This is a story about finding a family that seemed to move around southwest Devon quite a bit. The following will take readers through the process used to find answers about a Pinkham family.
I had a request through my Online Parish Clerk website to check the 1851 census in one of my parishes for a family by the name of Pinkham or Pinkem, parents William and Elizabeth. The researcher had a marriage entry from St. Andrew, Plymouth from 1832 between William Pinkham and Elizabeth Glanville. She also thought they had a daughter, Mary or Maria but was not sure of the birth date. The father might at one time have been a land steward. And that was it!
Without much to go on the task was a bit complicated. The family did not appear in the 1851 census taken in any of my parishes but I did find similar names in nearby areas. Those, however, turned out to be the wrong people – either because of information that did not fit for ages, birthplaces, children’s names, etc.
The person looking for information had done some preliminary searches, and had certainly found my OPC website, but needed some extra guidance on using the sources of Ancestry, FamilySearch, FindMyPast and FreeBMD.
I asked a few more questions about how the search had ended up with this family. Was there any information about other family members that might give us a clue where to look? Did she know where any of the people were born or married, besides this one 1832 record? The marriage entry for William and Elizabeth did not give their ages or occupations but one of the witnesses was Ann Glanville who I thought might have been a relative of Elizabeth’s. That might be useful in any search for her family.
More helpful information came back from the researcher. She had a “scrap of paper that said a possible daughter Emma was born in Plympton St. Maurice” on March 10, 1833. There was no explanation of from where that scrap of paper had come but at least now I had a place to start.
Using this bit of information, I checked the baptism register for Plympton St. Maurice parish and found Emma Anne Pinkham, and two other daughters, Ann Maria (that fit with the original request) and Fanny Elizabeth: Emma Anne baptized in 1833; Ann Maria in 1835; and Fanny Elizabeth in 1837. For the first two, the parents were indicated as living in Plympton St. Maurice parish; on the entry for the third girl they were living in Underwood, Plympton St. Mary parish. William’s occupation was shown as servant in 1833 and 1837 and publican in 1835. Those dates fit with the 1832 marriage in nearby Plymouth so it looked now like we had the right people.
With these dates and place of baptism (birth) I could now search other census records. I have found that it is sometimes useful to look for children on censuses, especially those with less common names, like Fanny or Emma, if the parents are hard to find and have names like William and Elizabeth. I did find one other Pinkham family where the parents were William and Elizabeth so that confused the issue. There was no Emma in that group, though.
As I said, the family was not in the Plympton area on any census; so I had to look elsewhere for any of the five people. Looking for just William and Elizabeth was difficult since I did not know at the time where they were born or when and there were other Pinkham families with parents of those names.
Now that we were focused a bit more I did another search of the 1851 census on Ancestry and found Mary Pinkham, born in Plympton in 1835. She was living with an aunt and uncle, John and Mary Cutts, in Kelly parish, Devon, which is in the Tavistock Registration District, about 28 miles northwest of Plympton St. Mary. An Emma Pinkham was recorded in Poplar parish, Middlesex, in 1851, also living with an aunt and uncle, Joseph and Sarah Medland, if we can believe the place of birth shown on this record. It was transcribed as Plumpton on Ancestry, which gave me a clue but was actually Plympton when I looked at the image.
I did not find Fanny Pinkham on the 1851 census but when I looked further at other census summaries, she was shown, in 1841, living with Elizth. Pinkem (in this case), and her presumed sisters, Emma and Mary, in Milton Abbot in 1841. The 1841 census does not record relationships but one can surmise familial connections by the ages of the people in a household.
Portion of 1841 England census for Milton Abbot civil parish, Devon (series HO107, piece 249, book 2, Enumeration District 2, forlie 11, page 17) showing Elizabeth Pinkem (Pinkham) and her three daughters; copyright The National Archives; downloaded August 28, 2013 from Ancestry.com
There was no sign of William with the family but I did find a William Pinkham on the 1841 census, working as a male servant at Kelly House, in Kelly parish, Devon. Milton Abbot is just four miles from Kelly by road (about a 10 minute drive today) so we seemed to have a geographic fit now. It is certainly possible that this is not the right William Pinkham (he is shown as 10 years older than Elizabeth in 1841) but it was curious that a man of that name lived so close to Elizabeth and her daughters. William may have died before 1841 and the widow and her family moved back to be closer to other relatives for support.
Portion of 1896, one inch to the mile, Ordnance Survey map showing Milton Abbot, Kelly and Bradstone parishes, Devon, England; downloaded November 24, 2014 from National Library of Scotland
Having seen the girls were living with relatives, I thought perhaps looking for one of the aunts or uncles might prove useful in finding their ancestors. I found the marriage of Joseph Medland and Sarah Glanville in 1831, in St. Andrew parish (the same place as William and Elizabeth Pinkham were married) so we seemed to have a connection between Elizabeth and Sarah.
Having convinced myself that Elisabeth and Sarah were sisters I went looking for their births. On FindMyPast I found Sarah Glanville baptized in 1807 in Kelly parish and Elizabeth baptized in Bradstone parish, both with parents named John and Mary. Bradstone is less than a mile from Kelly – an easy, 16 minute walk. Looking further I also found an Ann Glanville, baptized in 1808, in Bradstone, also to John and Mary. Perhaps she was the witness to William and Elizabeth’s marriage.
I have not yet found a relationship to John and Mary Cutts, though. Mary was John’s second wife and, according to an 1844 marriage entry in the Kelly parish register, her maiden name was Jackman. They were both from Milton Abbot, as probably was John’s first wife, Susannah, so it is possible that any one of them is related to either of William Pinkham or Elizabeth Glanville.
The fact that at least two of the children were living with relatives suggests that one or both parents were taken ill or had died. FreeBMD showed the death of a William Pinkham in 1851 and an Elizabeth Pinkham in 1867, age 63, both in Plymouth which might have been the parents. Death certificates were ordered for these two people by our family researcher that proved they were husband and wife, but not the right parents for the three girls. So it was back to the drawing board!
Not having William or Elizabeth Pinkham clearly identified on the 1851 census meant we could not confirm their ages, birth places or occupations. There was a William Pinkham baptized in Plympton St. Mary in 1796 but that seems a little early to be the individual we want, though not impossible if the 40-year old(age rounded) man living in Kelly parish in 1841 was the husband of Elizabeth.
Not all genealogical projects have complete endings. In this case I believe we have narrowed down at least the origin of Elizabeth’s family in the Milton Abbot/Kelly/Bradstone area of west Devon. William’s roots are still a mystery. Perhaps one of the listed marriage or death records after 1851 for people with the Pinkham name, or another family researcher looking at this or other branches of the family will help us focus in on where they went after 1841.