Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Norris-Beldom Mystery

The Hay Wain by John Constable (1821)
A few months ago, a commenter asked if I knew why George Norris had changed his name to George Beldom. The short answer to this is: I don't know. Every so often in genealogy, I come across records that tell a story, but not the whole story, leaving some degree of mystery. I suppose that more famous ancestors would leave a greater imprint in the historical record, and, perhaps, more insight into the circumstances of the mystery. But not in the case of records belonging to agricultural laborer George Norris, who appears to have gone by the name George Beldom for over a decade.

When I first came across these records, I was not sure that they referred to the same person. In this post, I will lay out the records associated with the said names George Beldom and George Norris, and draw the tentative conclusion that these refer to one person.

So first off, where do these names fit into my ancestry? I have already posted about Henry Stroud, a pilot during the Great War, and one of my great grandfathers, and Henry Stroud, hairdresser of Hanwell, the former Henry's grandfather.

In between these two Henrys is Robert Stroud (1856-1925), a building contractor who played a part in developing Ilford, Essex. He married Charlotte Norris in 1882. The FreeBMD Marriage Index reference is Dec 1882 Wandsworth 1d 1013. They were married at St. Peter's, Battersea on Christmas Eve.

As you see from the certificate, Charlotte Norris gives her father's name as George Norris, occupation "Labourer". And it is through Charlotte that we will trace the records for George Norris or Beldom. On her census returns with Robert, Charlotte's place of birth is given as Dudley, Shropshire/ Worcestershire. (The upper margin note records a correction of Robert's age from 24 to 26 years of age at the time of his marriage).

Charlotte's 1881 Census return is as a servant in the household of widow Eliza M Bloxam at 74 Blenheim C[rescent?], Kensington. She is listed as single, aged 23 from "Staffordshire Not Known".

In 1871, the Census places Charlotte and her father in Hale, Farnham, Surrey.
       George Norris     Head       Mar  52  Labourer             [Farnham, Surrey]
       Mary        do         Wife        Mar  42                              Staffordshire, Codsall
       William    do          Son         Unm 15  Labourer                    "              Wombourne
       Charlotte do          Daur          "    13  Scholar                      "                      "
       Mary A     do            "              "    10      "                            "                       "
       George A do         Nephew     "      2                               Farnham, Surrey

And Wombourne is just a few miles northwest of Dudley and southwest of Wolverhampton. However, there is no birth index record for William, Charlotte or Mary A Norris in Staffordshire around their years of birth.

But I did find this 1861 Census enumeration at Blacklay (now Blakeley), Wombourne has the following household:
       George Beldom   Head     Mar   40  Park Lab            Surrey, Farnham
       Mary        Do         Wife      Mar   31                            Staffordshire, Codsall
       William     Do          Son                 5   Scholar                    Do           Wombourne
       Charlotte  Do         Daur                3                                   Do                 Do
       Robert Lamport     Lodger  Mar   30   Ag Lab               Surrey, Farnham
       Jane         Do         Wife      Mar   38                                  Do       Do
       George Norris        Nephew          9   Scholar                    Do   Mitcham

This is an interesting census return, because, Mary (the mother), William and Charlotte Beldom are most certainly the same individuals named ten years later as Mary (the mother), William and Charlotte Norris. The question arises as to whether the George Beldom of 1861 is also the George Norris of 1871.

Robert Lamport and Jane Norris (daughter of George Norris, labourer were married on 14 Sep 1851 at St Andrew's, Farnham. The nephew (presumably, of Robert and Jane) is probably the birth referred to in FreeBMD Birth Index George Norris Mar 1852 Croydon 2a 147. He is not someone I have followed up on.

The Wombourne, Staffordshire children have the following entries in the FreeBMD Birth Index:
       William Beldom Mar 1856 Wolverhampton 6b 360
       Charlotte Beldon Jun 1858 Wolverhampton 6b 380
       Mary Ann Beldom Jun 1861 Wolverhampton 6b 406

Charlotte's Birth Certificate reads:
       Date and place of birth: Twenty Ninth March 1858 Blacklay Wombourn
       Name/Sex: Charlotte/Girl
       Father's name: George Beldom
       Mother's name: Mary Beldom formerly Ferrington
       Father's occupation: Park Labourer
       Reported by: Mary Beldom Mother Blacklay

On 7 Aug 1882 William married Annie Cecilia Trigg. His marriage record (St John's, Hale) gives his father as George Norris, Labourer. And likewise, on 24 Dec 1887 Mary Ann married John Planton, and her marriage record (again, St John's, Hale) gives her father as George Norris, Labourer.

There are four further children to consider, although, sadly none of them survived to be enumerated in a census. They are:
       Robert Beldom Norris Sep 1864 Farnham 2a 72
              Baptized at St. John's, Hale 5 Sep 1864
                     Robert Beldon, of George and Mary Norris, Pharo's Row, Laborer
              Died Robert Norris Mar 1865 Farnham 2a 72
              Burial at St. John's, Hale
                     Robert Norris 18 Mar 1865 6 months

       George Norris Jun 1866 Farnham 2a 98
               Baptized at St. John's, Hale 8 Jul 1866
                     George, of George and Mary Norris, Common, Laborer
               Died George Norris Sep 1866 Farnham 2a 54 age:0
               Burial at St. John's, Hale
                     George Norris 17 Jul 1866 Upper Hale 7 weeks

       Louisa Jane Jun 1867 Farnham 2a 95
                Baptized at St. John's, Hale 14 Jul 1867
                       Louisa Jane, of George and Mary Norris, Upper Hale, Laborer
                Died Louisa Jane Norris Dec 1869 Farnham 2a 63 age:2
                Burial at St. John's, Hale
                       Sarah [sic] Jane 9 Nov 1869 Hale 2 yr and 5 mos

        Albert Henry Norris Jun 1873 Farnham 2a 101
                Baptized at St. John's, Hale 10 Sep 1873
                        Albert Henry, of George and Mary Norris, Pharo's Row, Laborer
                Died Albert Henry Norris Mar 1874 Farnham 2a 75
                Burial at St. John's, Hale
                        Albert Henry Norris son of George & Mary Norris 11 months Hale 28 Mar

Of these, I have the birth certificate of Robert Beldom Norris, which reads:
       Date and place of birth: Twenty Fifth August 1864 Hungry Hill Farnham
       Name/Sex: Robert Beldom/Boy
       Father's name: George Norris
       Mother's name: Mary Norris formerly Ferrington
       Father's occupation: General Labourer
       Reported by: M Norris Mother Hungry Hill Farnham

In 1881, this family is enumerated at No.1 Weybourne Lane:
       George Norris Head  Mar    60  Gen'l Laborer       Surrey, Farnham
       Mary        Do    Wife    Mar    51                               Staffordshire, Codsall
       William     Do     Son     Unm  25  Gen'l Laborer            Do         Wombourne
       George    Do     Son              12   Scholar                Surrey, Farnham

And in 1891, at Bagshot LEa Road:
       George Norris   Head   M  71  General Labourer    Surrey, Farnham
       Mary        Do      Wife     M  60                                  Staffordshire, Codsall
       George A Do      Nephew   22         Do        Do         Surrey, Farnham

In 1901, at Elm Tree Vil[las?]:
       George Norris   Head     M  82  Labourer (Agricultural)    Surrey, Farnham
       Mary      do        Wife       M  71                                          Staffs, Codsall
       Albert    do         Nephew S  32   Labourer (Agricultural)   Surrey, Farnham
       Emma Cooper    Visitor    S  28   Servant Domestic                do        do

The George Norris, son of 1881, George A Norris, nephew in 1891 and Albert Norris of 1901 are probably the same individual, George Albert Norris (1869-1947), the son of John Norris and Frances Maria Gardener. Our George and Mary Norris did not have a surviving son named George, while one George Albert Norris married Emily Cooper on 20th May 1901 at St. John's, Hale, shortly after this latter census was taken.

Both George and Mary died before the next census was taken in 1911. The FreeBMD Death Index lists the following:
       George Norris Sep 1903 Farnham 2a 81 age:84
       Mary Norris Dec 1906 Farnham 2a 103 age:77

From 1864 onwards, Mary's husband George bears the last name "Norris". We have already seen the 1861 Census from Blacklay, Staffordshire. We now turn to records prior to that date.

In 1851, a 29-year-old George Beldam is enumerated in the household of Eliza M Bloxam as a "General Servant", place of birth given as "Surrey, Effingham", which is about as far east of Guildford as Hale is to its west (about 8 miles).

At this time, 21-year-old Mary Ferrington of Codsall is a cook in the Wolverhampton household of fishmonger Joseph Bosworth.

On the 1st May 1855, George Belldom and Mary Ferrington were married at St. Michael's, Himley. The reference at FreeBMD Marriage Index is Jun 1855 Wloverhampton 6b 500.
       Groom: George Belldom/Of Full Age/Widower/Labourer/Himley
       Groom's father: George Belldom/Labourer
       Bride: Mary Ferrington/Of Full Age/Spinster/Domestic Servant/Wombourn
       Bride's father: William Ferrington/Farmer

As for records to explain George's first marriage - he is a widower in 1855 - the FreeBMD Marriage Index has George Beldon and Charlotte Tomlinson Jun 1851 Wolverhampton 17 387. England Select Marriages has the same names (and fathers both George, in addition) 24 Jun 1849 at St. Peters, Wolverhampton, but the date of the Index is more likely to be correct. The FreeBMD Death Index has a corresponding death of Charlotte Beldham Jun1853 Wolverhampton 6b 274.

In 1841, I have not yet found any George Beldom (Beldon, Belldom or Beldham, etc.), but there is a George Norris at Hoghatch Farnham:
       George Norris         45[-49]   Brickmaker     Y[es, born in Surrey]
       George    do   Junr  20[-24]   Lab[ourer]      Y
       William     do            20[-24]   Brickmaker     Y
       Jane        do            20[-24]                          Y
       Sarah       do           15[-19]                          Y
       John         do           14                                 Y
       Mary Ann  do           12                                 Y
       Henry       do            10                                 Y
       Louisa      do              8                                 Y
       Eliza         do              5                                 Y

These correspond to baptisms for children of George and Mary Norris at St. Andrew's, Farnham.
       George     21 Sep 1817
       William     21 Sep 1817
       Jane           3 Oct 1819
       Sarah        18 Jul 1824
       John           8 Oct 1826
       Mary Ann   7 Sep 1828
       Henry         2 Sep 1830
       Louisa        7 Nov 1832
       Eliza         16 Aug 1835

(It is Jane Norris who will go on to marry Robert Lamport, the couple who are lodgers with George Beldom and Mary in 1861. While George Albert Norris who is living with George Norris and Mary in 1881, 1891 and 1901 is the son of John Norris).

The marriage of the parents of these children must be this one recorded in Surrey, England, Church of England Marriages 1754-1937:
       George Norris of the parish of West Horsley bachelor married
       Charlotte Page of this parish spinster
       ... this fourth Day of November [1816]

The parish in question being St Lawrence's, Effingham, Surrey - which place was given as George Beldom's place of birth in the 1851 Census.

One reason why George and William might be baptized at the same time would be if they were twins. The 1841 Census ages are not that helpful here, since, according to the instructions for enumerations, ages over 15 were to be given rounded down to the nearest decade or half-decade. Thus, George and William being reported as 20 years old on the 1841 census could be separated in age by nearly five years.

George's year of birth based on ages given in his census records is relatively consistent, if inaccurate, at about 1819-1821. His baptism puts it in 1817 or before. William's census records (he died in 1871) yield a year of birth about 1816-1819. If they were not twins, then the double baptism suggests one of them was born before the marriage. George would be the candidate for this, since he is listed first in the 1841 census (although the census ages would argue the other way around). I had entertained the possibility that his father was named George Beldom, and this is still a possibility. Yet in the 1841 census, he is recognized as George Norris, Junior, suggesting to me that George Norris, Senior really is his father.

Here is the case for George Beldom being the same individual as George Norris.

One: George, junior and William of the 1841 census are most certainly the George and William of the 1817 baptisms. George Norris of the 1891 and 1901 censuses has a nephew George Albert Norris, who we know by other records, to be the son of John Norris. This John Norris appearing in the 1841 census as an apparent sibling of George, Junior, and baptized in 1826, a sibling of George Norris baptized in 1817.

Two: The George Beldom of the 1851 census gives Effingham, Surrey as his place of birth, which is where the parents of George (and all the 1841 siblings) were married. This George Beldom is almost certainly the George Beldom of the 1861 census, reported to be born in Farnham. The members of the 1861 George Beldom census appear to reemerge in 1871 under the name Norris.

Three: There is a lack of data for two separate individuals. There is no marriage record (1861-1865, or at any time for that matter) for George Norris and Mary Beldom, which would indicate two different people, and no obvious death record for George Beldom in the same period. While it is possible that a George Beldom deserted his family, and his wife ended up living with George Norris (I've come across stranger situations in my research into more distant branches of my family), naming a child Robert Beldom Norris argues against the plausibility of this.

Four: Further, in any one time period, I have only ever found records for one or the other of George Norris or George Beldom. Even after diligent searching, I have not found census records for George Norris for 1851 and 1861, nor any for George Beldom in 1841, 1871 and later.

The most likely explanation is that George Norris of the above records and George Beldom are one and the same. For some reason, George Norris left Farnham, Surrey between mid-1841 and early 1851 and reappears as George Beldom in Staffordshire. A family quarrel? Or some legal trouble? We'll probably never know. Depending on the timing he spent some 10-23 years in Staffordshire. Time smoothed things over. George Norris returned to Farnham between mid-1861 (when Mary Ann Beldom is born in Staffordshire) and mid-1864 (when Robert Beldom Norris is born in Farnham).