Elizabeth Neyland M South Kennington 1869 (1)
Marriage record of “Ruben” Casban & Elizabeth Mary Neyland, St Barnabas Church, South Kennington,
Surrey, 24 Feb 1869. (Click on image to enlarge)

It’s interesting to see that Reuben signed his name “Casben” on his brother’s marriage record and “Casban” on his own. He seems to have gone back and forth in his spelling for several years, but eventually settled on the -ben version, as evidenced by later records.

Like his father and brothers, Reuben started out as a labourer in Meldreth. After coming to Lambeth, he spent most of his life working for the railways, as a porter and horsekeeper. When the 1891 census was taken, he was working as a “grocer & Italian warehouseman.”[16] The move to London did not mean that work would be less demanding physically.

Reuben and Elizabeth had nine children—five boys and four girls. All but one of them survived into adulthood. They were: William Thomas, born in 1871; Peter John, 1872; Leonard, 1874 (died 1875); Margaret Elizabeth, 1877; Florence, 1879; Elizabeth Mary, 1881; Ellen, 1883; Arthur, 1886; and Henry, 1888.[17] Of the boys, only Arthur and Henry married and had families. Arthur (and sister Margaret) migrated to New South Wales, Australia, in the early 1900s. As a result, Reuben and Elizabeth have Casben descendants in both England and Australia today.

Casbon Reuben b1848 1891 census Lambeth (1)
Detail from 1891 England census, Lambeth, showing Reuben and his family. (Click on image to enlarge)

While it’s unknown why John, Reuben, and their sister, Mary Ann, left Meldreth, it was probably due to the economic and technological forces at work in Victorian England. Except for a minor boom in coprolite mining in the 1870s and 80s, Meldreth remained an agricultural backwater, while London and its environs were growing rapidly. The entrenched class system did not allow for upward mobility, but at least the move offered the possibility of a greater variety of job opportunities.

[1] Jon Casbon, “Going, Going …,” 1 Nov 18, Our Casbon Journey (https://casbonjourney.wordpress.com/2018/11/01/going-going/ : accessed 19 November 2018).
[2] Parish of St. Mary, Lambeth (Surrey, England), Marriage Register, May-Oct 1866, p. 224, no. 448, John Casban & Mary Hall, 9 Oct 1866; imaged as “London, England, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1754-1921,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=1623 : accessed 22 March 2017), Lambeth >St Mary, Lambeth > 1865-1866 >image 492 of 505; citing London Metropolitan Archives, London.
[3] Parish of Meldreth (Cambridgeshire, England), Register of Marriages, 1837-75, p. 52, no. 104, John Casbon & Ann Barnes, 24 Jan 1863; imaged as “Parish registers for Meldreth, 1681-1877,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/film/007567609?cat=210742 : accessed 29 August 2017), image 398 of 699; citing FHL microfilm 1,040,542, item 9.
[4] Parish of Meldreth (Cambridgeshire, England), Register of Baptisms, 1813–67, p. 96, no. 765, Eliza Ann Casbon, 5 Jun 1864; imaged as “Parish registers for Meldreth, 1681-1877,” FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/search/film/007567609?cat=210742 : accessed 28 April 2017), image 245 of 699; citing FHL microfilm 1,040,542, item 5.
[5] “Lambeth,” Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lambeth : accessed 19 November 2018), rev. 19 Nov 18, 12:02.
[6] Surrey, Map 3 (Southampton: Ordnance Survey Office, 1880); online image, National Library of Scotland (https://maps.nls.uk/view/102347415 : accessed 19 November 2018), Maps home >OS Six-inch England and Wales, 1942-1952.
[7] General Register Office, “Search the GRO Online Index,” database, HM Passport Office (https://www.gro.gov.uk/gro/content/certificates/indexes_search.asp : accessed 19 November 2018), search on “Casban,” Edmonton, vol. 3A, pp. 198, 203, 251.
[8] Ibid, search on deaths, “Casban,” M[ar] qtr 1879, Edmonton, vol. 3A/164.
[9] Ibid, search on “Casban,” M[ar] qtr 1880, Edmonton, vol. 3A/151.
[10] St. Jude parish, Bethnal Green (Middlesex), Marriage Register, Mar 1880–Jun 1881, p. 111, no. 222, John Casban & Sarah Cave; imaged as as “London, England, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1754-1921,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=1623 : accessed 9 November 2015), Tower Hamlets >St Jude, Bethnal Green >1878-1881 >image 182 of 252; citing London Metropolitan Archives, London.
[11] General Register Office, “Search the GRO Online Index,” search on “Casban,” Sarah Casban, M[ar] qtr 1913, Edmonton, vol. 3A/697.
[12] Ibid, search on “Casban,” John Casban, M[ar] qtr 1927, Edmonton, vol. 3A/878.
[13] 1861 England Census, Middlesex, Islington (Finsbury), population schedule, enumeration district 36, p. 55 (stamped), schedule 153, Mary Ann Cusbin in household of Richd Munford; imaged as “1861 England Census,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=8767 : accessed 19 November 2018), Middlesex >Islington >Islington East >District 36 >image 28 of 84; citing The National Archives, RG 9, piece 146, folio 55, p. 27.
[14] Middlesex, England, Parish of St. Lukes Finsbury, Marriage Register, 1871-6, p. 245, record no. 489, Joseph Sparrow and Mary Ann Casbon, 26 Dec 1875; imaged as “London, England, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1754-1921,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=1623 : accessed 10 Aug 2016), Islington >St Luke, Finsbury >1867-1881 >image 494 of 747; citing London Metropolitan Archives, record no. p76/luk/058.
[15] St Barnabas Church, South Kennington (Surrey, England), Marriage Register, 6 May 1867-21 Mar 1876, p. 47, no. 93, 24 Feb 1869, Renben Casbon & Elizabeth Mary Neyland; imaged as “London, England, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1754-1932,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=1623 : accessed 22 March 2017), Lambeth >St Barnabas, South Lambeth >1851-1876 >image 297 of 479; citing London Metropolitan Archives, London.
[16] 1891 England Census, London, population schedule, Lambeth, enumeration district 28, p. 4, schedule 19, 267 Wandsworth Rd., Reuben Cesban; imaged as “1891 England Census,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=6598 : accessed 20 November 2018), London >Lambeth >Kennington First >District 28 >image 5 of 54; citing The National Archives, RG 12, piece 401, folio 90, p. 4.
[17] General Register Office, “Search the GRO Online Index,” database, HM Passport Office (https://www.gro.gov.uk/gro/content/certificates/indexes_search.asp : accessed 19 November 2018), search on births, “Casben,” “Casban,” Lambeth, vol. 1D, pp. 335, 428, 441, 442, 444, 448, 453, 466, 478.

Grandpa’s Reader

This was my grandfather Leslie Casbon’s (1894–1990) Third Reader.

reader cover and title Cover and title pages of Indiana State Series, Revised Third Reader, 1899.[1]

I know it was his book, because he wrote his name inside the front cover. It must also have been used by his brother, Lynnet (1899–1983), whose name is written inside the back cover.

Inside front and back covers. (Click on image to enlarge)

Since Leslie was the oldest child of Lawrence (1865–1950) and Kate (Marquart, 1868–1959) Casbon, and Lynnet was the youngest, it’s likely that the middle son, Loring (1896–1970) also used the Reader, although he failed to leave his mark in the book.

Lawrence Kate 3 boys and horse abt 1898 Photo of Lawrence & Kate Casbon with sons Lynnet, Loring, and Leslie, ca. 1898, near Hebron, Indiana.
Names of horse & dog unknown. (Click on image to enlarge)

Up until I started writing this post, I assumed that this book was part of the famous McGuffey Reader series, named for the original author, William Holmes McGuffey. The McGuffey Readers dominated American Education throughout the 19th century.[2] Generations of school children were raised on them.

Upon closer inspection, however, although the book is very similar in appearance to the McGuffey books, they are not the same. The cover indicates that this book is part of the Indiana Educational Series. Nowhere is the word McGuffey mentioned.

In the McGuffey series, the Third Reader was written at a level equivalent to today’s 5th or 6th grade.[3] Since most rural students, including my grandfather, were taught in one-room schoolhouses, the modern concept of grades was not in use. I suspect the same applies to this book. It might be that the book was intended to cover several grades, since the readings become progressively longer, with more complex concepts and vocabulary. There were also fourth and fifth readers, which probably would have gone up to about the eighth-grade level.

The Indiana Educational Series of readers, which included this book, was selected by the State Board of School Commissioners “to be used in the public schools of Indiana for the next five years,” beginning in the summer of 1899.[4] This ensured that a standardized curriculum for reading would be used throughout the state.

In the Introduction to the Third Reader, the author writes,

In choosing material for reading books to be used by pupils who have already acquired some facility in recognizing word forms, the purposes of the reading lesson must be clearly apprehended. These seem to be three: first, to inculcate a love for what is best and highest in literature; second, to train the child in correct habits of thought getting from the printed page; and, third, to train him in vocal expression.”[5]

The contents include poetry, literary excerpts and historical writings. Some of the readings contain moral lessons, such as the poem “They Didn’t Think,” by Phoebe Cary. Here is the final stanza:

Now, my little children,
You who read this song,
Don’t you see what trouble
Comes of thinking wrong?
And can’t you take a warning
From their dreadful fate
Who began their thinking
When it was too late?
Don’t think there’s always safety
Where no danger shows;
Don’t suppose you know more
Than anybody knows;
But when you’re warned of ruin,
Pause upon the brink,
And don’t go under headlong
‘Cause you didn’t think.[6]

Some of the better-known readings in the book include Clement Moore’s “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” “The Owl and the Pussycat,” by Edward Lear, an excerpt from Black Beauty, by Anna Sewell, and “The Ugly Duckling” by Hans Christian Andersen.

Grandpa Les would have probably started using this book around 1903-1905, when the family was still living near Hebron, in southern Porter County. By the time it was Lynnet’s turn, they had probably already moved to their new farm in Morgan township, just south of Valparaiso.

This photograph was taken about 1905 – maybe Leslie was using the Third Reader then.

L to R: back row – Lawrence, Lynnet, Kate; front row – Leslie (I think), Loring. (Click on image to enlarge)

The Reader must have served the boys well. All went on to graduate from high school and complete some higher education.

[1] Indiana State Series, Third Reader, revised by S.H. Clark and H.S. Fiske (Indianapolis: Indiana School Book Co., 1899).
[2] Susan Walton, “(Re)Turning To W.H. McGuffey’s Frontier Virtues,” 2 Feb 1918; online newsletter, Education Week (https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/1983/02/02/03060028.h02.html : accessed 7 November 2018).
[3] National Park Service, Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, “William Holmes McGuffey and His Readers,” The Museum Gazette, leaflet [undated]; PDF Download, National Park Service (https://www.nps.gov/jeff/learn/historyculture/upload/mcguffey.pdf : accessed 7 November 2018).
[4] Indiana School Journal and Teacher, Volume 44, no. 7 (July 1899), p. 446; online image, Google Books (https://books.google.com/books?id=WlorAQAAMAAJ : accessed 7 November 2018).
[5] Indiana State Series, Third Reader, p. 3.
[6] Ibid., pp. 16-17.

Going, Going …

The sister villages of Meldreth and Melbourn in Cambridgeshire are my ancestral homeland. Records of Casbon ancestors in these villages go back to the mid-sixteenth century. Families occasionally moved from one village to another, or to other nearby villages, but there was little reason or incentive to go further. The situation remained stable for over 250 years, but in the 1840s, things began to change.

Slowly at first, and then with increasing speed, the number of Casbons in Meldreth and Melbourn began to dwindle. In the 1841 census, there were 7 households with 30 people; in 1851, 7 households with 27 people; 1861 – 4 households/14 people; 1871 – 5 households/12 people; 1881 – 2 households/4 people; 1891 – 2 households/5 people; 1901 & 1911 – 1 household/2 people.[1] (1911 is the last year census records have been made available to the public.) The 1939 register (a census-like record taken before World War 2) shows only one Casbon living in Meldreth.

chart Chart showing decline in Casbon households and family members in Meldreth and Melbourn from 1841 to 1939. (Click on image to enlarge)

What happened? Where did they go and why did they leave? The reasons are varied, but for the most part revolve around the “three Fs”: finance, family, friends. In the mid-1800s, the growth of cities and improvements in transportation created new job opportunities. The exodus from Meldreth took off after the arrival of the railroad in 1851.[2]

Casbon households in Meldreth, 1841 England Census.

The first to leave was my third great grandfather, Thomas (1803–1888), and his family, when they emigrated to the United States in 1846. I’ve written extensively about Thomas and his journey, so will not elaborate further here.

1851 Casbon households in Meldreth & Melbourn, 1851 England Census.

The next to go was James Casbon (1806–1871), who moved to the village of Barley in Hertfordshire with his family, probably in the early 1850s.[3] Barley is located about five miles south of Meldreth.

Barley map
Detail map showing Cambridge, Meldreth, Melbourn, and Barley.[4] (Click on image to enlarge)

James was a landowner, which put him in a different class than his poorer Casbon relatives. He also had a business as a carrier, hauling freight (and perhaps passengers) to and from London. His reasons for moving to Barley are unknown. His sons remained in Barley and established their own families there. Thus, Barley became a new population center for the Casbon surname.

Between 1851 and 1861 the number of Casbon households was further reduced due to deaths, employment, and unknown other reasons. Lydia (Burgess) Casbon, widow of Joseph (abt. 1811–1847), died in 1851.[5] Two daughters, Hannah and Harriet Ann, preceded her in death in 1848 and 1850, respectively, and a third daughter, Emma, died in 1852.[6] Lydia’s surviving daughter, Mary, emigrated to the United States, where she joined her uncle Thomas Casbon, in 1856.[7] “Patty” Barns (née Martha Wagstaff), widow of John Casbon (abt. 1779–1813), died in 1855.[8] After losing his wife, Elizabeth, in 1852, James Casbon (b. abt. 1813) and his family disappeared from view until he emigrated to Indiana in 1870.[9] Mary Ann Casbon (b. 1831, daughter of William, b. 1805), who had been working as a servant in Melbourn in 1851, was employed as a cook in a London public house by 1861.[10]

1861 Casbon households in Meldreth, 1861 England Census.

Although the numbers remained relatively stable between 1861 and 1871, some important moves still took place. Three more of William’s (b. 1805) children left for the environs of London: John (b. abt. 1842), Reuben (b. 1847) and Martha (b. abt. 1855). John was working as a Labourer when he was married in Lambeth (now a borough of London) in 1866.[11] Reuben must have moved to the London area in the same time frame, since he and his sister Mary Ann are listed as witnesses on the marriage record. Martha, perhaps following in her brothers’ footsteps, is listed as a sixteen-year-old “domestic servant housemaid” for a suburban London household in the 1871 census.[12]

1871 Casbon households in Meldreth & Melbourn, 1871 England Census.

The numbers plunged after 1871, as the “old-timers” – Jane (1803–1872), William (1805-1877) and William (1806–1875) died and their remaining children moved away. Samuel Clark Casbon (b. 1851) moved to Croydon, Surrey.[13] His sister, Jane, married John Camp in 1881.[14] Only the younger William (b. 1835), and John Casbon (b. 1849) remained. William’s three children, Walter (b. 1856), William (b. 1860), and Priscilla (b. 1862), all left home for jobs in domestic service or the railroads.

William (b. 1835) died in 1896. After his death, his wife, Sarah (West, b. abt 1823) moved to Hitchin, Hertfordshire, where she lived with her son, Walter, until her death in 1905.[15] John (b. 1849) died in 1935, followed by his wife Sarah (Pepper, b. abt 1850) in 1938.[16] John and Sarah were the only two Casbons on the 1901 and 1911 censuses for Meldreth.

Wm C b1835 grave marker 1896
The memorial stone of William (1835–1896) and Sarah (West, abt 1823–1905) Casbon, Holy Trinity Churchyard, Meldreth. “In/ Memory of/ WILLIAM CASBON/ who died March 7th 1896/aged 61 years/”We hope to meet again at/ The Resurrection of the just/A light is from the household gone/ A voice we loved is stilled/ A place is vacant in our home/ Which never can be filled”./ Also of /SARAH, wife of the above/who departed this life/ December 22nd 1905/ aged 83 years./She hath done what she could/ Her end was peace./”
Photograph by Malcolm Woods; Meldreth History website (http://www.meldrethhistory.org.uk).
(Click on image to enlarge)

Martha Casbon (b. abt. 1855), who spent most of her adult life in domestic service, returned to Meldreth in her later years, and is the sole Casbon listed on the 1939 register.[17] With her death in 1947, the Casbon name became extinct in Meldreth.[18]

[1] Data extracted from England censuses by Jon Casbon.
[2] Happy Birthday, Meldreth Station (no publication details available), leaflet; PDF download (http://meldrethsheprethfoxtonrail.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Meldreth150.pdf : accessed 1 November 2018).
[3] Jon Casbon, “James Casbon, Farmer and Carrier, 1806-1871, Part 1,” 23 Jan 17, Our Casbon Journey (https://casbonjourney.wordpress.com/2017/01/23/james-casbon-farmer-and-carrier-1806-1871-part-1/ : accessed 1 November 2018).
[4] Ordnance Survey of England and Wales (Southampton: Director General at the Ordnance Survey Office, 1903), Sheet 16; online image, A Vision of Britain Through Time (http://www.visionofbritain.org.uk/maps/sheet/new_series_revised_medium/sheet_16 : accessed 1 November 2018).
[5] England and Wales, “Search the GRO [General Register Office] Online Index,” database, HM Passport Office (https://www.gro.gov.uk/gro/content/certificates/indexes_search.asp : accessed 1 November 2018), Lydia Casbon, 2d qtr, 1851, Royston & Buntingford, vol. 6:405.
[6] Ibid., Hannah Casbon (age 5), 2d qtr, 1848, Royston & Buntingford, vol. 6/433. Ibid., Harriet Ann Casbon (age 11), 3d qtr, 1852, Royston & Buntingford, vol. 6/366. Ibid., Emma Casbon (age 7), 2d qtr, 1852, Royston & Buntingford, vol. 3A/131.
[7] Jon Casbon, “From England to Indiana, Part 8,” 18 Nov 2016, Our Casbon Journey (https://casbonjourney.wordpress.com/2016/11/18/from-england-to-indiana-part-8/ : accessed 1 November 2018).
[8] England and Wales, “Search the GRO [General Register Office] Online Index,” (cited previously), Martha Barnes, 4th qtr, 1855, Royston, vol. 3A: 128.
[9] Jon Casbon, “James Casbon of Meldreth, England and Porter County, Indiana,” 29 Nov 2016, Our Casbon Journey (https://casbonjourney.wordpress.com/2016/11/29/james-casbon-of-meldreth-england-and-porter-county-indiana/ : accessed 1 November 2018).
[10] 1861 England Census, Middlesex, Islington, population schedule, district 36, Johnston parish, p. 55 (stamped), schedule 153, Mary Ann Cusbin in household of Richd Munford; imaged on Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=8767 : accessed 1 November 2018), Middlesex >Islington >Islington East >District 36 >image 28 of 84; citing The National Archives, RG 9, piece 146, folio 55, p. 27.
[11] “London, England, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1754-1921,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=1623 : accessed 22 March 2017), Lambeth >St. Mary, Lambeth >1761-1896 >image 337 of 540; citing London Metropolitan Archives, ref. no. p85/mry1/541.
[12] 1871 England Census, Kent, Lewisham, population schedule, enumeration district 4, schedule 214, Martha Casbon (indexed as “Carbor”} in household of John H Greeno; imaged on Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=7619 : accessed 19 March 2018), Kent >Lewisham >Lee >District 4 >image 62 of 80; citing The National Archives, RG 10, piece 763, folio 89, p. 61.
[13] 1881 England Census, Surrey, Croydon, population schedule, enumeration district 35, schedule 256, Samuel Casban; image on Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=7572 : accessed 1 November 2018), Surrey >Croydon >District 35 >image 49 of 66; citing The National Archives, RG 11, piece 816, folio 60, p. 47.
[14] “England and Wales Marriage Registration Index, 1837-2005”, database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:2DRB-92Y : accessed 1 November 2018), Jane Casbon, 1st qtr, 1881, Royston, vol. 3A/323.
[15] Kathryn Betts, “Holy Trinity Churchyard: Monumental Inscriptions.” Meldreth History (http://www.meldrethhistory.org.uk/page_id__484_img__4391.aspx : accessed 1 November 2018).
[16] “England and Wales Death Registration Index 1837-2007”, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QVHV-Q78D : accessed 1 November 2018), John J Casbon, 1st qtr, 1935, Cambridge, vol. 3B/564. Same source (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QVHP-YBY9 : accessed 1 November 2018), Sarah Casbon, 1st qtr, 1938, Cambridge, vol. 3B/553.
[17] 1939 Register, South Cambridgeshire R.D., enumeration district TBKV, schedule 34, Martha Casbon; imaged on findmypast (https://search.findmypast.com/search-world-records/1939-register : accessed 19 November 2016); citing The National Archives, R39/6326/6326I/005/05.
[18] “England and Wales Death Registration Index 1837-2007”, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QVCQ-FH17 : accessed 2 August 2016), Martha Casbon, 1st qtr, 1947, Cambridge, vol. 4A/257.

Was my Third Great Grandfather a Convicted Thief?

Sometimes there are long gaps in records, especially for people who lived before censuses were taken. You might only have records for birth (or baptism), marriage, and death (or burial)—commonly referred to as “BMD” records, with no information about what happened in the intervals between these major life events.

Such is the case with my third great grandfather, Thomas Casbon. Thomas was born November 3, 1803 in Meldreth, Cambridgeshire. He married Emma Scruby October 9, 1830 in nearby Melbourn. The 27-year gap between his birth and marriage is a silent period in Thomas’ life.

Or at least it was.

Here’s an interesting record I found on the Findmypast website:[1]

Court proceeding 1822 marked

(Click on image to enlarge)
This is a register of criminal court proceedings for Cambridgeshire held in the year 1822. I’ve marked the pertinent items. Thomas Casborn was tried during the October Sessions, convicted of larceny, and sentenced to seven years’ transportation. Sessions were courts that met quarterly to try a variety of civil and criminal offenses.[2] They were generally held in the county seat – in this case, Cambridge.

The sessions were also reported in the local newspaper:[3]

Thomas Casburn convicted Camb Oct Sessions 1822 Camb Chronicle 25Oct1822 marked

Cambridge Chronicle, 25 Oct 1822. (Click on image to enlarge)
I’ve included the entire article, as I think readers might find it interesting, but here is the paragraph in question.

Thomas paragraph

(Click on image to enlarge)
There are a couple of interesting terms in this report: harvest home – a festival traditionally celebrated on the Sunday nearest the harvest moon in late September or early October;[4] haulm – “the stems or tops of crop plants (such as peas or potatoes) especially after the crop has been gathered.”[5]

You can see that Thomas’ surname was spelled Casburn in this report. Was he my ancestor? Spelling of surnames was still highly fluid at that time, so minor variations do not rule out anyone with a similar name. The fact that the stolen watch was located in Bassingbourn possibly points to “my” Thomas, because Bassingbourn is quite close to Meldreth. (Thomas’ father Isaac and mother Susanna (Howes) were married in Bassingbourn in 1800.[6]) But this is weak evidence at best.

To complicate matters further, there were quite a few men named Thomas, with similar surnames, living in Cambridgeshire at the time. These included the names Casborn, Casbourn, and Casburn. As a matter of fact, if you read the entire Cambridge Chronicle article, you will see that another man named Thomas Casburn was charged with disturbing the peace in the parish of Burwell. (The Casburn spelling is strongly associated with Burwell.) How can we tell if the man convicted of larceny was my ancestor?

Fortunately, there are other records that help to narrow down the field.

Leviathan prisoner register National Archives

(Click on image to enlarge)
This is a partial page from a register of prisoners on the convict hulk Leviathan.[7] A hulk was a decommissioned ship used as a floating prison.[8] Masts, rigging, and other components necessary for sailing were removed, rendering the ships unseaworthy, but still able to float.[9] They were used to house prisoners in England from 1776 until 1857, when the practice was finally banned.[10] Many convicts were placed on hulks temporarily, while awaiting transport on convict ships to Australia and other Commonwealth lands. But a few served their entire sentence aboard the hulk.

HMS Leviathan was first launched as a 74-gun ship of the line in the British Navy in 1790. She fought in the battle of Trafalgar. She was decommissioned and converted to a prison ship in 1816, and anchored in Portsmouth harbor.[11]

Prison hulks Portsmouth Harbour

Prison Hulks in Portsmouth Harbour, oil on canvas, Daniel Turner. © National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London. (Click on image to enlarge)
The register of prisoners shows that Thomas Casborn was the 6,072d prisoner registered on the ship’s book. He was one of four prisoners brought aboard from Cambridge on October 31, 1822. All four were convicted of grand larceny (“G.L.”) and received seven-year sentences. If you look back at the Cambridge Chronicle article, you will find the other three names. All except Thomas were transported to New South Wales (“N.S.W” in the last column) on May 8, 1823. Thomas served his entire sentence aboard the hulk and was discharged October 18, 1829. I believe the reason Thomas was not transported is that this was his first offense.[12] The other three men were repeat offenders.[13]

Most importantly, this register shows that Thomas was nineteen years old at the time of his conviction. This gives him a birth year of about 1803 and helps us to narrow down the list of men who might have been Thomas. I can only find two potential candidates:

  • Thomas Casbon, my third great grandfather, and
  • Thomas Casburn, baptized October 3, 1802 in Burwell, Cambridgeshire.[14]

There were also Thomases baptized in 1792 and 1808, but these are too far outside the margin of error to be listed as nineteen years old in 1822.

So, the list is down to two. But which one was the prisoner on the Leviathan? I needed more information.

With a little research, I learned that the records of the Cambridge Quarter Sessions are maintained at the Cambridgeshire Archives. I emailed the Archives, along with a copy of the news clipping, to see if they could tell me anything more about Thomas Casborn who stole the silver watch. I received this polite reply on October 4th.

I have looked at the Quarter Sessions order book for 1822-1826 (ref QSO/14) and there is indeed an entry for the trial and conviction of Thomas Casborn. There is no personal information about him other than that he was “late of the parish of Melbourn [my emphasis].” This may help you identify whether this is the Casborn you are searching for or not.[15]

He also mentioned that other supporting papers for the October 1822 sessions are located in the archives, but to access these I would have to hire a professional researcher for a fee. These papers might contain additional background information about Thomas Casborn, but they might not. I’m hoping to visit the archives myself in a couple years, so I decided to forego the professional researcher.

Besides, I think the information I received answered my question. Thomas Casborn, the convict, was from the parish of Melbourn. The parishes of Melbourn and Meldreth are next-door neighbors, and my ancestors lived in both at one time or another. As I mentioned already, “my” Thomas was married at Melbourn. There are no records of other men named Thomas with this surname living in or near Melbourn at the time.

Have I proved that “my” Thomas was the man convicted of larceny in 1822? I think the evidence is pretty strong. What do you think?

It might sound like I’m celebrating the fact that I’m related to a thief. Although it does add a bit more color to the family history, I think what I’m really celebrating is that I’ve been able to link my ancestor to these records, and because of that I now have a more complete picture of his life.

What was life like for Thomas on the hulk? Some generalities can be made. Prisoners were required to do hard labor at the dockyards or river banks.[16]

This work was backbreaking, exhausting and very public; convict chain gangs provided a moral spectacle and example for all who saw them. The rations … were inadequate, in that they did not provide the convicts with the energy or nutrition required to perform such arduous work. This was done on purpose – the parliamentary act authorizing the use of hulks stipulated that convicts were to be fed little other than bread, “any coarse or inferior food”, water and small beer.[17]

Discipline was said to be severe and convicts were frequently locked in irons. Mortality rates were high, although this does not seem to be the case on the Leviathan.[18] Of the 444 prisoners brought onto the Leviathan in 1822, only eight died while in captivity.[19]

These would be considered extreme and inhumane conditions by today’s standards. In Thomas’ time, harsh punishments were the norm, although criticism of the hulk system did occur.[20]

hulk diagram

© The British Library Board. (Click on image to enlarge)
I have another set of records from the Leviathan, known as Quarterly Returns. These list the prisoners on board at any given time, and they include entries about prisoners’ “Bodily State” and “Behavior.” Most of Thomas’ entries list his bodily state as “good” and behavior as “very good.” However, in 1827 his behavior was listed as “indifferent.”[21] After five years imprisonment, this would not be surprising. In 1828 and 1829, his behavior was once again “very good.” Perhaps by then he was seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

How does this change how I think of and feel about my third great grandfather? I don’t know if I have an answer. I never knew him, so everything I know about him is based on limited information. Now I know that he committed a criminal act, when he was old enough to know better, and was punished accordingly. Did he “learn his lesson” after serving his sentence? It would seem so. He married Emma Scruby one year after his release from the Leviathan. After another sixteen years he was somehow able to come to the United States, where his family was able to prosper in ways that would have been impossible in his mother country. There is nothing to suggest he was anything but a model citizen after coming to America. The balance sheet seems to be in his favor.

Nothing of this has been passed down in our family history that I know of. Who knew about it? His wife Emma would have surely known. The children, who ranged in age from thirteen to two years old when they emigrated, might have had an inkling. If they did know, it seems that they kept it to themselves.

His conviction and imprisonment on the Leviathan must have influenced his decision to emigrate. By coming to America he was able to put the past behind him and start over with a clean slate.

[1] “England & Wales, Crime, Prisons & Punishment, 1770-1935,” database with images, Findmypast (subscription site) (https://search.findmypast.com/record?id=TNA/CCC/HO27/023/00041&parentid=TNA/CCC/HO27/00950248 : accessed 26 September 2018), entry for Thomas Casborn, October Sessions, 1822, Cambridge; citing The National Archives, HO 27, piece 23.
[2] “England Quarter Session Records,” FamilySearch Wiki (https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/England_Quarter_Session_Records : accessed 10 October 2018), rev. 26 Dec 15, 02:53.
[3] “Cambridgeshrire Quarter Sessions, October 18 and 19, 1822,” Cambridge Chronicle and Journal, and Huntingdonshire Gazette, 25 Oct 1822, p. 3, col. 4; online image, The British Newspaper Archive (https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/BL/0000420/18221025/008/0003 : accessed 26 September 2018).
[4] “British harvest: how long does the season last, when is harvest day, plus history and traditions,”Countryfile Magazine (https://www.countryfile.com/how-to/food-recipes/british-harvest-how-long-does-the-season-last-when-is-harvest-day-plus-history-and-traditions/ : accessed 11 October 2018), 9 Aug 2018.
[5] “haulm,” Merriam-Webster (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/haulm : accessed 11 October 2018).
[6] “England Marriages, 1538–1973 ,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:N63P-B9H : accessed 4 November 2015), Isaac Casbill and Susannah Howes, 15 Oct 1800; citing; FHL microfilm 1,040,367.
[7] “HO 9. Convict hulks moored at Portsmouth: Portland, Captivity, Leviathan: Register of prisoners,” p. 213 (stamped); PDF download, The National Archives (http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C4286832 : accessed 10 October 2018). (file HO-9-8_1.pdf).
[8] “List of British prison hulks,” Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_British_prison_hulks : accessed 10 October 2018), rev. 31 Aug 18, 08:44.
[9] Ibid.
[10] Ibid.
[11] Ibid.
[12] “HO 9. Convict hulks moored at Portsmouth: Portland, Captivity, Leviathan: Register of prisoners,” p. 145 (stamped).
[13] Ibid, pp. 154, 163 (stamped).
[14] “England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:NVPC-NNY : accessed 10 October 2018), Thomas Casburn; citing FHL microfilm 887,403.
[15] Alan Akeroyd (cambs.archives@cambridgeshire.gov.uk), to Jon Casbon, email, 4 Oct 2018, “Cambs quarter sessions, October 1822”; privately held by Casbon [(e-address for private use)].
[16] “Convict Hulks,” digital panopticon (https://www.digitalpanopticon.org/Convict_Hulks : accessed 11 October 2018).
[17] Ibid.
[18] Ibid.
[19] Jon Casbon, review of Leviathan prisoner register, cited above.
[20] “Convict Hulks,” digital panopticon, previously cited.
[21] “England & Wales, Crime, Prisons & Punishment, 1770-1935,” database & images, findmypast (https://search.findmypast.com/record?id=TNA/CCC/HO8/011/00204 : accessed 26 September 2018), quarterly returns from Hulk Leviathan, Mar 1827, p. 192 (stamped), no. 6072, Thomas Casborn; citing The National Archives, HO 8, piece 11.

Obituaries: Charles and Mary Casbon

obituary (n.)

“register of deaths,” from Medieval Latin obituarius “a record of the death of a person,” literally “pertaining to death,” from Latin obitus “departure, a going to meet, encounter” (a euphemism for “death”), from stem of obire “go toward, go to meet” (as in mortem obire “meet death”), from ob “toward” (see ob-) + ire “to go”[1]

I like obituaries. They are one of the most valuable resources for genealogical information. Besides giving a date of death, they often contain other important dates, such as birth and marriage. In addition, they often give names of family members. They sometimes provide insight into the life of a person, such as their occupation and their standing in the community.

Since I wrote about the family Bible of Charles and Mary (Marrell) Casbon last week, I thought I would be fitting to follow up with their obituaries this week. Charles was the first to go: he died on October 15, 1915.[2]

Casbon Charles T obit 27Oct1915
Obituary of Charles Thomas Casbon.
Clipping from unknown newspaper.[3]
(Click on image to enlarge)

This obituary was included in the pile of photocopies my father received from Ilaine Church in the early 1990s. It was another valuable find in that collection, since the local newspapers from Valparaiso and Porter County, Indiana are not available online for this time period. Whoever originally copied the obituary probably found it on microfilm at the Valparaiso library.

Charles Thomas was the second surviving son of my third great-grandfather, Thomas Casbon, who emigrated from England in 1846.

The obituary gives us a very nice character description of Charles, especially of his life after retiring from his farm in the country to his home on Monroe Street. I love the description of him “driving his little bay horse and open buggy, or walking along greeting his friends.”

Charles T Casbon House Valpraiso Indiana
Charles and Mary (left) in front of their home on 203 E. Monroe St, Valparaiso, Indiana. The woman on the
right is unidentified – possibly their daughter Sina. As far as I can tell, this house is no longer standing.
From History of Porter County, Indiana: A Narrative Account of its Historical Progress, its People
and its Principal Interests
(Chicago, Illinois: Lewis Publishing Company, 1912). 

Unfortunately, obituaries sometimes get facts wrong. This can happen because family members make mistakes in their recollections, or newspaper writers and editors record facts incorrectly. The glaring error in Charles’ obituary is the opening statement that he came to Indiana from Ohio when he was eight years old. In fact, Charles first came to Indiana as a young adult.  The History of Porter County gives this account: “In company with a friend, George Bittner, in March, 1862, he arrived at Valparaiso, a small place at that time, where he paused in his journey and in this vicinity has remained ever since, to his own profit and to the benefit of the community.”[4]

The obituary tells us that Charles’ health began to fail about two years before his death, and that he died from “complications of diseases.” His death certificate tells us that he died from “valvular insufficiency of both valves of heart,” of two years’ duration.[5] Oddly, the obituary doesn’t tell us when Charles was born, or his age at death. He was born in November 6, 1840, which would have made him just shy of 75 years old when he died.

His widow, Mary, survived him by more than twelve years, passing away on February 26, 1928.[6]

Mary C obit
Obituary of Mary (Marrell) Casbon. From The (Valparaiso, Indiana)
Vidette-Messenger, 27 Feb 1928, p. 1, col. 7. (Click on image to enlarge)

Mary’s obituary tells us how her body was discovered by her brother, John, who was evidently living with her. Then it goes on to give more typical information, including her birth, marriage, social activities, and surviving relations. Unlike Charles’ earlier obituary, we really don’t learn much about Mary’s personality.

The only error I see in her obituary is the statement that Charles and Mary came to Porter County “shortly after their marriage” in 1868. This contradicts the date given for Charles arrival, above. The History of Porter County tells us that “he returned to his Ohio home [from Indiana] and there married Miss Mary E. Marrell.”[7] The family Bible also tells us that Charles was residing in Valparaiso at the time of his marriage.[8]

It’s impressive that Mary’s death made the front page of the newspaper. The Vidette Messenger didn’t have a separate obituary section at the time. Most notices of deaths and funeral ceremonies were reported on pages three or four, but some made it to the front page. Whether this was due to the prominence of the person in the community, the circumstances of their death, or some other reason is unknown to me.

Every indication is that the 48-year marriage of Charles and Mary was a strong one. They are now survived by members of the Church family—descendants of Lodema Casbon and her husband Hiram Church. Lodema was the only one of Charles’ and Mary’s children to have children of her own.

Charles grave markerMary grave marker
Charles’ and Mary’s grave markers, Maplewood Cemetery, Valparaiso, Indiana.[9]

[1] “obituary (n.),” Online Etymology Dictionary (https://www.etymonline.com/word/obituary : accessed 8 October 2018).
[2] Indiana, State Board of Health, Certificate of Death, no. 215, Porter County, Valparaiso, Charles T Casbon, 26 Oct 1915; imaged as “Indiana, Death Certificates, 1899-2011,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=60716 : accessed 10 August 2016), Certificate >1910-1919 >17 >image 264 of 4078; citing Indiana Archives and Records Administration, Indianapolis.
[3] Photocopy of clipping from unknown newspaper, handwritten date “Wed 27 Oct 1915,” “Succumbs to Death After Long Illness”; privately held by Jon Casbon.
[4] History of Porter County, Indiana: A Narrative Account of its Historical Progress, its People and its Principal Interests (Chicago, Illinois: Lewis Publishing Company, 1912), vol. 2, pp. 459-61.
[5] Indiana, State Board of Health, Certificate of Death, Charles T Casbon, previously cited.
[6] Indiana, State Board of Health, Certificate of Death, no. 6509, Porter County, Valparaiso, Mary E Casbon; imaged as “Indiana, Death Certificates, 1899-2011,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=60716 : accessed 24 August 2016), Certificate >1928 >03 >image 1516 of 2757; citing Indiana Archives and Records Administration, Indianapolis.
[7] History of Porter County, Indiana, previously cited.
[8] Photocopy of title page, holy matrimony, births, marriages and deaths pages from The Holy Bible Containing the Old and New Testaments, etc. (Philadelphia: A J Holman & Co., 1882), said to be the Charles Casbon family Bible (original in possession of Bud Church); privately held by Jon Casbon.
[9] Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed 08 October 2018), memorial page for Charles T Casbon (1840–1915), memorial no. 92655517, maintained by George & Linda Novotny; citing Maplewood Cemetery, Valparaiso, Porter County, Indiana. Find A Grave (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed 08 October 2018), memorial page for Mary E Casbon (1844–1928), memorial no. 9265539, maintained by George & Linda Novotny; citing Maplewood Cemetery, Valparaiso, Porter County, Indiana.