Mary Weale – tracing a life through Parish Records
My name is Clare, and I help to research Family History for Shropshire Archives. I am currently working towards a qualification in Genealogy and one of my course modules was to look at Parish Records. This included looking at records such as Settlement and Bastardy Examinations which I discovered can be a wonderful source of information when researching family history. For this module, I had to pick a Shropshire parish, select at random a name, and find enough information to be able draw a pedigree showing them and their family. What I found from these records was a fascinating story for one person.
I picked the parish of Bromfield as it had a good selection of documents held at the Archives and looking through the lists of Settlement Examinations and other documents, one name came up several times. This name was Mary Weale.
Mary was born in Bettws Y Crwyn, not far from Bromfield, in 1766 to Jeremiah and Elizabeth Weale. One of the first documents that Mary Weale is named on is a Settlement Examination in 1803 where she was permitted to stay in Bromfield as she had been employed by local man William Jacks (P43/L/19/14) The next documents were Bastardy Examinations, where as a single woman and the mother of more than one illegitimate baby, the local Justices of the Peace were trying to establish who was the father of her children and he was named as William Jacks (P43/L/23/7-9)
From these examinations it is revealed that she had three children named Jane, George, and John and all three children had the same father – William Jacks. Mary and William never married, but their children in later life added the surname Jacks to Weale, as shown by George who gives his name as George Jacks Weale when he got married.
Mary’s life as a single woman with three children would have been hard. However, one document revealed just how tough her life was when a Bastardy Examination revealed that she had given birth to one child in the House of Correction in Shrewsbury. This raised a few questions – why was she here and what had she done to be sent here? So, after ordering up the Assize and County Quarter Sessions calendars of prisoners, 1800-1817 (QS/10/2), it didn’t take long to find Mary’s name and the Sessions showed that she had been committed to the House of Correction for 1 whole year on the 19th October 1805. Her conviction was for being a lewd woman and for having an illegitimate male child in Bromfield in October 1804 which was now chargeable to the parish.
The House of Correction was to prove particularly tough for Mary, as described in a letter she sent from here that has survived. It is dated 31st March 1806, six months into her sentence and is addressed to William Jacks, the father of her children. In this letter she asks him to come and visit, or if he won’t come then to send her money, food and clothing for her and her child. Mary has her infant son with her, and she writes “…you would think it very hard to hear your child cry for meat and nothing to give it and others eating before you…”; later on in the letter she asks if he “…would send one yard of flannel and some money if you please as I have not one halfpenny to buy coal…”.
What happened to Mary after she was released is not known as she does not appear on any further parish poor relief records. She died in 1827 and is buried in Bromfield and the name written into the burial entry is ‘Mary Weale also known as Jacks’.
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