Monday, August 14, 2017

Mary BIRTWISEL / BIRTWISLE c.1790 - after 1871 - Who Is Her Family?

It is always challenging to find information on women ancestors, particularly so when the family are one of the common folk. Mary BIRTWISEL is one of those examples of a woman who shows up on a marriage register, is listed as "Mary" the wife, on children's baptisms. And that is all there is.

Mary BIRTWISEL is the 4th great-grandmother to my son-in-law, in his Atherton-Perry line. Her marriage record of April 29, 1811 shows her marrying Thomas BOSTOCK in the Weaverham Parish, Chester, England.

I began by trying to find any person with her interesting surname, using spelling variations. I searched through,, and Eventually I found a Sarah Birtwisle's baptism record, July 23, 1758, father's name, Thomas, in Gorstage, scarcely a mile away from Weaverham, in parish of same name. Although the age and location would make it possible Sarah could be Mary's mother, unfortunately, I wasn't able to find a baptism record for Mary. I did find that Sarah had two illegitimate children in the several years before when Mary appears to have been born, but no Mary. There appears to have been only one Birtwisle family in the Weaverham region:
1758: Sarah  Daughter of Thomas Birtwisle of Gorstidge [Gorstage] b. July 23
1785: Betty the Illegitimate Daughr of Sarah Birtwisle of Gorstage b. Apr 6
1788: James Son of Sarah Birtwisle b. Feb 2

The Birtwisel family - or Mary on her own? - would have been living close enough to the Bostock family so she and Thomas could have met. Possibly in the Weaverham church, I was certain. The image on the left is St. Mary, the local Church of England church.

I knew FindMyPast has images of the Diocese of Chester Parish Registers, beginning in 1538, so I began my detailed searches there, through the recorded baptisms. Hours were spent page by page by page by page, keeping a  note of the various villages near where the BOSTOCK family lived: Cuddington, Weaverham, Gorstage, Crowton, and others.

I began back in 1730 working forward hoping to find any Birtwisel/Birtwisle Birtwistle Bertwisle - I had a list of possible spellings, and I found it relatively easy to read the images after peering closely. Some were quite faded, others scrawled messily, but in the main, after all those hours, no positive results.

Looking further afield outside Weaverham, I found a small group of Birtwisle families in Whitegate Parish, about 4 miles south of Weaverham. An Ann Birtwisle had an illegitimate daughter, Mary, March 6, 1791. This date makes it somewhat likely to be the Mary who married Thomas BOSTOCK. Ann went on to marry a Daniel Nickson October 1st, 1799, in Whitegate Parish. Now I question why - if Ann was indeed Mary's mother - why Mary didn't go by her stepfather's surname? But further research finds Ann and Daniel Nickson with several children baptised in the same Whitegate Parish after their marriage. So that appears to indicate the Nickson couple stayed in Whitegate Parish area. So how did Mary Birtwisle meet the Bostock family in Weaverham Parish? Although possible, this research leaves me with more questions than answers.

Thomas BOSTOCK and Mary had 5 children found in the Parish records:
    1.  Elizabeth, b. 7 Jan 1812 Cuddington, bap 9 Feb 1812, buried 19 Jun 1819 in Cuddington [near Weaverham].
    2.  Thomas, bap 12 Jun 1814, died 9 Apr 1819, Weaverham.
    3.  George, [direct ancestor] bap 19 Feb 1817 Cuddington, bur 9 Aug 1870 Cuddington; m. 29 Dec 1841 to Hannah/Ann PICKTON, 8 children.
    4, 5.  fraternal twins: James & Elizabeth, bap 15 Apr 1833 Cuddington

There is clearly a question about the long gap between George and the fraternal twins - 13 years. It is certainly possible that Thomas & Mary BOSTOCK are the same parents who had the previous three children. It is always possible there were other children who died at birth, or the baptism record was  not clear. Certainly, no marriage of a Thomas BOSTOCK and a different Mary after 1817, has been found.

Mary was widowed when her husband died, possibly the Thomas  Bostock buried September 24, 1848. The 1851 Census for Cuddington lists her as "AgLab widow", living with her youngest daughter Elizabeth and husband David Shallcross, with their first child, Ann Shallcross, 6 months old. The marriage registration for David and Elizabeth is dated May 2, 1850, witnessed by a Thomas Bostock, possibly her living father, or another Bostock relative.

In the 1861 Census for Cuddington shows her living on her own, widowed, and it states her birthplace as Sandiway, Weaverham, Cheshire. Note the baby Ann does not show up on the 1861 Census, likely deceased earlier.

Ten years later, aged 85, Mary is found in 1871 Census, in Cuddington, living with her youngest daughter, Elizabeth and husband, David Shallcross. On this 1871 Census, it is stated Mary was born in Gorstage, Cheshire. The village of Gorstage is scarcely a mile away from Weaverham. I do not have Mary's death date, after 1871; it is likely she deceased within 5 years.

Both censuses stating her birthplace near Weaverham, would seem to make it much less likely that the illegitimate daughter Mary, born in 1791 to Ann Birtwisle in Whitegate Parish, is the same Mary Birtwisle who married Thomas BOSTOCK in 1811.

So I am back to my first question:
Where are those parents of Mary Birtwisle, born 1786-1780, in Cheshire? 

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If you have further information, suggestions, or corrections, please do not hesitate to contact me via the address found at the very bottom of the blog.  I am always happy to add correct information to my son-in-law's family history.

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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