52 Weeks, 52 Ancestors – Week 2 – Jesse Townsend 1835-1905

52 Weeks, 52 Ancestors – Week 2

Jesse Townsend 1835 – 1905

I write this weeks “52 weeks, 52 Ancestors”, with a heavy and broken heart.
We lost a great man at the weekend, a man who showed us what family really means, a man who gave us faith in humanity, whom loved whole heartedly, a true gentleman, my Great Uncle, Raymond John Townsend. (Great Grandson of Jesse)

I was always going to write about the Townsend family this week as Jesse Townsend, my 3rd great grandfather, as he is my second hardest stumbling block in my family’s history. This post now seems perfect as I document the ancestor who guided the Townsend through life’s troubles, life glory’s. Without him, we would not be here and who we are today.
So grab a cuppa,  sit back and have a read all about Jesse.

Jesse Townsend was born about 1835 in Yatesbury, Wiltshire, England, to Jesse and Ann Townsend.

Jesse was christened on the 17th May 1935 in Yatesbury by his mother Ann. No father is listed on his on his christening record. I wonder why?

Jesse Townsend 1835 Baptism

This is where my stumbling block comes into play.

In the 1841 Census, 6 year old Jesse is alone and residing at Calne Workhouse, Wiltshire. There is no sign of his mother and father. Where are they?

Jesse Townsend 1841 census

He must have felt terribly alone and lost in a dark world they call the workhouse.
Calne operated a parish workhouse in a leased building,  the location is unkown, from August 1728. Calne Poor Law Union officially came into existence on 25th March 1835. Its operation was overseen by an elected Board of Guardians, 18 in number, representing its 11 constituent parishes.
Jesse would have been living in Calnes original work house, a new union workhouse was built in 1847-8 at a site on the north side of Curzon Street to the west of Calne. It is unknown if Jesse had left the workhouse at this point or he spent time in the new one.

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Thankfully by 1851 he has managed to escape the horrors, that he must have seen in there and he is living in Calne, Wiltshire, all on his lonesome and working as a post letter carrier.

Jesse Townsend 1851 Census

I feel overwhelming pride for him. The life he has has lead up until now, wasn’t the best start in life, but somehow he found the strength to better his life, getting himself out of the Workhouse, found employment and is living of his own means. That’s pretty incredible in my books.
He is also well on his way to finding happiness, love and an all round better life as by time 1855 has arrived he has a women on his arm and about to marry her.

Jesse married Catherine Fielder daughter of  Thomas Fielder and Mary Ann Fielder nee Davis, on 18th June 1855 in the Parish Church of Alverstoke, Hampshire, England. Their witnesses were Frederick and Martha Reeves.

jesse townsend & catherine Marriage 1855

Their marriage was announced in The Hampshire Advertiser on June 23 1855.

Jesse Townsend Marriage Announcement

Not even a year later they welcome their first child into the world. A baby girl, Sarah Ann Townsend, was born on the 8th May 1856 in Southampton.

Sarah Ann Townsend Birth index

She was baptised in St Mary’s, Southampton, Hampshire.

Jesse and Catherine give her a new sister, Eliza Jane Townsend, born between January and March 1860 in the Southampton district. (I have yet to purchase her birth certificate.)

Eliza Jane Townsend 1860 birth index

In the 1961 census Jesse, Catherine, Sarah and Eliza are living at number, 27 Bevois Street, North, St Mary’s, Southampton, Hampshire. Jesse is now 25 years old and a fireman in steam. Catherine is 24, Sarah is 5 and Eliza is 1. I believe Catherine’s mother, Mary Ann, is living a few doors down at number 25, she is widowed and lodging with the Harris family. She is a bakeress .

Jesse Townsend 1861

Between January and March 1865, they welcome another daughter into the world. They named her Rosina Rhoda Townsend.

Rosina Rhoda Townsend 1865 Birth index

Rosina is christened at St Mary’s on the 28th June 1867, along side her new baby sister Alice Susan Townsend who was born in the April – June quarter 1867 in Southampton.

Alice Susan Townsend 1867

On the 2nd December 1869, Jesse and Catherine give birth to their first son, Alfred Jesse Townsend, born at 40 Chapel Road, Southampton, the family residence.

Alfred Townsend Birth 1870Alfred Jesse was christened on the 20 February 1870 at St Mary’s, Southampton.

Jesse’s occupation is listed on Alfred’s birth certificate as a stoker on steam vessel. I can’t even begin to imagine the conditions he worked in, how hot, dusty and dirty it was, I’m pretty sure it would have been something along the lines of the below image . Rather him than me! How on earth did he get himself clean at the end of his shift?


By the time the 1871 census was taken, the Townsend have moved residence, they now reside at 1 Dock Terrace, St Mary’s, Southampton, Hampshire. Jesse age is listed as 31, Catherine is 32, Rosina is 6, Alice is 3 and Alfred is 1. Jesse’s occupation has now changed and he is a labourer at an iron works.

Jesse Townsend 1871

Roll forward a year, the family have already grown to a large size and just about to become larger, Catherine is expecting another baby. On the 17 June 1872  Edward Henry is born at their home, 1 Dock Terrace, Southampton. Jesse is still a labourer.

Edward Henry Townsend Birth 1872

Edward Henry was christened on the 10 July 1872 at St Mary’s, Southampton, Hampshire.

Catherine child bearing days are still far from over, on the 10 March 1875, my great, great grandfather, Charles Frederick Joseph Townsend is born at 29 Anglesea terrace, Southampton. Jesse is still working as a labour BUT Catherine’s maiden name has been listed as Carter and not Fielder. Hmmmm, did Catherine die and he remarried a different Catherine? or is it a simple mistake on his birth certificate???

On the 15 June 1778, Jesse and Catherine, have another daughter, Catherine Annie Townsend, born at home, 5 Winchester Terrace, Southampton. Her mother is once again listed as Catherine Townsend nee Fielder and Jesse is once again working as a Marine Stoker. I wonder what could of happened to drive him back to the docks?

Catherine Annie Townsend Birth 1878

Catherine Annie was christened on the 14 July 1878 at St Mary’s, Southampton.

It is now 1881 and time for the national census, The Townsend family, Jesse 46, Catherine 44, Rose 17, Alfred 11, Edward, 8, Charles 6 and Catherine Annie 3, are still residing at 5 Winchester Terrace, sharing their home with the West family, Harry, Clara – lodgers, also Ada Scott – lodger, George Lucas and his wife – lodgers. Jesse’s occupation is listed as a S.S.Fireman (Seaman).

Jesse Townsend 1881

I loose track of Jesse and Catherine until the 1901 census, where I find them living at 43 New Road, Southampton. Catherine is 66, Jesse is 65, and still working as a stoker on a steamship. All his children above seem to have moved out of home and started their own lives and familys, which I’m sure you may read a little about as I continue with my 52 Ancestors challenge. In the 1901 census, they do have two children living with them who are named as their sons, Frank Townsend  who is 17 years old, a shop porter, also Fred Townsend, 13 years old, an office boy.   These two young men puzzle me, I can not find a matching birth index for their ages listed on the census. Also while I have been carrying out my family research since I was a wee 18 year old, I haven’t heard anything about them, which is rather strange. Could Fred be Charles Frederick, my great, great grandfather – No, as I have located him living with his wife on a different census record. Just another piece of the puzzle that needs investigating.

Jesse Townsend 1901

Sadly 1905 brings me to not just the end of Jesse’s story but also his wife Catherine’s.

Catherine was widowed on the 17 march 1905, when Jesse died at 31 Derby Road, Southampton at a grand old age of 62, not bad innings for back then. He died of  Pneumonia, 6 days.

His death certificate gives his occupation as a Marine Engineer. His son Edward Henry, registered his death on the 17th March 1905. Edwards residence at the time was, 35 bridge road, Southampton.

Jesse Townsend 1843-1905 death

Only a short time after, the Townsends lose their mother, Catherine joins her beloved husband on the 4th April 1905. She died at 52 Melbourne Street, Southampton at the age of 65 years old of chronic Bronchitis and acute Bronchitis. Once again poor Edward registered the death.

catherine townsend fielder death 1905

I’m am not sure where they got laid to rest, hopefully I can find out and lay flowers on their graves.

So where do I go with my research from here?
All I know about Jesse’s mother and father are their names. Ann is named on Jesse’s baptism and his father is named as Jesse Townsend, labourer, on Jesse and Catherine’s marriage certificate. I know nothing else about them. I’ve hunted for marriages, deaths, brought more wrong certificates than I like to admit and still I am no closer to discovering who there were.
I guess I keep looking at any new sources that come online, pray that my mums DNA results work their magic and uncover the missing pieces to our heritage. I’m determined to find the answers.
Watch this space, one day I may reveal them.

11 thoughts on “52 Weeks, 52 Ancestors – Week 2 – Jesse Townsend 1835-1905

  1. The blog is very interestingGeorgie,you have found out so much,you must be pleased that you have done as well as you have ,I think you are amazing and Iam very proud of you Nan


  2. I love this not only do we need the facts while tracing our ancestors but Its wonderful learning how these remarkable people actually lived their lives, their stories hidden in the past like little gems waiting to be discovered little snippets of information that sometimes take weeks, months even years to discover, it’s all there waiting for us to put the puzzle together to help discover their true colourful characters and bring them alive once more ! ❤️


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