Nearly 2,500 baptisms and nearly 2,000 burials for St Andrew’s church, Halstead, now added – from 1813-1844.
While transcribing the marriages for Kirby-le-Soken, I found a surprising note left in the margin by the vicar:
5th wife! Buried 20th March 1831.
This was the marriage of George Butler, a widower, to Mary Ann Norgate, a widow from Walton, on 23rd October 1828.
Needless to say, I found this intriguing, and decided to find out more.
Let me take you back to 1771, when Joseph and Sarah Butler baptised their son George in Thorpe-le-Soken. Aged 23, on 26 August 1794, George married Wife #1 in Little Clacton – a woman called Elizabeth Webb. Unfortunately there are no marital statuses in the register, but we do know that both of them were Little Clacton residents. On 31st May 1795, they baptised their child James. Elizabeth Butler was buried at Little Clacton on 11th January 1802, aged 25.
Almost eight years later, on 18th April 1802, George was strutting down the aisle of Little Clacton St James, to marry his second wife, a spinster called Elizabeth Lucas. At least, with both wives having the same first name, he couldn’t cause a drama if he accidentally called Wife #2 by Wife #1’s name. Evidently quite taken by the name Elizabeth, the couple’s daughter by that name was baptised on 6th April 1803. Susan, their second daughter, was baptised in 1822 just before her confirmation, but she had been born in 1805. Mary, a third daughter, was baptised on 11th June 1807.
Sadly for George, his second wife died at the age of 29, and was buried in Little Clacton on 16th July 1807. So, on 26th January 1809, less than seven years after his last wedding, George stood at the altar rails of St James once again, taking another spinster, Sarah Taylor, to be his lawfully wedded wife.
His third marriage was short-lived1)The burial in Thorpe-le-Soken for a Sarah Butler in October 1809 may well be that of George’s third wife. as he was married for the fourth time on 10th December 1810. Now a resident of Kirby-le-Soken, George married a widow called Frances Maldon. Their son Thomas was baptised on 19th January 1812. Frances was buried at Kirby-le-Soken on 12th October 1827, aged 57. At seventeen years, this was George’s longest marriage.
Then came his fifth marriage in 1828, to Mary Ann, when George was 57 – thirty-four years after his first. They don’t appear to have had any children, and on the 1841 census, it’s possibly “George Buttler” who appears as our serial groom in the Little Clacton household of a farmer called Maria Sanson, as a male servant. Having lost his fifth wife in 1831, only three years after their marriage, George evidently didn’t chance his luck a sixth time. Mary Ann was 39 when she was buried in Kirby-le-Soken on 20th March 1831.
Twenty years after his fifth and final marriage, on 19th January 1848, George Butler, a man who clearly liked a wedding but sadly lost five wives, was buried at Little Clacton, where his matrimonial adventures had begun.
The five marriages
26 Aug 1794 Little Clacton
George Butler otp & Elizabeth Webb otp (marital statuses not given)
18 Apr 1802 Little Clacton
George Butler, widower, otp & Elizabeth Lucas, spinster, otp
26 Jan 1809 Little Clacton
George Butler, widower, otp & Sarah Taylor, sw, otp
10 Dec 1810 Kirby-le-Soken
George Butler, widower & Frances Maldon, widow
23 October 1828 Kirby-le-Soken
George Butler, widower, otp, & Mary Ann Norgate, widow, of Walton
Footnotes [ + ]
|1.||↑||The burial in Thorpe-le-Soken for a Sarah Butler in October 1809 may well be that of George’s third wife.|
I’m finishing off the transcription of Brightlingsea‘s burials, in a register covering 1765-1812. It’s not a very interesting register, and is frustrating for genealogists because it rarely gives any information other than a name and the date of burial. There’s hardly any ages, and very rarely does it give the dead’s relationship, so no “son of” or “wife of” as we often see. Although there are some occupations given – as this is Brightlingsea, it’s no surprise that there’s some dredgers among the dead.
Each year, Brightlingsea produced between 20 to 40 dead:
1800: 21 burials
1801: 38 burials
1802: 38 burials
Then, in 1803, the number of burials leapt, more than doubling to 86 in just one year.
There was an influenza epidemic in 1803, and the spike in deaths that we see in the register is likely to have been caused by it. Looking at the burials by month, comparing those of the three years before, gives us an idea of when the epidemic was at its worst.
I’ve finished transcribing the earlier parish register (1558-1764) for Lawford in north-east Essex. It’s right by the Suffolk border, so you might find some ancestors wandering across.
I’ll be adding the transcriptions to this site over the next few days. Baptisms 1558-1764 – that’s over 1,500 in total – have been added. Look out for burials and marriages – which includes the marriage of Princess Diana’s 10 x great-grandparents.
Then I’ll return to Lawford, and transcribe the register covering baptisms and burials 1764-1812.
I have my eye on Langham’s earlier register at the moment, or will I do more Dedham records? We shall see what I transcribe next….
Have you heard “The Reclusive Skeleton of Fingringhoe” episode of Punt PI? In this Radio 4 series, comedian Steve Punt puzzles his way around cases of high strangeness, such as the Mull Air Mystery and The Crying Boy Paintings. It’s like Fortean Times on the radio. You’ll hear my dulcet tones chiming in, to talk about some of the research I did into the mystery of the skeleton. When a skeleton turns up, as they sometimes do – the image at the top of the page is from the 1857 Waterloo Bridge Mystery1)It wasn’t strictly a skeleton as there was some flesh accompanying the bones – although not very much. – they exert fascination. How can we identify a person just from bones? Without the flesh, can we find out how they died?
The skeleton in the Fingringhoe case was found in 1949, in the apparently abandoned cottage of an actress called Ada Constance Kent, who hadn’t been seen since March 1939. She was reclusive and rather eccentric, so was the skeleton hers? But what about the children who had got inside her house and played there? I’ll leave you to listen to the programme, and if you’re interested in reading about what happened in the 1940s, then see the chapter in Patrick Denney’s Foul Deeds & Suspicious Deaths in Colchester (Patrick pops up on the radio programme too!).
I looked into Ada’s family background, tracing her in the censuses. I went off-piste a little and traced her mother, aunt and grandmother. These bits weren’t used on the programme, but it helped me to see Ada in context, as an ordinary girl from a riverside village in north-east Essex, who apparently came to an extraordinary end.
Footnotes [ + ]
|1.||↑||It wasn’t strictly a skeleton as there was some flesh accompanying the bones – although not very much.|
A guest blog for Findmypast. My great-grandma’s cousin survived the Titanic – did he find peace afterwards, or was his life full of drama?
A guest blog for Findmypast. What happened to my grandma’s uncle, Ernest Baden Powell Field? And why did his marriages not quite match up with what I found on the 1939 Register?
A while ago I compiled all the unfortunate causes of death to be found in the parish registers for Beaumont-cum-Moze – perhaps the most unfortunate was William Taylor, who was killed by the bell falling out of the belfry. Burial registers aren’t really supposed to include cause of death, so they appear infrequently. But when they do, they give us a view into the lives lived (and the deaths died) in the past. Drowning and burning seems to have been more common than it is now, with people relying on well-water (and with all those rivers and creeks along the coast) and open fires. Of course, these are the deaths which have been described in the register – so they might be unusual, hence why they warrant a mention. And many causes of death not recorded may have been stranger still – it entirely depends on the whim of the minister or clerk entering the burials in the register. “Shall I mention that this poor chap was struck by lightning while harvesting turnips? Hmmm… nope.” It’s worth searching for your ancestors in newspaper databases in case they did have an unfortunate death which required an inquest.
Here’s some more, this time from Brightlingsea and Elmstead. The date is the burial date.
Part two of my 1939 Register guest blog for Find My Past: An intrepid cocoa-buyer, and Uncle Bill’s fate.
I’ve mentioned Grandma’s photo album before, when it turned out that the unnamed WW1 soldier posing in a Brighton studio was in fact her Uncle Bill. The photo above, of Grandma on a family seaside outing, interested me as it showed two of her cousins, and aunts of hers who I knew nothing about. She had written on the back identifying the people in the photo as:
- back row: left to right – Aunt Rose, Aunt Elsie, Mum
- front row: left to right – Eileen, Amy (my grandma), Jack, Les, Ron