“Gay Girl,” the Story of Harry and Kate

This story doesn’t have a happy ending.

In my last post, introducing the “Chatteris Casbons,” I made brief mention of 13-year old Harry Casbon in the home of his grandmother, Emma Allpress, in 1881.[1]

Copy of Emma Harry detail 1881
Detail from 1881 census, Chatteris, Cambridgeshire. (Click on image to enlarge)

After considerable effort, I found Harry in the 1871 census, also living with his grandmother Emma. The “considerable effort” comes from the fact that the census entry is among the most badly misspelled that I have ever seen.[2]

Emma Allpress b abt 1825 Somersham 1871 census Chatteris
Detail from 1871 census, Chatteris. (Click on image to enlarge)

This record was transcribed as “Emma Trep,” with daughter Emma, son John, grandson Henry Skele, and son Lester Seklen.” I interpret the spelling of Emma’s surname as “Press,” with the last two letters “fs” being the typical way to write “ss” at the time. The census enumerator has left off “All” from Allpress. How he got Skele and Seklen out of Casbon is a mystery. (Hint to fellow researchers: when a surname search fails to find someone, try searching again with pertinent facts but leave out the surname. In this case, a search for “Harry,” born 1866-1867 in York, residing in Chatteris, yielded the 1871 census for Henry Skele)

As in the 1881 census, “Henry’s” birthplace is listed as York. The names Harry and Henry tend to be used interchangeably in records. There is little doubt that Harry and Henry in these two records are the same person.

I wanted to know more about Harry. Since he was with his grandmother in both censuses, it seems likely that she was raising him. If so, why? Based on his age in both censuses, he would have been born in 1867 or 68. Who were his parents? Emma had three children from her first marriage to John Casbon (~1818­–1848): Lester (1841­–1921), Sarah Ann (1844­–?), and John (1846­–1931).[3]  I could not find a record of Harry (or Henry) born to any of them in the 1860s.

Harry’s birthplace only added to the mystery. York (in North Yorkshire) is some 113 miles away from Chatteris. None of my records placed any of Emma’s children in Yorkshire. On the other hand, my records are incomplete. Any of the three could have been in York in about 1867.

I needed to find some kind of records of Harry’s birth. An initial search told me that a birth was registered for Harry Casboine in York, 1867.[4] This was a promising lead. Then I was able to find Harry’s baptismal record.[5]

Casbon Harry bp 1867 York Detail from baptismal records, 1867, parish of Holy Trinity Micklegate, York, Yorkshire.
(Click on image to enlarge)

We can see that Harry Casbon was baptized on July 20, 1867. His mother’s name was Kate Casbon, single woman. No father’s name is given. Who was Kate Casbon? If Emma Allpress was Harry’s grandmother, then Kate must have been Emma’s daughter. But, there is no record of a daughter named Kate being born to John and Emma Casbon. The only daughter on record is Sarah Ann, who disappears from census records after 1861.

A search for Kate in census records turned up a startling discovery. I found this entry in the 1871 census of Bradford, Yorkshire.[6]

Kate C 1871 census Bradford
Detail from 1871 census, Bradford, Yorkshire. (Click on image to enlarge)

We see Kate Casborne, living in the home of Clara Brandon on Wharf Street in Bradford, Yorkshire. Kate is 25 years old and unmarried. Her birthplace is recorded as Chatteris, Cambridgeshire. Clara Brandon’s occupation is “Gay Girl,” and Kate’s is written as “do,” meaning ditto. You’ll also notice that two men, “NK” – names not known – were present in the house. If you haven’t already guessed, Gay Girl was a euphemism for prostitute.[7]

Is she Harry’s mother and Emma’s daughter? This record would explain why Harry was born in York. In the 4 years between Harry’s birth and the 1871 census, his mother could have easily moved from York to Bradford, a distance of about 30 miles. Kate’s birthplace of Chatteris doesn’t quite make sense, because Emma’s children were born in Colne, and she didn’t move to Chatteris until sometime between 1851 and 1861. But Colne is quite close to Chatteris (about 6 miles), and Kate could have easily listed her “home town” instead of her birth town on the census. Kate’s age of 25 in the census would give her a birth year of 1845 or 1846. Why can’t I find birth records for her, in Colne, Chatteris, or anywhere else in England? Is Kate her real name?

My questions were answered a few days ago, when I received an email containing additional information about Harry. I had been unable to trace Harry in any census records beyond the 1881 census, so I looked for death records instead. An online search told me that the death of Henry Casburn, age 14, had been recorded in the North Witchford registration district in 1881.[8] The North Witchford district includes Chatteris, along with other nearby parishes. Was this our Harry? I ordered a copy of the actual death registration, and this is what arrived in my email.[9]

Casburn Henry death reg 1881 Chatteris
Death registration for Henry Casburn, 18 Jun 1881, Chatteris, Cambridgeshire. (Click on image to enlarge)

This shows that Henry Casburn, 14 years old, died at Slade End, Chatteris, on June 18, 1881. Henry was the “son of Sarah Ann Casburn, domestic servant.” Cause of death was “Tabes Mesenterica.” The informant was “Emma Allpress Grandmother.” Although not shown, he died on his birthday.[10]

It all came together. Harry was Sarah Ann’s son, and Sarah Ann was Kate. Emma raised Harry because Sarah Ann/”Kate,” an unwed mother, was working the streets as a prostitute.

As satisfying as it is to solve the puzzle of Harry’s birth, the underlying story is a very sad reflection of the times. Why did this happen? Although we can’t know the exact reasons, we can make some reasonable guesses.

The Casbon/Allpress household must have been under constant financial strain. 23-year old Emma (Taylor) Casbon became a widow, with 3 small children, ages 2, 4, and 6, in 1848.[11] She married John Allpress, an agricultural labourer, in 1850.[12] By 1861, she had four new daughters, the oldest being 10 years old and already working as an agricultural labourer herself.[13] Emma’s husband ,John, was not in the house in 1861; he was working on a farm in Somersham, about 5 miles from Chatteris.[14] The household could probably not support the three older children from Emma’s first marriage. They were not in the home in 1861, and were presumably working elsewhere.

What happened to Sarah Ann? Her 1861 census entry only lists her as a “spinster” (an unmarried woman), and a visitor in another household.[15] She might have become a domestic servant – that was very common for lower class girls. But if she was working as a servant and became pregnant, she almost certainly would have been sacked, and left with few options. Like the servant Ethel Parks in Downton Abbey, her dire situation could have driven her to work as a prostitute.[16]

On the other hand, the scenario above might reflect a stereotypical view of Victorian life and morals, and may not be the only possibility. It’s also possible that Sarah Ann chose this life as a better alternative compared to the harsh working conditions of the time. One author writes, “In actuality, the seldom-voiced truth was that in comparison to other occupations, prostitution was a leisured and profitable trade, by which women improved their circumstances.”[17] There is simply not enough information to know what led to Sarah Ann’s situation.

I don’t know what ultimately happened to Sarah Ann. After the 1871 “Gay Girl” census, I have lost track of her. I haven’t been able to find definitive census, marriage, or death records. We can only hope that things went well for her.

But we already know that things didn’t go well for Harry. He died from tabes mesenterica,  or “tuberculosis of the mesenteric and retroperitoneal lymph nodes” (from Latin tabes, a wasting away).[18] “Until the latter part of the 19th century it was a diagnosis frequently employed to cover a group of cases in children characterized by malnutrition, swelling of the abdomen, and frequent copious stools.”[19] Tuberculosis was common and generally incurable in the 19th century. Whether Harry’s condition was tied to his living situation, or just bad luck, is impossible to say.

I don’t have a good way to wrap up this story, other than to say that life wasn’t easy for many in Our Casbon Journey. I hope by telling the story we can have a better understanding of our heritage and of the struggles endured by our ancestors.

[1] “1881 Census of England,” database with images, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/7572/CAMRG11_1686_1691-0638 : accessed 25 January 2018), Harry Casbon in household of Emma Allpress, Cambridgeshire, Chatteris, Bridge St. schedule 35; citing The National Archives RG 11/1689/35/7.
[2] “1871 Census of England,” database with images, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/7619/CAMRG10_1608_1610-0230 : accessed 25 January 2018), Emma Trep (age 48), Cambridgeshire, Chatteris, Slade End, schedule 52; citing The National Archives, RG 10/1609/34/8.
[3] Jon Casbon, “Chatteris,” 31 Jan 2018, Our Casbon Journey (https://casbonjourney.wordpress.com/2018/01/31/chatteris/ : accessed 4 February 2018).
[4] “England and Wales Birth Registration Index, 1837-2008,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:2X3J-DZS : accessed 20 January 2018), Harry Casboine, 1867; from “England & Wales Births, 1837-2006,” database, findmypast (http://www.findmypast.com : 2012); citing Birth Registration, York, Yorkshire, England, citing General Register Office, Southport, England.
[5] “Yorkshire Baptisms,” database with images, findmypast (https://search.findmypast.com/record?id=gbprs%2fyorkshire%2f007569090%2f00240 : accessed 20 January 2018), image 109 of 117, Harry Casbon, 20 Jul 1867, Yorkshire, York, Holy Trinity Micklegate, p. 189, no. 1506; citing parish records; citing Borthwick Institute for Archives, University of York.
[6] “1871 England Census,” Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/7619/WRYRG10_4460_4463-0520?pid=25975371 : accessed 20 January 2018), entry for Kate Casborne in household of Clara Brandon, Yorkshire, Bradford, Wharf St, schedule 133; citing The National Archives, RG 10/4462/83/23.
[7] “Ex-French Emperor in 1871 Census,” 21 Mar 2005, para. 10; online archive, BBC News (http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/uk_news/4367997.stm : accessed 31 January 2018).
[8] “England & Wales Deaths 1837-2007”, database, findmypast (https://search.findmypast.com/record?id=bmd%2fd%2f1881%2f2%2faz%2f000054%2f281 : accessed 25 January 2018), Henry Casburn, 2d qtr, 1881, North Witchford, vol. 3B/840.
[9] England, death registration (photocopy) for Henry Casburn, died 18 Jun 1881; registered 18 Jun 1881, North Witchford district 9D/15/59, Chatteris sub-district, Cambridgeshire; General Registry Office, Southport.
[10] England, birth registration (photocopy) for Harry Casboine, born 18 Jun 1867; registered 20 Jul 1867, York registration district 9D/15/332, Micklegate sub-district, Yorkshire; General Register Office, Southport.
[11] “England and Wales Death Registration Index 1837-2007,” database, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:2NTN-CPR : accessed 4 January 2018), John Casborn, 1848, 1st quarter, St Ives, Huntingdonshire, vol. 14:178, line 148.
[12] “England and Wales Marriage Registration Index, 1837-2005,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:2CHM-XGY : 13 December 2014), Emma Caseby, 1850; from “England & Wales Marriages, 1837-2005,” database, findmypast (http://www.findmypast.com : 2012); citing 1850, 2d qtr, vol. 14/ 303, St. Ives, Huntingdonshire, England, General Register Office, Southport, England.
[13] “1861 Census of England,” database with images, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/8767/camrg9_1038_1044-0896 : accessed 25 January 2018), Emma Allpress, Cambridgeshire, Chatteris, Slade End, schedule 51; citing The National Archives, RG 9/1043/34/8.
[14] “1861 Census of England,” Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/8767/HUNRG9_974_977-0728 : accessed 20 January 2017), John Allpress in the household of Frederick Watson, Huntingdonshire, Somersham, Margett’s Farm, line 5, schedule 193; citing The National Archives, RG 9/ 977/40/35.
[15] “1861 Census of Engand, Wales & Scotland,” database with images, findmypast (http://search.findmypast.com/record?id=gbc%2f1861%2f0012553059 : accessed 11 November 2016), entry for Sarah Ann Casborn in household of Martha Ann Moor, Cambridgeshire, Grantham, Spittlegate, Back Street, schedule no. 90; citing [The National Archives], RG 09/2351/90/17.
[16] Dr Brooke Magnanti, “Downton Abbey’s treatment of sex workers rings true today,” 5 Nov 2012, The Telegraph, html edition (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/sex/9652123/Downton-Abbeys-treatment-of-sex-workers-rings-true-today.html : accessed 8 February 2018).
[17] Jan Marsh, “Sex & Sexuality in the 19th Century,” n.d., para. 6, The Victoria and Albert Museum (http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/s/sex-and-sexuality-19th-century/ : accessed 9 February 2018).
[18] Stedman’s Medical Dictionary Illustrated, 23d edition (Baltimore: William & Wilkins, 1976), 1399, “t. mesenter’ica.”
[19] Jerome R. Head, M.D., “Tuberculosis of the Mesenteric Lymph-Glands,” Annals of Surgery 83 (May 1926), 622-33; image copy, U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, PubMed Central (PMC) (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1399041/ : accessed 9 February 2018).


CHATTERIS, a parish and market town in the hundred of North Witchford, in the county of Cambridge, 26 miles N.W. of Cambridge, and 7 S. of March. It is a station on the Ely and Peterborough railway, and is situated on the river Ouse. Alwina, wife of Athelstan, and niece of King Edgar, founded a convent of Benedictines about a.D. 980, which was in Henry VIII’s. reign wholly suppressed. The place is mentioned in Domesday Survey under the name of Cateriz, or Cetriz. Tho living is a vicarage in the diocese of Ely, val. £1,500, in the patron. of W. Hawkins, Esq. The church, dedicated to SS. Peter and Paul, is a handsome edifice. … The town was made a market town in 1834; and a court-leet and petty sessions are held here. The Bishop of Ely is lord of the manor. A large number of Roman coins and curious relics have been found at various times, and not many years since part of the skeleton of an elephant.[1]
OS map 16 1903 Detail from Ordnance Survey of England and Wales, Sheet 16, 1:253,440, 1903. Chatteris is near the top of the map. This work incorporates historical material provided by the Great Britain Historical GIS Project and the University of Portsmouth through their web site A Vision of Britain through Time (http://www.VisionofBritain.org.uk). (Click on image to enlarge)
context map
Partial map of England showing approximate area encompassed by detail map, above. Adapted from Google Maps (https://maps.google.com)

In my wanderings through various online archives, I discovered a number of Casbon entries from the parish of Chatteris. The name first appears in the 1851 census with an entry for Sarah Casbon, age 30, and her four children.[2] It turns out that this is a misspelling of their correct surname, Casburn, which appears in almost every other available record. The Casburn spelling is strongly associated with the parish of Burwell in Cambridgeshire. It turns out that Sarah’s husband, John Thomas Casburn, was born in Burwell.[3] He served as the butler to the principal landowner and member of Parliament for Chatteris.[4] I have not found any connection between the Casburns of Burwell and modern-day Casbons.

But then, the Casbon spelling pops up again in three separate entries in the 1881 England census.[5],[6],[7]

Lester 1881 composite Harriet 1881 detail
Emma Harry detail 1881
Details from 1881 England Census, Chatteris, Cambridgeshire. (Click on images to enlarge)

These 3 entries show respectively: Lester (misspelled) Casbon and his family; Harriet Casbon and her children, Rosa, Mary A, Harriet and Arthur, in the home of Ann Weaton; and Harry Casbon in the home of Emma Allpress. We can see that Lester is listed as the head of his household. Harriet is Ann Weaton’s daughter, and Harry is Emma Allpress’ grandson. It will take some backtracking to show how they are related.

It starts with a man named John Casbon, who married Emma Taylor in 1841.[8] John was a cordwainer, or shoemaker.[9] John and Emma had three children: Lester, born in 1842;[10] Sarah Ann, in 1844;[11] and John, in 1846.[12] Later census records tell us that all three children were born in Colne, Huntingdonshire (see map above). John, the father’s, death at age 30, was registered in 1848.[13] I haven’t found any record of John’s birth or birthplace, so the trail goes cold there.

After John’s death, Emma married a man named John Allpress.[14] The expanded family appears in the 1851 census, living in Somersham, Huntingdonshire (see map above).[15]

John Allpress 1851 census Somersham
Detail from 1851 census, Somersham, Huntingdonshire. (Click on image to enlarge)

Lester, Sarah Ann, and John are all shown with their surname spelled Casbey.

Sometime before 1861, John and Emma Allpress moved from Somersham to Chatteris.[16] Emma’s sons, Lester and John, raised their families and remained in Chatteris the rest of their lives. Daughter Sarah Ann is lost to follow up after 1861, although I have an intriguing theory about her fate (teaser for a future post!).

Lester married Julia Ann Mould, a Chatteris native, in 1871.[17] Lester and Julia had the following children:

Elizabeth Ann, born 29 Jan 1872[18]
Charles William, born 1 Sep 1873[19]
Emma, born 14 August 1873[20]
Alfred Lester, born 1880, died 1880[21],[22]

Lester and his entire family are seen in the 1881 census entry, above. Lester died in the Chatteris area in 1925; his wife Julia had died one year earlier.[23]

John married Harriet Davis, also a Chatteris native, in 1868.[24] They had the following children:

Rose Ann, born 1868[25]
Mary, born 1871[26]
Harriet, born 1874[26]
Arthur, born 1878[27]
Harry, born 1882[28]
William, born 1887[29]

John’s wife, Harriet, is seen in the 1881 census, above. John’s whereabouts in the 1881 census are unknown, but he is present with the rest of the family in subsequent censuses. John and his wife Harriet both died (probably) in 1931.[30],[31]

To the best of my knowledge, none of the male descendants had children of their own, so there are no living Casbon-surname descendants of this branch of the family. However, there are likely many descendants from Lester and John’s married daughters. My father corresponded with a descendant of Rose Ann (Casbon) Foster, 20+ years ago. If any descendants are reading this post, I hope they will contact me.

Since I haven’t been able to trace the origins of Lester and John’s father, I don’t know whether or how this branch of the Casbon-surname family is connected to other branches of the family. Burwell is a potential point of origin, considering that many records use the Casburn spelling. There is also a strong geographic connection to the Peterborough Casbons. Thomas Casbon (~1776–1855), was living about 5 miles from Chatteris in 1812, and was living in Colne, Huntingdonshire (where Lester, John, and Sarah Ann were born in the 1840s) in 1851.[32],[33] His son, Thomas (1807–1863), lived in Warboys, about 5 miles from Colne, in 1841, before moving to Peterborough.[34] His wife, Jane, was born in Chatteris.[35] DNA testing would be necessary to determine whether the Chatteris and Peterborough branches are related.

The observant reader will note that I have not discussed Harry Casbon, shown in the 1881 census, above, with his grandmother Emma (Casbon) Allpress. He is not the son of either Lester or John. Who does that leave? I will save his story for a future post.

[1] Adapted from: N.E.S.A. Hamilton, ed., The National Gazeteer of Great Britain and Ireland; or, Topographical Dictionary of the British Isles (London: James S. Virtue, 1868), vol. 3: 541; online image, Hathi Trust Digital Library (https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uiug.30112053400526;view=1up;seq=91 : accessed 28 January 2018).
[2] “1851 Census of England,” database with images, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/8860/CAMHO107_1765_1765-0640 : accessed 25 January 2018), Sarah Casbon (age 30), Cambridgeshire, Chatteris, Wenney(?) End, schedule 65; citing The National Archives, HO 107, HO 107, piece 1765/337, p. 17.
[3] “1861 Census of England,” database with images, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/8767/MDXRG9_44_46-0162?pid=231640 : accessed 26 January 2018), John Casburn in household of John Dunn Gardner, Middlesex, St George Hanover Square, schedule 152, 122 Park St; citing The National Archives, RG 9/45/76/30.
[4] “1861 Census of England,” Ancestry, John Casburn in household of John Dunn Gardner.
[5] 1881 Census of England, population schedule, database with images, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/7572/CAMRG11_1686_1691-0636 : accessed 25 January 2018), Lecester Casbon, Cambridgeshire, Chatteris, Bridge St, schedule 23; citing The National Archives, RG 11/1689/34/5.
[6] “1881 Census of England,” Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/7572/CAMRG11_1686_1691-0638?pid=941225 : accessed 27 January 2018), Harriet Casbon in household of Ann Weaton, Cambridgeshire, Chatteris, Bridge St., schedule 36; citing The National Archives, RG 11/1689/35/7.
[7] 1881 Census of England, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/7572/CAMRG11_1686_1691-0638 : accessed 25 January 2018), Harry Casbon in household of Emma Allpress, Cambridgeshire, Chatteris, Bridge St. schedule 35; citing The National Archives RG 11/1689/35/7.
[8] “England & Wales Marriages 1837-2008,” database, findmypast (http://search.findmypast.com/record?id=bmd%2fm%2f1841%2f3%2faz%2f000083%2f018 : accessed 13 Feb 2017), John Casbon & Emma Taylor, 3d quarter, 1841, St. Ives, Huntingdonshire, vol. 14/263.
[9] “Cambridgeshire Marriages,”database, findmypast (http://search.findmypast.com/record?id=gbprs%2fm%2f324090846%2f1 : accessed 13 February 2017), John Casburn, father, in marriage of John Casburn & Harriet Davis, 19 Jul 1868, Chatteris, Cambridgeshire; citing transcription by Cambridge Family History Society.
[10] “Search the GRO [General Register Office] Online Index,” database, HM Passport Office (https://www.gro.gov.uk/gro/content/certificates/indexes_search.asp : accessed 3 January 2018), birth, search terms: “Casbon” (or similar) “1842 +/- 2 years,” Lester Carbon, S[ep] qtr, 1841, mother’s maiden name Taylor, St Ives Union, vol. 14/197.
[11] “Search the GRO Online Index,” HM Passport Office (accessed 24 Jan 2018),birth, search terms: “Casbon” (or similar) “1844 +/- 2 yrs,” Sarah Ann Caston, S qtr, 1844, mother’s maiden name Taylor, St Ives Union, vol. 14/8.
[12] “Search the GRO Online Index” (accessed 24 January 2018),birth, search terms: “Casbon” “1846 +/- 2 yrs,” Casbon John, J[un] qtr, 1846, mother’s maiden name Taylor, St Ives Union, vol. 14/239.
[13] “Search the GRO Online Index” (accessed 4 January 2018), death, search terms: “Casborn” “John” “1848,” Casborn, John (age 30), M[arch] quarter, 1848, St Ives, vol. 14:178.
[14] “England & Wales, Civil Registration Marriage Index, 1837-1915,” database, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/search/ : accessed 29 January 2018), search terms: “Emma” “Cas*” “1850,” Emma Caseby, 2nd qtr, 1850, St. Ives, Huntingdonshire; citing General Register Office, London.
[15] “1851 Census of England, Wales & Scotland,” database with images, findmypast (http://search.findmypast.com/record?id=gbc%2f1851%2f0007382478 : accessed 11 November 2016).
[16] 1861 Census of England, population schedule, database with images, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/8767/camrg9_1038_1044-0896 : accessed 25 January 2018), Emma Allpress, Cambridgeshire, Chatteris, Slade End, schedule 51; citing The National Archives, RG 9/1043/34/8.
[17] “Cambridgeshire Marriages,” database, findmypast (http://search.findmypast.com/record?id=gbprs%2fm%2f324090915%2f1 : accessed 13 February 2017), Lester Casburn (signs Casban) & Julia Ann Mould, 5 Jul 1871, Chatteris, Cambridgeshire.
[18] “Cambridgeshire Baptisms,” database/transcriptions, findmypast (https://search.findmypast.com/record?id=gbprs%2fb%2f323316744%2f1 : accessed 30 January 2018), Elizabeth Ann Casburn, born 29 Jan 1872, baptized 25 Feb 1872, Chatteris, Cambridgeshire; citing transcriptions of parish records by Cambridge Family History Society.
[19] “Chatteris Baptisms 1600-1955,” database with transcriptions, accessed via “Ancestry Finder,” on Cambridgshire Family History Society (https://www.cfhs.org.uk/tokens/tokpub.cfm : accessed 30 January 2018), search terms: “Casburn” “Chatteris” “Chatteris Baptisms 1600-1955, additional search terms: “Charles” “1873,” Casburn, Charles William, b. 1 Sep 1873, baptized 17 Apr 1878; citing parish records. This is a subscription web site that provides transcriptions of parish records in exchange for tokens which can be purchased.
[20] “Chatteris Baptisms 1600-1955,” accessed via “Ancestry Finder,” on Cambridgshire Family History Society (https://www.cfhs.org.uk/tokens/tokpub.cfm : accessed 30 January 2018), search terms: “Casburn” “Chatteris” “Chatteris Baptisms 1600-1955, additional search terms: “Emma” “1878,” Casburn, Emma, b. 14 Aug 1877, baptized 17 Apr 1878.
[21] “Search the GRO Online Index” (accessed 20 January 2018), birth, search terms: “Casburn” “male” “1880,” Casburn, Alfred Lester, D[ec] qtr, 1880, N. Witchford, vol. 3B/544.
[22] “Search the GRO Online Index” (accessed 20 January 2018), death, search terms: “Casburn” “1880,” Casburn Alfred Lester D[ec] qtr, 1880, North Witchford, vol 3B/374.
[23] “Chatteris Burials 1600-1946,” accessed via “Ancestry Finder,” on Cambridgshire Family History Society (https://www.cfhs.org.uk/tokens/tokpub.cfm : accessed 31 January 2018), search terms: “Casbon” “Chatteris” “Chatteris Burials 1600-1946,” Casbon Julia Ann (age 74), 12 Feb 1924, and Casbon, Lester (age 84), 13 Aug 1925; citing transcriptions of parish records by Cambridge Family History Society.
[24] “Cambridgeshire Marriages,”database, findmypast (http://search.findmypast.com/record?id=gbprs%2fm%2f324090846%2f1 : accessed 13 February 2017), John Casburn & Harriet Davis, 19 Jul 1868, Chatteris.
[25] “Search the GRO Online Index” (accessed 25 January 2018), birth, search terms: “Davis” “Rose” “female” “1868,” Davis, Rose Ann, M[ar] qtr, 1868, North Witchford, mother’s maiden name (blank).
[26] “Search the GRO Online Index” (accessed 25 January 2018), birth, search terms: “Casbon” “female” “1872 +/- 2 yrs,” Casbon, Mary Ann, S[ep] qtr 1871 and Casbon, Harriet, M[ar] qtr 1874, North Witchford, mother’s maiden name Davis.
[27] “Search the GRO Online Index” (accessed 25 January 2018), birth, search terms: “Casbon” “male” (mother’s maiden name)“Davis” “1876 +/- 2 yrs,” Casbon, Arthur, S[ep] qtr, 1878, North Witchford.
[28] “Search the GRO Online Index” (accessed 25 January 2018), birth, search terms: “Casburn” “male” “1882 +/- 2 yrs,” Casburn, Harry, J[un] qtr, 1882, North Witchford, mother’s maiden name Davis.
[29] “Search the GRO Online Index” (accessed 25 January 2018), birth, search terms: “Casburn” “male” “1886 +/- 2 yrs,” Casburn, William, M[ar] qtr, 1887, North Witchford, mother’s maiden name Davis.
[30] “Search the GRO Online Index” (accessed 27 January 2018), death, search terms: “Casbon” “male” “1931,” John Casbon (age 88), M[ar] qtr, 1931, Peterborough, vol. 3B/286.
[31] “Search the GRO Online Index” (accessed 27 January 2018), death, search terms: “Casbon” “female” “1931,” Harriet Casbon (age 87), M[ar] qtr, 1931, Peterborough, vol. 3B/286.
[32] “England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:JWMM-C8X : accessed 15 Dec 2016), Sarah Caseben, 1812, Bluntisham cum Earith, Huntingdonshire; citing , index based upon data collected by the Genealogical Society of Utah, Salt Lake City, FHL microfilm 1,040,598.
[33] “1851 Census of England,” population schedule, database with images, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/8860/HUNHO107_1749_1749-0468?pid=6187710 : accessed 31 January 2018), Thomas Casbon in household of William Harrop, Huntingdonshire, Colne, Church Lane, schedule 85; citing The National Archives, HO 107, piece 1749, folio 233, p. 20.
[34] “1841 Census of England, Wales & Scotland,” database with images, findmypast (http://search.findmypast.com/record?id=gbc%2f1841%2f0005809053 : accessed 31 March 2017), entry for Thomas Casbourn, Huntingdonshire, Warboys, Mill Green, line 1; citing [The National Archives], HO 107, piece 449, book 5, folio 25, p. 6.
[35] “1861 Census of Engand, Wales & Scotland,” database with images, findmypast (https://search.findmypast.com/record?id=gbc%2f1861%2f0966%2f00574a&parentid=gbc%2f1861%2f0005725932&highlights=%22%22 : accessed 5 August 2016), entry for Jane Casbon in household of Thomas Casbon, Northamptonshire, Peterborough, Marquis Grandby, schedule 187; citing [The National Archives], enumeration district 12, RG 09, piece 966, folio 21, p. 35.

Leslie Casbon, Valparaiso High School Class of 1914

Getting distracted by “bright shiny objects” or BSOs is generally considered a bad habit in genealogy research. Such distractions can interrupt an organized plan of research, wasting valuable time and resulting in a disorganized mess of unrelated facts. While I generally agree with this view, I think a case can be made that pursuing BSOs can occasionally lead to serendipitous (there’s that word again!) discoveries and open up new lines of inquiry.

At least that’s my justification for today’s post. While looking through my archives for an unrelated item, I came upon my paternal grandfather’s high school yearbook, the Valparaiso (Indiana) High School Annual of 1914, the year he graduated.

Valpo HS 1914 yearbook cover
Grandpa’s yearbook. (Click on image to enlarge)

Browsing through his yearbook gave me a glimpse of life in Valparaiso at the time and a few tantalizing hints into my grandfather’s life as he was emerging into adulthood.

I haven’t really written about my grandfather or his generation, so I’ll briefly put him into context. Leslie Christy Casbon was born December 24, 1894 in Porter County, Indiana.[1] He was the eldest son of Lawrence (1865–1950) and Kate (Marquardt, 1868–1959) Casbon. Lawrence was the eldest son of Sylvester V (1837–1927) and Mary Adaline (Aylesworth, 1842–1868) Casbon; and Sylvester was the eldest son of Thomas (1803–1888) and Emma (Scruby, 1811–1870) Casbon, who emigrated from England first to Ohio in 1846, and then to Indiana in the 1860s. Thus, Leslie was in the fourth generation of Casbons living in Indiana.

Here is his class photograph and entry in the 1914 yearbook.[2]

Casbon Les 1914 yearbook entry
(Click on image to enlarge)

Of the 30 graduating seniors, his written entry was among the shortest (the shortest was for a girl: “She had her troubles but she kept them to herself and was a ray of sunshine to all”). From this description I’m led to believe that he wasn’t the most outgoing member of the class, but neither was he considered an outsider, and he seems to have been appreciated by his classmates.

The yearbook has a section called “Class Will,” in which members of the class make humorous bequests to underclassman. Here is the section containing Grandpa Les’ bequest.[3]

Class will

I had to puzzle out what this meant. I finally figured out that he’s saying he is able to walk down the stairs without engaging in conversation with Gail, and he’s bequeathing that ability to Howard. Does this mean that everyone else does talk to Gail Fehrman? Or is he making a jab at Howard, who perhaps can’t resist talking to Gail? I couldn’t find out anything more about Gail other than she had notable dimples. Howard seems to have been a class cutup. At any rate, it reinforces my thought that young Les took pride in his self-control.

The only other mention of Les in the yearbook is in a section titled “Calendar,” in which daily events throughout the school year are described.[4]

March calendar

Overall, Grandpa Les comes across as good-natured and generous, at least with his father’s horses and maybe a wagon too. It seems like there was a good sense of camaraderie among his classmates – a good thing with only 30 students in the class.

Unlike modern school yearbooks, this one seems to have been produced solely by the graduating class, with only a few contributions from underclassmen. The lower classes each have a page or two and a group photo, but class members are not listed by name. Many of the graduating seniors wrote sections of the yearbook. Les’ contribution was a description of the Manual Training Department. His concluding paragraph reads:

The Manual Training Department is a very important part of a school and should be installed in all high schools, for it not only affords a change in work during the day for the regular day pupil, but it gives him a training with tools. Since most men work with some kind of tools, it is a great advantage for a pupil to get his training while young.

The high school he attended was built in about 1904, so it was still a fairly new structure when Les attended.[5]

Postcards showing the Valparaiso High School (also known as Central School) in 1913. The building was located at 305 Franklin Street. This building burned down in 1938, but a new school was built, on the same foundation (as seen on Google Street View), and now houses the Central Elementary School.[6] I like the street car going down Franklin Street. (Click on images to enlarge)

As I was leafing through the yearbook I had another surprise. From out of the pages slipped a program for the commencement ceremony, held on May 19, 1914, in the Opera House.

Casbon Les 1914 HS graduation program
Cover and insert for 1914 Valparaiso High School commencement ceremony. Private collection of Jon Casbon. (Click on image to enlarge)

From this program, we learn that students could be enrolled in either a “Latin” or a “Scientific” course of study. Grandpa Les was enrolled in the latter. Although not described in detail in the yearbook, the Latin course, as the name implies, included in-depth study of the Latin language, grammar and literature throughout all four years of high school. The Scientific Course included a variety of science topics and allowed for Agriculture to be substituted for these classes in the second term of each year. The description also includes this interesting statement:

The boys in the scientific course are no longer compelled to take Manual Training and the girls are not compelled to take Domestic Art or Domestic Science, but any student, even in the Latin course, wishing to take this work may do so.… The girls are interested in Manual Training and the boy as well as the girls are learning how to cook.”[7]

What progressive thinking for the times!

As I mentioned, there were 30 students in the graduating class. The yearbook also listed 46 “ex-members of the class of 1914.” Compulsory education was only required up to age fourteen in Indiana at that time.[8] My grandfather was among the roughly 40 percent of his original classmates who completed their high school education.

It’s pretty impressive to me that he (and his two younger brothers, by the way) completed high school. He might have been the first Casbon to do so. The family was living on their farm in Morgan Township, about four miles from the school by road. How did he get there every day? How did he manage schoolwork in addition to the farm chores? I imagine most of his classmates were “city kids” who didn’t need to travel as far and could participate in extracurricular activities more easily.

For those interested, a nearly complete set of the Valparaiso High School yearbooks (known as The Valenian since 1917) from 1904–2012 has been digitized and is available for viewing on the Internet Archive at https://archive.org/details/valparaisohighschoolyearbooks&tab=collection.

[1] Indiana, delayed birth certificate no. 113-94-504260 (1954), Leslie Christy Casbon; Indiana State Board of Health, Division of Vital Records, Indianapolis.
[2] Valparaiso (Indiana) High School, Class of 1914, Annual (Privately printed, 1914), unnumbered p. 11 (beginning with title page).
[3] Valparaiso High School, Class of 1914, Annual, unnumbered p. 34.
[4] Valparaiso High School, Class of 1914, Annual, unnumbered p. 58.
[5] Steven Shook, “Historical Images of Porter County: High School Building Valparaiso, Indiana,” Porter County, Indiana (http://www.inportercounty.org/PhotoPages/Valparaiso/Schools/Valparaiso-Schools003.html : accessed 23 January 2018).
[6] Shook, “Historical Images of Porter County: High School Building Valparaiso, Indiana.”
[7] Valparaiso High School, Class of 1914, Annual, unnumbered p. 19.
[8] Frank A Horner, compiler, The Revised Statutes of the State of Indiana: Embracing All General Laws in Force October 1, 1901, with Digested Notes of Judicial Decisions Construing Or Illustrating Their Provisions, Vol. 1 (Rochester, N.Y.: The Lawyers Cooperative Publishing Company, 1901), chapter 52, “Education,” section 4541a; online image, Google Books (https://books.google.com/books?id=aUkwAQAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false : accessed 23 January 2018).

“alias Baker”

This one has me stumped. I came upon this military record recently.[1]

Mil record p1
Short Service Attestation of Thomas Casbon, 3 Apr 1883. (Click on image to enlarge)

This is the first of seven pages documenting Thomas Casbon’s military history. The Short Service Attestation, Army Form B.265 is the equivalent of a military enlistment application. The applicant, or recruit, signs up for a term of 12 years, “for the first seven years in the Army Service, and for the remaining five years in the 1st Class of the Army Reserve” (item 19 on the form).

We can see from the form that Thomas was born in St. Mary’s Parish, Peterborough, Northamptonshire, and that he was 20 years, 2 months old. This would give him a birth date of about February, 1863. We can also see that he was working as a “Coach (or Couch?) Painter.” He was assigned to the Grenadier Guards in London.

So far so good. The problem is, I haven’t been able to find any other records for a Thomas Casbon born in the Peterborough area in or around 1863. There were plenty of Casbons in Peterborough at the time, and Thomas was the most common name (see “How doth your garden grow? Part 1”). I’ve searched through birth, baptism, marriage, death and census records to no avail.

Fortunately, the military record contains another clue to Thomas’ identity. Here is part of the third page.[2]

alias Baker
(Click on image to enlarge)

We see the curious entry “alias Baker” written in. What does that mean? Why would he be using an alias?

Actually, the surname Baker was already known to me. Sarah Casbon (~1834–1904), daughter of Thomas (~1807–1863) and Jane (Cooper, ~1803–1874) Casbon, married Richard Baker (~1835–1888) in 1857.[3] They had a son, Thomas, born in February 1863.[4]

TB birth record 1863 Birth registration of Thomas Casbon, Peterborough, 1863. (Click on image to enlarge)

The date and location of birth match the information given in Thomas Casbon’s attestation form almost perfectly, so this must be the same person, right? It certainly explains why he would be known as Thomas Baker.  I have plenty of records for this Thomas Baker, including a marriage in 1890; census records in 1891, 1901, and 1911; and a death registration in 1929.

But why would he sign up for the Army as Thomas Casbon? I have only one clue to offer, and a theory. Here’s the clue.[5]

(Click on image to enlarge)

This is the last page of Thomas’ military record. After item 2, Next of Kin, is written “Father Thomas Casbon.” This throws a monkey wrench into everything! If his father is Thomas Casbon, then why does he have the alias “Baker”? If he isn’t Thomas Baker, born in 1863, why can’t I find any other records for him?

OK, so here’s the theory: what if his real father is Thomas Casbon, but he was raised, and possibly adopted, by Richard and Sarah Baker? It turns out that Sarah had a brother named Thomas (1840–1887). This Thomas was married in 1865, two years after Thomas alias Baker’s birth. What if he had a child before he was married? I admit, this theory is pretty thin – it would be unusual for a child born out of wedlock to be adopted by the father’s relatives, but it wouldn’t be the first time. Maybe the mother died in childbirth or shortly thereafter. There had been a 5-year gap since the birth of Richard and Sarah’s first child, so maybe they were eager to adopt. This is the only theory I’ve come up with that explains what’s written in the military record. I’m afraid that’s as far as I can take it.

Why do I like to chase after stories like this? One reason is that I want to have as complete of an accounting as possible of our surname. I recently joined the organization Guild of One-Name Studies, which “provides its members with the means to share, exchange and publish information about one-name studies as well as encouraging and assisting all those interested in one-name studies.”[6] A one-name study is defined as “a project researching all occurrences of a surname, as opposed to a particular pedigree (ancestors of one person) or descendancy (descendants of one person or couple).[7] That’s essentially what I have been doing with this blog.

The other reason, of course, is that I just can’t help myself!

[1] Military records, Thomas Casbon alias Baker, 23 Apr 1883 – 29 Mar 1895, imaged as “UK, Royal Hospital Chelsea Pensioner Soldier Service Records,” database with images, Fold3 (https://www.fold3.com/image/587378752?terms=thomas%20casbon : accessed 19 January 2018); citing The National Archives, WO 97.
[2] Military records, Thomas Casbon alias Baker, 23 Apr 1883 – 29 Mar 1895, p. 3 of 7, Fold3.
[3] Marriage record of Richard Baker & Sarah Casbon, 22 Jun 1857, Northamptonshire, Peterborough, Parish church of Peterborough, imaged as “Northamptonshire, England, Church of England Marriages, 1754-1912,” database with images, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/9199/42672_338731__0007-00040? : accessed 19 January 2018), image 41 of 66; citing Northamptonshire Record Office, Peterborough, St. John, 261P/70, “Marriages 1855–1866,” p. 76, 2nd entry.
[4] England, birth registration (PDF copy) of Thomas Casbon, born 8 Feb 1863; registered 26 Feb 1863, Peterborough District, no. 207, Counties of Northampton, Huntingdon & Cambridge; citing Peterborough registration district,  3B/235, General Registry Office, Southport.
[5] Military records, Thomas Casbon alias Baker, 23 Apr 1883 – 29 Mar 1895, p. 7 of 7, Fold3.
[6] “About the Guild,” Guild of One-Name Studies (http://one-name.org/about-the-guild/ : accessed 19 January 2018).
[7] “One-Name Studies,” Guild of One-Name Studies (http://one-name.org/one-name-studies/ : accessed 19 January 2018).

1905, Red Lake County, Minnesota

The word serendipity means “the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.”[1] I was browsing through various census results the other day, not looking for anything in particular. It was through serendipity that I chanced upon this entry in the 1905 Minnesota state census.

Casbon Lillian 1905 MN census Red Lake County Minnesota State Census, 1905, Red Lake Falls, entry for Lillian Casbon.[2] (Click on image to enlarge)

At first, I thought this might be a misspelling, because I was not aware of a Lillie Casbon living in Minnesota. The closest Lillian I knew of was the daughter of Jesse Casbon (1845­–1934). She was born and raised in Porter County, Indiana. I began to compare the details in the Minnesota census with Jesse’s daughter: she was born in February 1880, which would have made her 25 years old in June of 1905.[3] This doesn’t exactly match the age of 23 in the census, but it’s close. Her place of birth (Indiana) and those of her parents (father – England, mother – Minnesota) as written in the census match the information I have about Jesse’s daughter. So far, so good.

Then I noticed something else in the Minnesota entry: Lillian’s entry is sandwiched between those for Annie Kitchen and two children, Jessie and Steven. Annie, age 27, was also born in Indiana, and her parents were born in the same states as Lillian. It appears that Lillie is living in the same household as the Kitchens.

Now things started to snap into place. Lillian Casbon, of Indiana, had an older sister, Anna Mae, who was born in December 1876.[4] This would have made her 30 years old in 1905. Anna Mae Casbon married Newton Kitchel in 1898,[5] and had two children, Jesse John (b. 1898) and Steven (b. 1900).[6],[7] Anna divorced Newton Kitchel and eventually changed her surname back to Casbon. She was apparently still going by Kitchel when the Minnesota census was taken in 1905, but her name was misspelled as Kitchen.

The 1905 census has a little bit more information to give us. We can see that both Anna and Lillian were employed as bakers. Anna had been a resident of Minnesota for 1 year, 1 month and a resident of Red Lake County for 10 months. Lillian came to Minnesota after her sister; she had only lived there for 3 months. As we have seen, both women “fudged” a couple of years on their true ages.

It turns out, Anna and Lillian were not the only Casbons living in Red Lake County at the time. George W. Casbon and his stepmother/aunt Emma (Casbon) Rigg, were living in nearby St. Hilaire, as seen in this image.[8]

Casbon George Rigg Emma 1905 MN census St Hilaire Red Lake Co
Minnesota State Census, 1905, St Hilaire, entries for Emma Rigg and GW Casbon. (Click on image to enlarge)

I’ve written about George and Emma in the post “Introducing the Iowa Casbons! Part 1.” Anna and Lillian were George’s first cousins, and Emma was their aunt.

St Hilaire and Red Lake Falls are only about 8 miles apart. Is it a coincidence that these cousins were in such close proximity? It’s impossible to know for sure, but it seems unlikely. George’s occupation in the 1905 census was listed as “farming,” but his obituary tells us that he operated “a bakery (my emphasis) and farm in Minnesota for two years” before moving back to Iowa.[9] How interesting that Anna and Lillian were both listed as bakers!

We know that George and Emma maintained contact with their Indiana relatives.[10] We also know that when Emma died in 1910, she was staying with her brother Jesse, Anna and Lillian’s father, in Indiana.[11] Anna was living in the same household, and cared for Emma during her final illness.[12] Emma expressed her gratitude to Anna in her last will and testament with a bequest of 500 dollars.[13] So, it seems likely to me that Anna, Lillian, George, and Emma would have know of each other’s presence in Minnesota.

Why were they all in Minnesota? George might have been there to be close to his future bride, Maud Carpenter.[14] Other than that I don’t have any clues about their reasons for being there. From the residency information in the 1905 census, it looks like Anna arrived in Minnesota first, then George, then Emma, and finally Lillian. I know from the obituary quoted above that George, and presumably Emma, only stayed in Minnesota for two years, but I don’t know how long Anna and Lillian lived there.

It seems like their time in Minnesota was just a small footnote in their life stories. George and Emma returned to Iowa. Anna and Lillian returned to Indiana. Anna eventually remarried. Lillian never married, but eventually started a flower shop in Valparaiso, Indiana, with her other sister Edna. My father recalls them and their shop, located across the street from the Pioneer apartments, and just behind the present-day Porter County Library (now a vacant lot).

[1] “Serendipity,” Oxford English Living Dictionaries (https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/serendipity : accessed 8 January 2018).
[2] “Minnesota State Census, 1905,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:9Q97-YSB7-M72?cc=1503056&wc=M8SL-WT1%3A67006601%2C67115001 : 21 May 2014), Red Lake > Red Lake Falls, Ward 02 > image 8 of 10, entry for Lillian Casbon, schedule sheet 28 (versa), p. 344 (penned), no. 1080; citing State Library and Records Service, St. Paul.
[3] “United States Census, 1880,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MHS7-ZZV : accessed 8 January 2018), entry for Lilly E Casbon in household of Jesse Casbon, Center Township, Porter County, Indiana, enumeration district 141, sheet 516C, p. 39(penned), household 273, family 275; citing NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 305.
[4] “Deaths … Mrs. Anna Mae Fleming,” The (Valparaiso, Indiana) Vidette-Messenger, 21 Dec 1957, p. 2, col. 5; database with images, Newspaper Archive (accessed through participating libraries : accessed 31 May 2017).
[5] “Indiana Marriages, 1811-2007,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-9R15-4M4?i=253&cc=1410397 : accessed 18 June 2017), image 254 of 286, Newton Kitchell/Anna Casbon, 9 Jul 1898; citing Porter County Clerk, Marriages 1895–1899, vol. 11, p. 430.
[6] “United States Census, 1900,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MMKK-WJ6 : accessed 25 July 2017), Jesse Kitchel in household of Neuelan Kitchel, Cavour town, Forest, Wisconsin, enumeration district (ED) 39, sheet 5B, family 90; citing NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 1789.
[7] “United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:K6Z8-GQZ : 12 December 2014) >Virginia > Warwick County no 1, A-C > image 1862 of 2615, Steven Casbon, 1917-1918; citing NARA microfilm publication M1509.
[8] “United States Census, 1880,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:9Q97-YSBQ-11S?i=17&cc=1503056 : accessed 3 August 2017), G W Casbon, Saint Hilaire, River Falls township, Red Lake, schedule shhet 17, p. 173, line 677; citing State Library and Records Service, St.Paul.
[9] “Deaths – George W. Casbon,” Waterloo (Iowa) Daily Courier, 25 Feb 1944, p. 2, col. 5; online archive, Newspaper Archive (accessed through participating libraries: 16 January 2016).
[10] Jon Casbon,“Introducing the Iowa Casbons! Part 1,” Our Casbon Journey, 5 Oct 2017, para. 4 (https://casbonjourney.wordpress.com/2017/10/05/introducing-the-iowa-casbons-part-1/ : accessed 8 January 2018).
[11] “La Porte City Resident Dies,” Waterloo (Iowa) Evening Courier, 5 Aug 1910, p. 5, col. 5; online images, Newspaper Archive (accessed through participating libraries : accessed 29 June 2017).
[12] Jon Casbon, transcriber, letters written by Emma Casbon to George & Maude (Carpenter) Casbon in 1910, transcribed 2017; privately held by Casbon. The letters were provided to him by Claudia Vokoun, who received them from her mother, Emma Elizabeth (Casbon) Eldridge.
[13] Last will and testament of Emma E. Rigg, Valparaiso, Porter County, Indiana, 1909, photostatic copy in scrapbook compiled by Claudia Vokoun, Aug 2017; copy privately held by Jon Casbon.
[14] Casbon,“Introducing the Iowa Casbons! Part 1,” Our Casbon Journey, 5 Oct 2017, para. 6.

Christmas Wishes

From The (Valparaiso, Indiana) Vidette-Messenger, December 23, 1949:[1]

Santa letter

Larry, Roger, and Curtis are the sons of Delbert Keith (1916–2007) and May Dell (Ludington, 1918–2010) Casbon. Delbert Keith was the youngest son of Amos James Casbon (1869–1956).

I hope they got what they wished for!

Merry Christmas to all my readers! Our Casbon Journey looks forward to bringing you more in 2018.

[1] “Letters to Santa Claus,” The (Valparaiso, Indiana) Vidette-Messenger, 23 Dec 1949, p. 13, col. 4; online image, Library Archive (accessed through participating libraries: 5 July 2017).

Margaret Casbon, 1864–1903

The original title for this post was going to be “What Happened to Margaret?” I was going to write about how female ancestors can be more difficult to trace than males. However, in the course of writing, I came upon new (to me) data sources. With the new information, some more puzzle pieces have slid into place. So now, instead of my original purpose, I will use this post to summarize what I know about Margaret Casbon.

Before I had any records, I knew from word of mouth that James Casbon (~1814–1884) brought a daughter named Margaret with him when he came to Indiana from England in 1870. I was later able to confirm this when I found James’ entry in the 1880 U.S. census.[1]

James C 1880 Census Porter Co Detail from 1880 U.S. Census, Porter Township, Porter County, Indiana. (Click on image to enlarge)

The census lists James, his wife Mary, Margaret, age 16, Amos, age 10, and Alice, age 8. The careful reader will note that the birthplace for all three children is written as “Ind” for Indiana. In fact, only Alice was born in Indiana. Census reports frequently contain errors, and incorrect birth place is a common one.

In addition to the census, in time, I was able to locate the passenger list of the ship that carried James and his family to America.[2] This also showed that he traveled with Mary, Margaret, and Amos.

James C passenger list detail 1870 NY
Detail from passenger manifest of ship Great Western, upon arrival in New York from
Liverpool, England, dated December 27, 1870. (Click on image to enlarge)

You can see that their surname was misspelled as “Custon.” This made locating the passenger list especially challenging! You can also see that Margaret’s age is listed as six. This is consistent with the age given 10 years later in the 1880 census. Therefore, I knew that she was probably born within a year or so of 1864.

Unfortunately, when I tried to find a birth or baptismal record for Margaret, my searches kept coming up with no results. At that point in my research, I still did not know when or where James and Mary had been married, nor did I know Mary’s maiden name. Early this year (2017) I acquired transcripts of various parish records from Cambridgeshire. From these records I learned that James Casben married Mary Jackson in Stretham, Cambridgeshire, October 1866.[3]

But wait, that was two years after Margaret’s presumed birth date! Either the estimated birth year was wrong or Margaret was born before James and Mary became man and wife. This offered a possible explanation why I couldn’t find a birth record for Margaret Casbon. I searched again, this time looking for a birth record for Margaret Jackson. This time I was successful. I learned that Margaret’s birth had been recorded in Ely during the second quarter of 1864.[4]

But was this the right Margaret? To find out, I ordered a copy of the birth registration from the General Register Office (as described in two previous posts). Here is the record I received.[5]

Margaret birth record
Birth registration of Margaret Jackson. (Click on image to enlarge)

Margaret was born in Stretham on March 26, 1864 to Mary Jackson. The father’s name is not given, so presumably Margaret was born out of wedlock. The location, date and mother’s name are all consistent with the information I already had about Margaret and her mother, so I’m confident this is the right birth record.

Margaret was about 2 ½ years old when her mother married James Casbon. Was James her father? There isn’t enough evidence to know for sure. Regardless, she became part of the family. Her brother (or half-brother?) Amos was born when Margaret was 5 years old.

What happened to Margaret after she came to America? I’ll try to answer that with the rest of this post.

First, let’s return to the 1880 census. I need to point out that James’ wife Mary in that census was not Margaret’s mother. Mary (Jackson) Casbon died sometime after their arrival in America, date unknown. James remarried, this time to Mary Payne, in 1876.[6] Margaret lost her mother at a fairly early age. What impact did that have on future events?

It also turns out that the census record shown at the beginning of this post is not the only census entry for Margaret that year.

Casbon Maggie 1880 census Valpo Detail from 1880 U.S. Census, Valparaiso, Porter County, Indiana.[7] (Click on image to enlarge)

This entry shows “Maggie” Casbon, age 17, listed as “At School” and a boarder in the household of Lucinda Waub, in Valparaiso, Indiana. Maggie is a common diminutive of Margaret. The entry shows that she and her parents were born in England. The age is not quite correct for our Margaret (17 vs. 16), but all the other facts line up. There is no evidence to suggest there was another person with this name in Indiana at the time. Margaret and “Maggie” must be the same person; she was counted twice in the 1880 census.

How did this happen? It turns out that being counted twice in a census is not that uncommon. There are many possible reasons. Census enumerators were instructed to enter “the name of every person whose ‘usual place of abode’ on the 1st day of June, 1880, was in that family.”[8] This instruction created an opportunity for duplications to occur, especially when a person did not reside full-time with their own family. Margaret might have been boarding with Mrs. Waub, but she probably spent weekends and school vacations with her family. The two censuses were recorded by different enumerators, probably on different days. Whatever the reason, Margaret was reported twice.

It’s interesting to me that Margaret was a student and boarding with someone other than her family.  Why was she still a student at age 16, when most girls had no more than an eighth-grade education? My guess is that Margaret was “catching up” from the lack of formal education in England. I think it’s unlikely that James could afford to pay boarding fees. I suspect that he was getting financial support from his brother Thomas, or one of Thomas’ sons, all of whom were well-settled and better off than James.

The first information I had about Margaret’s whereabouts after the 1880 census was this intriguing snippet extracted from the February 9, 1882 Porter County Vidette: “Married – Joseph Quinn – Viola Beard (Baird penciled in); Mrs J. Meyer of Mo.; Died – Wm Dye; Married – Kimberlin – Vita Pennock; Died – Lena Wulf; Maggie Casbum living with Ben Woodard.”[9] What an interesting thing to print in the newspaper! It seems a bit scandalous. Margaret would have been just under 18 years old at the time.

Apparently, the relationship with Ben Woodard did not last long, as revealed by this marriage record from September of the same year.[10]

Margaret C marriage registration 1882
Marriage record of Samuel Bastel and Margaret Casbon, September 16, 1882, Porter County, Indiana.
Note that Margaret’s surname is spelled both as Casbon and Caswell in this record. At the bottom of the
page is Samuel Bastel’s sworn statement that he is over 21 years old and that Maggie is (just) over 18.
(Click on image to enlarge)

How long this marriage lasted is unknown. There is another marriage record of Samuel Bastel to Eva Sharp in 1887.[11] However, there is evidence that more than one man named Samuel Bastel was living in Porter County at the time, so it is unknown whether Margaret and Eva married the same man.

Regardless, it is certain that Margaret and Samuel Bastel did not remain married, since there is another marriage record, to William Biederstadt, dated July 22, 1899.[12]

Margaret C Wm Biederstadt marriage registration 1899
Marriage record of William Biederstadt and Maggie Casbon, July 22, 1899, Porter County, Indiana.
Note that the certificate of marriage section has not been completed. (Click on image to enlarge)

The fact that “Maggie’s” name was given as Casbon and not Bastel makes me think that her previous marriage was short lived. But, there is a gap of almost 17 years between the two marriages, and Margaret’s whereabouts during that time are a mystery. The 1890 census records were lost in a fire, so they cannot be used to locate her. There is a family story that she might have become a “mail-order bride” in Seattle, but I’ve found no evidence to support or deny that.

I should also point out that Margaret’s father (or step-father?), James, was murdered in 1884.[13] So, by the age of 20, she had lost both parents. It’s unknown what kind of relationship she had with her step-mother or with her brother Amos and sister Alice, both of whom were quite a few years younger.

At this point in my research, the information I had about Margaret was clouded in uncertainty. Because of the incomplete marriage certification, it was unclear to me whether Margaret and William Biederstadt had actually been married. My confusion was compounded by the fact that I could not find Margaret in the 1900 census. I found an entry for William Biederstadt in nearby Michigan City, but in that record, he is listed as being single, and living in his parents’ household.[14]

I should add that I also I had a possible death record for Margaret. The record was only a brief extract, showing that Maggie Biederstedt, age 31, died in Michigan City April 30, 1903.[15] The extract did not include the name of her husband or parents. Was this the same Maggie who married William? The age was wrong – Margaret would have been 39 in April 1903. I needed stronger evidence before I could say that Margaret Casbon and this Maggie Biederstedt were the same person.

The breakthrough came when I located the death certificate on Ancestry (when I was well into writing this post).[16]

Biederstadt Maggie Casbon death cert 1903
Image of Maggie Biederstedt’s death certificate, Michigan City, La Porte County, Indiana.
(Click on image to enlarge)

The certificate confirm’s that Maggie’s Biederstedt’s husband was named William. It gives her date of birth as January 1, 1872. This is significantly different than Margaret Casbon’s confirmed birth year of 1864. However, the birthplace is correctly shown as England. The incorrect birth date is puzzling, but given the fact that her father’s name is given as Casborn (also from England), there can be little doubt that this was Margaret Casbon. Note that William Biederstedt was the informant for the death certificate. “Don’t Know” is written for Margaret’s mother’s name. This isn’t surprising given that her mother had died more than twenty years earlier. The cause of death was “Uterine Carcinoma Duration Indefinite” (I’m not sure about the last word – doctors’ handwriting was no better then than it is now). The disease took her at a young age.

Given the knowledge that Margaret really was married to William Biederstadt, I decided to try to find her in the 1900 census one more time. Reasoning that the surname might have been misspelled or transcribed incorrectly, I searched in FamilySearch [link] for Maggie, no last name, born between 1862 and 1873 in England, residing in Indiana, with husband’s first name William. This search yielded 12 names, one of which caught my eye. It was for Maggie Reedlstead, born January 1873, and living in Michigan City.[17]

Biederstadt Wm and Maggie Casbon 1900 Census Michigan City IN
Detail from 1900 Census, Michigan City, La Porte County, Indiana. (Click on image to enlarge)

If you examine the census entry closely, you can see that the first letter of the surname is really a “B,” with an incomplete bottom loop (compare to “Peters” a few lines above). In addition, the spelling has been mangled pretty badly, looking something like “Beedlstear.” Census enumerators weren’t hired for the spelling ability (or handwriting!), and once that’s understood, it’s fairly easy to see that this is the correct census record for William and Maggie Biederstadt.

There are two discrepancies in Maggie’s entry: her birth date, January 1873, and her year of immigration, 1880. There may be an innocent reason why the birth date is wrong, but the fact that her husband also gave an incorrect birth date on the death certificate makes me wonder if Margaret led him to believe she was younger than her true age. Since the claimed year of birth was later than the actual year she immigrated (1870) to America, it would only make sense to change this date as well.

The census shows that William and Maggie Biederstadt were childless in 1900. I haven’t found any evidence that they had children before Maggie’s death. Nor have I found any records suggesting that Margaret had children while married to Samuel Bastel.

“What Happened to Margaret?” is still a valid question, but unless new records turn up or a distant cousin can help fill in the blanks, this is as close as I can come to an answer.

[1] 1880 U.S. Census, Porter County, Indiana, population schedule, Porter Township, enumeration district 144, p. 545 (stamped), sheet C, dwelling 187, family 191, Casbon, James; imaged as “United States Census, 1880,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-9YYY-9KW6?i=18&cc=1417683 : accessed 4 July 2016); citing NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 305.
[2] Passenger manifest of ship Great Western, unnumbered p. 3, lines 27-30, James Custon (age 57) and family; imaged as “New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1891,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:939V-51S2-X5?i=106&cc=1849782 : accessed 10 November 2016), image 107; citing NARA microfilm publication M237, Roll 338.
[3] “Stretham Marriages 1558 – 1952,” PDF extract, database,  Cambridge Family History Society (https://www.cfhs.org.uk/tokens/tokpub.cfm : downloaded 2 September 2017), >Casben >Stretham >Stretham Marriages 1558 – 1952, James Casben & Mary Jackson, 3 Nov 1866; citing Stretham (Cambridgeshire) parish records.
[4] “England and Wales Birth Registration Index, 1837-2008,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:2XM7-VHC : 1 October 2014), Margaret Jackson, 2d qtr, 1864; from “England & Wales Births, 1837-2006,” database, findmypast (http://www.findmypast.com : 2012); citing Birth Registration, Ely, Cambridgeshire, vol. 3B: 551, line 124.
[5] England, birth registration (PDF copy) for Margaret Jackson, born 26 Mar 1864; registered April quarter 1864, Ely district 3B/551, Haddenham Sub-district, Cambridgeshire; General Register Office, Southport.
[6] Porter County, Indiana, Marriage Records, vol. 4: 348, James Casbon/Mary Payne, 15 Jan 1876; image copy, “Indiana Marriages, 1811-2007,” FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-GTM4-RLH?i=241&cc=1410397 : accessed 24 October 2015); citing Porter County; FHL microfilm 1,686,156.
[7] 1880 U.S. Census, Porter County, Indiana, population schedule, Valparaiso, enumeration district 140, p. 486 (stamped), dwelling 649, family 663, Maggie Casbon in household of Lucinda Waub; imaged as “United States Census, 1880,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-9YYY-92Q6?i=82&cc=1417683 : accessed 1 December 2017); citing NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 305.
[8] “1880 Census Instructions to Enumerators,” United States Census Bureau (https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/decennial-census/technical-documentation/questionnaires/1880/1880-instructions.html : accessed 5 December 2017).
[9] Kaye Griffiths, compiler, “Genealogical Notes from the Porter Vidette, April 7, 1881 – Sept. 14, 1882,” (typescript, 1983), listed as Volume 5 – 3 parts, no. G977.298; Genealogy Department, Porter County Public Library, Valparaiso.
[10] Porter County, Indiana, “Marriage Record 7, July 1882 – Oct 1885,” p. 39 (stamped), Samuel Bastel/Maggie Coswell ( also spelled “Casbon,” same document), 16 Sep 1882; “Indiana Marriages, 1811-2007,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-9TMB-J83?i=49&cc=1410397 : 21 January 2016), Porter > 1882-1885 Volume 7 > image 50 of 349; County clerk offices, Indiana.
[11] “Indiana Marriages, 1811-2007,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KDHQ-3K8 : 4 November 2017), Samuel Bastel and Eva Sharp, 08 Jan 1887; citing Porter, Indiana, United States, various county clerk offices, Indiana; FHL microfilm 1,686,210.
[12] Porter County, Indiana, “Marriage Record 12, Nov. 1898 – Oct. 1901,” p. 103 (stamped), William Biederstadt/Maggie Casbon, 22 Jul 1899; “Indiana Marriages, 1811-2007,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-GR15-W5H?cc=1410397&wc=Q83F-4HT%3A963055701%2C963108501 : 21 January 2016), image 104 of 328; County clerk offices, Indiana.
[13] Jon Casbon, “James Casbon of Meldreth, England and Porter County, Indiana,” blog entry, Our Casbon Journey (https://casbonjourney.wordpress.com/2016/11/29/james-casbon-of-meldreth-england-and-porter-county-indiana/ : accessed 6 December 2017).
[14] “United States Census, 1900,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MM1Y-HRY : accessed 6 December 2017), William Biederstadt in household of John Biederstadt, Michigan Township, LaPorte, Indiana; citing enumeration district (ED) 55, sheet 14A, family 284, NARA microfilm publication T623.
[15] “Indiana Death Index, 1882-1920,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VZ77-2Y6 : 3 December 2014), Maggie Biederstedt, 30 Apr 1903, Mich City, Indiana; from “Indiana Deaths, 1882-1920,” database, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : 2003); citing Indiana Works Progress Administration, book CSS-2, County Health Office, Laporte.
[16] “Death Certificates, 1899-2011,” database with images, Ancestry Library Edition (accessed through participating libraries : 5 December 2017), certificate image, Maggie Biederstedt, 30 Apr 1903, La Porte County, Indiana, record no. 54; imaged from Indiana Archives and Records Administration, Death Certificates, 1903, roll 06.
[17] 1900 U.S. census, La Porte County, Indiana, population schedule, MIchigan City, enumeration district 65, p. 314 (stamped on preceding page), sheet 4B, 702 York, dwelling 71, family 74, William Reedlstead; imaged as”United States Census, 1900,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HT-D4L3-KG9?i=7&cc=1325221 : 5 August 2014); citing NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 384

The Birth Record of Amos James Casbon

A short while ago I wrote about a birth record I had obtained from the General Register Office (GRO) in England.[1] I actually received three birth records from the GRO in the same order. In addition to that of George Casbon, I received the records from Amos James Casbon and his sister Margaret. I’ll write about Amos today and save Margaret for a later post.

Here’s the record.

birth record Birth registration of Amos James Casbon.[2] (Click on image to enlarge)

What is the significance of this record? First of all, it gives Amos’ correct birth date – July 6, 1869 – and location – Chair Fen, Cottenham (Cambridgeshire). This differs from Amos’ obituary, which gives his birthday as July 2, and the location as Meldreth. The birth registration should be considered more likely to have accurate information, since it was completed nearer in time to the actual event. Although it might come as a surprise to some, it’s quite possible that Amos did not know his correct birthdate because his parents were semiliterate at best and did not know or remember the exact date. I have no idea why his obituary gave the birthplace as Meldreth, except that it was the birthplace of his father James and his uncle Thomas, so others might have assumed Amos came from there as well.

Previously, the only birth record I had was from an online birth registration index. The index gives the year and quarter of birth, and the name of the district where the birth was registered. Each registration district includes a number of different civil parishes (villages or towns). In Amos’ case, the index showed that his birth was registered at Chesterton during the third quarter of 1869. [3] The Chesterton district encompassed a large area surrounding the city of Cambridge and composed of 38 civil parishes.[4] So, the registration index alone did not give precise information about where or when Amos was born.

I also knew that Amos was baptized in the town of Stretham on August 3, 1869.[5] To be more accurate, his baptism was recorded in Stretham, but the baptism was performed “privately,” meaning it was not performed in the church. The baptismal record also gives the location of his parents’ abode as Cottenham.[6] The birth record narrows the location down further to a place known as Chair Fen.

I think Chair Fen must be a misspelling of Chear Fen, which can be found on maps of the Cottenham area. These two maps show the location of Chear Fen in relation to Cottenham, and a more detailed map of the fen area itself.

Cottenham map
Detail from 1898 Ordnance Survey map of Cambridge (Hills), showing Cottonham.[7]
Chear Fen is outlined in red. Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of
Scotland (http://maps.nls.uk/index.html) under the terms of the CC-BY-NC-SA licence 4.0
(https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/legalcode) (Click on image to enlarge)


Chear Fen detail map
Detail from 1887 Ordnance Survey map of  Cambridgeshire, Sheet XXXIV.NE, showing Chear Fen,
just south of the Old West (Great Ouse) River.[8] Reproduced with the permission of the National
Library of Scotland (http://maps.nls.uk/index.html) under the terms of the CC-BY-NC-SA licence 4.0  (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/legalcode) (Click on image to enlarge)

Chear Fen is located about 3 miles northeast of Cottenham, roughly midway between Cottenham and Stretham. The proximity to Stretham may explain why Amos was baptized in Stretham rather than Cottenham. In addition, Amos’ mother, Mary (Jackson), was from Stretham, so they might have considered this their home parish.

Cottenham and Chear Fen are located within a large area in eastern England known as the Fenlands. Fens are low-lying wetlands that were historically prone to periodic flooding.[9] They were drained several centuries ago and are now maintained by a system of dikes, drains , and pumping stations.[10]

The River Great Ouse at Chear Fen.[11] Photo by Bob Jones [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0 )], via Wikimedia Commons.

The remainder of the information in Amos’ birth registration confirms facts already known from other sources: his father’s name was James; his mother was Mary née Jackson; and James worked as a farm labourer. Given their residence on Chear Fen, it’s likely that James lived where he worked, on one of the farms shown on the map.

Now that we know where and when Amos’ life began, I’ll end with this timeline of his life.

Amos timeline
(Click on image to enlarge)
[1] Jon Casbon, “New Document Breaks through a Brick Wall,” 29 Oct 2017, Our Casbon Journey (https://casbonjourney.wordpress.com/2017/10/29/new-document-breaks-through-a-brick-wall/ : accessed 26 November 2017).
[2] England, birth registration (PDF copy), Amos James Casburn, born 6 Jul 1869; registered 9 Aug 1869, Chesterton District 3b/452, Willingham Sub-district, Cambridgeshire; General Registry Office, Southport.
[3] “England and Wales Birth Registration Index, 1837-2008,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:2X7G-YF3 : accessed 12 September 2015), Amos James Casburn, 3d quarter,1869; from “England & Wales Births, 1837-2006,” database, findmypast (http://www.findmypast.com : 2012); citing Birth Registration, Chesterton, Cambridgeshire, vol. 3B:452; citing General Register Office, Southport, England.
[4] “Chesterton Registration District,” UK BMD (https://www.ukbmd.org.uk/reg/districts/chesterton.html : accessed 26 November 2017).
[5] “Cambridgeshire Baptisms,” database, findmypast (http://search.findmypast.com/record?id=gbprs%2fb%2f323728303%2f1 : accessed 30 January 2017), Amos James Casburn, 3 Aug 1869; citing Cambridgeshire parish records (transcribed by Cambridgeshire Family History Society).
[6] “Cambridgeshire Baptisms,” Amos James Casburn.
[7] “One-Inch to the mile, England and Wales, Revised New Series, Cambridge (Hills), Sheet 188,” 1898; online image, National Library of Scotland (http://maps.nls.uk/view/101168159 : accessed 27 November 2017); citing Ordnance Survey Office, Southampton.
[8] “Six-Inch to the mile, England and Wales, Cambridgeshire XXXIV.NE (includes: Cottenham; Landbeach; Stretham; Waterbeach; Wilburton),” 1887; online image, National Library of Scotland (http://maps.nls.uk/view/101571604 : accessed 26 November 2017); citing Ordnance Survey Office, Southampton.
[9] “The Fens,” Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Fens : accessed 26 November 2017), rev. 08:07, 24 Nov 2017.
[10] “The Fens,” Wikipedia.
[11] “File:River Great Ouse at Chear Fen – geograph.org.uk – 271786.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:River_Great_Ouse_at_Chear_Fen_-_geograph.org.uk_-_271786.jpg : accessed 26 November 2017).

“Public Sale!”

Thanks to Ilaine Church for sending me a copy of this flyer.

Casbon Charles public sale flyer 1893
Scanned image courtesy of Ilaine Church. (Click on image to enlarge)

Ilaine is the wife of my third cousin, once removed, and shares my love of family history. The Church and Casbon families are related through the marriage of Thomas Hiram Church, Jr. (1866–1951) to Lodema Evaline Casbon (1871–1938) in 1890.[1] Lodema was the daughter of Charles Casbon (1840–1915), the man named at the bottom of the sale flyer. Charles was the brother of Sylvester Casbon, my second great-grandfather.

Casbon reunion 1901
The tie between the Church and Casbon families is illustrated in this photograph of the 1901 Casbon family reunion. The photo was taken in front of the home of Hiram and Lodema Church at what was then no. 5 Elm Street, Valparaiso, Indiana. Charles (left), Lodema (center), and Hiram (right) are circled.
(Click on image to enlarge)

The sale flyer provides us with some interesting information, and raises questions as well. It tells us the location of Charles’ residence and names it the Russel Johnson farm. It tells us that Charles had quite a few valuable livestock, farm equipment, and personal possessions to sell. Some of my questions are: “Who was Russel Johnson?”, “Why was Charles holding the sale?”, and “What were all those items listed for sale?”

It took a bit of digging, but I learned that Russel Johnson bought the property (located in Morgan township) in a series of transactions in the 1850s. He owned it until 1876 when he sold it to a man named Davison. Davison sold it to Stephen Martin in 1884, and Stephen Martin sold it to Charles Casbon in 1888.[2] So even though Russel Johnson had not owned the property since 1876, his name was still associated with the farm in 1893, probably because he developed and farmed it for twenty years.[3]

PC 42_449 Martin S to Casbon C 24Sep1888
Copy of deed record showing Charles Casbon’s purchase from Stephen Martin, September 24, 1888. The land is described as “the South three fourths (S ¾) of the North East quarter and the North west quarter of the South East quarter, All in Section one (1) in Township thirty four (34) North Range six (6) west containing one hundred fifty six (15656) acres more or less.”[4] (Click on image to enlarge)

This 1895 plat map shows Charles’ farm, as described in the legal description of
the deed.[5]

C Casbon land Morgan twp 1895
Detail of 1895 plat map, Morgan Township, Porter County, Indiana.
(Click on image to enlarge)

This brings me back to the question, “Why was Charles holding the sale?” I wish I knew the answer to this. The extent of the sale would make me think that Charles was liquidating his holdings and selling the farm, but this is not supported by other records. Porter County land records show that Charles didn’t sell the property until 1903.[6] That is the same year he bought property in Valparaiso,[7] and according to The History of Porter County, was “now living retired in a comfortable home on Monroe street in Valparaiso.”[8] Charles’ biography glosses over his life as a farmer and provides no information relevant to the farm sale of 1893. Charles owned several different properties in the county, so maybe he was just “downsizing” and getting rid of excess inventory. Or was he in debt? The best source of information would probably be a contemporary newspaper article, but I don’t have access to the newspapers from that timeframe (they are on microfilm at the Valparaiso Public Library, about 1,000 miles away from me!).

What are all those things he’s selling? Here are some definitions of things that were unfamiliar to me:

“fresh” cows: “cows recently calved and still in their first flush of lactation, that is within 2 weeks, possibly 4 weeks since calving.”[9]

shoat: “a piglet that has recently been weaned”[10]

road cart: “a light 2-wheeled vehicle often with a back”[11]

road cart
A road cart. Image available from The Florida Center for Instructional Technology at https://etc.usf.edu/clipart/76200/76249/76249_road-cart.htm

hog rack: I’m not sure, but I found this in the California Hog Book (1915): “on every hog farm there should be one or more solid substantial wagon racks that can be used for hauling hogs safely without fear of the animals breaking out and getting away.”[12]

2-horse rake: Used to rake hay after mowing. I couldn’t find a picture of one with two horses, but this should give you the idea

Image downloaded from “Rake Development Spurred by Mower Technology,”
Farm Collector (https://www.farmcollector.com/implements/rake-development-
: accessed 11 November 2017) (Click on image to enlarge)

spring tooth drag: I think this is also called a spring tooth drag harrow, a tool that smooths and loosens the ground after plowing, described as “a largely outdated piece of farm equipment.”[13]

spring tooth harrow
Modern version of a spring-tooth drag harrow. Image adapted from Working Horse Tack

Fairbanks scales: Fairbanks was and still is a major manufacturer of scales.[14] How would a 600 lb. capacity scale be used on a farm? To weigh grain?

This simple farm sale flyer doesn’t provide much in the way of genealogical information, but it is still a valuable part of Our Casbon Journey since it connects us to Charles Casbon and gives us a glimpse into the life and times of an American farmer in the late 19th century.

[1] Porter County, Indiana, Marriage Records, vol. 9:149, Hiram Church–Lodema Casbon, 26 Feb 1890; image, “Indiana Marriages, 1811-2007,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-GTML-57?i=111&cc=1410397 : accessed 22 August 2016); citing “Porter County; FHL microfilm 1,686,210.”
[2] Porter County, Indiana, Deed Record 42: Jun 1887-Feb 1889, p. 449, Stephen C Martin to Charles Casbon, 24 Sep 1888; imaged as “Deed records, 1836-1901,” browsable images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CSNW-T9J8-6?i=462&cat=609009 : accessed 26 September 2017), image 463; citing FHL microfilm 1,703,902, item 2.
[3] Weston A. Goodspeed and Charles Blanchard, Counties of Porter and Lake Indiana. Historical and Biographical (Chicago: F.A. Battey & Co., 1882), p. 344 (“S.R. Johnson”); online image, Internet Archive (https://archive.org/details/countiesofporter00good : accessed 12 November 2017).
[4] Porter County, Indiana, Deed Record 42, Stephen C Martin to Charles Casbon.
[5]  Plat map, Morgan Township, 1895; online image, Porter County, Indiana (http://www.inportercounty.org/Data/Maps/1895Plats/Morgan-1895.jpg : accessed 11 November 2017).
[6] Porter County, Indiana, Deed Index Grantee 9 (mislabeled as Grantor on ID film), Apr 1900 Apr 1906, 7th page of letter C, line 27, Carson John From Casbon Charles, 7 Mar 1903; imaged as “Deed records, 1836-1901,” browsable images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/film/007665027?cat=609009 : accessed 27 September 2017), image 270; citing FHL microfilm 1,703,941, item 2.
[7] Porter County, Indiana, Deed Index Grantee 9 (mislabeled as Grantor on ID film), 7th page of letter C, line 28, Casbon Charles from Carson John, 7 Mar 1903.
[8] History of Porter County Indiana, A Narrative Account of its Historical Progress, its People and its Principal Interests (Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1912), vol. 2, p. 461; image copy, Google Books (https://books.google.com/books?id=Nk00AQAAMAAJ : accessed 11 November 2017).
[9] “fresh cows,” The Free Dictionary (Medical Dictionary tab) (https://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/fresh+cows : accessed 11 November 2017).
[10] “shoat,” The Free Dictionary (https://www.thefreedictionary.com/shoat : accessed 11 November 2017).
[11] “road cart,” Merriam-Webster (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/road%20cart : accessed 11 November 2017).
[12] W.S. Guilford, California Hog Book: A Compilation of Information about Hogs Applied to California Conditions (San Francisco: Pacific Rural Press, 1915); image copy, Google Books (https://books.google.com/books?id=fDQwAAAAYAAJ&source=gbs_navlinks_s : accessed 11 November 2017).
[13] “Spring-tooth harrow,” Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spring-tooth_harrow : accessed 11 November 2017), rev. 20:18, 3 Jan 2016.
[14] “Fairbanks History,” Fairbanks Scales (http://www.fairbanks.com/company/history.cfm : accessed 12 November 2017).

Honoring Our Veterans: Leonard Casban (1887–1917)

This article appeared in the July 6, 1916 edition of the Banbury Guardian newspaper.[1]

l casban prisoner
(Click on image to enlarge)

“Private L. Casban” refers to Leonard Casban, son of Samuel Clark (1851–1922) and Lydia (Harrup, ~1852–1924) Casban. Readers may recall that Samuel once worked in Meldreth as a Coprolite Digger, and Lydia worked in a worsted woolen mill when she was 8 years old.[2] Sometime before starting a family, Samuel adopted the Casban spelling of the surname.

Leonard was born November 6, 1887, in Croydon, Surrey, his family having moved there in 1879 or 1880. We know nothing of his childhood, except that in 1899 he was registered at the Beulah Road Boys’ School in Croydon.[3]

He enlisted in the British Army in 1907 for a six-year term.[4]

Enlistment 1907 p1
Leonard’s application for enlistment in the militia, August, 1907. (Click on image to enlarge)

The enlistment form shows that Leonard was initially accepted into the East Surrey Regiment, and was later assigned to the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry (penciled onto the enlistment form as “Oxford Lt Infy 12-2-08”). It is with this latter unit that we find Private Casbon in the 1911 census, now stationed at Wellington Barracks in the Nilgiris district of India.[5]

Leonard Casban b1887 Detail of 1911 census, showing military personnel of the 1st Battalion, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry stationed at Wellington Barracks, NIlgiris district. (Click on image to enlarge)

With the onset of the first World War, the 1st Battalion of the “Ox and Bucks” was transferred from India to Mesopotamia (Iraq) in late 1914.[6] The British forces were quickly able to seize the city of Basra.[7] In 1915, the British forces began an advance towards Baghdad. After approaching within 25 miles of Baghdad, they were forced to retreat to Kut-al-Amara, and were then surrounded by Ottoman (Turkish) forces.[8]

The siege of Kut-al-Amara began in December, 1915. Unable to resupply, with food running out and weakened by disease, the British were forced to surrender on April 29, 1916.[9] Over 13,000 soldiers were taken prisoner, a humiliating defeat.[10]

Evening World 29Apr1916
Front page of The (New York) Evening World, 29 Apr 1916, describing the fall of Kut.[11] (Click on image to enlarge)

The prisoners were marched to captivity elsewhere in Iraq or Turkey. Thousands died during the march or while in captivity.[12] Private Casban was taken to Angora (now Ankara), Turkey.[13] Sadly, he did not survive, and he died on or about April 1, 1917.[14]

Leonard Casban b1887 Croydon POW report WWI
Unofficial report of Private Leonard Casban’s death in Angora (Ankara), Turkey. (Click on image to enlarge)

On this Veteran’s Day (Armistice Day or Remembrance Day in U.K. and other Commonwealth countries) we honor Leonard Casban’s service and sacrifice. Leonard was unmarried and left no descendants. However, at least five of his siblings survived to have children, so there are many descendants from his branch of the family today.

[1] “The Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry. Prisoners at Kut,” Banbury (Oxfordshire, England) Guardian, 6 Jul 1916, p. col. 3; online image, “British Newspapers,” findmypast (https://search.findmypast.com/bna/viewarticle?id=bl%2f0001523%2f19160706%2f026 : accessed 19 Nov 2016).
[2] Jon Casbon, “Give me an ‘a’ …,” 25 Nov 2016, blog post, Our Casbon Journey (https://casbonjourney.wordpress.com/2016/11/25/give-me-an-a/ : accessed 7 November 2017).
[3] School Admission Register, Beulah Road, Boys Department, p. 39 (penned), admission no. 2839, Casbon, Leonard, 1 Mar 1899; imaged as “National School Admission Registers & Log-Books 1870-1914”, database with images, findmypast (https://search.findmypast.com/record?id=gbor%2fschoool%2fp3%2fgbor%2fschoool%2fp3%2f6734562 : accessed 7 November 2017) >image 49 of 78; citing Croydon Archives, ref. no. SCH15_2_4.
[4] “Attestation for the Militia or Reserve Division of the Militia,” Army form E. 504, no. 5496, L. Casban, 4th Bn East Surrey Regt, 14 Aug 1907; imaged as “British Army Service Records 1760-1915”, database with images, findmypast (http://search.findmypast.com/record?id=gbm%2fwo96%2f575%2f1336162 : accessed 18 November 2016); citing The National Archives, WO 96, box 575, record no. 297.
[5] 1911 England Census, Overseas Military, unnumbered page, line 27, Casban, Leonard (age 23), 1st Oxf & Bucks Lt Infty; imaged as “1911 Census of England and Wales,” database with images, findmypast (https://search.findmypast.com/record?id=gbc%2f1911%2frg14%2f34987%2f0551&parentid=gbc%2f1911%2frg14%2f34987%2f0551%2f27 : accessed 7 November 2017); citing [The National Archives], reference RG14PN34987 RD641 SD12 ED13 SN9999.
[6] “Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry,” Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxfordshire_and_Buckinghamshire_Light_Infantry#cite_note-nam-4 : accessed 7 November 2017), rev. 16:07, 3 Nov 2017.
[7] “Mesopotamian campaign,” Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mesopotamian_campaign : accessed 7 November 2017), rev. 14:56, 31 Oct 2017.
[8] “Mesopotamian campaign,” Wikipedia.
[9] “Mesopotamian campaign,” Wikipedia.
[10] Ross Davies, “The tragedy of Kut,” The Guardian, 19 Nov 2002; online archive (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2002/nov/20/iraq.features11 : accessed 7 November 2017).
[11] “Gen. Townshend Gives up his Force to Turkish Army after Siege of 5 Months,” The (New York) Evening World, 29 Apr 1916, p. 1; online image, Newspaper Archive (accessed through participating libraries: 7 November 2017).
[12] Davies, “The tragedy of Kut.”
[13] Report of prisoners’ deaths in Turkey, unnumbered page, List A., no. 8759, Pte. L. Casban; imaged as “Prisoners of War 1715-1945”, database with images, findmypast (http://search.findmypast.com/record?id=gbm%2fpow-galip%2f02125 : accessed 18 November 2016); citing The National Archives, ref. FO 383/336.
[14] “Soldiers died in the Great War 1914-1919,” database, findmypast (https://search.findmypast.com/record?id=gbm%2fwwisd%2f0212097 : accessed 11 November 2016); citing The Naval and Military Press Ltd.