#52 Ancestors

Doing a #OnePlaceStudy it is easy to lose sight of my own family history. Whilst the two overlap, creating databases of residents and investigating Sticklepath’s local history can ‘take over’. I therefore decided to use some of Amy Johnson Crow’s prompts for a weekly note about my own ancestors. Largely these do have a #Sticklepath connection too. The prompts are usually one word which can be used however we wish, to trigger recording something. If you are struggling to get your family history written down, why not sign up – make 2021 the year you make a start? https://www.amyjohnsoncrow.com/52-ancestors-in-52-weeks/

Week 1: (New Year) Beginnings – We are all advised to start our family history with ourselves. Perhaps for our own great grandchildren should they be interested in family history, but it helps us see what facts are possible and to realise that the facts alone do not sum up who we are! My New Year’s resolutions included a new beginning on writing up my own life story and, in the process, enjoying and then disposing of much of the memory paraphernalia I have collected over the years in many boxes!

Week 2 (Jan. 11-17): Family Legend – Most families have passed stories down through the generations. Commonly these are grandiose such as being related to Royalty. (Royalty in turn wanted to prove their connection to Adam and Eve and such ‘family trees’ can be found). No such aspirations in my family, though there was a whisper of being related to one of the four knights who killed Thomas a Beckett on 29 Dec 1170! My family tree is no where near that date as yet.

The family story or ‘legend’ that I want to look at is that a Finch is said to have walked from Sticklepath to Tavistock with a load of iron tools to sell when heavily pregnant, to have given birth and then walked home.

William Finch moved from Tavistock to Sticklepath in 1814 to set up the Foundry.  William born in 1779, in Spreyton, a little village not far from Sticklepath as the crow flies. The son of Isaac Finch and his second wife Elizabeth Harvey or Hardey, we know little of his early life, but when William married Ann Rowe in Tavistock in 1803 he is described as a whitesmith. Whilst this can mean working with white metal such as tin, I think in our family context it meant working with cold metal ie finishing the tools made by the blacksmith. Sharpening and polishing, adding handles and so on.

William was living in Tavistock with his wife Ann, and likely working in the iron foundry there.  They had three sons, William Rowe Finch, Isaac and Joseph.  By Joseph’s baptism in 1809 in Tavistock, William is a blacksmith. When William moved to Sticklepath he brought his three sons with him and chose Silverlake as their home.  I suspect Ann died in Tavistock between 1809 and the establishment of the foundry in 1814.  William married his second wife Susanna, and their three sons, John, Samuel and George, all born at Silverlake, who became the Foundry edge tool makers.  

Census 1841 household of William Finch 

William  Finch                       60y Susanna Finch                       46y Maria       Finch                       21y Susanna Finch                       12y Harriett  Finch                         9y John         Finch                       18y Samuel   Finch                       15y George    Finch                         7y James       Finch                         5y Samuel Woodley                  22y 

Silverlake is the third house on the left


There is some hint of a family scandal here, as on paper Susanna appears to be William’s half-sister, sharing the same father, Isaac Finch, but I am sure there is a good explanation. My guess is that her mother Mary was pregnant by her previous husband or perhaps had actually had the child before Isaac Finch married her.  It may be possible in the future to find out more exact dates for these events to clarify.

Back to our #52 ancestors Legend – it is highly likely that Susanna Finch was the women who walked from Sticklepath to Tavistock carrying a bag of tools for sale in the market there whilst heavily pregnant.  Their first child Maria, was born in Tavistock on 12 March 1821, (two hundred years ago), long after William moved to Sticklepath. Tavistock must have been at least 20 miles, a full day’s walk. No one would consider walking to Tavistock these days let alone when heavily pregnant and certainly not with a load of tools!

The implication that she walked straight back again however is unlikely given that we have Maria’s baptismal record, showing she was baptised by James Ash in Tavistock 25 March 1821:

England & Wales Non-conformist and Non-parochial Registers 1567-1936. Piece 0341 Tavistock Wesleyan 1808-1837 accessed via Ancestry.com Jan 2021

William had connections in Tavistock so it may have been that Maria chose to go to Tavistock for some reason, such as a relative or highly respected mid-wife. She may well have had a hand cart and perhaps did not go alone. I suspect we will never know any more details.

Next week: Week 3 (Jan. 18-24): Namesake

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