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Chapter 7

Conventions used in this history

In the remaining sections of this history it becomes possible to build connected trees. Many of the individuals will, inevitably, have the same name. The range of names within a single family in the 16th to 19th century was much more limited than we are used to today. Sometimes it will be possible simply to refer to William the elder and William the younger, but this will not always be enough to distinguish individuals in a jumble of multiple references to John, Richard, Thomas, Margaret, Anne and others. It is to identify them in a more structured way. The references themselves may seem confusing but without this we will become hopelessly lost.

One figure we will meet is Richard of Tewkesbury, a will maker, who we will refer to as Richard T1(1) and his son as Richard T2(2). The first letter & number is a unique numbering sequence identifying the individual(1). The number in brackets refers to the generation in which they belong. A second son Humphrey is therefore Humphrey T3(2) and his son Thomas is Thomas T14(3). Wives, who assume the name BRUSH on marriage, are identified by a letter added to their husband's reference so Joan, the wife of the first Richard, is Joan T1a(1). If he had had a second wife (though there is no suggestion he did) her reference would be T1b(1).

Almost all genealogical work involves a degree of assumption even in studies that insist on everything quoting sources. If a William marries in 1670 and then we find baptisms in the same parish naming William as the father from 1672 we accept almost without thinking that we are looking at the same man. At least for rare names like Brush. Smith researchers clearly have a harder time. This certainly applies in the years before Civil Registration begins in 1837, and censuses begin in 1841, and is true to a lesser extent after that. Parish registers and other records do not refer to individuals by any sort of unique ID number - even today.

If we are lucky baptism records will identify the father and mother by their Christian names. Rarely will we get anything more and in many cases less - often just the Christian name of the father and sometimes not even that. Even where there are three men all named John BRUSH living within the same Parish we will not normally be told when they marry which one we are looking at and it was not usual for the age of a person to be recorded, which often makes the identification of which William or Thomas has died extremely difficult. See for example the parish register of St Germans in Cornwall (Section 20) for 1602 to 1608 - which records four John Brush deaths with only a single clue towards identifying one of them.

The consequence of this is that the linking of individuals into family groups and the matching of births and marriages and deaths usually involves a degree of assumption based on the coincidences of date and location plus any other evidence we are lucky enough to have. In some cases we have corroborative evidence or the names are unusual and the coincidences are compelling, in others we are simply accepting a "reasonable fit". In some we are clutching at straws but at least it is easier with the name BRUSH than if you are looking at the records for SMITH or WRIGHT.

We are helped in this process by the fact that the population of England in the period covered by this book was substantially smaller than it is today. In 1600 it was around four and half to five million and by 1700 it had grown by about a million.

Behind this there is a simple premise - everyone comes from somewhere. Every individual has a father and mother, grandparents, great grand parents and so on. Surnames in England after 1500, and sometimes earlier, are fairly settled, though there are exceptions.

A few individuals born as a BRUSH will assume the name of a step parent on the remarriage of their mother and some may assume the name BRUSH in similar circumstances. Generally however each male born a BRUSH will, in the normal course, either die childless, or pass their name on to their children. Each female BRUSH will for the most part die childless or surrender their name upon marriage. A very few will produce illegitimate children and pass the BRUSH name on. Only in modern times, as far as I am aware, will some elect to retain their birth surname following marriage and pass it on to their children.

Some will emigrate and it is possible there will be some, though probably very little, immigration . Certainly there was some immigration from Ireland to England in later centuries but this is probably just be the return of families who had previously moved in the other direction.

And there will be the very occasional more quirky exception where a name is adopted for other reasons such as the case of Josiah Paul TIPPETTS who became Josiah Paul PAUL as a condition of inheriting the property of his uncle to keep the PAUL name alive (2).

These trite statements mean that when we encounter an individual bearing the BRUSH name we know they have to come from somewhere - where there was at least one and normally two other BRUSHs - their parents. We, reasonably, assume they came from an existing BRUSH family group and did not spring from nowhere taking the BRUSH name newly for themselves. Although family groups and local populations may die out over time the lack of an established population in an area over a period of, say, 30 years is an indicator that isolated individuals discovered in unexpected locations are linked in some way to another of the larger extended family groupings.

The decision whether to identify each connection as speculative or not is a subjective one. For the most part the narrative story in this book and the family trees in the Appendices assume the validity of the connections made. It is probably inevitable that a few of them may be wrong but for the most part I believe them to be reasonable and valid. Where the linking relies overtly on speculation this will be identified, the sources quoted and you can make up your own mind. If you are a real enthusiast and want to conduct your own analysis of the available data please feel free to do so. If you reach different conclusions please do write and share them. My email address is brushdw@gmail.com.

The main text of this book is designed to be read as a narrative and the supporting material on which the story is based is all contained in the Appendices. These include all known birth, baptism, marriage, death and burial dates and places, all known census records and the full text of all wills and other such documents which will be mentioned. Not every individual listed in the Appendices will make an appearance in the storyline. Given the normal transmission of the family name through the male line it is inevitable that sons will get a lot more attention than daughters; such is the inherently sexist nature of most genealogy.

Spellings, particularly in parish records, vary enormously(3) and in some cases use latinised versions of English names. Within the narrative and in most of the family trees in the Appendices I have used a standardised modern spelling though there are some exceptions where the particular form used seems to have some special significance. Similarly, quotations from early documents may be 'translated' into modern English in order to tell the tale though original spellings will be shown in the Appendices.

Parish registers record baptisms and burials. They do not normally give dates of birth and death. It is safe to assume that death occurred within a few days prior to burial and unless there is any evidence to the contrary or the burial is within the first week of the year the two will be treated as synonymous. The link between birth date and baptism date is less clear and I have seen no detailed studies of what was normal in the Tudor and Stuart periods (4). There are some cases where we know that baptism was delayed by a number of years.

In her book Life Cycles in England 1560 -1720 (which I heartily recommend to anyone interested in the history element of family history and which I quote from on various occasions) Mary Abbott, a history lecturer at Anglia University, says

"In households of high rank or pretension, the rituals associated with childbirth lasted a month, stretching beyond the christening…The ceremony of 'churching' marked her return to the world."

"Those who had been baptised were believed to have a passport to heaven - consequently a child whose life was in danger might be christened even before it was fully delivered. Although there was an expectation that, in normal circumstances, the ceremony would be performed in the parish church as soon as might be, privileged parents sometimes opted to have their infants privately baptised at home."

In support of this, Mary Abbott cites the guidance in The Book of Common Prayer 1662 concerning the private baptism of children in houses:

"The curates of every parish shall often admonish the people that they defer not the Baptism of their children longer than the first or second Sunday next after their birth, or other holyday falling between, unless upon a great and reasonable cause, so to be approved by the curate. And also they shall warn them that without like great cause and necessity they procure not their children to be baptized at home in their houses."

If the christening occurred while the mother was still resting at home it is perhaps not surprising that only the father is recorded in the registers.

It will be assumed, unless there is any particular evidence to the contrary, that all baptisms were infant baptisms which reflected the normal practice of the Roman Catholic Church, the Church of England and the Methodist Church. At present we have no specific evidence of any later family groups within the Baptist church who would be an exception. Within the Appendices it is identified whether a date is a birth or a baptism but, for simplicity, it is generally assumed in the narrative that the year of baptism is the year of birth if that is all the information we have.

It is certainly true that some christian names / fore names run in families and this can be an aid to the construction of family trees. It is tempting to make the assumption that the first born son will be given the same Christian name as the father and the first daughter the name of the mother. This certainly sometimes happens. It is however certainly not universal and cannot be relied on.

In adding speculative dates when preparing timelines or filling gaps in trees I have generally used a standard formula. Men have been assumed to marry at age 28 and women at age 25 (5) and wives have been assumed to have been born 3 years after their husbands(6). The first child is assumed to have been born two years after a marriage. Where it is not known whether a child is or is not a first child it has been assumed that the father was born 30 years before the child and the mother 27 - bearing in mind that children within a family may well be born over a fifteen year period. This is just a starting point and adjustments have been made where the available facts indicate otherwise. Any dates in the text or Appendices created in this conjectural manner are clearly identified.

According to Wikipedia(7)

"The Age of Marriage Act 1929 increased the age of marriage in England and Wales to sixteen. …. Until this point, at common law and by canon law a person who had attained the legal age of puberty could contract a valid marriage. A marriage contracted by persons either of whom was under the legal age of puberty was voidable. The legal age of puberty was fourteen years for males and twelve years for females. This section amended the law so that a marriage contracted by persons either of whom was under the age of sixteen years was void."

According to www.parliament.uk:

"Until the middle of the 18th century marriages could take place anywhere provided they were conducted before an ordained clergyman of the Church of England. This encouraged the practice of secret marriages which did not have parental consent and which were often bigamous.

It also allowed couples, particularly those of wealthy background, to marry while at least one of the partners was under age. The trade in these irregular marriages had grown enormously in London by the 1740s.

In 1753, however, the Marriage Act, promoted by the Lord Chancellor, Lord Hardwicke, declared that all marriage ceremonies must be conducted by a minister in a parish church or chapel of the Church of England to be legally binding.

No marriage of a person under the age of 21 was valid without the consent of parents or guardians. Clergymen who disobeyed the law were liable for 14 years transportation.

Although Jews and Quakers were exempted from the 1753 Act, it required religious non-conformists and Catholics to be married in Anglican churches.

This restriction was eventually removed by Parliament in the Marriage Act of 1836 which allowed non-conformists and Catholics to be married in their own places of worship. It was also made possible for non-religious civil marriages to be held in register offices which were set up in towns and cities.

In 1929, in response to a campaign by the National Union of Societies for Equal Citizenship, Parliament raised the age limit to 16 for both sexes in the Ages of Marriage Act. This is still the minimum age."

Despite these legal rules allowing marriage at a young age it does seem (from a variety of published sources and from the BRUSH records) that it was unusual. Again from Wikipedia:

Still, in most of Northwestern Europe, marriage at very early ages was rare. One thousand marriage certificates from 1619 to 1660 in the Archdiocese of Canterbury show that only one bride was 13 years of age, four were 15, twelve were 16, and seventeen were 17 years of age while the other 966 brides were at least 19 years of age at marriage. And the Church dictated that both the bride and groom must be at least 21 years of age to marry without the consent of their families; in the certificates, the most common age for the brides is 22 years. For the grooms 24 years is the most common age, with average ages of 24 years for the brides and 27 for the grooms. While European noblewomen married early, they were a small minority and the marriage certificates from Canterbury show that even among nobility it was very rare to marry women off at very early ages.

The American colonies followed the English tradition, but the law was more of a guide. For example, Mary Hathaway (Virginia, 1689) was only 9 when she was married to William Williams. Sir Edward Coke (England, 17th century) made it clear that "the marriage of girls under 12 was normal, and the age at which a girl who was a wife was eligible for a dower from her husband's estate was 9 even though her husband be only four years old". Reliable data for when people would actually marry are very difficult to find. In England, for example, the only reliable data on age at marriage in the early modern period come from records that involved only those who left property after their death. Not only were the records relatively rare, but not all bothered to record the participants' ages, and it seemed that the more complete the records are, the more likely they are to reveal young marriages. Additionally, 20th- and 21st-century historians have sometimes shown reluctance to accept data regarding a young age of marriage, and would instead explain the data away as a misreading by a later copier of the records.

Finally a word about the two calendars. Until 1752 the English(7) calendar began on Lady Day, the 25th of March. This means that the days from 1 January to 24th March were identified in contemporary records as being part of the year we now consider to be the previous year. January 1577 was therefore the month immediately following December 1577 rather than the month following December 1576 and 25th March 1680 is the day immediately after 24th March 1679.

The convention I have chosen to (try and) follow in this book is to refer to the dates from 1 January to 24th March in the format " 16th February 1576(7) " but in other contexts you will also come across 1576/7 and 15767 (which I do not use in order to avoid confusion with footnotes). If the extra reference is missed out at any point the reference should be to the numbering of the contemporary records. In many cases it will not be clear (especially from secondary sources) whether dates are old style or new style and many dates need to be treated as just an approximation. There seems to be no standard practice in many online trees (such as those in Ancestry) maintained by individuals but the convention in Wikitree is to use the modern format rather than the format applicable at the time of the event.

When parish registers, or even more modern records, give ages at death remember that these are given by the distraught relative and they are clearly not always correct. Even when given by individuals themselves they are often wrong, as can be seen from the 1851 to 1991 censuses. There is a particular extreme example to be found in the Hereford story, covered in section 8. The incorrect ages can be deliberate and we can speculate on a variety of reasons for this.

When the 1851 (or later) census gives a person's age as 30 this does not mean of course that they were born in 1821. They could equally well have been born in 1820 but many secondary records for convenience just deduct "x" from "y" without allowing for this. The 1841 census has an additional problem in that ages of those over 15 were supposed to be rounded down to a multiple of 5; so a mother giving her age as 30 may in fact be 34 and 11 months. Giving a false first impression that she started having children very young.

Errors? More information? Comments? Please do get in touch: brushdw@gmail.com

NEXT: Section 2, East of England; Chapter 8, Suffolk & Essex

(1) back to text     The full record of BRUSH entries contained in the Appendices also uses another, purely numerical, unique reference system to enable the records to be transferred electronically using the GEDCOM conventions but these references are not used in the main text.     

(2) back to text     We encounter the Paul family later in the story as employers of BRUSHes. Section xx.     

(3) back to text     In a study of the registers of Keighley (see section nn) I have found differing spellings for the same person in consecutive lines of the register and many instances of differing spellings within months or years of each other. See also for example the Hawkesbury parish account entries for Richard F35 in section xx.     

(4) back to text     A-Z of BRITISH GENEALOGICAL RESEARCH by Dr Ashton Emery from www.genuki.org.uk : "The date in a baptism entry is not the birth date and the burial date is not the date of death. Typically, a child was baptised a few days or weeks after birth but this is not always the case."     

(5) back to text     This assumption is made for England. In the early days of the USA the assumption for women is considerably younger. See section xx      

(6) back to text    Early Modern England, A Social History 1550-1760 by J A Sharpe; 2nd Ed.1997 [ p39 details ] DB figures somewhere of averages for known BRUSH marriages? Poverty and Piety figures

(7) back to text    The position was different in other countries. In America it was and in most of continental Europe the change had happened in 1582.

The BRUSH Families of the British Isles        © David Brush 2006 to 2020

The BRUSH Families
of the British Isles
© David Brush 2006 to 2020