Researching James Baxter, Apprentice Haberdasher, of 18th Century London`

In an earlier blog I wrote about my ancestor George Baxter, who claimed his Freedom of the City of London by patrimony in 1807, through the Haberdashers’ Livery Company. I mentioned at the time his father, James Baxter was also a member of this Company.

James Baxter had married Elizabeth Dixon, by Banns on 29 July 1766, at St Augustine’s, Watling Street, London. They had a number of children, all of whom were baptised at St Faith’s-under St Paul’s. James Baxter died in 1802 and Elizabeth 1813.

It is important that I prepare before I go off looking for my James Baxter, as there are many James Baxter’s in London, and I do not want to go off on the wrong family, and claim ancestors that are not mine.

I knew from my research that there were three way to have Freedom of the City- by apprenticeship, patrimony and by purchase. I now needed to know more about the process, and what records there might be.

I found the London Metropolitan Archives had  very good information in their leaflet, No 14, ‘London, England, Freedom of the City Admission Papers, 1681-1925’, which gave me not only what I was looking for, but also listed the surviving records. These I could cross-check with those available on on-line subscription websites and published resources.

Another very good book I found was ‘My Ancestor was an Apprentice’, by Stuart A. Raymond, a publication of the Society of Genealogists, London.

Now, as I have worked and documented my family from the ‘known to the unknown’, I knew I would be looking for a ‘James Baxter’, who applied for the Freedom of the City of London, in a probable time period of one to ten years before his marriage, and it could be by patrimony, purchase or apprenticeship.

A search of the online subscription websites I found the following-

The Genealogist had transcriptions from Freeman and Burgess Books from various towns in England, and Findmypast had transcriptions from various occupational records.

Ancestry.com had two sets of records which I believed would be useful.- Freedom of the City Admission Papers 1681-1825 (Original records at London Metropolitan Arches) and Register of Duties Paid for Apprentices Indentures,1710-1811 (Original records at National Archives.)

I found several entries for ‘James Baxter’ on these websites, and listed all for further investigation.

On Ancestry.com , I found an apprenticeship record of a James Baxter, which was in the right time period, and other criteria, such as it was for a ‘haberdasher’ in London, led me to believe it needed further examination.

This scanned image of the original apprenticeship indenture at the London Metropolitan Archives, was for ‘James Baxter, son of James Baxter, late of Maidstone in the County of Kent, Threadman, deceased, dated 5 May 1758.’ He was apprenticed for seven years to Charles Wheatley, Citizen and Haberdasher of London. Calculating his age from his burial entry, James would have been born about 1740-41, and about seventeen years at the beginning of his apprenticeship. By the terms of this indenture he could not marry until completion of his apprenticeship. This would have been completed about 1765, and with his marriage the following year, fitted well.

This Indenture was clear, and a very good example of one at that time. However, it should be noted that it was important, that I not only print out a copy of the front of this document for further study, but also the reverse side.

This additional document scan is not indicated on the website, but can be found by using the → key to move onto the next document page. On the reverse side you will find the date of ‘duty’ paid for the indenture (1758), and the name of the warden of the Habberdashers’ Company, David De Lavan, who presented him on his application for Freedom of the Company (1764). This I was able to confirm from Company records.

It was also important that I researched the life of Charles Wheatley from his own apprenticeship, to his list of apprentices over the years. I could also confirm his place of residence from Tax records, which placed him in the area where James Baxter continued to live and work after his marriage. This helped to put James Baxter in the right time and place, and so confirmed I have the right family.

Note James Baxter’s family were from Maidstone, and through thorough research I found they had resided there for more than three generations.

On my recent visit to Maidstone I spent a very successful day at the Kent Archives and Library of Kentish Studies consulting the original Burghmote Minutes and Chamberlain Accounts for the town of Maidstone in the 17th Century. I was able to find the details of two generations applying for the Freedom of the City. However, it should be noted the occupation of the family at this stage was ‘bricklayer’.

Our James Baxter’s uncles were apprenticed to their father, but James’s father was apprenticed to his mother’s side the family. Their claim to the Freedom of the City was by patrimony.

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Having done extensive research on the Baxter families of Maidstone before I left on my trip, I was able to identify the streets they resided in, and the church they attended, so was able to take photographs of many medieval buildings, (above) and All Saints Church, (below) that would have been well known to our Baxter ancestors.

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