You know those walls you hit in your research? The ones where you’re looking for a John Smith, son of John Smith etc? Well this week I finally broke down two of them and one of them was indeed a John Smith.
For quite a while I’ve known that my 5th Great Grandfather, John Smith, was the schoolmaster of Keyingham and that he married someone called Mary and they had several children, including another John who was my 4th Great Grandfather. But that was where it stopped. I had no idea where John Smith came from, or even when he died or which particular Mary he married.
I had come across a marriage licence/bond from 1807 (which I have ordered a copy of) and seen John Smith listed as schoolmaster of Keyingham on Baine’s directory of 1823. After 1823 though, everything goes blank.
That is until I stumbled across a burial in Preston whilst looking for something else. It was John Smith, aged 52 and, the exciting bit, the schoolmaster of Keyingham, being buried in Preston churchyard in 1823. No wonder everything was blank after that. Buried with him was his wife Mary, who died in 1860, aged 84.
I know it only gives me their ages, but the ages more or less match what the index says is in that marriage bond, so, fingers crossed, somewhere on there will be that magic word “schoolmaster”. I’ll let you know.
The second wall is a bit more definite. This one involves the tale of two vicars. The first being the Reverend Thomas Atkinson, first curate and then vicar of Sancton and Newbald, born in 1751 in Kirkby Ireleth, Cumberland, and my 6th Great Grandafter. Thomas married Jane Fisher in a place called Lorton. That was all I had to go on and not a sniff of any parish records from Lorton.
Thankfully I found a historian (whose name I will not drop) local to the area online and he sent me transcripts of the parish records pertaining to the name Fisher. He highlighted the marriage in question and the baptisms of all the Jane Fishers, except for one. I queried why he thought that particular one wasn’t relevant, as I matched up the father, Thomas Fisher, with a Monumental Inscription I had found for a Thomas and Ruth Fisher in Lorton. Thomas Fisher was the curate of Lorton (which kind of fits things), and I am descended from Ruth Atkinson (a long shot I know). Anyway, the historian said that the two Thomas Fishers were not the same as the father’s occupation would definitely have been noted on the baptism, which it was not. He was probably right.
So that was that. I had quite a few Jane Fisher’s to choose from, and she could have been any one of them.
Months later, more than a year I think, I came across a probate for the Reverend Thomas Fisher of Lorton, dated 1800, the year on the inscription I had found, on Find My Past. I’d ordered probates before from Borthwick in York, but hadn’t realised you could do the same with Lancashire/Cumberland records. Anyway, I sent for it, more on a hunch than anything. It cost a little bit more than Borthwick and they send them in the post on a CD rather than via email, but they were pretty quick. Less than a week anyway.
When I looked at the document I was expecting it to have been a waste of time but I ended up doing a little happy, victory dance. The Reverend Thomas Fisher is definitely my 7th Great Grandfather and that baptism is definitely Jane Fisher. Not only does he mention her in his will (she died before him), he mentions Thomas Atkinson, clerk of Newbald (which he was at the time the will was drafted in 1790), he also lists all of their children in age order, Ruth Atkinson included.
So I was right, but I would never have got there at all without the help of a local historian from Lorton.