Gainsborough Mystery Solved
Remember the article about two gravestones in the June 2006 Jerrems Journal? Sue Jerrems from Las Vegas had visited the Gainsborough area in England and photographed the two gravestones in the grounds of St Helens Church at nearby Willingham. I identified the occupant of one grave (great-great-great great grandma Mary) but the occupant of the other grave had me stumped. I concluded in that article that "Perhaps William Jerom had a brother and Jane was a grand-daughter of that brother."
Wrong! This theory overlooked an obvious point, that perhaps Jane had married a Jerrems. I can now tell you who she was, drawing on UK Censuses and other sources.
A word of explanation about the source materials I used. The results of the 1841 to 1901 Censuses (carried out each 10 years) seem to be very piecemeal, at least as regards the areas where they have been scanned and can be read by me in Australia from the Mormon's website. Also the very limited births, deaths and marriages records available on the website are merely alphabetical lists of the children born, one of the spouses and the person who died, plus the date and locality. The full certificates have not been scanned. The upshot is that I have limited information to work from.
The result is that this article speculates on a number of aspects, but I feel that it is better to write something, rather than wait for definitive information which may never come.
Back to Jane. Recently I found a Jane Jerrems in the 1851UK Census. According to the Census she was born in 1798 or 1799, and she was born in Stow, about 3 kilometres from Willingham, where she lived at the time of the Census. She was a widow whose means of income was "farm 120 acres at Stow", and she was living with her two daughters Mary born about 1834 (i.e. aged 17) and Jane born about 1835 (i.e. aged 16).
Two farmer labourers (George Smithson and Charles Pepper) also lived at the house, which was described simply as House No. 39, presumably on the main street.
The date of birth of this Jane tallied with the date of birth of the Jane on the tombstone. Further, this Jane lived in the same village (Willingham) as St Helens Church, the site of the grave.
But who had been her Jerrems husband? The International Genealogical Index showed a John Jerrems as having been married at Stow on 12th May 1832 (his bride's name was not shown). The 2 girls were born in 1834 and 1835, which fit in with John's marriage in 1832.
But who was John Jerrems? Looking for a likely candidate in our ancestry I saw that my great great great grandfather "Big Bill" had a younger brother John who was born in 1784 at Willingham. At first glance it seemed a little unlikely that Jane had married someone 15 years her senior, but it was possible. Then I thought about the fact that she was farming 120 acres at the time of the Census. This was an enormous area of land which might indicate that he had married late, after building up the farm.
Spare a thought for the plight in those days of widows in general, and of Jane in particular. It is likely that John died soon after the birth of young Jane in 1835 because otherwise the couple would have kept trying for a son. John's death at this stage would have left Jane at the age of about 38 looking after 2 toddlers, with negligible prospects of remarrying because (a) by the time an acceptable period of mourning had elapsed she would have been of a problematic age for future childbearing and (b) she had 2 girls to look after, possibly making socialising difficult.
I am spending time on this subject because Jane was not an isolated case in the Jerrems annals. Our great great grandmother Elizabeth was left in a similar pickle when her husband Thomas died in Melbourne in 1866 at the age of 51, with 4 children still being teenagers. She was 50 at the time and lived a further 36 years.
This brings me to the plight of widows in general in the 19th Century. The vast majority of married women led a very subordinate lifestyle, relying heavily on their husbands for financial support, decision-making, paying bills, carrying out heavy work, chaperoning daughters etc. Until the advent of the Married Women's Property Act in the 1920s they could not buy land in their own right, or be given full title to land, they could only be given a life estate which lapsed when they died. The husband was the head of the house, but often husbands had a selfish habit of dying fairly young.
This left widows in the invidious position of being thrust into the role of their former husbands with very little experience, and perhaps inadequate means of support. There was no governmental financial assistance so widows had to draw on family assets, take in boarders etc to earn money. Further, there were perhaps some things a woman could not do from a propriety aspect. For instance perhaps she could not drive a horse and buggy to church or the market, let alone look after the horse (but this may not necessarily have applied to women in the rural community). A man (if necessary a servant) was needed for these things.
However great great great grand-aunt Jane may not have been as badly off as many widows. She would probably still have had parents and siblings in the Willingham area, and her husband's siblings (e.g. our great great great grandfather Big Bill, his brothers Robert and Charles, and sister Jane) lived there or in nearby Gainsborough. In addition John and his forbears, back to at least his grandfather William Jerom, had lived in the area for over a century, so one would expect that she had a good support network from the family and community. Even so, bringing up 2 daughters would still have been a challenge.
The fact that Jane did not have a maid or other servants indicates that she led a self-sufficient life and possibly did not gain a large income from the farm. The reason for this is that farmers did not make a lot of money from farming in those days. Even if the farm had been temporarily broken up into a number of smaller farms and let out to a number of tenants the income may not have been large, and in any case Jane may have been putting money aside for the girls' dowries.
It is possible that Jane received help in the house during the day by someone who lived nearby (this person would not have been shown as living at Jane's address). It is also possible that the daughters had kept house, as was the custom in those times, so the need for a servant would have been reduced. Although her nephews living in Gainsborough employed servants, their families were much larger.
Perhaps Jane had lived on the farm with John until he died and then she moved to a family cottage in Willingham to bring up the girls.
It is of course not clear where the two farm labourers (George and Charles) fitted into the picture. Perhaps they were employed by Jane, or were boarders brought in to supplement her income, or were a bit of each (e.g. one may have carried out some yard duties and driven the horse and buggy for lower board).
One gains the impression that she lived in a modest house, based on her neighbours' houses. House No.40 was occupied by a labourer and his wife, and No. 41 was occupied by a "pauper-Agricultural Labourer". On the other side was a bootmaker and his wife.
Jane died in 1870 in nearby Gainsborough, aged 72, a respectable age for those times.
In terms of ownership of the two graves, we now know that Jane was Mary's daughter-in-law.
So we have now filled in a further (albeit very small) gap in the mosaic of our Jerrems ancestry and in the process we have learned a little about the social fabric of those times!
|Someone from the New York Times||
All the News that's Fit to Reprint
Editors Note: This article was found by Ray and sent to me via email yesterday. Nicoll was My Great Great Grandfather. Reprinted without Permission. The article was retyped. I tried to replicate the original font. Don
In a dingy little back office at No. 141 Bowery sits, day
after day, a white haired, old gentlemen, who manages the
business of 42 merchant-tailoring establishments. The
solitary window in his office lets the light from the
court-yard of a large tenement house. Yet in this small room
is bought the immense quantity of cloths consumed in the
establishments of Nicoll the tailor at Boston, Philadelphia,
Chicago, New Orleans, San Francisco, St. Louis, Cincinnati,
Providence, and other cities of less importance, as well as
this City, where he has eight stores to look after.
Looking Ahead with an Eye to the Past
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