Like anyone else, I have a lot of puzzles to work on in my family tree. One that had been nagging at me for some time was the precise blood relationship between a Joseph Beachcroft who married a Mary Beachcroft. Mary’s father was Samuel Beachcroft and in his will of 1732 he mentions his ‘son in law’ Joseph Beachcroft. But nowhere was there a Joseph of Mary’s generation in the immediate family. I have never found any baptisms for any of Samuel’s children, so I didn’t quite know how old Mary was in 1732, although her parents were married in 1701, which was a starting point and I knew she was under 21 in 1729 as her mother’s will states.
Meanwhile, there was a Joseph Beachcroft who was a first cousin of Mary’s father. On Joseph’s memorial inscription, there was a second wife called Mary Fuller mentioned. I had assumed this to be her maiden name.
My spur to getting this sorted out finally as I searched back and forth on the internet, was the discovery of the marriage entry between Joseph Beachcroft and Mary Beachcroft in Bermondsey in 1731. I had scoured the LMA collections on Ancestry for some time in relation to anything Beachcroft, but I hadn’t found this marriage before because it was indexed as Beackcroft.
The entry read; “Joseph Beachcroft of Battersea in the County of Surrey, Widower and Mary Beachcroft of Wandsworth, Licence first being obtained.”
This was intriguing.
It seemed to be my Mary daughter of Samuel – they lived in Wandsworth. But why would she get married down the river away from friends and neighbours? Was this an entirely new couple, previously unknown to me, or was something else going on?
I needed to revisit everything and gather all the evidence to finally prove who Mary and Joseph were. I focused on the Joseph who was first cousin to Samuel. The son of a London Citizen and Haberdasher Joseph was christened 31 May 1678 at St Mary le Bow. He was apprenticed to his own father and became free of the Haberdashers in 1701 at the age of 23. He married Frances Pooley in 1705, aged 26, when she was aged around 20. No children seem to have been born to this couple and she died aged only 27 in 1711.
Between 1705 and 1721 he owned premises at Cheapside and traded as a Goldsmith. Although never a member of the Goldsmith’s company he was mentioned in their court minutes in 1705, 1707 and 1712 in connection with the selling of sub-standard goods and also in 1708 when he took on an apprentice of the Goldsmith’s company. Crucially, among the papers I had accumulated on Joseph there was evidence that he had indeed lived in York Place, Battersea in 1729, (not a very long walk away from Wandsworth). I had not put these two bits of geographical evidence together before and thought about how Joseph and Samuel as first cousins, lived so near to each other.
Finding the marriage bond or allegation would give the final corroborating information. Yet despite the London & Surrey Marriage Bonds and Allegations collection from the London Metropolitan Archives, being available on Ancestry, I could find nothing there. I later tracked it down in the Vicar General Marriage Allegations. This collection is at the Society of Genealogists (indexed at Findmypast just by surname), on microfilm, so I went to look at what the original said. It confirmed that Mary was just 19 and from Wandsworth, the daughter of Samuel. Therefore, as Joseph was 53 there was a 34 year age gap between them. In those days of shorter life-expectancy, Joseph must have seemed an old man to the young Mary.
Was this a love match or a simple piece of family ‘engineering’ cooked up by Samuel and Joseph in an arrangement going back years? A last ditch attempt by Joseph for a son before he died, and for Samuel to marry off his daughter to a rich cousin whom he liked or did business with. Or did Joseph and Mary have genuine feelings for each other? What did Mary really feel about marrying a much older man, albeit a rich one? Unfortunately for Joseph there were to be no children, but his marriage to his young first cousin once-removed, lasted for 26 years until his death in 1757, age 79. Mary remarried in 1760, to a Mr Fuller, (hence the name on the memorial stone) but died herself just 18 months later.
I do so hope that Joseph was kind to his young bride, and I can’t help wondering what her life was like.
(Update: Mary and her siblings were baptised at All Hallow’s, Barking and those registers were undeposited when I was originally doing this research. I even wrote to the incumbant in the hope a look up could be done for a fee, but he never replied. Thankfully, these old registers are now rightfully with London Metropolitan Archives and available to search online at Ancestry)