Today I came across a new source that I had never heard of before – Espousal books. It seems they were used to record betrothals up until the early seventeenth century. A betrothal was considered to be almost as binding and valid as a marriage. Few such books have survived and I haven’t managed to locate any Gloucestershire examples. Has anyone ever seen one?
For my book on Researching Gloucestershire Ancestors, I have nearly completed the chapter on pre-1841 Gloucestershire censuses and population lists and have found 16 parishes with, at least, names of the householders and numbers of occupants and, in some cases, full details of the families living there. I would hate to omit a parish by mistake so if anyone knows of a parish with either a census or a population list for the period 1780 to 1840, please let me know. I will work on earlier population lists in a later chapter.
Having completed my first book on ‘Victorian Prisoners in Gloucester Gaol’, I am now embarking on a new project to document the records available in the county for researching Gloucestershire ancestors. Having researched locally for twenty years now, I am obviously familiar with the main repositories such as Gloucestershire Archives, the Local Studies collections in the various libraries, the GFHS Family History Centre and the local history societies but want to produce as comprehensive a list as possible in the book so I would be pleased to hear from anyone who has found any funny, quirky or downright unusual sources of family information that could be included. Any references used in the book will be acknowledged.
Having been asked about existing early (pre-1841) censuses and population lists with names in Worcestershire, I remembered Colin Chapman’s book on the subject and found the following for Gloucestershire:
And, of course, in Gloucestershire , we have Smith’s Men and Armour for 1608 which lists all the adult males as well as some females.
One way to trace the parents of your ancestor is by looking at records concerning their apprenticeships. There are two useful books for Gloucestershire Apprentices, both produced in the Gloucestershire Record Series by the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society.
They are: ‘A Calendar of the Registers of Apprentices of the City of Gloucester 1595-1700’ edited by Jill Barlow, M.A. and ”A Calendar of the Registers of the Freemen of the City of Gloucester 1641-1838′ transcribed by Peter Ripley and revised and edited by John Jurica.
The first book deals with the apprenticeship registers and has entries such as:
1690 Nov 1 Gwinnett Francis, son of Lawrence, gentleman of Great Shurdington, to Newman, Samuel 7years baker
1680 Apr 12 Gwinnet, Richard, son of George, gentleman of Badgeworth, to Randle, Josiah & Margery, 7yrs baker 2s 6d.
the second line giving the name of the apprentice’s master, the length of time of his apprenticeship, the trade and sometimes the amount paid to the master. At the end of the apprenticeship, the apprentice was entitled to become a freeman of the city.
The second book, listing the Freemen, has entries such as:
1757 Oct 24 Button Gwinnett, son of Sam., clerk
1806 Apr 14 Sam. Gwinnett, writer, son of Chas., victualler
(There is a note that Button was a signatory on the American Declaration of Independence of 1776.)
A man could become a freeman in four ways, by apprenticeship, by patrimony, by purchase or by gift of the city corporation. Although the books, available via Amazon.co.uk, specify the city of Gloucester there are entries for people from the whole county of Gloucestershire as well as a few from elsewhere.
You have searched the IGI and checked the parish registers and still you cannot find that elusive baptism. Could it be that your ancestors were Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Congregationalist, Roman Catholic …?
Finding ancestors who did not conform to the Church of England religion is fraught with difficulty. Many of the churches, chapels and meeting houses no longer exist and registers, when kept, have been destroyed over the years. It is hard to know where to start as there is no list of all such churches for Gloucestershire. I am endeavouring to fill that gap by creating a database of all known churches, chapels and meeting houses that existed or still exist in Gloucestershire and Bristol.
I am hoping that someone can help me extend my list, tell me about chapels that I have omitted or duplicated, anything that will add to my knowledge and, in the long run, to other people’s as well. I have a long way to go but have made a start at:
Please take a look and send me any information that might prove useful.
The codes used in Smith’s Men and Armour for Gloucestershire in 1608 are as follows:
The figure (1.) shows the age of that man to be about Twenty.
The figure (2.) shows the age of that man to be about Forty.
The figure (3.) shows the age of that man to be between Fifty and sixty.
The letter (p.) shows that man to be of the tallest stature fit to make a pikeman.
The letter (m.) shows that man to be of the middle stature fit to make a musketeer.
The letters (ca.) show that man to be of a lower stature fit to serve with a caliver.
The letters (py.) show that man to be of the meanest stature either fit for a pyoner or of little other use.
The letters (tr.) show that at the time of taking this view, he was then a trained soldier.
The letters (sub.) show that the said man was then a subsidy man.
Yesterday, I had cause to look at a book entitled ‘Men and Armour for Gloucestershire in 1608’. by John Smith. It is a transcript of the information produced by a military survey of the county of Gloucesteshire in that year. As such, it lists, under hundreds, manors and tithings, the name, occupation or description of each person in the county capable of bearing arms or, if incapacitated, the armour he can contribute. Thus, it contains a list of all the men from the ages of 16 to 60 in Gloucestershire in 1608 and is particularly useful for tracing ancestors in the early 17th century. Also included is a code for the age and another for the stature of the man concerned. For instance, the entry for one man is:
Richard Gwynnett, husbandman, 2, m., tr. hath a musket furnished.
The ‘2’ tells us that he is about 40 years (as opposed to 20 or 50-60)
The ‘m’ means that he is of middle stature ‘fitt to make a musketyer’.
Finally, the ‘tr’ means he was a trained soldier at that time.
The best feature of the book is that it has an excellent index which makes searching for your ancestors in the early seventeenth century very easy.
Welcome to Falling Leaves, my new blog of genealogical thoughts on researching family history in and around the English county of Gloucestershire. After undertaking research for many years, I have gathered a vast amount of information on my area which may prove of interest to you in your online search for your ancestors.