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Digital Subscriptions > Family Tree > Family Tree April 2018 > BRICKWALL SPECI A L


Your questions answered

Making sense of the clues

QI am researching my 3x greatgrandmother Charlotte Cook and the first record I can find is in Cirencester workhouse in the 1841 Census where her age is given as 20. She appears to be single and has two one-year-old sons, Henry and John. She again appears in 1851, still in the workhouse, working as a labourer with Henry and John both described as scholars. She is 33 and the sons are both 10. In 1861 she was recorded as aged 44, still living with her sons, having left the workhouse and now in Dyer St, Cirencester. The 1851 and 1861 Censuses give her birthplace as Cirencester. She died in 1862.

I estimate her possible year of birth between about 1816 and 1821 but I cannot find any record of a Charlotte Cook born in Cirencester between those dates. Would her birth have been recorded? I have found a record of Henry’s baptism on 30 June 1840, but not his birth, and possibly one for John’s birth in the first quarter of 1840, but not his baptism. Why would one son be baptised and not the other? Is it possible that they were not actually brothers? Also is there any way of finding out who the boys’ father was? Caroline

AYou have the right baptism for Henry. The name and date are right and Charlotte is recorded as a single woman which fits the census entries. There are two additional points of interest about the baptism. The surname is spelt Cooke and Charlotte’s address is given as Dyer Street, the same as in the 1861 Census.

Getting to grips with the dates

It does seem odd that Henry was baptised when there is no baptism for John but I think that there is a possible explanation. In 1841 Henry and John are both aged one. They could, of course, have been born within 12 months of each other and both been one year old on the 1841 Census date of 6 June. But both are recorded as 10 in 1851 and 20 in 1861 and given that these two censuses were taken on 30 March 1851 and 07 April 1861 respectively, it seems very unlikely that they would be the same age as each other on all three dates. Therefore I think they were probably twins and in that case would have been baptised together.

Foibles of the baptism register

Entries in the baptism register were not necessarily made immediately after the baptism took place. The clergyman often simply jotted down the details and the register entries were made in batches later, perhaps by the church warden. The handwriting for all entries on the two-page spread is the same but the signatures of the two clergymen who variously carried out the baptisms are both different to that handwriting. If, therefore, the clergyman had jotted down the two baptisms as one – Henry and John Cooke, sons of Charlotte Cooke – it’s surely possible that whoever copied the baptisms into the register simply didn’t notice there were two children?

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