52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks – Jesse Townsend, 1835 – Update

My maternal 3rd Great Grandfather, Jesse Townsend, is one of my ancestors who has stolen my heart. Of course he has to be one of the hardest people to trace, especially his beginnings. Even though I have managed to trace him through the census’s, found his marriage, know who his children are and even what caused his death. I even know his final resting place. But still very little is known about his life before the 1841 Census.
From census records we believe Jesse Townsend, was born about 1835 in Yatesbury, Wiltshire, England, to Jesse and Ann Townsend.

He was born before the certification of birth, marriage and death, so I haven’t found a way to confirm an actual date for his birth.

Jesse, was christened on Sunday the 17th of May, in the year 1835, at The Church of England parish church of All Saints, in Yatesbury, Wiltshire, by his mother Ann Townsend, of Yatesbury, Wiltshire, England. No father is listed on his on his christening record. I wonder why?

The Church of England parish church of All Saints.

The next documentation I have for Jesses is the 1841 census.
In the 1841 Census, 6 year old Jesse is alone and residing at Calne Workhouse, Wiltshire.

There is no sign of his mother or father. Where are they? Why would a 6 year old have been put into the workhouse alone?
Had his parents died?
Was his mother unwell and incapable of looking after him?
Where was Jesse’s so called father Jesse? 

Or was his mother Ann really a single Mother and Jesse Townsend was just a name Jesse used throughout his life on documentation such as his marriage certificate, so he wasn’t frowned upon for being a bastard. (His marriage certificate is the only reason we believe his father was named Jesse.)

I can not pretend to know much about the workhouse, I believe they were cruel places. But I feel if it wasn’t for workhouse, our ancestors lives would have been very different. How many people would have actually survived if the workhouse didn’t help them.
Even so, Jesse must have felt terribly alone even forgotten. There is no dealt in my mind that he would have been very frightened and lost in the dark world they call the workhouse. My heart aches for him. Just the thought of him being there brings a lump to my throat and tears well in my eyes. 🥺 It’s soulfully sad.
Jesse would have been residing 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. Unfortunately the Wiltshire records office hold on documentation for the workhouse, only a few minutes books, so finding out about Jesses time there is proving to be an impossible task. You can read all about, Calne Workhouse here.

What we do know is, he survived.

Thankfully by 1851, Jesse has managed to escape the horrors, that he must have seen while living at the workhouse and, is residing in, Back Row, Calne, Wiltshire, all on his lonesome and working as a post letter carrier. 💌

The pride I feel for him is overwhelming. The strength, courage and determination he would have had to of mastered, to get him this far in his life, blows me away. 
How I would have loved to have met him, to have sat around a fire, in a room lit by candle light, with a hot totty and listen to stories of his life.

It’s the 1851 census that lead me to finding out a little more about Jesses family.
Last summer, my husband and I were driving home from Wales and decided to visit Yatesbury Church on our return journey home.

I thought I best do a quick refresh on the information I know about Jesse and while looking at the 1851 census, I decided to scroll through each page of the census to see if any clues popped up. Low and behold there in black and white were two Townsend brothers.  
William Townsend, his wife Rachael and Brother Alfred Townsend were residing at, Back Row, Calne, the same street Jesse was residing in in 1851.

William is a 24 year old, chimney sweep. Alfred a 10 year old, chimney sweeps apprentice.

The search was on, to track down as much information as I could about the Townsend brothers.
Were they related to Jesse, or was it just a coincident?
With everything crossed that I could possibly cross, I searched the parish records and came across a baptism for both William and Alfred Townsend.

William was baptised at St. Peter’s Church, Cliffs Pypard, Wiltshire on the 1st of March 1826.

His baptism document registery below shows he is the Son of Ann Townsend, a single women from Yatesbury.

These two documents confirm what I have always thought, our Jesse, was born out of Wedlock and I’ve been hunting for a ghost for all these years. 

However, Williams marriage Certificate also gives a father name, William Towns.

Did William give a random name to the registrar? Or is there truth in those few words?

Alfreds baptism, was very interesting.
Alfred was baptised on 30th August 1840, at St. Martin’s Church, Bremhill, Wiltshire. 

The registery shows the Alfred Townsend is the son of Ann Townsend and he was base born.

I have never come across that phrase before and, after a quick google, I discovered its meaning.

1. born of humble parents

2.  illegitimate

3. mean; contemptible

This confirms the three Townsend brothers, were all born out of Wedlock.
Who was their father or maybe fathers?

I hoped Alfreds life may help answer some of the questions, as surely he would be with his mother Ann, on the 1841 Census, but there is no trace of him or Ann.
Alfred so far, is proving to be one of those tricky ancestors to research, no birth registery as yet, no 1841 Census, and too many options for marriage and deaths to know for certain which one is correct. The research continues.

As for Ann, she is still one of my hardest brick walls to crack. She pretty damn good at playing hide and seek, unfortunately for her, I’m pretty stubborn when I want to be, and will not give up. I may need to take a trip to Bramhill and Cliffs Pypard, to see if their are any clues there. Hopefully the Vicars will be available to help.
No matter what, I have to crack this puzzle, I need answers, my soul can not rest until I find the truth about the life of my 3rd Great Grandfather Jesse Townsend and his Mum my 4th Great Grandmother Ann Townsend.

I promise to keep you updated with my research. 🧐 Until then, you can read more about Jesses life here.

Too-da-loo for now.


4 thoughts on “52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks – Jesse Townsend, 1835 – Update

  1. Ohh Gorgie, that is fantastic, I loved my granddad Jesse he was a very kind gentle man,
    I can remember going to see him , quite a lot when we lived with my in Southampton, he had a swing in the garden which I loved. He also was a fantastic wood carver and had a shed in the garden, and would make powder E bowls to put on the dressing table.
    There he had no inside toilet , it was in a shed thing attached to the house dark and damp , the toilet itself was a wooden bench with a whole in it!! With hard News paper on a string.
    The last time I saw him he gave me a half a Crown peace, which was two shillings and six pence. Which was a lot of money in those days, as we were driving away in our green car with leather seats, I turned and looked out of the back window, to see him waving I will never forget it, as I thought to myself I will never see him again, how very strange for a little girl to think that, and I never did as he died shortly after, even though he was quite well at the time when we saw him, he had a heart attack unfortunately which took him. I always remember him with kind thoughts, he worked so hard, and always look tired to me , but always Smiling with us a children, Thank you for your research it has brought back some lovely memories, of my grandad. Love Jan


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