Troublesome Tranters: Harriet’s Story Evaluating the Evidence Part One

Troublesome Tranters: Harriet’s Story Evaluating the Evidence Part One

In the third instalment of Troublesome Tranters: Harriet’s story, I’m going to be evaluating the evidence I already have for her.
There are a fair few events surrounding Harriet, however, I’ve decided to concentrate on sources that are for specific events in Harriet’s life.  I will be evaluating the baptisms, marriages and burials of Harriet’s parents and siblings separately later on down the line.
In this first ‘Evaluting the Evidence’ post I’m concentrating on two events in Harriet’s life that I’m certain are correct: her 1827 baptism and the 1841 census for Abergavenny, Monmouthshire.  I’m hoping that I will be able to conclusively say this is ‘my’ Harriet in these records by the end of this post.

The Baptism of Harriet Tranter.

**A note before I start: While I have an image of the parish register of the page containing the baptism of Harriet, it is unfortunately taken from Find My Past’s Monmouthshire Baptisms Record Set. Find My Past’s terms & conditions state that we are not allowed to reproduce an image from their record set in whole or in part.**
The parish register for the parish of Abergavenny St Mary’s has only one entry for a Harriet Tranter  between 1817-1837.
Her baptism took place on 23rd July 1827.  The record gives her parent’s names as Thomas & Margaret Tranter, her residence as Cross Street and her father’s occupation as Labourer.

Purpose of parish registers and their limitations.

Civil Registration, that is the mandatory registration of births, marriages and deaths, began in 1837.  Before this parish registers detailing baptisms, marriages and burials are a primary source for family history research.  Until 1812 parish records can still be a little hit or miss as to whether the record of baptism, marriage or burial exists.  From 1812, events were required to be entered in specially printed books funded by the parish council.  Post 1812 parish records, in my experience, tend to be more informative.  Harriet’s baptism in 1827, was recorded in one of these pre-printed books and the details in each column have been filled in.  Whether these details are correct though, depends on the person giving the information and the person recording it.
In my experience, the information recorded on a baptism certificate is normally given by one or both of the parents, or guardians, presenting the child for baptism.  I gave the details in my children’s baptism certificates to the parish priest who recorded it.  However, I’m uncertain whether he actually copied the information in the parish register.  In Harriet’s case, the register was completed by the vicar at St Mary’s, a W. Powell.  I haven’t given him much thought at this present time, maybe I will need to further on down the line.  I imagine that he knew the family, after all St Mary’s Church was on Monk Street which is just a short walk from Cross Street, where the family resided.  They probably attended church on a weekly basis and he may well have known their names, where they lived and what occupation Thomas held.

The Information

The following information is usually recorded in a baptism: Date of Baptism; Name; parent’s names; family name; residence; occupation of father; person who recorded the information.
I have read through this document several times.  I have also taken into consideration the other baptisms on the page.
The dates of the baptisms on the page range from 3rd July 1827 to 5th September 1827.  There are other families from Cross Street.  There are no other Tranter baptisms on the two-page spread.
I think I have gone as far as I can with looking at the details of Harriet’s baptism.  I know the date, her parents names, her residence (which matches the next record I’ll be looking at), and her father’s occupation.

Harriet on the 1841 Census

The 1841 Census records Harriet living on Cross Street, Abergavenny with her parents, Thomas and Margaret and siblings, Jane, Charlotte and John.

Purpose of the census and it’s limitations.

The primary purpose of a census is to record every person in every household of a country.  It is from the census returns that population statistics are created.  The 1841 was the first census taken after civil registration began and was the responsibility of Register General of England and Wales.  Censuses taken before this was the responsibility of the parish and many have not survived to the modern day.  The images available for the census are original images from a secondary source, in this case they appear on both Find My Past and Ancestry.
The census was taken on the 6th June 1841 and was not as detailed as the later censuses but did record the address, names of each member of the household, age (usually rounded down to the nearest 5 for people over the age of 15), occupation (if there was one) and whether or not the person was born in the County they were recorded in.
There are numerous things that need to be taken into consideration when interpreting data from the 1841 census.
Perhaps the most obvious thing to consider is the way ages were recorded for those over the age of 15.  It means that ages could be out by up to 5 years and that’s before taking into consideration human error.
Human error is another important factor.  Many members of the working class did not know their exact date of birth and as a result would have made a ‘best guess’ at how old they were.  Parents could have confused the ages of their children and could have missed out members of their household.  Names could have been misheard and/or spelt incorrectly.
People are also capable of lying; I have a family who went by a different surname on every census.  The only way I knew it was them was by their address and the members of the household.
One final note, people weren’t always at the address or with the family you would expect them to with.  People often traveled for work; children may have lived with family members other than their parents such as grandparents, aunties, uncles and even older siblings; older children may have been in service or lodging with another family in the same area.  Sometimes it’s just about thinking outside the box.

The Information

The 1841 Census for Abergavenny, enumeration district number 3, containing Cross Street reveals the Tranter family.  The residence matches that of records I have from 1827, 1834 and 1839 (I’ll work through the 1834 and 1839 records in a later post).

Thomas Tranter

Thomas is recorded as being 33 years of age, a labourer and was born in Monmouthshire.
While I am certain this is the Thomas Tranter belonging to my family, this age is rather confusing.  Thomas was baptised on 8th September 1797 in Abergavenny, which would make him around 44 at the time of the census.  11 years is huge gap and I can only put it down to human error.   (The 1851 census has him closer to the correct age.)  His occupation of ‘labourer’ matches that of each of his children’s baptisms.

Margaret Tranter

Margaret is recorded as 40 years old, with no occupation and she wasn’t born in Monmouthshire.
I have no concrete evidence regarding Margaret and who she is.  There is an Ancestral file on Family Search that gives her maiden name as Smith.  It records the marriage of Thomas and Margaret as taking place around 1825 in Aberdare, Glamorgan and her birth, also in Aberdare, around 1797.  This would fit with her not being born in Monmouthshire and, if the rule surrounding age was followed for her, she was between 40 and 45 years old.

Harriet Tranter

Harriet is recorded as 14 years old, with no occupation and she was born in Monmouthshire.
Harriet’s age on the census fits with her baptism record from July 1827.  Baptisms were often carried out within the first few months of life… She may have been either just 14 or about to turn 14.  Her baptism was in Abergavenny which fits with her being born in Monmouthshire.

Jane Tranter

Jane is recorded as being 11 years old with no occupation and was born in Monmouthshire.
Jane is a difficult case.  I can’t locate a baptism for her using any of the usual sources (Find My Past and MonGenes).  She is still living with Thomas and Margaret in 1851 and is recorded as their daughter.  I have located a marriage for her (I believe) and a notice for her marriage in one of the local newspapers (which will be examined at a later date).

Charlotte Tranter

Charlotte is recorded as being 5 years old and born in Monmouthshire.
Charlotte was baptised on 6th December 1834.  This date would make her at least 6 at the time of the census.  This discrepancy is probably a perfect example of the parents getting the age of their child wrong.  It isn’t even by a huge amount so I’m still fairly certain it’s the right Charlotte.

John Tranter

John is recorded as 2 years old and born in Monmouthshire.
John was baptised in July 1839 and, like Harriet, was probably either just 2 or about to turn 2.

Abergavenny and the areas of Cross Street and St Mary’s Church.

I’ve left the geography to last because the evidence I have analysed includes the same areas.
Looking at the map I’ve taken from Abergavenny Street Survey, which was created by John Wood in 1834  clearly shows Cross Street and St Mary’s Church.

Town Map of Abergavenny

The area wouldn’t have been that different at the time of Harriet’s baptism and the 1841 census.  The Tranter family lived in close proximity to St Mary’s Church where they baptised the children.  I have also labelled Mill Street as they also lived there between 1825 and 1841.
Description of Enumeration District 3

Description of Enumeration District 3

The 1841 census description of the enumeration district gives an indication of the area covered including “all Cross and Mill Street wards”; it did also include areas further out.
Cross Street itself, was one of the main streets of Abergavenny. According to Pigot’s Directory of Monmouthshire 1830-1842 Cross Street was home to the Post Office, 2 Auctioneers and Appraisers, a bookshop and stationers, boot and shoemakers, various other small shops and convenience stores as well as an abundance of public houses.
Abergavenny is situated “144 miles from London, 16 from Monmouth and 6 from Crickhowell”.  It had coach links with major towns including Newport, Gloucester, London, Brecon, Bristol, Carmarthen and Merthyr Tydfil as well as the opportunity to travel by water to Newport and Bristol.  This access to transport would give residents the opportunity of geographical mobility, I’m certainly not constrained to Abergavenny in my search for Harriet despite the fact that the majority of the family appeared to stay put.
I think that just about wraps up evaluating these two pieces of evidence… I think I can safely say these records relating to Harriet are the correct ones.  Although the family still causes some confusion.
Next up I’ll be looking at the two pieces of evidence that may or may not be ‘my’ Harriet.  Hopefully, I’ll have her marriage certificate by the weekend to evaluate.

Sources 1841 Census: Class: HO107; Piece: 742; Book: 11; Civil Parish: Abergavenny; County: Monmouthshire; Enumeration District: 3; Folio: 24; Page: 39; Line: 17; GSU roll: 438842
Monmouthshire Baptisms: Abergavenny, St Mary’s Parish Registers on Find My Past

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