Using GPS: James & Susanna

Buckle your seat belts, serious genealogy discussion ahead! If you’re not into that, feel free to sit this one out. It’s OK, I don’t mind.

In “James Casbon, Farmer and Carrier, 1806-1871, Part 1” I provided this marriage record for James Casbon and Susanna Hayden Sanders. [1]

James Casbon Susanna Sanders marriage 1834 small
Marriage record of James Casbon and Susanna Hayden Sanders, August 22, 1834, Church of Saint Martin-in-the-Fields, London. (Click on image to enlarge)

I raised the question, “how do I know this is the right James?” It might seem like a silly or trivial question. After all, who else would it be? But genealogy researchers know that mistaken identities are all too common and have led many down the wrong rabbit hole, resulting in incorrect and unsupportable family trees. I know there was at least one other James Casbon living in England at the time. There could have been others I don’t know about, or someone with a similar name that got misspelled on the marriage record.

In this case I raised the question because of the unusual location of the wedding. Up to this point in James’ life I was unaware of any connection with London. It was very unusual for any of the Meldreth Casbons to get married anyplace except Meldreth or one of the nearby parishes. And the marriage record in question says that James was “of this parish,” meaning he lived in London.

How do we resolve questions like this? Fortunately there is a navigational tool we all know as GPS—that’s right, the Genealogical Proof Standard! I introduced the GPS in an earlier post and gave an example of how it can be applied. I will do the same now to answer the question I posed about the marriage of James Casbon and Susanna Hayden Sanders. Here are the steps of the GPS.

GPS insert
Adapted from The Board for Certification of Genealogists http://www.bcgcertification.org/resources/standard.html

First, what research have I done? In this case, this means looking for as much evidence as possible to either prove or disprove that the James in the wedding record is the one who was born in Meldreth in 1806.

The marriage record doesn’t tell me when or where James was born. Unlike many marriage records, it doesn’t even say whether he was a bachelor or a widower. All it really tells me is the date, the location, and the names of the bride, officiating minister, and witnesses. That’s not a lot to go on, but it’s better than nothing.

The date is important. I knew that James’ first wife Ann was buried in October 1833.[2] I also knew from the 1841 census that he married a woman named Susanna, and that their first child (John) was born about 1835.[3] So, the marriage record of 1834 was consistent with these dates.

1841 census detail
 Detail from 1841 census, Meldreth (Cambridgeshire). (Click on image to enlarge)

The fact that the name of James’ wife in the marriage and census records was the same is helpful, but doesn’t prove they were the same person. Susanna was a very common name. However, the bride’s middle name, “Hayden,” is unique, and a good clue for further research. Using her name, and estimated birth year (1808) from the 1841 census, I did a search for birth or baptismal records, and found a record for “Susnah Hayden Sanders,” baptized February 25, 1808, in Braughing, Hertfordshire, to John and Ann Sanders.[4]

Susanna H Sanders bapt Braughing 1808
Detail from Braughing (Hertfordshire) parish registers, baptisms, 1808. (Click on image to enlarge)

This was a lucky break. There were many “Susanna Sanders” born in England during this timeframe, but this was the only one with the middle name “Hayden.” It didn’t prove she was the same person named on the marriage certificate, but it gave me enough information to dig deeper – namely a location and the names of her parents.

Next, I made a guess that Hayden might be Susanna’s mother’s maiden name. I looked for a marriage record between a John Sanders and Ann Hayden in the timeframe of about 1790—1810. I found two: one 1805 in Broxbourne (Hertfordshire), and the other 1806 in Braughing (Hertfordshire). The latter caught my attention, since it was the same location as “Susnah’s” birth record. John Sanders married Ann Hayden November 28, 1806 in Braughing.[5] Based on the date and location, I was confident these were the parents of “Susnah,” and that she was probably the same person in the 1834 marriage record. But I still wanted stronger evidence that she was the same Susanna who married James from Meldreth.

It took another lucky break to confirm the connection. When I reviewed the 1851 census records for James, I noticed that three of the daughters were not present in his household. I did a separate search for each of them and found the following record for daughter Sarah.[6]

Sarah C b1844 Meld 1851 census Royston
Detail from 1851 census for Royston (Hertfordshire). (Click on image to enlarge)

Sarah Casbon, age 7, was recorded in the household of her grandparents, John and Ann Sanders, now living in Royston (a few miles from Meldreth)! It’s possible she was there because of her mother’s recent death in 1850. The census shows that Sarah was from Meldreth, and that her grandmother Ann was from Braughing. This almost certainly meant they were the same John and Ann (Hayden) Sanders married in Braughing in 1806.

This census was the piece of evidence that tied it all together. If John and Ann (Hayden) Sanders were Sarah’s grandparents, then their daughter Susannah Hayden Sanders was the same person listed as the wife of James Casbon of Meldreth on the 1841 census. It would be extremely unlikely for two different men named James Casbon to have married two different women with the unusual name of Susannah Hayden Sanders, especially within such a narrow timeframe. So, the couple married at St. Martin-in-the-Fields in 1834 must be James from Meldreth and Susanna from Braughing.

What about contradictory evidence? There is some, but I think it can be dismissed fairly easily. First, in 1834 there were two men named James Casbon from Meldreth. The other was the son of Isaac Casbon, born about 1813 (see “James Casbon of Meldreth, England and Porter County, Indiana”). He married Elizabeth Waller in 1835.[7] There is no reason to believe he also married Susanna Hayden Sanders in 1834, especially since there are separate entries for each couple in the 1841 census.

As I said, there were two marriage records for John Sanders and Ann Hayden, one in Broxbourne and the other in Braughing. The two parishes are about 11 miles apart, with Braughing being nearer to Royston. Although it’s possible that Ann Hayden, born in Braughing, was married in Broxbourne, it’s much more likely that she married in her home town.

One other piece of contradictory evidence is that the 1841 Meldreth census says that Susanna was “born in the same County [Cambridgeshire].” This contradicts the birth record from Braughing (Hertfordshire). However, errors are quite common in census records, and this detail has little significance compared to the rest of the evidence.

In this discussion, I haven’t gone through the steps of the GPS sequentially, but I think I have covered all the steps.

This post may give the appearance that my research was done in an orderly fashion, that is anything but the truth. I first recorded the marriage of James and Susanna sometime in 2015. I didn’t consciously set out to apply the GPS until I started to firm up facts for the blog entries about James a few weeks ago. It wasn’t until I started to dig deeper into Susanna’s birth as well as looking at census entries for James and Susanna’s children that the evidence started to come together. Genealogical proof can be a tedious business. It frequently requires evidence gathered from a variety of sources over a considerable period of time. And sometimes, as in this instance, it requires quite a bit of luck!

[1] [4] “Westminster Marriages”, images and transriptions, Findmypast (http://www.findmypast.com : accessed 17 January 2017), James Casbon – Susanna Hayden Sanders (1834); citing City of Westminster Archives Centre.
[2] Meldreth (Cambridgeshire, England), Parish registers,1681-1877, Anne Carsbourn burial, 4 Oct 1833; FHL microilm 1,040,542.
[3] “1841 England, Scotland and Wales census,” database and images, findmypast (http://www.findmypast.com : accessed 4 August 2016), James Casbon; citing The National Archives PRO HO 107, piece 63, folio 9, p.12.
[4] “Hertfordshire Baptisms,” Susnah Hayden Sanders, 26 Feb 1808, images and transcriptions, Findmypast (http://www.findmypast.com : accessed 17 January 2017).
[5] “England Marriages, 1538–1973”; database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:NLSJ-NJC: accessed 19 January 2017), John Sanders and Ann Hayden, 23 Dec 1806; citing Braughing, Hertford, England, reference ; FHL microfilm 991,368.
[6] “1851 Census of England, Wales & Scotland,” Royston, Hertfordshire; images and transcriptions, Findmypast (accessed 13 January 2017), entry for John Sanders; citing The National Archives, PRO HO 107, piece 1,707, folio 423, p. 8, household 29.
[7] Meldreth (Cambridgeshire, England), Bishop’s transcripts for Meldreth, 1599-1862, James Casbon—Elizabeth Waller, 5 Jul 1835; browsable images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-C9T9-NXJM?i=340&cat=1108704 : accessed 20 May 2016).
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