Tag Archives: Staffordshire

Serendipitous Connections

14 Sep

Serendipitous Connections

What does a picture in a steamer trunk, a man named Mircea Eliade, a researcher in Bucharest, Romania and a house at 82 Rippon Street Calcutta, India have in common?

(This post has been updated from one I wrote in 2013)

This story has its beginning with a picture in a steamer trunk kept in our basement. Not only did the trunk store Christmas decorations, it held pictures from the past. I had seen these pictures each December when my mom got out her decorations. Mom said these pictures belonged to my grandmother Sarah Jane Sleath Perkins. Sarah Jane was the only grandparent I ever met and she died when I was only 7 years old.

Fifteen years ago when I first became interested in researching my family history, those pictures were the first things I decided to check out. Some faces I recognized, others I did not. I concentrated on the people I knew, did my research and moved on. It was only more recently when I became interested in telling the stories of individual ancestors that I returned to the unidentified pictures in the trunk. The whole point of this exercise was to see what I could discover about an ancestor and if it would be sufficient to develop a story. I chose the picture taken in the Punjab of a young man in an army uniform with the scribbled name “Dick”.

Richard Edward Sleath Punjab India 1893

Over time, I learned a great deal about my Great Uncle Richard Edward Sleath, his wife Gwyndon Ophelia Mathias and her second husband William Frederic Perris.  I did presentations on my ancestor’s life to both the England Wales and Postscripts Special Interest Groups during the winter of 2019.  To the latter, I was showing how even if you only had minimal in formation to start, it was possible to develop a story.

Since Spring 2019, the story itself has taken on a life of its own and recently put me in touch with a Romanian, Liviu Bordas in Bucharest, who just happened to be researching the Perris Family of Calcutta, India. I am getting ahead of myself though and must return to first telling you what I discovered about my ancestor, Richard Sleath. After that I will explain how his story morphed into a story for Relatively Speaking.

I knew my maternal grandmother, Sarah Jane Sleath, had a number of brothers and that one or more had served with the British Army. I had her 1901 wedding photo taken in Claybrooke, Leicestershire, England. The young man called Dick was not in the picture so it was possible, if indeed he was Sarah Jane’s brother, that he was stationed somewhere with the British Army in Punjab, India.

Wedding of John Thomas Perkins and Sarah Jane Sleath 1901 at Claybrooke Lei, England

Wedding was at St. Peter’s Claybrooke Parva. Sarah’s parents George and Abigail Seath and her brother’s George, Jack and Thomas are in the group. Richard Edward Sleath not in picture. 

I referred to a pedigree chart I had developed when I was researching the Sleath Family. Sarah Jane was born in 1869 and her brother Jack in 1866. These were the two Sleath siblings that had ended up in Alberta in the early 1900’s. There was one older brother and 4 younger brothers that remained in England.

As I have a number of paid genealogy sites, it was natural to access them to discoverer what information they might hold. I first went to Find My Past UK and located a baptism record for Richard Edward Sleath. He was christened at St. Mary’s Parish Church in Moreton, Staffordshire on Feb 25, 1872. This document confirmed his parents were George and Abigail Sleath, the same as Sarah Jane. On the 1881 Census on Ancestry, I found the family living in Streethay, Staffordshire. This document confirmed the names and ages of all the family. It appeared that George and Jack (John) were the older brothers while Richard, Joseph and the twins, Thomas and Samuel were the younger brothers. Sarah Jane was the only girl.

1881 Census on Ancestry

On Ancestry I was fortunate to find Service Documents from the UK Royal Hospital, Chelsea, Pensioner Soldier Service Records 1760 – 1920. I was referred to Fold3 (owned by Ancestry) for the original documents.  These records gave me a summary of Richard’s military career.

Service Record for Richard Sleath

Summary: Richard Sleath - Military Career

1889                –   joined the 4th Battalion Staffordshire Reg as a Militiaman​​

23Sept1889      -   joined King’s Royal Rifle Corp at Winchester (86267) ​​

08Aug1891      -   posted to Royal Horse Artillery  Dublin District formed in 1793 as distinct arm of the Royal

Regiment of  Artillery

26May1892      – appointed as a Bombardier, a military rank that has existed since the 16th century in artillery regiments                               of various armies equivalent to the rank of corporal in other branches.

09Sept1893      -  sent to India to fight on the NW Frontier​ 29Sept1901 _  discharged at Allahabad Railway Station,                                         Northern India ​

British India 1893

It was at this point that I had to get myself a good map of India in the 1890s plus smaller maps of the various provinces. I really had no idea where anything was and how far apart some of these places were. I also had to delve into the history of the country. It certainly wasn’t covered in my High School classes.

I found a book on Google called North-West Frontier 1837–1947 by  Robert Wilson Latham There was a summary as follows:

“For over a hundred years British and Indian troops were engaged on the North-West Frontier of India, policing the tribes, mounting expeditions, and guarding against the ever-present threat from Russia. Populated mainly by Pathans, one of the fiercest warrior races on earth, the Frontier came to be known as “The Grim” by generations of British soldiers. It offers a rare glimpse into life on the Frontier, illuminating Lord Curzon’s remark, “No man who has read a page of Indian history will ever prophesy about the frontier”.

​I don’t know where Richard was stationed or what battles he may have been in. I do know that he was shipped to India in 1891 with the Royal Horse Artillery as a Bombardier and he was discharged at Allahabad Station in 1901.

I created a Timeline to help in writing the story of Richard Edward Sleath​.​

1872    Baptized in Moreton Staffordshire​

1881    Living in Streethay Staffordshire​

1889    Militia Man in Lichfield Stafffordshire​

1889    Joined Kings Royal Rifles​

1891    Dublin District Royal Horse Artillery Gunner​

1893    India  Bombardier​ (Rank between that of gunner and that of sergeant)  Royal Horse Artillery

1901    Discharged at East India Railway Station​ Allahabab         ​

1902    Married Gwyndon Ophelia Mathias at ​  Khagole, Bengal, India​

1907    Richard Sleath died 24Feb1907​

1908    Gwyndon Sleath (Richard’s widow) marries William Frederic Perris​

Richard was discharged from the British Army in 1901. He would have been 29 years old. As I was searching for pictures of the East India Railway Station at Allahabad on the internet I found a postcard. It had been written by Adelaide in July of 1908. She was letting someone know she was leaving from the Allahabad Station.  It struck me that this was the same station Richard would have seen.

1908 sent from someone leaving from Allahabad Station in 1908

The steamer trunk held other photos including one of Richard Sleath in civilian dress. He looked older than the man in the army uniform. I guessed the photo would have been taken after he had been discharged from the army in 1901. The photographer was identified as Bourne and Shepherd of Calcutta.  I thought this picture might have been taken around the time of his wedding (1902) and one that he would send to his sister Sarah Jane.

Richard Sleath ..likely taken at time of his wedding to Gwyndon Matthias

 

I located an Extract from India Eagle Paper in Calcutta and learned something about this company.

Bourne & Shepherd: World’s Oldest Operating Photo Studio in Kolkata Breathed its Last (2016)

“This dilapidated building named ‘Photographe’ in the busiest neighborhood of Kolkata could have been converted into a world-class photography museum to preserve the footprints of India’s journey from the colonial times to the post-independence era. But Fate had something else in store for the iconic landmark where many historic events across the country were documented through photography for 176 years…..the photo studio was renamed Bourne & Shepherd in 1866 when the British photographer and traveler duo – Samuel Bourne and Charles Shepherd – took control of the business after William Howard left India.”

 

 

 

 

What happened to Richard Sleath following his discharge? This was an important question I needed to answer.  I discovered a marriage registration on findmypast.co.uk. He had married a woman by the name of Gwyndon Ophelia Mathias at Christ Church, Khagole, India on September 25,1902. This record was part of the British India Office Collection . He said he was 28 and she was 17. In actuality he would have been 30. Yes our ancestors stretched the truth!

Richard Edward Sleath married Gwyndon Ophelia Mathias on 26 Sept 1902 at Khagole Bengal India

 

Marriage record for Richard and Gwyndon in 1902

 

I had the wedding picture for Richard and Gwyndon. Given the style of the wedding dress this had been a very English wedding.  The couple were married for only five years when Richard died February 24, 1907 in the Medical College Hospital in Calcutta at age 35. This information was from the Times of India newspapers on the Families in British India website.  I could not find a death record. He was an employee of the East India Railway Company.

Richard Sleath and Gwyndon Mattias married in Khagole Punjab India

I located Richard’s will on Find My Past. It would appear that he was living a very good life in India and based on conversion rates for the rupee to today’s purchasing power in UK pounds, Gwyndon was a moderately wealthy widow.

“I give…my household furniture, linens and wearing apparel, plates, pictures, china, horse carts and carriages and also every sum and sums of money which may be in my house…..also my stock funds and securities and all and every other money or bank notes or other securities.”

 

John Mathias and Ophelia Grose (Gwyndon Parents) were married at St. Paul’s Church on Scott Lane in Calcutta, India in 1862

Ophelia Grose (Gwyndon’s Mother) was born 1862 and christened 1864 at the Sheik Ghaut Chapel Associated with the Presbyterian Mission of Sylhet. She was the daughter nof Benjamin Gilbert Grose and Marian ? Interesting to note other children named Grose were also christened at the same time.

I could end my story at this point. My ancestor is deceased and he left no living children. Gwyndon, at 22 would  move on with her life. Indeed she married William Frederic Perris in 1908.

Family Photo…Richard Sleath, Gwyndon Mathias Sleath, Ophelia Grose Mathias and John Mathias. Unknown woman in top left….sister, aunt?

I was curious though, as to what would happen to such a young woman. I thought why not do some additional research into Gwyndon Ophelia and her maternal family. From the family picture it was clear that her mother Ophelia was an Anglo-Indian. This woman after whom she was named came from Sylhet, Bengal in northeast India. The family name was Grose.  I found Ophelia’s father Benjamin Gilbert Grose born 1840 in Sylhet and his father Robert Grose born in Calcutta in 1808. Robert’s father was John Grose but I was unable to determine where he was born.

Bengal Presidency in India. Sylhet was in the NE corner

On the Perris side we find her husband Wiliam Frederic Perris born into a military family in Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh, India in 1879 to Corporal and Amelia Perris (2nd of the 2nd Queens). He married Gwyndon Mathias Sleath in 1908 and they had 6 children. The senior Perris’ ended up in England in 1951 following the partition of the country.

Calcutta India

This is where the story takes a serendipitous turn. I had advertised my presentation to the Postscript group on my Facebook Page. Liviu Bordas a Romanian researcher saw the post on Facebook and got in touch with John Althouse. The following morning I had a forwarded email from Liviu Bordas. Liviu had being trying to reach me since finding my blog, A Genealogist Goes Wandering, on which I had a posting about Richard and Gwyndon Sleath and William Frederic Perris.

Liviu writes:  May 2019

“I am doing a research on Calcutta (and generally India) during the last period of the British Raj in connection with some European scholars who visited or lived there for some time. In 2015, I have researched the India Office Records in The British Library and National Archives and found some information. I found other information, including their migration to UK, on various genealogical websites. I would like to know what you have found. Thank you.”

Emails went back and forth. I wanted to know why he was researching the Perris Family. Turns out he was researching a noted Romanian religious scholar Mircea Eliade who had stayed with the Perris Family in their Calcutta guesthouse from 1929 to 1931. He was writing a book soon to be published and wanted permission to use some of my pictures.

Liviu Wrote in reply to one of my emails:  “Their entire life is a great story. I wrote it. 🙂

I put all the information I could find about them (their lives and their ancestors) in a text I wrote as introduction to Mircea Eliade’s Indian travelogue (India) and Indian diary (Șantier = Work in progress), published in 1934 and 1935 (now republished in a single volume). Eliade lived in their house for the duration of his stay in India (January 1929 – November 1931), except for January-September 1930, when he lived in the house of his professor, Surendranath Dasgupta. The Perris kept their rented home in Calcutta as a “pension” / “guest house”. In India, Eliade mentions, briefly, only Fred Perris and his brothers. But in Șantier all of them,  including Ophelia, Gwyn’s mother) are a constant presence. Isabel is modeled after Gwyndon, while Maitreyi is Maitreyi Devi, Dasguptas’s daughter. Almost all the other Perris appear under a guise in the two novels. The last one is the only one translated in English and made into a film – Bengali Nights. Eliade also kept a correspondence with the Perris family while he was traveling in India and after his return to Bucharest as well, until 1936.

Introduction written by Livu Bordas

 

 

The book is coming out in a week or two. I have quoted your blog post and also included one of the pictures (with Richard, Gwyn and her parents) mentioning as source the personal archive of Louise Perkins”. I apologize for doing it without securing your permission. I have tried to contact you in October and November but received no answer. Unfortunately, the publisher made the picture very small, so I think there is no much use of it in the book. The readers can go however to your blog post. I hope you won’t mind that. Let’s keep in touch. We might find other things to share. With best wishes,”  Liviu

Serendipitous connections kept occurring. I found a book in a bookstore on Whyte Avenue. It contained additional information about the family and their lives when Mircea Eliade was staying there. He refers to Gwyndon Perris as Mrs. P who ran the establishment at 82 Rippon Street.. Her sons were  the same age as Mircea, all in their late teens or early 20’s. I await the publication of Liviu’s book  and translation to English. Who knows what else I might discover?

82 Rippon Street as it stands today in Kolcata India

 

The young man that lived at the guest house in Calcutta belonging to The Perris Family (Gwyndon was Richard Sleath’s widow. Married Fred Perris in 1908.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As an ending to this story,  I discovered a further connection to a man I had never heard about until May 2019. I was taking a class and the speaker was David Goa, (Adele Goa’s brother for those of you in the know). He is a noted Religious Scholar and curated the Anno Domini Exhibit at the Royal Alberta Museum in the early 2000s. I thought I would ask him if he was familiar with Mircea Eliade. He looked at me and said “of course, he was my professor when I studied at the University of Chicago in the 60’s. He was a brilliant man!”  It is indeed a small world!

What does a picture in a trunk, a man named Mircea Eliade, a researcher in Bucharest and a house at 82 Rippon Street Calcutta have in common? I have discovered that they form the basis for a very interesting story and now you know the answer!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Where oh Where Was Benjamin Sleeth Born? Think it was Staffordshire, England

26 Jun

 

GBPRS-STAFF-ST-NICHOLAS-ABBOTS-BROMLEY-BIRTH-D1209-1-3-1734-1780-00061

Parish Record 1753 at St. Nicholas, Abbots Bromley, Staffordshire

That  A Benjamin Sleeth was born is a fact, as his marriage to Mary Quinton is recorded at Abbots Bromley,  February 14,  1753. Likely he was born sometime between and  1713 and 1735 making him between 18 and 40 when he married. On checking the records, there does not appear to be any Sleeth’s or Quinton’s baptised in this Parish around that period, so the likelihood is that Benjamin and Mary did  not grow up here.

st-nicholas-church-abbots-bromley

St-Nicholas Church, Abbots-Bromley… Interior

Benjamin Sleeth with his wife Mary, had a son William, October 22, 1769 and recorded it in the Parish Records of St. Editha at Church Eaton, Staffordshire.  Many of the descendants of William Sleeth/Sleith are buried there. (Note the spelling changes Sleeth to Sleith to Sleath for later generations.) William is the only Sleeth baptised here in this time period.

william sleeth

Baptismal Record for William Sleeth/Sleith (1769) who was the son of Benjamin Sleeth.

 

St Editha's Church

St Editha’s Church at Church Eaton

I was in Church Eaton in 1979 and visited with descendants of William Sleeth/Sleith. Sarah Jane Sleath (1869)Perkins’ father George Sleath (1830) and Nan (1911) and Richard (1913) Sleath’s Grandfather Richard Sleath (1843) were brothers. They were the sons of John Sleith (1805) who was the son of William (1769)

Nan Sleath Bailey and Richard Sleath  at St. Editha Church…1979.

Sarah Jane Perkins, daughter of George and Abigail (Rogers) Sleath later years of Lichfield, Staffordshire

Sarah Jane Sleath Perkins, daughter of George and Abigail (Rogers) Sleath later years of Lichfield, Staffordshire

 

 

 

 

Benjamin sleeth

Benjamin Sleeth buried September 16 , 1798 All Saint’s Bloxwich

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also have Benjamin Sleeth’s burial in Bloxwich, Staffordshire at All Saint’s Parish Church on September 16, 1798 which was 45 years after his marriage. We could assume that, had he been born in 1713, he would have been 85 years of age and if born in 1735, he would have been 58 years of age. His wife Mary, had been buried 10 years earlier in 1788.

 

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“there was no municipal cemetery, and all the dead of Bloxwich were buried in the churchyard of St. Thomas of Canterbury (now All Saints).”

“Throughout the Middle Ages Bloxwich had been a small agricultural village with a population of around 600, but it expanded in the 18th century when coal mines were opened. There were many cottage industries at this time, making awls, nails, needles and saddle blades. By early 19th century Bloxwich was surrounded by canals, encouraging expansion, as goods could be moved more easily.

Bloxwich had a chapel of ease within the parish of Walsall, granted in the 15th century, but did not become a separate parish until the 19th century. An old preaching cross, believed to pre-date the church still stands in the churchyard. All Saints Church dates mostly from 1875-1877 when the original church, St. Thomas of Canterbury, was rebuilt and rededicated. Church Street led to the poorest part of Bloxwich known as Chapel Field Cottages. A workhouse on Elmore Green was open by 1752.”   (British History online)

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Grounds at Bloxwich Church  

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Rebuilt Bloxwich Church

 

Susan Martin, who I met at the Exodus: Movement of the People Conference in 2013  sent this email: “Benjamin and Mary would have been buried from what was then a chapel of ease from St Matthews, Walsall . Bloxwich didn’t become a separate parish until 1842. Mary would have been buried by the old chapel of ease but this was rebuilt in 1794 , in time for Benjamin in 1798.The present church was virtually rebuilt in the 1870s. However I guess Benjamin and Mary are in the grounds. All tombstones removed, some against the wall surrounding the cleared line”

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Bloxwich Church Grounds

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Cycle path through Goscote Corridor

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View from back of #72

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“We had a good afternoon – after several days of non-stop rain and more due for the next three days that I took a walk to Station Road Rushall and can now send you updated photos. No 72 is still there, windows different. I guess the two sheds were the back gardens? I walked along a drive at back and took two photos of the view which there must be from the house. One of the last photos shows the cycle path now going through what is known as the Goscote corridor (goes through the land at the back of 72) and the big stream.  The countryside in the Goscote corridor hasn’t changed over the past 40 years!

 

Records:

Place Church Baptisms Marriages Burials
Bloxwich All Saints 1733-1932 1843-1928 1733-1954

Benjamin is not a name that was popular with any of the Sleath’s anywhere at that time…I only found one baptised in 1665 in Gilmorton, Leicestershire, and none in Warwickshire or Staffordshire in the 1700’s using Ancestry. The one born in Gilmorton, Leicestersire would have been a good candidate for having a son named Benjamin, but he died in 1713 leaving his wife Mary Crick with 3 small children living in Husband Bosworth and none of them a Benjamin.  Did any of his siblings born before him, name any of their children after him?

While I was searching The Genealogist, I came across an interesting record….

Sleeth london

Sleeth Mary wife of Benj, Gent Servant, 29 Rugeley Staff.

In 1772, at the British Lying in Hospital (for “poor and distressed married women”) in Endell Street, St Giles in the Field in London, I found a record for  male child born to Benjamin and Mary Sleeth. I would have discarded this as a possibility as I know there are many Sleeth’s/Sleith’s/Sleath’s born in the London area, however they listed their Parish of Abode as Rugeley, Staffordshire….6 miles from Abbotts Bromley,   10 miles from Bloxwich and 12 miles from Church Eaton. He was a Gentleman’s Servant….A valet or “gentleman’s gentleman” is a gentleman’s male servant; the closest female equivalent is a lady’s maid. The valet performs personal services such as maintaining his employer’s clothes, running his bath and perhaps (especially in the past) shaving his employer). This Benjamin may have entered service as a younger man and worked his way up to this position.

British Lying -In Hospital….24 Endell Street, Covent Garden  1749 – 1913  Maternity

Surgeon in attendance would be called to judge whether the birth would be an easy natural one and could be left to the Matron to deal with, or would need continuing medical involvement.

From 1752 female pupils were admitted to learn midwifery, usually for a period of six months.

In 1756 the Hospital changed its name to the British Lying-In Hospital for Married Women to avoid confusion with the City of London Lying-In Hospital, which had opened in 1750, and theGeneral Lying-In Hospital, which had been founded in 1752.

stpauls2

The oldest maternity hospital in London, the Lying-In Hospital for Married Women, opened at the end of 1749 with the Duke of Portland as its President.  It had been established by a group of governors of the Middlesex Hospital, who were dissatisfied with the facilities available in that Hospital for women in labour.  They purchased a house in Brownlow Street (now Betterton Street), off Long Acre, and furnished it with 20 beds.

The staff consisted of two physicians and two surgeons who practiced midwifery, a Matron skilled in the same, a chaplain, an apothecary, nurses and “other inferior servants”.

Women were admitted in the last month of their pregnancy – they were only permitted to stay for three weeks –  and needed a letter of recommendation from a subscriber (patients were not charged by the Hospital) and an affidavit of their marriage and their husband’s settlement.

Patients received breakfast at 9 o’clock, lunch at 1 o’clock and supper at 7 o’clock.  In the winter they  went to bed at 8 o’clock and in the summer at 9 o’clock.

IMG_20130911_121742

Brick Building just down the street was the Lying In Hospital

In a strange coincidence, I had walked Edell Street many times before on trips to London and often had coffee at a small cafe….turns out I had a view of the Lying In Hospital but I was unaware of what the building had been in earlier times.

 

Another record for the same birth date, lists a girl Jane as being born to Benjamin and Mary Sleith……so was it a boy or a girl or twins or a different Benjamin and Mary or transcription error.

Sleeth london

27 Sept…. 28 Sept a boy

 

 

 

Had  Benjamin  been hired as a Gentleman’s Servant in Staffordshire and come to London with his Gentleman. Did his gentleman live in London with a country house in Staffordshire or  did his Gentleman live in Staffordshire and have a London house?

I kept looking in that area and discovered a Richard born to Benjamin and Mary Sleith in Wandsworth in 1767. Wandsworth in those days was rural and agricultural. Was this the same Ben and Mary? Did the Gentleman have a home in this area? Was this Benjamin and Mary the parents of Jane?

More Records more confusion….This Record  was discovered among the Clandestine Marriage Records in London for 1667 to 1754….on Ancestry.

A Benjamin Slyth of Walsall married Mary Thompson of Santree, Ireland on August 3, 1717 in London.  Officiating Ministers: Vyse, Draper, Evans, Wagstaffe, Floud, Gaynam, etc (1709 Nov – 1721 Apr) (Ancestry) Now whether this was my Ancestor, I can only surmise. Again the reference to Walsall, (Bloxwich was a chapel of Ease from Walsall Staffordshire) would give me pause for my thinking. Was this a young couple…. he Church of England, she a Catholic from Ireland and were they pregnant? Did they run away to London to be married or were they already in London?   Did they remain in London or return at some point to Staffordshire. Did they have a son and name him Benjamin? 

What was a clandestine marriage?

A Fleet Marriage is the best-known example of an irregular or a clandestine marriage taking place in England before the Marriage Act 1753 came into force on March 25, 1754. Specifically, it was one which took place in London’s Fleet Prison or its environs during the 17th and, especially, the early 18th century.

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Facts are beginning to build.

1717                   Benjamin Slyth and Mary Thompson marry in London…..List Walsall as his abode

Early 1700’s    Benjamin Sleeth is born …SOMEWHERE..

1753                   Benjamin Sleeth and Mary Quinton marry in Abbots Bromley

13 years between these records…..so Mary, mother of William, would have only been 13 when she                                                                      married in  1753.    How likely would this be?

“Under Lord Hardwicke’s marriage act in 1753, the law was changed so that anyone under twenty one had to have the consent of guardians or parents, but there was no lower age limit. It also had to be celebrated in church and an entry had to be made in the parish register and signed by both parties. The law was introduced to in response to agitation on the part of the nobility, who were alarmed at the ease with which young heiresses could be trapped in indissoluble marriages, and have their money stolen!
Source : Belinda Meteyard, ‘Illigitimacy and marriage in the eighteenth century’, Journal of Interdisciplinary history

Ithis a different Mary? An entirely different  couple?   Does this Mary die and Benjamin married a different Mary?

1769                Benjamin and Mary Sleeth (26) have a son William baptised in Church Eaton...Home Parish?

1772                   Benjamin and Mary Sleeth have a male child at the Lying in Hospital in London and list Rugeley                                at their abode…he a Gentleman’s Servant. Mary is 29 so born c. 1743.

Still there are so many questions…are these Benjamin’s the same or different people? What about the Mary’s? Why are there no Sleeth Children born between 1753 and 1769. Does Mary Quinton Die and Benjamin  doesn’t remarry for several years? again to another Mary?

 

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Nan Sleath Bailey and Me at Rushall, Staffordshire in 1979

I’m stuck! For the past 8 years I have been trying to trace my Sleath Family and it hasn’t been easy. They of course couldn’t be consistent in the spelling of their surname, and this is only the first of many issues.  I started out by tracing my Grandmother, Sarah Jane Sleath, born 13 Aug 1869 in The Outwoods, Shropshire.  Things seemed to be going well and I located her father, George Sleath born in Hinstock, Shropshire in 1830.  His father John Sleith, I found in Church Eaton, Staffordshire. John Sleith (note first change of spelling for name) was christened 17 Mar 1805, the son of William Sleith of Church Eaton. I knew this was the right connection as St. Editha’s Church Cemetery is the burial place for a number of  my Sleith’s. Richard Sleath, George’s brother,  was born in 1843 in Sydney, Shropshire and buried at St Editha’s. I took the photos in 1979 on my first trip to England, long before I got into searching my family history. Oh how I wish I would have asked those “oh so important questions” when I was there and my relatives were still alive.

The Search for Benjamin Sleeth and Mary Quinton in Staffordshire, England

12 Apr

I’m stuck! For the past 8 years I have been trying to trace my Sleath Family and it hasn’t been easy. They of course couldn’t be consistent in the spelling of their surname, and this is only the first of many issues.  I started out by tracing my Grandmother, Sarah Jane Sleath, born 13 Aug 1869 in The Outwoods, Shropshire.  Things seemed to be going well and I located her father, George Sleath born in Hinstock, Shropshire in 1830.  His father John Sleith, I found in Church Eaton, Staffordshire. John Sleith (note first change of spelling for name) was christened 17 Mar 1805, the son of William Sleith of Church Eaton. I knew this was the right connection as St. Editha’s Church Cemetery is the burial place for a number of  my Sleith’s. Richard Sleath, George’s brother,  was born in 1843 in Sydney, Shropshire and buried at St Editha’s. I took the photos in 1979 on my first trip to England, long before I got into searching my family history. Oh how I wish I would have asked those “oh so important questions” when I was there and my relatives were still alive.

Ann and Richard Sleath

Ann and Richard Sleath

William is christened as William Sleeth (2nd change of name) 22 Mar 1769 at Church Eaton, Staffordshire,  the son of Benjamin and Mary Sleeth. I thought how well I was doing until I started to trace Benjamin Sleeth. This is where the problems arose.  I have been able to find in the Parish Records for Abbotts Bromley a marriage for Benjamin Sleeth and Mary Quinton on 14 Feb 1753. There are no other Sleeth or Quinton names  in those parish records so likely the couple was from elsewhere. William(1769) is the only birth I have been able to locate for parents Benjamin and Mary  Sleeth under various spellings. Benjamin Sleeth is buried in Bloxwich, Staffordshire in 1798 (NBI) and Mary Quinton Sleeth is buried there as well in 1788(NBI). I have not found a baptismal record for either person.Where was this couple in the years following their 1753 marriage to 1769 when William is christened at Church Eaton? Did they have other living Children? Did earlier children die? Is William really their Child? Did they not baptize their children? Are the records simply not yet on the internet or are they lost in transcription errors?

Benjamin Sleeth

Mary Sleeth wife of Ben, Gentlemen’s Servant, a son 1772 parish of abode Rugeley, Staffordshire

I wasn’t quite correct when I said that I found no more births for Ben and Mary Sleeth. In 1772, at the British Lying in Hospital (for “poor and distressed married women”) in Endell Street, St Giles in the Field in London, I found a record for  male child born to Benjamin and Mary Sleeth. I would have discarded this as a possibility as I know there are many Sleeth’s/Sleith’s/Sleath’s born in the London area, however they listed their Parish of Abode as Rugeley, Staffordshire (6 miles from Abbotts Bromley) and he was a Gentleman’s Servant.

Another record for the same birth date, lists a girl Jane as being born to Benjamin and Mary Sleith.  Maybe Benjamin had been hired in Staffordshire and came to London with his Gentleman. Did his gentleman live in London with a country house in Staffordshire or did his Gentleman live in Staffordshire with another house in London? I kept looking in that area and discovered a Richard born to Benjamin and Mary Sleith in Wandsworth, Surrey in 1767. Wandsworth in those days was rural and agricultural. Was this the same Ben and Mary? Did the Gentleman have a home in this area?

Was talking to someone recently and she suggested that perhaps as Ben and Mary had not been able to have children in the first 16 years of marriage, they adopted a child whose mother died in childbirth or who had given away an illegitimate child and called him William. Adoptions weren’t formalized in those days. Or perhaps, one of their Sleeth family had an illegitimate child and they took him in as their own. Another possibility is the family was NonConformists and the births were not recorded or they haven’t yet shown up in the NonConformist Records.

Haven’t found a birth for either Benjamin or Mary. There is a  Sleeth who is having children in the early 1700’s right for the time of Benjamin being born  but they do not christen a Ben at the Great Presbyterian Meeting House in Leicester where their other children are christened. He is a Baker. Also a Benjamin and Mary Sleath have children in Husband’s Bosworth, LEI up to 1711 for recorded births, but no Ben. Husband’s Bosworth is only 45 miles from Rugeley. There are Sleeth’s having  children in Walsall, Stafffordshire but no Benjamin’s. SO I’M STUCK AT THIS POINT…… where do I g0 next?  Well perhaps it’s time to take a look at the manors in the area and who owned them. Maybe I can locate Benjamin’s Gentleman!

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