7 Jan 2018

The Swinfield "Family Bible" discovered!

In genealogy, you never know when a significant breakthrough will happen in your research. The end of 2017 presented a wonderful surprise which will be of great significance to all Swinfields, especially those who are part of Family 5. Whilst away on holiday in December, I was contacted from America by Chantelle Russell. She had found me through reading the Swinfield Blog. It just shows that advertising your research interests is a great way of finding new contacts and relatives who may have that important fact, memory or, in this case, a family artifact.

Naturalisation application of 1864
Having recently embarked on research into her family's history, she was able to extend the line back to her immigrant ancestor, her great-great-great-great-grandmother, Elizabeth Swinfield Cooper (1839-1925) who married John Warburton in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in 1859. Elizabeth's father was Thomas (George) Swinfield (1808-1893) who had left his family behind in Earl Shilton, Leicestershire, to live with Maria Cooper at Calverton, Nottinghamshire, where he advocated Chartism. It is not known when Maria and her daughter travelled to America but Thomas sailed from Liverpool to New Orleans aboard The Germanicus, arriving on 13th June 1854. He became a naturalised American in March 1867 having settled at Portsmouth, NH. Thomas, his daughter and grandchildren are recorded on a memorial stone in Proprietor's Cemetery there.
Thomas Swinfield arrives at New Orleans in 1854 on The Gemanicus

Most significantly, Chantelle mentioned that her father Robert is the custodian of the Swinfield Family Bible which was carried to Portsmouth by their ancestor. She believed that it contained genealogical information from the 17th century. Amazingly that proved to be true! The entries are actually recorded in a Concordance which was printed in London in 1619.

One page records the dates of birth (and some deaths) for Thomas Swinfield and his seven siblings, who were born from 1804 to 1820 at Earl Shilton. These could not be ascertained from the parish register of baptism and burial. Thomas was born on 2nd April 1808, the same date which he recorded when he started the process of becoming an American citizen in 1864. Elsewhere, it records that he first went to school on 24th August 1817, when he was 9. 

This book had belonged to his father, also Thomas (1769-1833), from 1788. It had passed down through the family from his great-grandfather, John Swinfield, who died at Smisby in Derbyshire in that year and his grandfather, also John (1738-1820). We even learn that John Swinfield junior, who I recently discovered had served in the 4th Regiment of Foot in the mid 18th century, had a hitherto unknown son, also John, who was born on 22nd March 1773. What became of him and does he had descendants? Another avenue of research to pursue.

The most significant records relate to the earlier period. Neither Derrick Swinfield nor myself, in our many years of research into the history of what became known as Family 5, had been able to positively identify the baptism of John Swinfield senior who appeared to have married Mary Meachem in the church of Norton-juxta-Twycross in 1732. Their children were baptised at Smisby church from 1738 to 1747, the two youngest daughters being recorded in our "Family Concordance". Disappointingly, John's date of birth was not written down there and neither is anything about his wife or their dates of death. He would have been born at the turn of the 17th/18th century.

However, the "Bible" tells us that an even earlier John Swinfield was born on 15th February 1679 (presumed to be 1680 in the modern calendar) as the son of Richard Swinfield and Frances Colgin, who were born in 1645 and 1643 respectively. From our database of Swinfield and variant entries, that John, who must surely be the father of John of Smisby, was baptised at Markfield church in Leicestershire on 29th February 1679/80 as the son of Richard and Frances Somerfield. His older sister, Mary, whose birth is also in the newly-found book, was christened there in 1675, according to the parish register. 

"Parish register" of Markfield for 1679/80
The writing in that register does not appear to be from the late 17th century and contemporary with the events recorded. Indeed there is a statement that the original register may have been lost and the version which exists today is a copy made in the 18th century. Some bishop's transcripts of the 1670s, annual copies of the parish registers sent to the bishop of  the diocese, have survive. These are in a late 17th century hand. 

Bishop's transcript for Markfield for 1679/80  
As can be seen, the baptismal entry for John, son of Richard and Frances Swinfeild (not Somerfield), records the date as 20th February (and not the 29th February). It also informs us that Richard was a weaver. The transcriber of the lost register clearly made several errors in copying just the seven entries of baptism recorded in 1679/80. The name of the next child, baptised on 7th March, is recorded as Sampson Rede in the bishop's transcript and William Read in the "parish register"! 

Richard and Frances were laid to rest from Markfield church in 1701 and 1717. Their marriage is yet to be found. 

1 comment:

  1. What a treasure trove! I dream of such a find. Good write up.