This brief record of a problem that faced me a few years ago is probably typical of a difficulty that often faces a family historian. I have made a note of how I went about solving it, in the hope that my experience may be helpful to others faced with a similar problem.
- On 4 Aug 1806 John PLUCK married Mary MYNOTT at Saffron Walden parish church
- On 15 Oct 1806 John PLUCK married Mary ORGER at Saffron Walden parish church
... and not too many months later baptism entries start to appear in the parish register - parents John and Mary Pluck. How do we sort out which John married which Mary, and which John and Mary were the parents of which children?
I have checked fiche copies of the original marriage register and there are no further clues in the entries:
- all four parties to the two marriages were "of this parish"
- both marriages were after Banns
- and in both cases John signed the register and Mary made her mark.
Although there are other John PLUCKs in the surrounding area the only ones that qualify for the description "of this parish" in 1806 were (1) the John PLUCK who was baptised in SW in 1765 and (2) his son, John, by his first wife, Elizabeth Coe, who was baptised in SW in 1788. Elizabeth was buried on 1 November 1804. For convenience these will be known as John Senior and John Junior, respectively.
It seemed to me, therefore, that the best way of resolving which Mary was married to which John would be to find out more about their backgrounds, and in particular their ages at the time they were married.
I have been able to identify the two relevant families:
The ORGER Family16 Jul 1771 Henry ORGER married Ann ERSWELL in SW (after Banns, both 'otp' and both make their mark) and subsequently we have the following baptisms recorded:
- 5 Jun 1772 Frances ORGAR bap.
- 27 Jun 1773 Joseph ORGAR bap.
- 26 Mar 1775 Philip ORGER bap.
- 29 Jun 1777 Elizabeth AUGUR bap.
- 27 Dec 1778 Sarah AUGUR bap.
- 24 Sep 1780 Mary AUGAR bap. **** our Mary ****
- 20 Aug 1788 Rebecca ORGER bap. born 26 Oct 1785
- 20 Aug 1788 Sophia ORGER bap.
The MYNOTT Family10 July 1785 John MYNOTT married Martha Peter in SW (after Banns, both otp, both single, John signs and Mary makes her mark)
- 20 Nov 1785 Ann MYNOTT bap.
- 25 Nov 1787 John MYNOTT bap.
- 17 Jan 1790 Mary MYNOTT bap. ****our Mary ****
- 19 Feb 1792 Elizabeth MYNOTT bap.
- 27 Jul 1794 Edward MYNOTT bap.
- 11 Jun 1797 Thomas MYNOTT bap.
So ... at the time of the two marriages:
- John PLUCK Snr was aged 41 approx.
- John PLUCK Jnr was aged 18 approx.
- Mary AUGUR was aged 26 approx.
- Mary MYNOTT was aged 16 approx.
(all ages are 'approx' because we only know the baptismal dates and not the dates of birth).
Based on these ages ... it is PROBABLE that John Snr married Mary AUGUR and John Jnr married Mary MYNOTT but we don't have any proof.
Possibly John Snr may have had an eye for the young girls and his son for the more mature lady - we just don't know at this stage.
Even if we accept this hypothesis, we are no further forward in identifying which children belong to which parents. I had hoped that the baptismal records of the children would provide a clue, in particular by the use of names that were common in either family but no conclusions can be drawn, as can be seen ...
- John bap 12 Jul 1807
- Susan bap 10 Dec 1808, born 9 Nov 1807
- James bap 19 Mar 1811, born 27 Aug 1810
- Sarah bap 24 Jun 1813, born Dec 1811
- Mary bap 20 May 1814, born Apr 1814
- William bap 16 Dec 1832, born 25 Jan 1919
- Thomas bap 16 Dec 1832, born 8 Jan 1822
- Charles bap 16 Dec 1832, born 7 Nov 1825
And so there the matter had to rest until further information could be found.
Some time later I came across a burial record in my notes: Mary Pluck was buried in Saffron Walden on 5 August 1812. There was no further information. A check back through the parish registers showed that there were only two likely candidates - the former Mary Orger or the former Mary Mynott. A little later I found that on 10 Feb 1813 John Pluck (wid) married Elizabeth Ward (wid) in Saffron Walden. This tends to confirm that it was one of 'our' Marys who had died. These two records show that any children born to John and Mary Pluck after August 1812 could only have been the children from the surviving pair of parents. Whether John Senior, or John Junior could not be deduced, however.
The breakthrough came when Pat and Bob Pluck came up with some interesting information about John Pluck Jnr ... in 1827 he was sentenced to be transported to Australia for 7 years and, as a result, further information emerged about his family. John was recorded as having eight children at the time of his sentencing at the Saffron Walden Quarter Sessions so it looks virtually certain that all eight children listed above were the children of John Pluck Junior.
The final clues to the identity of John Pluck Junior's wife comes in the 1851 census of Saffron Walden where Mary Pluck is aged 61 - a pauper boot/shoe maker, and in the record of her death in 1870, aged 80. These both confirm that Mary Pluck, mother of the eight children, and wife of the transported John Pluck, was indeed Mary Mynott who was born in 1890, and not Mary Orger who was born ten years earlier.
3 x great grandson of John Pluck Snr.