The ultimate ambition of every family historian is to extend their own lineage as far back through time as their detective skills and the surviving records will allow. The objective of my own genealogical research, throughout the last decade has been no different.
Initially, I found it relatively easy to make progress backwards in time through the twentieth and nineteenth centuries and even a little further back than that, identifying colourful family members and telling their stories along the way. But in the United Kingdom, civil registration began in 1837 and progressing beyond that date, for any genealogist becomes less systematic and more intuitive with each and every step taken.
Eventually every family historian reaches a point where the continuity of the records breaks down or errors in them are revealed. Thereafter further progress is often barred or is based on supposition rather than unambiguous evidence.
This is the point that I have reached whilst researching my fourth great grandfather William Crutchley and in attempting to identify his parents. Hopefully by publishing this story, I may attract the attentions of a genealogist who is able to take the matter to a more satisfactory conclusion. If you can help, please sign my guest book.
The marriage certificate of my third great grandfather, Jeremiah Crutchley revealed the name of his father. Jeremiah's record of baptism at Wednesbury Methodist Church on February 7th 1809 established that his father William was married to Sarah and that they lived in Great Wyrley, Staffordshire. Jeremiah's baptism as a Methodist indicates that William was probably a Methodist himself and may have been well aware of Wednesbury's connection with Methodism's founder John Wesley and the 1743-44 riots.
Having obtained this valuable information as a starting point, it was then relatively easy to get both the details of the marriage of William Crutchley and Sarah (nee Poyner) and also to consult the 1841 census to obtain an approximate age for William and to determine the county of his birth.
William Crutchley and Sarah Poyner were married at St Luke's, the Parish church of Cannock, Staffordshire, by license on October 15th 1806. The marriage record indicates that William resided in the same parish, meaning that he may well have already been living in Great Wyrley in 1806. Even if William was a Methodist, due to English law at that time, his Parish church would have been his only option when it came to marrying his love.
When consulting the 1841 UK census it has to be remembered that the ages of all individuals older than fifteen years were rounded down to the nearest five years. According to the 1841 record for Great Wyrley, William was an agricultural labourer, born in Staffordshire and his age is given as sixty. This means that sixty is the youngest that he could be and sixty four the oldest. That would place his year of birth between 1777 and 1781. At the time of the 1841 census, which was taken on June 7th, Sarah, his wife was at least fifty years of age.
From the point of view of the available records, it is fortunate in that William lived well into old age, unlike his wife who died of heart disease at home at Wyrley Bank in the early hours of December 2nd 1842 at the age of 57.
William is recorded in the 1851 census. Here he gives his age as 73 and states that he was born at Longdon, Staffordshire, which is a small village close to the city of Lichfield. William's age, as given in 1851 could be considered as being more accurate than that shown in the 1841 census, as individual's exact ages were recorded by the 1851 enumerators. However there may have been many reasons why an individual might not have wanted to give his or her correct age. Also, given that William was born before civil registration and his marriage license is testimony to the fact that he could not write, he may not have accurately known his own age. If his parents died whilst he was still young, this conclusion would be even more likely. It seems strange to us in the 21st Century that a person would not know their own age exactly, but over two hundred years ago, things were very different indeed. Nevertheless, according to the 1851 census, Williams's year of birth, as given by William himself was 1778, which seems to tie in with the date from the 1841 census.
William Crutchley died of heart disease in Great Wyrley on November 12th 1859 at the age of 84. It is his death certificate that gives the final clue to his year of birth, which is 1775, but this date was provided by the informant present at the death, who may also not have known William's date of birth accurately.
The net result of my research is that William was probably born between 1775 and 1781, with 1778 being considered to be the most likely year of birth, if that is he knew or gave his age correctly in the 1851 census.
To attempt to identify William's parents based on this information, it is necessary to consult the International Genealogical Index (IGI) for further clues. The first thing to note is that the IGI, which itself is by no means complete or error free, has no records relating to a William Crutchley from Longdon born on or around 1778. A search of the Parish records for Longdon itself also failed to locate William Crutchley, so it seems possible that he was either not born there, or not baptised in the village. As a child he may not have been told where he was born and in 1851 might have simply been recalling the earliest place that he could remember living. In both 1841 and 1851 William does seem adamant that he was born in Staffordshire.
The IGI for Staffordshire in its present form shows only two possibilities. One William Crutchley was baptised on April 1st 1774 in Mucklestone, Staffordshire and the other on 2nd May 1782 at Saint Mary, Lichfield, Staffordshire. Of these two locations, Saint Mary is the closest to Longdon, being only about four miles distant. However, neither date agrees with the census dates regarding William Crutchley.
At the time of William Crutchley's birth, it was common for expectant mothers to return to the home of their own mother for their period of confinement prior to the birth of their child. It was also often the case that contrary to modern practice, baptism took place when the child was a few years old. Given this information, it seemed that the most likely baptism record for William Crutchley was that which took place at Saint Mary, Lichfield on 2nd May 1782.
Hence the best information that I have to date is that William Crutchley was born about 1778 and his father was called James Crutchley, but I still lack conclusive evidence to be able to prove this theory.
Gary S. Crutchley
St Luke, Cannock
Sunday 6th July 2008
The church undergoing extensive restoration
St Luke, Cannock at night
Saturday 3rd March 2012