My great-great-great-great-grandparents Thomas Upton and his wife Sarah had children baptised in Bromley in Kent in the 1820s and 1830s but for a long time couldn’t find a marriage which I was confident was theirs. The only likely one I had found was of a Thomas Uptin to a Sarah Sales in nearby Downe (spelled in the historical records as Down) in 1819, but the 1851 census puts my Sarah’s birth in about 1794 in Westerham and I couldn’t find any Sales children baptised in Westerham around that time in the online indexes. That is, until late last year when returning to Find My Past for the first time in a while I found some Kent parish record transcripts had come online and included a number of children of Richard and Hannah Sales baptised in Westerham in the second half of the 1790s, including a Sarah in 1797. Richard and Hannah were names given to two of Thomas and Sarah’s children, so that was a piece of evidence that the Downe marriage could be the right one
(although given the difference in ages I have only tentatively linked the Westerham Sarah to my Sarah)*.
I was puzzled though that the earliest baptism I had for Thomas and Sarah’s children was in 1821. Given that a not insignificant proportion of my ancestresses had their first child within weeks of the wedding, this seemed rather unlikely if the January 1819 marriage was theirs. Then the other week I re-read an email sent to me several years ago by a fellow descendant, who noted that their first child was baptised as Waters, not Upton, in May 1819. So that fitted with the usual pattern!
The fellow descendant had also sent me notes on a settlement examination saying that Thomas, born in 1797, was the son of John Waters of Bromley and Mary Upton of Plymouth. My brain made a connection: in the other cases in my family tree where an illegitimate child used their father’s surname in later life instead of their mother’s their parents had married after their birth. And lo and behold, I found a marriage of John Waters of the West Kent Militia to Mary Upton in Plymouth in May 1800.
Then looking at an image of the original of the settlement examination (which clarifies that it was Thomas who was born in the parish of Plymouth) I also found another link between Thomas and Downe. At the end of the statment it says ‘my said Son has done no act since to gain a Settlement elsewhere to the best of my Knowledge’ and then, crossed out, ‘At the Parish of Down in the said’. So Thomas presumably had some connection with Downe which made the authorities think that it might be his legal place of settlement (right of settlement could be gained by unmarried men who worked for a year in the parish, for example).
So the morals of this story are
- In this day and age, it’s well worth periodically circling back to your brick walls to check if any new leads have become available online.
- Always look at the original documents.
*Update 7th July 2019: An Ancestry DNA match to a descendant of Richard and Hannah’s daughter Mary has confirmed that the Westerham Sarah was my Sarah. If only I’d known it I’ve had evidence for the link sitting in a file for over a decade – the informant on Sarah’s death certificate was a Mary Divall (although I’d misread the surname as Dirale), Mary’s married name.