You might need the Kleenex® for this one.
One goal of genealogy, at least for me, is to keep lives from being forgotten. By writing about them, I hope to recognize, and give context and meaning to their existence, even if there are no living descendants to preserve their memory. Sometimes there is precious little to preserve when it comes to genealogical records.
Such is the case with Joseph Casbon and his wife Lydia. There is such a paucity of records, that I can only provide a bare outline of their lives. Unfortunately, those few records tell a depressing story
Until I was given a very old hand-written family history last year, I didn’t know if or how Joseph was related to the other Casbons. I wrote about this in a post titled “From England to Indiana, Part 2.” Joseph was listed as the son of Isaac Casbon (1773–1825), and brother to Thomas (1803–1888), William (1806–1875), and James (abt. 1813–1884). The only description given of Joseph was this: “dead he left no heirs.”
Other than this family history, the only two records I have that mention Joseph by name are those documenting his marriage and his burial. The first of these records his marriage to Lydia Burgess in 1835.
Marriage record of Joseph Casbon and Lydia Burgess, October 17, 1835, Parish of Royston (Hertfordshire & Cambridgeshire, England). (Click on image to enlarge)
A little information can be gleaned from this record. We can see that Joseph was a resident of Melbourn parish (just outside of Meldreth) and a bachelor. Lydia was “of this parish” (Royston) and a spinster – meaning an unmarried woman. Both Joseph and Lydia signed with their marks, meaning they were not proficient at writing, and possibly could not read. I don’t recognize the names of either of the two witnesses (John Thurley & Phoebe Huggins).
The only other record I have of Joseph is his burial in Meldreth March 7, 1847.
The burial record tells us that Joseph was still a resident of Melbourn, and that he was 36 years old when he died. This is useful information, because I’ve never been able to find a record of his baptism. Assuming the age is correct, we can estimate that he was born in 1810 or 11, and that he was about 24 years old when he married Lydia.
For Lydia, in addition to the marriage record, I have two census entries, birth registrations for her children, and a burial record. The first of these is the 1841 England and Wales census.
The census tells us that Lydia lived in Chiswick End, a street lies roughly in between Melbourn and Meldreth proper.
Map detail showing location of Chiswick End, from Ordnance Survey of Great Britain New Popular Edition, Sheet 148 – Saffron Walden. This work is based on data provided through www.VisionofBritain.org.uk and uses historical material which is copyright of the Great Britain Historical GIS Project and the University of Portsmouth.
The 1841 census also shows that Lydia was 28 years old and was born outside of Cambridgeshire (the “No” in the right-hand column). Two children were in the home: Ann, age 2, born in Cambridgeshire; and Mary, 6 months, also born in Cambridgeshire.
For an unknown reason, Joseph is not recorded in this census. The census only recorded those who were physically present in the household at the time of the census. If a family member was visiting relatives or working elsewhere, they could be recorded at whichever location they occupied on the day of the census (more accurately the night of the census, but that’s another story). Some records have been lost or are too illegible to read. At any rate, I haven’t been able to find an entry for Joseph anywhere in England in the 1841 census. He must have been around, since Lydia continued bearing children (presumably his) through 1844.
In the 1851, Lydia was living in “M[elbourn] in Meldreth,” and listed as: head of household, widow, age 39.
Her status is widow makes sense, given that Joseph died in 1847. In addition, she is described as a “Pauper,” meaning she was dependent on public support. Her birthplace is listed as Chrishall, Essex. Daughter Ann is not recorded, but Mary, now age 10, is there, along with a new daughter Emma, age 6. Both daughters were born in Meldreth. From these two censuses, we can estimate that Lydia was born in 1812 or 13. I’ve searched online for records of her birth in and around Chrishall, Essex, in this timeframe, without success.
Three children are mentioned in the two census records. I haven’t found baptismal records for any of them, but in the course of researching for this post, I was able to find civil registrations of their births. Birth registrations were required in England beginning in 1837. Births in Meldreth and Melbourn were registered in nearby Royston, Hertfordshire. The online birth registration index contains limited information – only name, year, quarter of birth, and mother’s maiden name. Individual birth records with complete information can be purchased from the General Register Office, but I haven’t done so.
In addition to the daughters listed in the census, I found a birth registration for a fourth child, also a daughter. Sadly, I also found burial records in Meldreth for three of these four children. Here is a summary of the four daughters’ lives:
Mary: born 1st quarter, 1841. Orphaned at age 10, she survived to adulthood. Her immigration to the United States and subsequent marriage to William Slocum is described in “From England to America, Part 8.”
Lydia was buried in June, 1851, just a couple months after the census was taken.
Detail from Parish of Meldreth, Bishop’s transcripts for Meldreth, 1599-1862, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-C9T9-NXZK?mode=g&i=287&cc=1465708&cat=1108704 : accessed 28 February 2017) (Click on image to enlarge)
Her age on the burial record does not match her estimated year of birth from the census records, but this must be her. There was no one else in England with her name and the same approximate age.
What happened to this family? Five of six family members were buried within the span of five years. They could have died from a variety of causes, but my guess is that they suffered from what was then known as consumption (tuberculosis), a disease aggravated by conditions associated with poverty: living in close quarters, poor sanitation, and malnutrition.
On the other hand, after the loss of her husband and two daughters, and with another probably very sick at home, is it too much to believe that Lydia might have died from a broken heart?