16 Nov 2011

Part 13: The mystery of Family 4!

As related in Parts 7 & 8 of these accounts of the Swinfield family and its branches, Families 3 and 4, which settled in NSW, Australia, descended from two brothers from Wolvey in Warwickshire, born in the first decade of the 19th century. William and John emigrated in 1848 and 1853 respectively with their young families. Our Australian cousins, their descendants, live there today.

1841 census of Mancetter
John’s eldest child, Edward Swinfield, baptised in 1834 at Mancetter church, Warwickshire, was with his family at the time of the 1841 census but was not living with them just before they left these shores. He did not go with his family for some reason and the £10 advance paid for his travel was refunded in 1856 on the grounds that he was “unable to emigrate”. What became of him when he was stayed behind? It is clear that he married Emily Rowley on 13th December 1866 at Atherstone. What happened to him then?  Thereby hangs another mystery!
Marriage of Edward Swinfield in 1866

Six current members of the Swinfield Genealogy & DNAGroup can trace their immediate ancestry back to George Alfred Swinfield and Naomi Henshaw who married in Leicester Register Office on 30th December 1916. The groom was then serving as a driver in the army during WWI and living in Fulham, London. He recorded his father as Edward Swinfield, boot repairer. The witnesses to the ceremony were Frederick Alexander and Florence Gertrude Swinfield. It would appear that these were his brother and sister-in-law although no reference to their union can be found in the national marriage indexes for England and Wales. Frederick Alexander died in 1968, aged 80, and Florence in 1972, both in the Leicester district. She was born on 1st July 1889.

George Alfred was born, according to the informant of his death in 1970, on 1st January 1888. Were he and Frederick twins? If so, neither of their births appears in the indexes of that time. Several members of the family have been told the story that there were twins, that their original surname was Higginbotham and that they had been “adopted” by the Swinfields. Amazingly, neither boy was registered under any variant of that surname either and they cannot be found in any census taken from 1891 to 1911.
Edward Swinfield, who George Alfred acknowledged as his father, does not appear in any census after 1841 and there is no death for him. Where was he before and after his marriage in 1866? Emily, his wife, can be traced through each of the censuses of 1881 to 1911, continually stating that she was a widow. What had become of her husband? If he was dead by as early as 1881, how could he be the father of the twins born in 1888?  Emily did have two children who lived with her in 1881. Both had been born at St Kitts in the West Indies. Why had she been there shortly after her marriage? What had taken Edward there and did he return? The marriage record of 1866 would appear to show him to be a planter. Was that what took him to the other side of the Atlantic?

1891 census for Emily Swinfield and her two children

Are the English members of Family 4, like myself, not “proper” Swinfields, bearing the surname but not having ancestors who were true descendants of whoever assumed the name way back in the past? Genetic tests may again answer many of these unresolved questions! 

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