5 Sep 2011

Part 2: A tale of two families

We left the family of Sarah Swinfield and her four children living in Earl Shilton at the time of the 1841 census. The children included William Swinfield, my great-grandfather, then aged just 5 months. His birth certificate shows that he was born there on 11th January 1841. His mother recorded the event and gave the father as Thomas Swinfield, a framework knitter. Where was he living just five months later?

Strangely, in 1843 and 1845, Sarah Swinfield gave birth to two further children in Earl Shilton whom she named as Joseph and Sarah. Neither had a father named at their registration. Who were the parents?

1851 census of High Street, Earl Shilton
On 30th March 1851, when the next census was compiled, the Swinfield family was found living at an address on the High Street there. Sarah Swinfield was the housekeeper to Thomas Brown, an unmarried framework knitter. Although Sarah was recorded as an unmarried woman of 44, there can be no doubt that she was the wife of Thomas Swinfield as she recorded her birthplace as Trowell Moor, Nottinghamshire. Three of her children, Mary who was 15, Joseph 8 and Sarah aged just 5 were with them. Ten years earlier, the same Thomas Brown had been lurking at the end of Sarah’s household, possibly as her lodger. He had now elevated himself to its head.  Had he taken Thomas Swinfield’s place in her bed too? Missing from the group were William, then only 10, his older brother Richard, and, of course, their dad, Thomas. Were they all together somewhere?

1851 census of Bagworth
Eventually, after much searching in census indexes, Richard and William were identified living 5 miles away at Bagworth. Young coal miners of just 16 and 9 respectively, they had been enumerated with the surname of Hewit but their birthplace was “Shilton”. They were lodging with Thomas Hewit, a native of “Trowel Moor” and his family. Surely the two young Swinfield boys were living with relatives of their mother, whose maiden name has been Hewitt. Still no sign of Thomas Swinfield though!

Even more delving in census indexes, finally revealed George Swinfield, a 30 year-old “FWK” at Calverton in Nottinghamshire in 1841. With him were a woman called Maria Cooper and a two year old, Elizabeth Cooper.
       Calverton 2011

1851 census of Town Street, Calverton 

They were all still there in 1851 in a house on Town Street. The 42 year-old framework knitter, now listed as Thomas Swnfield (sic) gave his place of birth as “Earl Shelton”. He had a “wife” named Maria and an 11 year-old daughter called Elizabeth. Did Sarah, his real wife, know where he had gone and that he had started a new family? Who had left who?

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