Saturday, 15 August 2009

Curious George

I have returned from my holiday/family history mission in Devon. While there, I located the homes and farms of my ancestors, visited their churches and in some cases burial grounds and generally got a feel for the layout of the places they lived.
I also got to spend some time in the West Country Studies Library in Exeter - 4 and a half hours worth of time to be precise! I looked through parish records to firm up some sources and dates and browsed through some microfiche of the Exeter Flying Post to get a bit more detail.

I'll be posting my findings over the next few days to help me collect all my information and thoughts. To start, I think I'll flesh out the story of my bankrupt ancestor George WREFORD.


Exeter Prison (August 2009)
George may have been an inmate here in 1861

Last month, I discovered my 3rd great grandfather, George, was not found in the 1861 census partly because he was in jail for bankruptcy. You can read the story so far in my post Ancestor Found (almost).

Unfortunately, I have still not been able to locate him on the 1861 census. After eventually finding Exeter Gaol in the census records, I also found the prisoners were listed by initials only. 'A-ha!' I thought, 'That explains why I couldn't find him through a name search' - but I couldn't find any prisoner with the initials G.W. Not to be deterred, I then combed the entire list of prisoners by their age and birthplace looking for suitable or even approximate matches but I have still not found George WREFORD.


I am aware there was a debtor's prison in Cowick Street but I learned on the Exeter Memories site that "the last prisoners were moved to the County Gaol in January 1855 and the facility was closed" - 5 years before George was held.

But I did find some nuggets of information in the Exeter Flying Post.




Exeter Flying Post - 10 April 1861
Another reference to his upcoming hearing at the county court at first seemed identical to the notice in the London Gazette EXCEPT, it claims he was a journeyman baker in Chulmleigh - this may be another lead or a Victorian typo. (The London Gazette referred to him as 'Journey-man Butcher', which is more likely).

More importantly, upon rereading, I noticed that it mentioned George was "to be holden at the Castle of Exeter". This could explain why he was not in the County Gaol on the 1861 census! Census night was 7 April 1861 - this excerpt was from the 10 April 1861 edition of the newspaper.

The next 'clipping' concluded what must have been a very difficult time in my ancestor's life.
The insolvent was supported by Mr. Laidman, and, being unopposed, he was declared entitled to the benefit of the act, and ordered to be discharged.

I am aware that the laws surrounding bankruptcy changed in 1861 but if anyone can explain simply to me what the change was, I would love to know. I would also like to know what being supported by someone meant. I have a feeling, old George was quite lucky to have his case heard in this particular year.
Exeter Flying Post - 24 April 1861
Next steps:
  • Search the 1861 census for 'the castle' and its inmates
  • Find a simple explanation for the Bankruptcy Act

2 comments:

  1. Hello,
    I am also trying to locate my ancestor ROBERT WOODHOUSE 1861 census. age abt 80yrs.
    He resided in Exeter & died in the St Sidwell's workhouse 1867 age 86.
    The famly, his sons particularly were in & out of prison so I am taking a wild shot that maybe ROBERT was also.?
    How can I access Exeter prison records for 1861
    Any pointers would be greatly appreciated.
    Sylvia White
    BC
    Canada

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Sylvia,
    You can see Exeter Gaol on the 1861 census in the parish of St David. Only the initials are given for prisoners but it does record their age, marital status, occupation and place of birth so try viewing each page for a match.
    If you use ancestry, you can find the prison by browsing the 1861 census (County: Devon, Civil Parish: Exeter St David) http://search.ancestry.co.uk/search/db.aspx?dbid=8767

    The Devon County website tells you were to find the prison records (they seem to be held at the Devon Record Office) -http://www.devon.gov.uk/contrast/index/community/the_county/record_office/record_offices_in_devon/guide_sources/crime.htm

    You could try emailing the record office.
    Hope this helps.

    ReplyDelete