The Annual Family Get-Together “Cousin’s Day”

When I was a child growing up at Kunghur, a rural district in northern New South Wales, I was one of some twenty odd first cousins on my mother’s side, who lived near our maternal grandparents farm. We all went to the same small school, and had nearly daily contact with each other, even in the holidays.

Baxter Home Grandparents Home (2011)

However, in the 1950’s most of the families left the district as the fathers sort employment. Soon the families were spread throughout Queensland and New South Wales. For some years all the families made the supreme effort to return ‘home’ for Christmas. We all looked forward to this special family gathering.

As the years passed it was not always possible for everyone to ‘go home for Christmas’ and many of the families drifted apart. The only time anyone went ‘home’ or got together was for funerals and occasionally weddings.

Then in 2011 we had several family funerals, not only of my mother’s generation, but also of my generation.

We loved meeting up again after so many years, but were very aware of the fact, although funerals afforded us the opportunity to meet with each other, we also found it difficult in the sad circumstances.

Several of us made the decision to try and visit or at least meet more often. Thus our ‘Cousin’s Day’ was established. Now the first Sunday in March we meet at Murwillumbah for a few hours together.

Due to family situations and health issues not everyone can make it every year. However, it is such a happy occasion and has become so ‘special’ to us all, we do make every effort to be there if we possibly can.

The first Sunday in March was a couple of weeks ago and we had a most successful gathering of four generations of ‘cousins’ on our maternal side.

I must say one of the drawcards each year is the material I gather together on a particular ancestral couple and share with the cousins. Last year it was our Great-Grandparents James and Margaret Baxter (nee Kennedy) and this year it was our Great-Great-Grandparents George and Sarah Bell (nee Sargent).

As I introduce more than names and dates of our ancestors lives, the younger generations have become most interested in our family history, and are keen to share with their children. This is one way I am planning to save our ‘family history’ for and with family, for the future generations.

As I only share with family members, this material has become ‘valuable’ to the family and I have no doubt it will be handed on down throughout the generations and our history will continue to be enjoyed by ‘the family ‘for many years to come. .

Family Heirloom – The Chain-mail Purse

My mother, the fifth child and fourth daughter of Arthur and Harriet May Baxter was to be named ‘Margaret Alice’ in honour of her two grandmothers. Arthur’s mother had been, ‘Margaret Jane’, born 1858 to Gilbert and Ann Kennedy, and Harriet May’s mother ‘Alice’, was born in 1854 to Robert and Margaretta Sherwood.

 However when my grandmother,Harriet May went to register the birth of her new daughter, at the Murwillumbah Court House, she gave her the name ‘Margaret Nola’.

 Having grown up with the story of how my mother was to be named for her grandmothers, but only received the name of her paternal grandmother, I asked my grandmother, Harriet May, why the change?

 She explained to me that she and Arthur had originally decided to name their fourth daughter after the grandmothers because although by this time Arthur’s mother had eight granddaughters, only one had been given the first name ‘Margaret’ and that granddaughter had died in an accident as an infant. One other had Margaret, as a second name.

 Harriet May’s mother had eleven granddaughters by this time. Only one had been given the name ‘Alice’, but it was used as a second name. The maternal grandmother wanted the ‘new’ grandchild given the name ‘Alice’ as an only name, like herself. However, my grandparents had privately decided to use it as a second name.

 My grandmother called at the Murwillumbah Court house to register her new daughter, shortly after being released from the Newbrae Private Hospital. However, when it came to the actual registration my grandmother used ‘Nola’ as the second name. My grandmother had two nieces, one on each side of the family named ‘Nola’, and she liked the name.

 I asked my grandmother, Harriet May, again, why the change?

Her reply was that she and Arthur had been engaged shortly before her seventeenth birthday, but her mother was set against the marriage and would never give her consent and blessings.

Arthur and Harriet May were married a week after ‘Harriet May’s’ twenty-first birthday.

Although her relationship with her mother was quite cordial in most ways, she could never quite forgive her for withholding consent and blessings for the marriage.

 My mother first met her grandparents in 1928 when she, her mother and baby sister, Joan, travelled by train to Sydney for Harriet May’s parents’ Golden Wedding Anniversary at Thirroul, on the South Coast of New South Wales.

Afterwards they went to Picton to visit Arthur’s parents, who had also celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversary earlier in the year.

fhp000333 Left: My mother ‘Margaret Nola’ (left) with her Aunt Milly and cousins Phyllis and Heather, in the front garden of her paternal grandparent’s home, at Picton, October 1928

 

It was on this visit that Arthur’s mother,’ Margaret Jane’ gave her namesake granddaughter, ‘Margaret Nola’ a gift, in honour of the name. This was a small Victorian chain-mail purse, ‘to take her pennies to church in’. It was always one of my most mother’s prized possessions, and my sisters and I, when children, were never allowed to use it to carry our pennies to Sunday School and Church.

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My mother didn’t know if her grandmother Margaret, had purchased it as a special gift, or if it had originally been her prized possession as a child. I have not been able to solve this question either.

 By the way, there are thirty grandchildren on my maternal side. Seventeen are female and not one was named ‘Margaret’ or ‘Alice’, which was most unusual for the time.

PS: The ‘sixpences’ in the above photograph were used by my family for many years as the ‘pudding’ money at Christmas. They were kept in a little cigarette tin and wrapped in the calico cloth used to make the ‘boiled’ pudding for Christmas Day.

Oh! The funny stories and laughter those coins evoke each time I look at them.

 

 

Convict Cousins in My Baxter Family

I have already blogged about, my ancestor, Thomas George Baxter, who arrived in Sydney as a convict on board the Roslin Castle in 1834. However, he was not the first in our Baxter family to be transported as a convict. William Shipman Baxter, his first cousin, was transported in 1829.

William Shipman Baxter, the eldest son of John Baxter and Sarah Shipman was born in London in 1806. He was baptised at St Botolph Without Aldersgate, London, which is the same church his first cousin, Thomas George Baxter was baptised in some nine years later.

St Botolph's, Aldersgate Street2

[St Botolph Without Aldersgate, London, Google Earth, 2014]

Although they were both born and raised in London, and even baptised in the same church some years apart, due to a family quarrel, they are not likely to have met, or had knowledge of each other.

John Baxter, William’s father , inherited half the family business along with his mother,Elizabeth, when his father, James, died in 1802.

John Baxter married Sarah Shipman in 1806 at St Botolph Without Aldersgate, London. They had three sons; William Shipman, 1806; Charles, 1808 and Frederick John, 1810,all of whom were baptised in the above mentioned church.

John Baxter died suddenly in January 1810, a few weeks before his youngest son was born. He was only 29 years of age and died without a Will. His mother, Elizabeth took the family business over herself, including John’s apprentices. It appears she declined to assist John’s young widow and infant family, and is said to have turned them out into the street.

Sarah Baxter with her three young sons moved to the poorer area of Shoreditch, where she worked as a laundress and charwoman.

She stated in a letter to the Home Office in 1828, that she apprenticed her sons to a trade at a young age, but I have not been able to find any apprenticeship nor guild records for these Baxter boys. As she was very poor, perhaps it was a more casual arrangement.

William Shipman Baxter was reported to have been apprenticed to a silk weaver. However, he didn’t finish his apprenticeship as the silk weaving trade fell into rapid decline and there was very little employment. He then found work on the waterfront moving cargo. Work was piecemeal and wages very low and William struggled to make a living. He was also the sole support of his mother and aged maternal grandmother.

William Shipman Baxter, known as William Baxter was tempted, along with many others, to steal goods from his employer and sell them to make ends meet. He was caught and sentenced to transportation for life. He was sent to NSW on board the convict transport, Waterloo, under Captain Addison, in 1829. On arrival he was assigned to the McArthur family at Camden. Later he was sent to their properties near Goulburn.

William Baxter married Ann Rankin in 1846 at Goulburn, and they had nine children, before William died from injuries after a fall from a horse in 1868.

Meanwhile his cousin, Thomas George Baxter, was not faring well either. When his father died in 1829, and his mother remarried, he was left to find his own way on the streets of London. Early in 1832 he was arrested and indicted at the Old Bailey for stealing a cap. He was sentenced to one month imprisonment in the nearby Newgate Prison.

The following year, he was again arrested and charged with picking pockets. The sitting Justices of the Peace at the Middlesex Session in September did not treat him so lightly this time, as he was considered a habitual petty thief, and was sentenced to seven years transportation. He was held in Newgate until transferred to the Euryalus prison hulk for boys, which was anchored off Chatham in the Medway River in Kent.

Thomas Baxter was in the Euryalus for eight months, when he was transferred to the Roslin Castle to be transported to New South Wales.

When we were in Kent last year I was able to visit an interesting mock-up of a ‘hulk prison ship’ at Rochester. This gave me some idea what it was like on board these vessels.

When Thomas Baxter arrived in Sydney in 1834, he too was assigned to the Camden area, in the employment of George Brown.

In the 1837 Convict Muster, Thomas Baxter is listed as working for George Brown at Camden.Two years later, Thomas Baxter is recorded as receiving a Ticket of Leave, which allowed him to hire out to work for himself as long as he remained in the Camden area. His residence was shown as ‘Stonequarry,’ which is now ‘Picton’. He was granted his Certificate of Freedom in 1842 having completed his sentence.He married Harriet Mary Mather in 1850, and they had a family of nine before Thomas died in 1889.

In the 1837 Convict Muster, William Baxter is recorded as working on the McArthur property at Goulburn.

Although both cousins were in the Camden area for a time, it is very unlikely that they ever met. Even if they had, they would not have known they were related.

Some years later, these convict cousins, both had sons born within a few months of each other, whom they named “John.” When Thomas George Baxter’s son “John” (born 1860), married Mary Ann Davis at Stonequarry (Picton) in 1885, they moved to Taralga near Goulburn, where they raised their family.

Meanwhile William Baxter’s son ‘John” (born 1859), married Mary Ann McLean at Taralga in 1902.

Believe it or not the old cemetery at Taralga, where many of the Baxter families are buried is referred to as ‘Stonequarry’. Similiarly, the old cemetery (St Mark’s Churchyard) at Picton, formerly known as ‘Stonequarry’ is also the resting place of many of the our Baxter families too. These two cemeteries are about 168 kilometres or over 100 miles apart.

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[Above: St Mark’s Anglican church and churchyard, Picton, Chalmers Family Private Collection, 2014]

There lay the ground work for much confusion between not only these two ‘convict cousins’ Baxter families, but several other Baxter families in and around Goulburn.

What wonderful puzzles there are in our family histories just waiting for us to sort them out.

Educating Nola- Mortal Me, The Abdication of Superwoman

Those who follow my blogs and perhaps others who have a passing interest in the people and places I have blogged about, will think I have fallen off the face of the earth, as after starting so promisingly last year, with the exception of a couple of blogs this year, I have been silent.

I have always kept my personal life under wraps, and never liked to talk about my activities and achievements, but it is time to declare, ‘Superwoman’ has abdicated!’

I have always taken on the role of ‘superwoman’ both for our families and in the community. I stepped up every day and most nights, to help and deliver whatever was asked of me, whether by family, friends, or even strangers. A family joke was, that our phones may as well have been a ‘call centre’, they were so busy. I never learned to say ‘no’ to anyone. Of course criminal activities were not in any of those pleas for help, just frightened, ill and desperate people or enthusiastic family historians. I loved my ‘work’,why would I say no?

For most of my life I have been the lynch-pin for four generations of our immediate families, as well as the ‘go-to’ person and ‘family historian’ in the extended families.

As a community volunteer I have also been on a great many and a variety of community projects in a time span of more than fifty years. Without fan-fare I got the job done. Sometimes in an executive role, but usually as a dedicated worker.

Commemorative Plaque-2010

Commemorative Plaque-2010

For many years I have been known as ‘the local historian’ for the Clarence River area in Northern New South Wales, although I have no family connection to the area, just a obsessional interest for over fifty years, of the area and the families who settled here.

Memorial Plaque No 3

Memorial Plaque No 3

Rotundra and Memorial Gardens

Rotundra and Memorial Gardens

I believe in life long education, and along the way, completed a Diploma in Family Historical Studies with the Society of Australian Genealogist (Sydney) and an Associate Diploma in Local and Applied History ( CAE,Armidale). I also began a degree in history at UNE (University of New England, Armidale). I sadly withdrew, when I could no longer afford or justify the many thousands of dollars in fees and HECS (Higher Education Contribution Scheme) each year for my ‘hobby’, when our own, (then teenage children), needed assistance to continue their tertiary education.

Along with this I have run three parallel careers throughout my life; one in teaching, one in health sciences and one in researching, writing and publishing in local and family history.

To top it all off we have eight grandchildren, ranging in age from 19 to 3 years. I have always been involved in their busy lives and activities.

As you can imagine, being so busy, I have no time to be ill or slow down, although by the end of last year, my close friends and family were getting concerned about the amount of work I was being pushed to take on. I was getting up earlier and going to bed later, so it left so little time for sleep.

Well it all came crashing down just after Christmas, when we seemed to be attending funerals every few days. Some of these were for elderly friends at the end of a long life and could be expected, but some were for friends and family about my own age and younger. A sudden illness had taken them unexpectedly and quickly.

Although I have had to deal with death all my life, with the death of many friends, grandparents, parents, uncles, aunts, and even siblings,  I thought I could continue to do it all, and was not ready for the overwhelming grief that brought about the sudden and dramatic change in my life. No stroke or heart attack (-thank goodness-), but my body just rebelled and I couldn’t function anymore.

I needed complete rest and a change of life style to begin to get my life back. This included retiring as a busy community volunteer and the closing of my history research and publishing business- Heritage Path. Consequently, I have also taken down my website, also known as ‘Heritage Path’.

For the time being I have retired from teaching, but have recently taken on the role of ‘student’ in a few activities to improve my health and well- being.

Always the optimist, I have taken this opportunity for a life ‘do-over’. Many will be involved or following Thomas Macentee and his ‘Genealogy Do-Over’ weekly blogs at Genebloggers. Well I am not actually involved or following Thomas’s program, but I am taking this opportunity to return to researching our family histories. Previously I was so busy I could only manage the occasional research foray into our own family histories. Now, I can find time most days to have a little dabble, although it is seldom uninterrupted. One thing I am doing is taking time to record and document the facts- this means adding my sources- and to ‘write up’ my research as I go.

I recently finished, or as far as possible for the time being, the story of the ‘life and times’ of my maternal grandparents, Arthur and May Baxter (nee Bell). Although born in Picton, in southern New South Wales, they moved to the South Arm of the Tweed River in the north of the state, soon after marriage in 1913, and lived there for fifty years.

I shared this story with my first cousins and their families at a family gathering a few weeks ago. We all had a wonderful day, with much laughter and reminiscing. I am very keen to continue the story of other generations, particularly all our direct ancestors. I hope to share some of this research through blogging, as I believe this will keep me on track.

Family Heirlooms -The Broach

We have all heard the traditional bridal rhyme, which details what a bride should wear on her wedding day to bring good luck to the marriage –

Something old,

Something new,

Something borrowed,

Something blue.’

For many traditional modern brides the ‘something blue’ usually takes the form of a ‘garter’. It certainly did in my case, and after my marriage I lent it to my sisters and some friends, so it was ‘borrowed’ as well as ‘blue’. However it was always returned, and I still keep it with ‘my’ wedding dress today. (By the way, I made my own wedding dress, and embroidered the Chantilly lace with thousands of seed pearls, which took me nearly a year to complete, and it was only finished a few days before the wedding).

I do not know what the item of ‘blue’ was for my maternal aunts’ or mother’s wedding, but I do know what the ‘old’, ‘new’ and ‘borrowed’ were.

The ‘something new’ for each of the five brides, who wore the family heirloom wedding dress was satin ‘ underwear,’ which had been carefully stitched and embroidered by each bride as part of their trousseau some months before, and had been carefully laid aside for the occasion.

The ‘something borrowed’ for each of the five brides who wore ‘the wedding dress’, was a long, hand- embroidered Brussels net veil, which was caught high on the head with a halo or half circlet of flowers.

When my mother’s eldest sister was married in 1937, she borrowed this veil from her closest and life- long friend, Arlie, who had married the year before. Subsequently each of the brides ‘borrowed’ it for their wedding, but each time it was returned to Arlie.

Now we come to the ‘something old.’ This was a gold ‘broach’, which was worn at the neck of the lace collar on ‘the wedding dress’ for each of the five afore mentioned brides.

‘The broach’ was not only worn by these brides, but the other daughters, and many of the granddaughters and great-granddaughters of Arthur and Harriet May Baxter.

Some of the brides choose to wear it as ‘a broach’, others as ‘a pendant’ and still others as a ‘bouquet ornament’. A true family heirloom.

The broach is a small circle of gold, enclosing a branch of delicate moulded gold leaves and petals. It is reputed to have been owned by a grandmother of Harriet May Baxter, and therefore a great-grandmother of the original 1937 bride and her younger sisters.

Although the details are sketchy, it is believed to have been fashioned from small gold nuggets found on the Lambing Flats (Young) goldfields in the early 1860’s.

The grandmother (and great-grandmother), is believed to have been Sarah Bell (nee Sargent), the daughter of immigrants, Thomas and Ellis (Alice) Sargent. Sarah Sargent married George Bell in 1844.

This couple had settled in Picton and raised a family of five sons and three daughters.

Sarah Bell died in 1865 and the broach passed to her eldest daughter, Harriet. When Harriet Bell died it passed to her younger sister, Emma.

Emma Bell died in 1936, and when the original Bell family home was dispersed, the broach was passed to Harriet May Baxter (nee Bell).

When her eldest daughter married a few months later in 1937, this broach was chosen as the ‘something old’.

The Broach

As I mentioned before it was also chosen as the ‘something old’ by many other subsequent family brides.

This heirloom remains in the family today, but not on the same branch as the heirloom wedding dress.

Family Heirlooms – The Wedding Dress

The wedding dress was originally made for my mother’s eldest sister in 1937. The seamstress is unknown, but is believed to have been a friend of the bride from her ‘dress-making’ days at Murwillumbah Technical College. Over the next eight years it was worn by three younger sisters, and a sister- in- law of the original bride. A total of five brides, my mother being the fifth.

The dress was made of magnolia bridal satin on princess lines, with a long fantail train, finished with scalloped and picoted edges. It had fagoting from the back-seam and several four-inch circular inserts of ivory Chantilly lace around the edge of the train.

At the neckline, was a small high collar of ivory Chantilly lace, edged with colour- matched Guipure lace.

Small satin covered buttons ran down the front of the dress, from collar to hemline.

Long sleeves, full and ruched at the shoulders, fitted from the elbow with an overlay of ivory Chantilly lace pointed at the wrist and edged with ivory Guipure lace.

A long ivory taffeta princess line petticoat went under the wedding dress, and had a dainty pattern of scattered small eyelets high over the bust line.

As I said my mother was the last bride to wear it, and as young children we remember it hanging in a calico bag in the back of our mother’s wardrobe. Occasionally after much ‘begging’ on my younger sister’s part, as well as my own, our mother would get it out, and we ‘oohed and aahed’ over it. Although we could run our little hands over its smooth soft surface, and trace out the fine lines on the lace, with tiny fingers, we were never permitted to wear it, nor take it out of its hanging place ourselves.

However, our mother ‘gave’ us several ball gowns she had made and worn before her marriage, which we loved and often ‘dressed-up’ in as young children.

In early 1960 I went off to ‘High School’, an educational opportunity neither of our parents were able to have, although they would have done very well. My early high school days meant a long daily ride on a bus, and in later years having to board away from home during the week and returning home only at week-ends and holidays.

In 1963 the place of employment of our father closed, which necessitated the family moving to a town some hundreds of kilometres away. I was still boarding away from home, and it was up to our mother to pack up the home ready for the move.

There was a delay in our ‘new’ home being made ready for the family, so our mother and younger members of the family went to live with our widowed grandmother, on the family farm.

Finally our family moved and we settled into our new life.

However about this time, the children of my parent’s older siblings, were contemplating marriage themselves, and every few months a ‘wedding invitation’ would arrive in our mail-box.

With all the talk of weddings, the conversation turned to our mother’s wedding dress in the calico bag at the back of her wardrobe. My sister (closest in age to myself) and I calculated it would have been ten years since we had last seen it, and our youngest sister,(many years younger than us), who had arrived during that time, professed she had never seen it, and didn’t know it existed.

All the laughter and gaiety came to a sudden stop, when we looked at our mother. Tears welling in her eyes, she said she didn’t know where it was. The first question, which broke from our shocked lips was, ‘What happened to it?’

Then through tears our mother admitted, somehow it had been ‘lost’ in the move. She didn’t know how, but it may have been mistakenly placed with a pile of belongings she felt she could not pack for the move and choose to burn, (although she always regretted doing this for the rest of her life.) These included many things we would be glad to call family heirlooms today, such as letters, keepsakes and mementoes of her life as well as ours.

After many tears that afternoon, the wedding dress was never mentioned again, although I know we all thought of it often, especially as our own weddings approached. This was out of respect and love for our mother, who felt such guilt over its disappearance. Although she was the last to wear it, she felt it belonged to the family, and would not have knowingly disposed of it.

Fast forward some forty years, and my siblings, myself, as well as our fifty first cousins, have married and raised families of their own.

Our parents, as well as most of our aunts and uncles have died.

I have spent more than forty years tracing our ancestors, with promises to write them all up in books some-day, and I have also dabbled in ‘scrapbooking’, making special albums for our grandchildren as well as for my siblings.

A few years ago I visited an aunt, one of my mother’s younger sisters, with whom I have always been very close. I was showing her the scrapbook I was putting together for one of my sisters. This included photos and the story of our parent’s ‘Wedding Day’. I recounted to her the sad story of the ‘missing wedding-dress’ and how guilty our mother felt about it being lost.

My aunt gave instructions for me to ‘pour the tea’, which had been put aside to ‘brew’ in the teapot, and she disappeared into her bedroom. She soon emerged with a crumbled calico bag and inside was ‘the wedding-dress’. She never knew my mother thought she had destroyed it.

It would appear my mother had returned it to the ‘family home’ when she was staying there between packing up and moving, and in all the rush and confusion had forgotten she had done so. When the old family home was broken up some eighteen years later, my mother wasn’t present, and didn’t know about the ‘rescuing’ of the wedding dress. How I wish I could have told her before she died.

For the last couple of years it has been one of our most cherished family heirlooms packed away in a cupboard.

Wedding Dress

Recently I brought it out, and a sister and I carefully mended, ironed and then displayed and photographed it, before packing it away carefully in archival tissue paper and box.

Wedding Dress 2

Next weekend we are having a ‘Cousin’s Day’ at Murwillumbah for all the descendants of my maternal grandparents, Arthur and Harriet May Baxter. For the occasion I have written a book, with lots of photographs, recounting the story of this couple and their children. Included in the book is the story of this wedding dress and the five brides who wore it.

Wedding Dress 3

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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