1 Apr 2017

William Squire's family in Walthamstow

Mary Squire's Almshouses

This is the fifth post in my series reporting my research into Mary Squire's Almshouses in Walthamstow, London, formerly in the county of Essex; and Mary Squire herself. Official name: The Squire's Almshouses.

I last wrote about Mary's will, which mentions her Almshouses in Walthamstow (yay, it's the correct will!), and lists all the people she left money to.  But her will didn't mention her husband's name. I wanted to find the record of their marriage next - but didn't find it until a few weeks ago (in 2017).

I knew that her husband died before 1797 because both her will and the plaque on the Squire's Almshouses name her as widow.  I later found a 1782 entry in a sewage rate book for Queens Row, Walworth that also shows her as a widow.  But what was his first name?

At this point I must admit that I committed a logical leap in who he was and where he was from.

I wanted to find out where the money came from that she used to fund the almshouses (plus the long list of her legacies) and felt it more likely to have come to her from her husband (any money or property a bride brought into a marriage became the husband's in those days anyway) and quite possibly from his family to him.  I think this turned out to be the case for Mary and William.

So committing this leap of faith, I went to Walthamstow, for no other reason than the location of the almshouses, and looked into any Squires family history at the local archive (more info at the National Archives website, or here).  The Walthamstow Local Archive is housed on the top floor of the beautiful Vestry House Museum.  The building used to be the workhouse of the parish of St Mary Walthamstow and can't have been as nice a place back then as it is today.

Back then I was able to look at microfilm of the parish registers for St Mary the Virgin, the mother parish of Walthamstow (today you get to look at digital records), - and found a family of potentially the right ages at the right time. At this time I couldn't know that this is the right family, but I believe so: her husband's name was confirmed as William in his will which I finally found three years later.

The baptism record for William Squire shows the date as 23 Aug 1724:

Wm is indeed short for William

William's younger brother Thomas, baptised on 17 Jan 1727/8.  The reason for the funny year representation is that back in those days January and February were counted as belonging to the year before (here 1727) with the end of the year in March.  By the modern way of considering a year to start in January, this would be Jan 1728:

Given their mother's name, their younger sister was Elizabeth who was baptised on 9 Jan 1729/30:

And the youngest Squire daughter was Anne, baptised on 10 Dec 1731:

This leaves a curious gap between William, the oldest child and son, and Thomas.  It is quite possibly that their mother had miscarriages during those years.

Or perhaps something else that's quite odd happened.  Because I couldn't find any strong sign of a second Squire family in Walthamstow at this time.

Let's just look at this baptism record on 7 Sep 1726 for the moment and consider the name of the child as well as that of both parents:

Hunh. There was a child named Susannah whose father was also named William Squire, just like the father for William (Mary's husband), Thomas, Elizabethe and Anne.  Curious!

Curious and curiouser, the mother's name here is given as 'Susannah' as well, just like the little girl. Is it possible that whoever entered the record into the parish register got distracted and repeated the same female name for the mother that he had just jotted down for the child?

It is not just possible, I reckon that's what happened.

Little Susannah unfortunately died within a few months*.  And just look what the parish register for her burial dated 27 Dec 1726 says about the parents names:


It is still potentially possible that there was a second Squire family, also headed by a William (wouldn't that be quite the coincidence?), but where the wife was named Susannah.  On the other hand I did not find any other record for an adult Susannah Squire who could have been little Susannah's mother so don't find the idea of another family persuasive.

This burial was definitely for an infant.  It doesn't say so explicitly but I believe that when small children died they were always listed as son or daughter of... in the record. Just like here.

Plus, where did the Susannah Squire come from who was buried in Dec 1726?  There is no other baptism record for a Susannah whose mother was Elizabeth.  Therefore I conclude that the Baptism entry is not correct and should have said Elizabeth instead.

That fills up the gap between William and Thomas a little bit.  Then that set me thinking: there is still enough time for another child.  What if this baptism on 24 Oct 1727 is another son?

This time it is the father's name that's the problem.  The vicar or curate who repeated the girl child's name for the mother, could have done the same again here: repeating the boy child's name of George in place of the father's name.

By modern reckoning that gives the following list of baptism dates:

23 Aug 1724  William Squire
 7 Sep 1726     Susannah Squire
24 Oct 1727   George Squire (?)
17 Jan 1728   Thomas Squire
 9 Jan 1730    Elizabeth Squire
10 Dec 1731   Anne Squire

It looks like it is very much possible that William and Elizabeth (the elder) had six children.  Little Susannah could have been poorly when she born and not be expected to survive long.  This might be the reason why she was not given her mother's name but the next daughter got the name instead.

I should add now that I have not found further records for three of these children: George, Elizabeth and Anne.  I will keep on the look-out for any marriages and burials but they could have died relatively young, in highly likely a different parish than St Mary Walthamstow.  Double-checking the Walthamstow burial records did not turn up any by 1750, and I think I checked further than that the first time around.

I suspected that sisters Elizabeth and Anne had moved with William (Mary's husband-to-be) to the City of London but I also never found evidence for when William made the move, nor an indication that the sisters lived there.  It is notoriously difficult to find females if there are no apprenticeship records nor recognisable marriages for them.  I will continue to look.  I had disregarded George, I don't know that he is a brother.  I also never found him mentioned again so far.

The next blog post should be shorter:  the marriage of William and Elizabeth senior, i.e. Mary Squire's parents-in-law, as well as what is probably their respective dates of burial.

There is one more thing of note, regarding the * mark: back in those days birth dates were usually not noted.  These are church records that are concerned with church rites: baptisms, marriages and burials.  You can find some registers that will list a date of birth and perhaps a date of death for baptism and burial records but most of the time they don't.  Marriage records from the 18th Century also don't list any further dates for bride and groom, nor their parents names.  Where gravestones survied and are still legible they also don't give the DOB or DOD dates as a matter of course.

The birth date could have been a very short while before (not usually the same day unless baptised privately at home when the child was not expected to survive) or even a long time before. Some siblings who were born a year apart could have been baptised on the same day when parents didn't want to take too much time out of their lives if they had to travel long distances, or for other economic reasons.

The big reason why I wrote about these baptism records at such length is that I hope this may be helpful to someone else out there who is not finding the father's or mother's day they expected: human error is something you need to keep in mind as a possible explanation.

Another tip that I came across that I'd like to pass on: whenever you research your ancestors, do make sure to always 'kill' them off.  What the experts mean by that is that looking for a record of burial or death is a big help to avoid a genealogical pitfall:  you found a person who could be your ancestor but if you overlook that they died when young (too young to have had children themselves) then you waste a lot of time on the wrong person.

If you are wondering why I am writing about Mary Squire's Almshouses then have a look at this first blog post.

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