Occasionally Vicars made notations in the parish registers that give us a glimpse into the lives of individuals in the community. These comments rarely make it into published indexes so those lists will usually only show names and dates.
Some children did not have a very auspicious start. The parents of all of the children shown on the following entries are unknown. There is no explanation with respect to the surname given to them.
1617 March 21 – Plympton St. Mary baptism – “Thomas the father & mother unknown.”
No surname is shown so it is impossible to say whether the child died or continue to live and prosper in the parish.
1738 November 7 – Plympton St. Mary baptism – “A child Baptized by the name of Elizabeth, Parents Unknown.”
The entry appears to go on to say that “the Rector said it wd. be called November.” No individual of that name has been found in any other record in the area, however.
1788 November 28 – Cornwood baptism – “Elizabeth daughter of Persons Unknown a nurse child with William & Mary Vivian.”
It is not known whether she was adopted by the Vivians and given their name. The couple did have one other child, John, born in 1789.
1789 May 17 – Plympton St. Mary baptism – “William Blight – Base Born Parents Unknown”
One might assume Blight was the individual’s surname and that he was also a child or infant, however no such information is present in the entry. A William Blight was buried in Plympton St. Mary parish the following year. Perhaps it was this poor little one and he never really had a chance.
An infant, found abandoned, was taken in by some kind souls in the spring of 1800 and baptized with the name of the town, Mary Plympton. She died only a few months later and was buried with no one ever knowing her family circumstances.
1800 August 31 – Plympton St. Mary baptism – “Mary Plympton – Tis child was found on the 24th June last in the High Road, deserted & forsaken by its parents”
1801 February 22 – Plympton St. Mary burial – “Mary Plympton the Child that was found in the Road 24 June 1800”
This child, too, did not fare well – another child abandoned by its parents. He died in the poorhouse at the age of two.
1887 November 28 – Plympton St. Mary baptism – “Claud Mills, An infant found near Marsh Mills Parent Unknown.”
1889 June 13 – Plympton St. Mary burial – Claud Mills, Union Workhouse, 2 years.
A child may have begun its life with no parents but have been fortunate because of the charity of someone in the community. The Vicar did not know where this little girl came from but she became part of a new family. Her birth was officially registered as Roberts. The family disappeared from Plympton St. Mary parish shortly after her birth so I do not know what eventually became of her.
1875 January 21 – Plympton St. Mary baptism – “Emily Millicent – Parents Unknown, Adopted by Alfred George & Emily Mary Crewill Roberts”
Many other examples of children with no parents are present in parish registers. When tracing back ancestors to any one of these individuals, researchers will come up against brick walls, probably never to be broken down.
Images reproduced here were downloaded from FindMyPast or copied from my microfiche and are used with the kind permission of the Plymouth and West Devon Record Office, the copyright-holder.