In this blog, as promised, I have continued the story of the daughters of Mercy Cheeseman, in the early 19th Century.
As genealogists we rely heavily on parish registers of baptisms, marriages and burial records to find the vital information of events such as the birth, marriage and death of our ancestors.
However, these are only a small part of the parish records documenting the lives of our ancestors. We should be looking at Overseers Account Books, Vestry Minutes, Bastardy Bonds, Removal Orders, Examinations, Poor Law Records, Workhouse Records and Militia Lists, all of which can add further information on our ancestors.
It was these records I turned to in search of information on Mercy Cheeseman and the story of her three daughter in the time of her first marriage.
Mercy Cox married James Cheeseman at Smarden, Kent on 8 November 1800.
On 21 April 1802, a daughter was born to this couple,whom they named ‘Ann Pool’ in honour of Mercy’s mother. She was baptised on 4 July 1802 in the Staplehurst parish church. Sadly she died as an infant and was buried in an unmarked grave at Staplehurst on 18 December 1803.
James Cheeseman went off to fight in the Napoleonic Wars in late 1803. From that time the Staplehurst Overseers Account Books record the allowances given to James Cheeseman and then Mercy Cheeseman, up to 1806. I gave a detailed account of these in the Bell Family Newsletter, No 42.
The second daughter, Sarah Cornwall Cheeseman, was born 13 April 1804 at Staplehurst some months after her father had gone off to war. She was named ‘Sarah Cornwall’ after James’ mother. At this time the Staplehurst Parish Overseers were paying Mercy Cheeseman an allowance of some four shillings a week for the care and maintenance of her family. Sarah Cheeseman moved to East Farleigh with her mother, Mercy Cheeseman in 1808.
In 1821 Sarah Cheeseman had a daughter, whom she named ‘Hannah’. She was baptised on 19 August, at St Mary’s East Farleigh. However she died on 14 October 1821 aged 7 weeks and is buried in the East Farleigh churchyard. No marker has survived to mark the place.
For some time she was believed to be the ‘Sarah Cheeseman’, who married Thomas Long at East Farleigh on 25 December 1835. However, further research proves that although of the right name and place she is not the daughter of James and Mercy Cheeseman, but the daughter of John and Elizabeth Cheeseman of Yalding. At this stage I have no further information on our Sarah Cheeseman except that she did not emigrate with her mother in 1838.
Elizabeth Cheeseman the third daughter of Mercy Cheeseman was born about 1806. Her father is unknown, as James Cheeseman, the husband of Mercy, had not returned from war. As Mercy Cheeseman was no longer on parish relief at Staplehurst or at Marden, it is believed that she had a private arrangement with Elizabeth’s father for support and maintenance, which would suggest he was of some means and not of the labouring class, as there are no details in the parish records.
In 1808 when her mother decided to move to East Farleigh with Robin Bell, Elizabeth was baptised before they left, in the parish church at Marden on 31 January 1808, As Mercy was still legally married to James Cheeseman , Elizabeth’s baptism entry records her as the daughter of ‘James and Mercy Cheeseman.’
It is believed that Elizabeth Cheeseman grew up in East Farleigh and Maidstone and probably went into service as a young girl. In 1829 a Bastardy Bond states that Elizabeth Cheeseman had a daughter, on 5 November 1829 at Tovil (East Farleigh) whom she named Eliza. She was baptised at Maidstone on 7 February 1830. The reputed father is given as Charles Vinter, a printer of Maidstone. I have found no further information on this child. She is believed to have died as an infant, although I have not found any burial record at East Farleigh, Maidstone, Mereworth or Offham.
On 30 November 1831 a Removal Order for ‘Elizabeth Cheeseman, otherwise Bell, a single woman, pregnant’ to be removed from East Farleigh to Maidstone was executed. A couple of weeks later a Bastardy Bond for ‘Charlotte, the bastard daughter of Elizabeth Cheeseman, alias Bell, born 12 December 1831 at Half York’ was drawn up. The reputed father was stated as Henry Pledge, butcher of Malling. Maybe, because her mother also had a daughter ‘Charlotte’, that when this child was baptised at All Saints, Maidstone on 15 June 1832, she was given the name ‘Rebecca’.
It appears that Rebecca remained in the household of Robin and Mercy Bell as in the Mereworth Parish Vestry Account Books I found that three shillings per week, was regularly paid throughout 1834 and 1835 for the keep of ‘ Elizabeth Cheeseman’s child’.
Rebecca emigrated with her grandparents, Robin and Mercy Bell on board the Woodbridge in 1838, and is recorded there as ‘Rebecca Bell’.
Elizabeth Cheeseman later married George Wood at Offham, Kent and they emigrated to New Zealand before moving to New South Wales during the early 1860’s. Some of their story is included in my book, ‘The Descendants of Robin and Mercy Bell’ as well as in several issues of the Bell Family Newsletters.