Tag Archives: Ambrose Smith

John Cooper’s family: another unexpected Irish connection

The family of Faden John Smith [B10 on the 1910 Borrow’s Gypsies family tree in the Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society] weren’t the only people to make their home in Ireland. (See the story about Faden John elsewhere on this blog.)

The children of Faden John’s nephew John Cooper [C21] also emigrated from England to live there but choosing Belfast rather than Dublin.

John Cooper was the son of Faden John’s sister Phoebe Smith [B12] and Tom Cooper. He was born in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, in about 1832. On 5 March 1865 he married Sarah Story at Fairfield parish church near Liverpool, Lancashire. She was, as the 1910 tree records, a non-Gypsy, her father being described on the marriage certificate as a ‘Tradesman’.

The couple had three known children, all daughters. Florence Cooper, the eldest, was born in England, location unknown, in about 1867.

John and Sarah then travelled to Ireland, where they gave birth to their second daughter, Agnes Nora Cooper. She was born on 17 May 1869 at Ahoghill, near Ballymena, County Antrim. It’s possible, in fact likely, that the couple at this point were travelling with the ‘Royal Epping Forest Gipsies’, the group headed by George Smith [C12] that travelled the UK and Ireland in the 1860s and 1870s, holding dances for the general public in major towns and cities.

From Country Antrim, John and Sarah headed to Scotland in the early 1870s, perhaps in the company of John’s uncle, Ambrose Smith [B8]. Ambrose was the Gypsy on whom the 19th century writer George Borrow based the character ‘Jasper Petulengro’ in his novels Lavengro and The Romany Rye.

And it was during this sojourn in Scotland that disaster struck. John Cooper died on 21 January 1872 in a tent behind Hope Terrace, Queens Park, Govan, Glasgow. According to Francis Hindes Groome writing in his In Gipsy Tents (1880), John was buried in Cathcart Cemetery in Glasgow in a grave marked by a large monument. But recent investigations seem to suggest that this stone is long gone. What does survive nearby is the grave of a relative of John Cooper: his second-cousin Logan Lee [D46], son of Leviathan Smith [C14]. Logan died in Galway, Ireland in 1873, and was brought to Cathcart for burial. (You can read more about Logan and see an illustration of his gravestone elsewhere on this blog.)

Two months after John Cooper’s death, his third daughter came into the world. Minnie Leah Cecil Cooper was born on 15 March 1872 at Moss Side, Eastwood, Renfrewshire, with John described on her birth certificate as ‘Travelling Horse Dealer (deceased)’.

So here is Sarah Cooper, a young widow with three little daughters to care for. Being a non-Gypsy, it might have been expected that Sarah would bid farewell to life on the road and return to her roots in Liverpool. But she didn’t. Instead, we find Florence and Minnie in the 1881 census in the care of their Gypsy grandmother Phoebe Cooper among a large encampment of other Gypsy relatives in Christies Field, Broughton Road, Edinburgh, Scotland. The whereabouts of Sarah Cooper herself and her daughter Agnes Nora in 1881 is, as yet, unknown.

But in the next sighting of the girls and their mother in the 1901 census they are living in Belfast. To support her family, Sarah Cooper has started out in business as a Family Grocer at 166 Newtonards Road, Belfast. Perhaps she is following in her father’s ‘Tradesman’ footsteps. Her daughter Florence Cooper has also started a career in food retailing. She is recorded as a Lady Tea Traveller. Agnes Nora – now calling herself ‘Nora’ – is working with her mother in the shop as a ‘Grocer’s Sales Assistant’. And what of Minnie? She too is in her mother’s household but by now as a married woman with children of her own.

Minnie had married Robert Balfour, a Scottish-born naval architect, at the University Road Methodist Church in Belfast on 17 January 1891. She went on to have five known children with him:

  •  Sylvia Dorothy Grantham Balfour, born 17 November 1891, in Lower Sydenham, Belfast; known as ‘Dorothy’.
  • Muriel Cecil Sydenham Balfour, born 3 January 1895, at 1 Bloomdale Terrace, Belfast.
  • Roderick Douglas Balfour, born 25 March 1896, at 1 Grampian Avenue, Belfast; known as ‘Douglas’.
  • Edna Irene Story Balfour, born 30 June 1900, at her grandmother’s house/shop – 166 Newtonards Road, Belfast. She died aged two on 11 February 1903 in Belfast.
  • Mona Elsie Story Balfour, born 1 July 1905, at 36 Dudley Drive, Kelvinside, Glasgow, Scotland; known as ‘Elsie’.

Florence Cooper and her sister Nora remained spinsters throughout their lives. In the 1911 census, they are still living with their mother in her grocer’s shop in Newtonards Road. Sarah continues to be recorded as a Grocer. Florence is now a Baker & Confectioner. Nora has no occupation. Sarah Cooper dies on 17 March  1916 at 44 University Street, Belfast, although her usual address is given as 166 Newtonards Road. Florence Cooper dies on 31 December 1937 at the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast. Nora lives on until 1947, when she dies at the City Hospital, Belfast.

And in 1911, Minnie and husband Robert Balfour are in Scotland and still living at 36 Dudley Drive, Kelvinside, the place of birth of their last known child, Mona. By now, Dorothy is a student teacher and the younger Balfour children are still at school. The continuing history of this family group has yet to be traced.

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Faden John Smith’s mystery family make their home in Ireland

On Borrow’s Gypsies family tree, published in 1910 in the Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society, there’s a small knot of people at the bottom of one page with no details attached to them.

They are Bertram [C15 in the tree], Herbert [C16], Beatrice [C17], Norah [C18] and Ambrose Smith [C19], the children of Faden John Smith [B10] and his partner Alice, a non-Gypsy whose surname, according to the tree, is ‘Penden’. Faden John Smith himself is the brother of Ambrose Smith [B8], the ‘Jasper Petulengro’ of the novels of George Borrow.

As far as I’m aware, little or no work has ever been done to trace Faden John’s family or identify the people in it. Until now, that is. For research into Faden John, Alice and the children has revealed that they left England in the late-1860s to make their home in Ireland and that they never returned to live permanently in England again. Perhaps this is the reason why their Smith relatives based in England couldn’t provide T.W. Thompson with any useful information about them when he was compiling the family tree.

John Farthing Smith – to give him the name that he is invariably recorded by in the historic documents discovered so far – married Alice Penn (rather than ‘Penden’) in Hatcham, South London, on 24 October 1857. Alice was indeed a non-Gypsy, born in a street close to Liverpool Street Station in the City of London in 1837, the daughter of a merchant’s clerk.

By the time of the 1861 census, we find the couple camped in caravans at Mile End, Bow, London. They now have one child, recorded in the census as a daughter called Bertha, aged 10 months. But a birth certificate shows that the child was in fact a son, Bertram Farthing Smith, who was born in 1860 in Old Ford Road, Bow. With John and Alice in 1861 are two more adults: John’s sister Elizabeth Smith [B9], the widow of Elijah Buckley, and her son William Smith [C13]. William gives his age as 25 and his birthplace as Great Yarmouth, Norfolk.  Both John and William give their occupations as horse dealers.

Two more children arrive in the family before they leave London: Herbert, who was baptised at St Mary’s, Stratford Le Bow, London, in 1862; and in 1864, Beatrice Alice, born in a house at 1 North Street, Poplar, London.

And then, off go the family to Ireland, possibly as adherents of the ball-giving group of Gypsies led by John’s nephew George Smith [C12], who you can read about elsewhere on this blog. George is the other son of the Elizabeth Smith mentioned above and therefore the brother of William.

In Ireland, John and Alice add two more children to their family. Leonora Eugenie Smith was born on 3 March 1869 in Strabane, County Tyrone. Ambrose – recorded as Lewis William Ambrose Smith – was baptised in Killeshin, County Carlow, on 19 June 1876.

It appears that John and his nephew William Smith may well have gone into business together as horse dealers in the Irish city in which they all eventually settled, Dublin. Either that or the two brothers William and George started up a business, perhaps with John’s help, but with George’s involvement being rather remote: he was living in Scotland in 1891 and 1901 and in Wales in 1911.

John Farthing Smith died in Dublin on 11 June 1896, according to a reference in the Irish calendar of wills. Here he was described as a ‘gentleman’ of 29 Nelson Street, Dublin. Unfortunately, most Irish wills were destroyed by fire in the early 20th century so this index reference is tantalisingly all that survives. More than that, the Irish General Register Office have been unable to trace a death certificate for a John Smith in Dublin in 1896 among their records so we have no more details about his death.

John’s widow Alice continued to live in Dublin. We find her in the 1901 census with her children Bertram, Beatrice, Leonora and Ambros [sic] living at 41 Granby Lane, Dublin. In the 1911 census she and her daughter Leonora are living alone at 12 Emor Street, Dublin. She died in 1920 in Sandford Avenue, Dublin, and the administration of her estate was granted to her son Bertram Smith, described in the calendar of wills as a ‘merchant’.

And what became of the children? Here’s a potted biography for each of them:

Bertram Smith
He became a notable horse dealer in Ireland and is recorded in newspaper reports in the late 1800s attending horse fairs and possibly owning race horses. He travelled back to England to marry, wedding Eleanor Rimmer, daughter of a joiner from Liverpool, in Egremont, Cheshire, in 1901, By the time of the 1911 census, he was back in Dublin and had two children: Bertram, born in Dublin in 1903; and Eleanor, known as Nellie, born 1909, again in Dublin. Bertram’s wife Eleanor died in 1920 in Dublin. Bertram then married for a second time, to a Jane Jenkins, a farmer’s daughter, in 1923 at St Stephen’s, Dublin. His address then is given as Lad Lane, Lower Baggot Street. It’s not known if he and Jane had any children. Bertram’s death has not yet been traced.

Beatrice Smith
She married a Londoner called William Thompson Mackey, a designer of machinery, in 1901, in Dublin North Registration District. In the 1911 census, the couple are living in Fulham, London, with no children of their own but with a niece called Alice Elizabeth Smith, aged 5, born in Dublin. But Beatrice seems to have returned to live in Ireland at some point after that. Her death, as Beatrice Alice Mackey, is recorded in Dublin South in 1945.

Herbert Smith
No reference has been found for Herbert after his 1862 baptism at St Mary’s, Stratford Le Bow, London. Perhaps he died young.

Leonora Smith – the ‘Norah’ of the family tree
Leonora didn’t marry. She continued to live with her mother Alice until Alice’s death in 1920. Her own death is recorded on 20 June 1929 at Adelaide House, Dublin, possibly a hospital, aged 60.

Ambrose Smith
Ambrose followed the profession of horse dealer like his father and cousins. He married Bridget Behan, daughter of a steward, on 22 January 1904 at St Mary’s, Dublin. Within two years, he was dead. His death is recorded on 4 June 1906 at 41 Granby Place, Dublin. It’s not known whether he and Bridget had any children but perhaps the Alice Elizabeth Smith who is living with Beatrice in London in 1911 belongs to him: she was born in about 1906.




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The death of Honor Smith: unexpected place, unexpected year

For such an elderly matriarch, Honor Smith [B2 in the Borrow’s Gypsies tree of 1910] has been pretty agile in eluding researchers.

A number of folki have been looking for her death for a good many years. What led us all astray was that in her last sighting, in the 1891 census, she was living in a tent on the sands at Blackpool’s South Shore as a member of the long-established Gypsy community there. The oral history had it that she had died on the road, probably somewhere in Lancashire, at the age of 102. Relatives in Blackpool also believed that she had been buried with other members of her family in the town’s Layton Cemetery.

Honor was baptised 8 December 1816 at Belton on the Norfolk/Suffolk border, the daughter of Ambrose and Mary Smith, itinerant tinker. So, if the story about her age at death was true, then the year was likely to be 1916-1918 or so. The problem was that the English death indexes just weren’t showing an Honor Smith in that year range, nor in the county that she had made her home and where she had many relatives. There was also the possibility that she might have been registered  under an alias. She was recorded as ‘Hannah’ on at least one occasion during her life and on the birth certificate of her son Saunders, rather oddly, as ‘Thomas’. It seemed like a brickwall.

That is, until a chance search for Honor’s name a few days ago in the newspaper collection at the British Newspaper Archive finally tracked her down, in an unexpected place and in an unexpected year:

Royal Cornwall Gazette, 3 March 1898

A CENTENARIAN. – The death is announced at Gloucester of Honor Smith in her 101st year. Mrs. Smith was a native of Norfolk, but had lived the greater part of her life in Liverpool and Blackpool. Deceased, who retained nearly all her faculties until a few weeks ago, was a total abstainer, and her eyesight and hearing were remarkably keen, whilst her memory was almost unimpaired. She was the mother of nine children, only two of whom survive her.

Bristol Mercury, 1 March 1898


Mrs Honor Smith, of Worcester-street, has just died at the remarkable age of a few months over a hundred years old. Deceased, who was a native of Norfolk, had lived the greater portion of her married life at Liverpool and Blackpool. She had been a life-long abstainer, and had never known a day’s illness until she had an apoplectic fit about 17 years ago. Her eyesight and hearing were keen to the last, and her face is said to have been without a wrinkle. A few weeks before her death she protested against taking stimulants by the doctor’s orders. Mrs Smith would have been 101 next August.

Morning Post, 26 February 1898

DEATH OF A CENTENARIAN. – The death is announced of Mrs. Honor Smith at the residence of her daughter in Gloucester. Mrs. Smith attained the age of one hundred years last August.

The information on Honor’s death certificate corroborates the newspaper reports. It states that she died on 24 February 1898 at 53 Worcester Street, Gloucester, aged 100, the widow of Francis Smith, a horse dealer. The cause was senile decay. The informant was her daughter Sarah Franklin, in attendance, of the same address. (Sarah is C5 in the Borrow’s Gypsies tree, the wife of John Franklin.)

So for all Romany family historians the moral seems to be firstly, when someone gets close to being a centenarian, don’t be surprised if their age is hugely exaggerated in family stories and official records. And secondly, be open to the possibility that their place of death may be a long, long way from their familiar haunts.

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Deliah Smith and Pooley Mace star in US newspaper photos

Deliah Mace (nee Smith), the wife of Pooley Mace

Pooley Mace

Violet and Berthelma Middleton, the twin granddaughters of Pooley and Deliah, wrongly ascribed by the newspaper as ‘Mace’. Their parents are Madonna Mace, Pooley and Deliah’s daughter, and Gus Middleton

American newspapers were just as fascinated about  Gypsy life and culture as British ones were in times past – as this article from the Newark Daily Advocate goes to prove. The big bonus here is the inclusion of photos of the English Romany family the reporter met and interviewed in New York City in 1907.

They are members of the Borrow’s Gypsies group. Deliah Smith is the daughter of Ambrose Smith: the ‘Jasper Petulengro’ of George Borrow’s novels, numbered as C8 in the Smith family tree that you can see elsewhere on this site. She was baptised aged 6 at Westhall, Suffolk, on 3 January 1847. Her birthday is believed to be 22 May 1840.

There is – as far as I know – only one other photo of Deliah, taken in 1878 in Scotland. So it’s great to have this second portrait of her from such an unexpected source. And while you will find many photos of her husband Pooley Mace as a younger man on boxing history websites, this one of him in his old age must be pretty rare. (And boxing historians will note that the newspaper has made a mistake in calling him the brother of Jem Mace. Pooley was in fact Jem’s first cousin.)

Pooley was born 29 January 1839 and baptised at Beeston, Norfolk, on 2 February 1839 as ‘Lippolius’. That would make him 68 at the time of this photo. He died on 21 October 1912 and was buried at Cross Creek Cemetery 2, Fayetteville, North Carolina, USA. Deliah joined him in the same cemetery following her death on 4 June 1914.

Here’s the report that accompanied the photos:

The Newark Daily Advocate, 21 February 1907 (published in Ohio, USA)

“Gypsies do not fear winter

 New York, Feb 21. – Blissfully indifferent to zero weather and snowstorms, a band of gypsies is spending a delightfully comfortable winter in New York City. Their tents, some of which are supplied with electric light and other modern conveniences, are clustered near the subway station at 174th street, in the Bronx.

 Most of them are descendants of the ancient Lovell and Smith tribes, but one among them, although forgotten for almost half a cenury [sic], was at one time a conspicuous person throughout civilization and one of the best known gypsies in the world. He is Pooley Mace, brother of “Jem” Mace, who was for many years the champion pugilist of the world, and no doubt the most widely known and most popular scientific fighter of the century.

During the great champion’s triumphs in Europe and this country, Pooley Mace travelled with him as his sparring partner, and now, when one has gained the old man’s confidence, he sits in his cosey [sic] tent, surrounded by his children and grandchildren, and with a memory of remarkable accuracy, tells of the scenes and the men forty or fifty years ago, when he and his brother were the lions of the sporting classes wherever they went.”  


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Morella Smith, widow of Ferdinand Smith, 1854 inquest

From The Ipswich Journal, 3 June 1854:


INQUISITION. By Mr. Woods Coroner. – On Thursday last, at Grundisburgh, on the body of Amaryllis Smith, widow, aged 70 years. It appears that the tribe of gipsies frequenting this and the neighbouring counties, to which she had for many years been attached, arrived at Grundisburgh on Monday last, and pitched their tents in an orchard at the back of the Half Moon Inn. One of  their women being ill Mr. Acton attended her, and on that occasion saw Mrs. Smith in good health. On Wednesday afternoon, she was heard in her tent making a rattling noise in her throat; it was shortly repeated, when her daughter rushed into the tent just in time to catch her when falling. She was unable to speak and insensible. Mr. Acton was sent for and was speedily on the spot, but she died a few minutes after his arrival. His examination being to the effect that she died of serous apoplexy, the Jury were quite satisfied that her death was from natural causes; verdict accordingly.

Morella Smith – recorded here and on her death certificate as ‘Amaryllis’ – was the wife of Ferdinand (aka Faden John) Smith [reference A2 in the Borrow’s Gypsies family tree elsewhere on this site]. The couple were married in 1803 in Wells-next-the-Sea, Norfolk. She was the mother of Ambrose Smith, George Borrow’s ‘Jasper Petulengro’ (c1804-1878) [B8] and must have been known to Borrow, if his description of his first encounter with Jasper and his parents at Norman Cross near Peterborough is fact rather than fiction. The daughter mentioned in the newspaper report is Elizabeth Smith or Buckley who gave evidence at her mother’s inquest, where her surname is recorded in her statement as ‘Buckland’.

By a strange coincidence, the death of Ferdinand Smith was also subject to an inquest. He was tried for burglary at the Suffolk Assizes in March 1822, in the company of his son Ambrose Smith and Lewis Boswell. Ambrose was acquitted but Ferdinand and Lewis were both sentenced to transportation for life. Lewis was sent to New South Wales in October 1822, arriving in Australia in March 1823. But Ferdinand – perhaps because he was an older man – spent the next four years imprisoned in the convict hulk Captivity at Portsmouth, Hampshire. He ended his days as a result of the disease erysipelas, an acute skin infection, on 11 March 1826 in the Racoon hospital ship in Portsmouth Harbour where the convicts received medical treatment.


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The manslaughter of Elijah Buckley, 1832

The Essex Standard, and Colchester and County Advertiser

22 September 1832

An inquest was held on the 17th instant held at Waltham Abbey , on the body of Elijah Buckley. The deceased was one of a party of gipsies who had been at Harlow Bush fair, where a quarrel ensued between him and the wife of one of the parties named Stevens, who snatched up a pole, with which he struck him across the head. A regular skirmish followed, in which the deceased was once or twice knocked down. Buckley took to his bed in consequence, and never spoke again. He died on Saturday morning, and as it appeared, from extravasation of blood on the brain. Verdict – Manslaughter against John Stevens.

Elijah Buckley was the partner of Elizabeth Smith [B9] (the sister of Ambrose Smith, c1804-1878) and the father of George Smith [C12] (born 1832) and Leviathan Smith [C14] (born 1828) and – according to the oral history recorded in the Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society – also of Oti aka William Smith [C13]. (The latter’s baptism has not yet been traced.) Elijah was buried on 19 September 1832 at the Abbey Church of Waltham Holy Cross, Waltham Cross, Essex,  where he described as being 34 years old and a brazier from High Beech: a location within Epping Forest.

But there are two mysteries here. Firstly, on the two occasions where Oti/William Smith has been found in census returns, he gives ages that equate to a birth year somewhere between 1836 and 1840. If he is being accurate, then he obviously cannot be the son of Elijah.

Secondly, when George Smith writes about his father in his 1886 autobiography Incidents in a Gipsy’s Life (re-published by the Romany and Traveller Family History Society in 2001), he says: “House-dwellers often have remarked as to the life we lead; many have suggested it to be unhealthy. Now, to prove to the contrary, my dear old mother died at the age of 75, and my father at the age of 81.” So we have to consider: is this artistic licence to prove a point? Or did Elijah’s widow Elizabeth take up with an unknown partner after 1832 who raised George from a baby as his own son and also fathered Oti/William? I look forward to finding that missing baptism one day.

You can read more about George Smith and his wife Corlinda Lee elsewhere on this site.

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Logan Lee: a monument in Cathcart for a child who died in Galway

If there’s one thing that “Borrow’s Gypsies” were keen on, it was big gravestones. And in the days before family historians started roaming churchyards with a camera, one of these stones – unusually – caught the eye of an illustrator instead. Not only that, but the illustration was published by the Gypsiologist Francis Hindes Groome in his book In Gipsy Tents in 1880 and so has thankfully been preserved for us.

Standing in Cathcart Old Churchyard, Renfrewshire, Scotland – now a suburb of Glasgow – the monument marked the grave of a child called Logan Lee [D46].

Logan died a very long way from Cathcart. For his death has been traced at Taylor’s Hill, Galway in Ireland on 25 September 1872. His Irish death certificate simply states that he is ‘the child of a Gipsy’, having suffered from scrofula for five years. The informant is neither his father or his mother but an unknown Mary Curran, perhaps a Galway resident.

The inscription on Logan’s gravestone in Cathcart, as recorded in Groome’s 1880 book, read:

Here lie the remains of Logan Lee, the beloved son of John and Lavithen Lee and brother of Nathan Lee and grandson of Elijah Smith….He departed out of this world on the 25th day of September 1873 [sic] aged 12 years…Suffer the little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of God.

Groome also records that a Dr Smith, the minister of Cathcart, wrote about conducting Logan’s funeral: “A person of a very gentlemanly manners and appearance called on me on the day of his cousin’s death, to request that I would attend the funeral, and conduct it in the usual manner, with the addition of a prayer at the grave…I meet the party there, and took the service, for which they expressed much gratitude. Among the principal mourners were four females, completely enveloped in mantles of deep crape, who seemed much affected. On the following Sunday they all attended church in the same attire.”

But this mention of a cousin arranging the funeral on the day of death sounds a bit suspicious when you consider that there would have been no easy way for Logan’s family in Galway to communicate with relatives in Scotland so quickly. So perhaps Dr Smith was recalling the funeral of a different family member? More likely – I think – is that he is remembering the burial of a relative of Logan’s called John Cooper [C21] who died in the same year and reputedly had his own gravestone next to Logan’s. John died on 21 January 1872 in a tent behind Hope Terrace, Queens Park, Govan, Lanarkshire, aged 39. The informant was his cousin Thomas Reynolds [C11] (aka Smith, the son of Ambrose Smith and Sanspirella Heron).  It’s understood that John’s monument described him as the ‘beloved husband and son of Sarah and Phoebe Cooper’.

The illustrator of Logan’s gravestone was a Lieut-Colonel Fergusson. He also wrote about the burial place in Notes and Queries on 19 December 1874: “The burial ground of this family is very neatly laid out, ornamented with the traditional cypress and yew. The tombstones are executed in excellent style, and the ground is enclosed with an exceedingly handsome cast-iron railing – the design vine-leaves and gilt clusters of grapes; the whole giving one the idea of a burial place of some very substantial and well-to-do citizen of the neighbouring town of Glasgow.”

The gravestone of Logan Lee, Cathcart Old Churchyard, Renfrewshire, Scotland.

I’m pleased to report that Logan’s monument still exists, although John Cooper’s seems to have disappeared, perhaps a victim to the vandalism that has hit the Churchyard in recent years or the growth of a large tree at one end of Logan’s grave. An archaeology team from Glasgow University conducted a survey of all existing gravestones in April 2010 and have taken a photograph of the stone. It still looks very much as it did in 1874 with the transcription clearly legible.


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Ambrose Smith signs up early to civil registration

Civil registration was first introduced in England and Wales in July 1837. Like any new Government system, it took time for the population to become familiar with their responsibilities and the processes, particularly in relation to the registration of the births of their children. So the story is that quite a few births in the early years never got logged.

You might have expected families on the move – such as our Gypsy ancestors – to be unaware that there were new rules to follow when a child arrived. They wouldn’t perhaps have seen the posters in the street, read about it in the press, heard about it at church on Sunday or discussed it with their neighbours.

But at least one Gypsy couple were right up to the minute on their new parental duties. When Alfred Smith [C10] was born on 18 April 1838, his father made sure that the local Registrar of Births Marriages and Deaths knew all about it. Ambrose Smith [B8] headed to the Registrar on 21 April and recorded that his son Alfred had been born in Capel St Mary, Suffolk, to him and his wife Sansparel Smith, formerly Hearn. Ambrose described himself as a tinman and brazier.

The couple even made doubly sure that Alfred Smith made his mark in Capel St Mary. A day after his civil registration – on 22 April 1838 – they also had him baptised in the parish church. Here the register entry gives the mother’s name as ‘Sanspareil’ and Ambrose’s occupation as ‘Gipsy’, with the Abode column left blank.

You can read more about Alfred Smith and his 1873 marriage to Angelica Partrizi in another post on this blog.

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Alfred Smith marries into Italian dynasty, 1873

In the same week that Thomas Smith [C11]was sponsoring a golf competition at St Andrews – as you can read elsewhere on this blog – his younger brother Alfred Smith [C10] was getting married on the other side of Scotland.

Alfred (born 18 April 1838 at Capel St Mary, Suffolk), son of Ambrose Smith [B8] and Sanspirella Heron, took as his bride one Angelica Partrizi on 10 November 1873 at the Maxwelltown Manse, Dumfries, Dumfriesshire.

On this occasion Alfred used the surname ‘Reynolds’: the name occasionally adopted by his family when in Scotland. He was described on his marriage certificate as a 29-year-old horse dealer from London. Angelica – as her surname suggests – had Italian blood. Baptised at the Roman Catholic St Andrew’s Chapel in Dumfries on 1 June 1854, her father was Giovanni Partrizi, a hawker from Rome, Italy, and her mother Mary Purdie, a member of a Dumfries family.

In the 1881 census the couple are to be found at Christies Field, Broughton Road, Edinburgh. By this time Angelica’s name has evolved to become ‘Annie’ and a young Purdie relative – Robert – has joined them in the household. There don’t appear to have been any children to the marriage.

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Thomas Smith sponsors St Andrews’ golf competition, 1873

St Andrews in Scotland is one of the world’s most famous golf courses. Its history also stretches back longer than any other. Mary Queen of Scots reputedly enjoyed a round or two on the links here in the 16th century. And in 1873 the course attracted another regal personage in the shape of a Gypsy king. At least, that was the view of a local newspaper, The Dundee Courier & Argus.

This was Thomas Smith [C11], the son of Ambrose Smith [B8] and Sanspirella Heron. He was born about 1836 and died in 1879.

The paper reports how Thomas – here using the surname ‘Reynolds’ that his family sometimes used while travelling in Scotland – sponsored a golf competition between two local clubs with a clock as the prize. Whether or not Thomas joined in on this occasion is unknown. Certainly some of his relatives were well-known for their prowess in golf and other sports when they were living at the South Shore encampment at Blackpool, Lancashire, at the end of the 19th century and the start of the 20th.

Here’s what The Dundee Courier & Argus had to say about the event on Tuesday 4 November 1873:


GOLF COMPETITION. – On Saturday, a golf competition came off between the members of the St Andrews and Rose Golf Clubs for a timepiece, presented by Thomas Reynolds, Esq., king of a tribe of gipsies at present encamped at the railway station here. Twenty five competitors started, and Mr Wm. Ayton, of the St Andrews Club, won the timepiece. Money prizes subscribed for by the members of both clubs were gained by Mr Robert Peatie, Mr J.O.F. Morris, Mr J. Baldie, and Mr James Beveridge.

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