Tuesday, July 8, 2014

52 ANCESTORS in 52 WEEKS, #28: William BUNN, 1831-?

Following the challenge of writing 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, issued by Amy Johnson Crow , here is my 28th installment, William BUNN, my 2nd great-grandfather on my father's side.
Above you can see the 20 Nov 1854 marriage registration record for William BUNN & Sarah (SMITH) France. There is a marked age difference in this couple, William shown as 23 yrs, Sarah as 34 and widowed. They were married at the Parish Church, St. Andrew, in Netherton, Worcester, by G.S. Trankes, incumbent, witnessed by James Mackay and Mary Maria Block; both bride and groom making their "mark" on the registration form.  

Aside from the ages of the bride and groom, are more details:  William is working as a Miner, his father is James Bunn, Farmer.  Sarah's father was Thomas Smith, a miner, (dead before 1854).  Both are living at Darby Hand (Darby End), in Netherton. 

I researched Sarah France further, and found she had married aged 17, to Thomas France, a coal miner who died in the fall of 1851. With both her husband and father dead between 1851-1854, it is possible both men died in mining accidents, but I have not found a list of their names at this point.

Sarah and her first husband, Thomas France, had 7 children, the youngest less than a year old when Thomas died. This is quite an undertaking for a young man - to marry an older woman with 7 children. It puzzles me. He likely knew of Thomas and Sarah France through a common mining job. 

On 26 April 1857, their only child was born, George BUNN, my great-grandfather. 

Two years later, Sarah's eldest child, Elizabeth, aged about 20, had an illegitimate child, whom she named Thomas, likely after her father. Thomas France was brought up by William & Sarah, and Elizabeth disappeared from the household after the 1861 census when she is listed as unmarried, aged 22, working as a Nail Maker. Possibly she married, leaving her son to be brought up by her mother and step-father.

There is a story in my family that the cousins 'knew':  George BUNN had been orphaned and brought up by a neighbouring family, the Franze's, and that he mistakenly thought his surname was Franz for some years.  

Of course, the actual truth was that George Bunn was brought up surrounded by France step-siblings, and in particular a step-nephew Thomas France, only 2 years younger than him. It is easy to see how he might well have thought his surname was France when he was younger. George was definitely NOT orphaned, as both William & Sarah BUNN are found on the 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891 Censuses. See 1861 Netherton Census below:
Thomas France moved up to Barrow in Furness, Lancashire, to work in the businesses related to a very busy shipbuilding industry, and his step-uncle George BUNN moved his wife and eldest child, Harriet (my grandmother) to Barrow as well, only a year or two later. It is possible that either or both William and Sarah followed them up to Barrow, and possibly died there. More research to do.

In Dudley, William worked as a Miner in 1850s, but in 1861 he is listed as a "Furnaceman"; in 1871, as a "Furnace Man (blast)". In 1881, he is listed as a "Scavenger", in 1891, as a Laborer. Here's a link to a photo of men working around a Blast Furnace

I lost track of William and Sarah after the 1891 Census, and am still searching. Hopefully, I will be able to find more details of their lives. Their ages are quite variable on each of the Census forms, and I wonder if they switched birthdays at one point.  

Do you have more information about William BUNN?  William was husband to Sarah SMITH France, father of George BUNN (b.1857), step-father to the France children: Elizabeth & step-grandfather to her son Thomas (b.1859), Emma, Thomas, Jeremiah, Martha, Amelia (Emily), and Esther.  

I would love to hear from you if you have further details of the family, with sources. Unfortunately, sources are thin on the ground for the early 1800s, and the Bunn surname is a very common one in the Black Midlands. George, William, James - these are also quite common forenames, and it makes it very challenging to be certain one has the 'correct' Bunn! An English contact of mine laughed, telling me that if you threw a rock in Dudley you would likely hit a Bunn!

You can contact me via calewis at telus dot net, or in the Comments below. Thanks for visiting!


Peter Barbella said...

How wonderful to have stories about your ancestors!

Celia Lewis said...

Thanks Peter. You're right - a few stories have managed to get passed down. I'm having fun figuring out the truth of them!


Family, friends, and others - I hope you enjoy these pages about our ancestors and their lives. Genealogy has become somewhat of an obsession, more than a hobby, and definitely a wonderful mystery to dig into and discover. Enjoy my writing, and contact me at celia.winky at gmail dot com if you have anything to add to the stories. ... Celia Lewis