Thursday, 4 March 2010

The death register of St John The Evangelist Westminster

Lesley had noted a cluster of Fitzhenry deaths in the register of the church of St John the Evangelist, Westminster in the 1820s and 1830s. This is one of the London parishes that has now been digitised by Ancestry from the collections held by the London Metropolitan Archives.

Here are the deaths - all children:
20th April 1825 - An infant of Annastatia Fitzhenry - abode Pye Street. No ceremony performed.

25th March 1833 - William Fitzhenry N. aged 11 months - abode 15 Chapter Street., ceremony performed by J Hughes, curate.

3rd July 1834 - James Fitzhenry H.D. aged 4 months - abode 15 Chapter Street - ceremony performed by J Hughes, curate.

17th November 1834 - Michael Fitzhenry H.D. aged 7 years - abode 15 Chapter Street, ceremony by John Jennings, Rector.

27th June 1836 - Mary Fitzhenry H.D. aged 8 months - abode 15 Chapter Street, ceremony performed by J Hughes, curate.

We think these are all children of Michael Fitzhenry and Anastasia Welch.
Here's our working (as they say on the exam papers...)

We have baptism records for Michael Fitzhenry (born 17 Feb 1828) and James Fitzhenry (born 2 March 1834) which match the age at death for these two children.

Mary would have been born in November 1835 - we have a Margaret Fitzhenry born 29 October 1835. Perhaps a clerical error, especially as Michael and Anastasia had a daughter Mary Ann born 1830 who was still very much alive at the 1841 census.

We haven't got a birth/baptism recorded for William, but his birth would have been around April 1832. This fits nicely between Mary Ann born 3 October 1830 and James born in March 1834.

So that accounts for all the children who lived at 15 Chapter Street and who were not mentioned in the 1841 census when the family were living at Silver Street in the parish of St George Bloomsbury.

But what of the "infant of Annastatia Fitzhenry" of Pye Street buried April 1825?
This is a tricky one as Michael and Anastasia weren't married until November 1825 and the first child that we had a baptism record for was Patrick born April 1826. This implies that Anastasia was already 3 months pregnant with Patrick when she and Michael were married at St Mary's Lambeth, the parish in which her sister Ann Sullivan (nee Welch) lived.

Me and Lesley have batted this one about and come up with a couple of theories.
1. Michael and Anastasia were married in Ireland in a Roman Catholic ceremony. When they came to England, they may have found that their Catholic marriage was not considered legal. Anastasia had a stillborn child and gave the Church of England priest of St John the Evangelist her "married" name for the child's burial. As they had already said to this parish that they were married, they had to chose another parish for banns and marriage, so chose her sister's parish to have the Church of England ceremony to make their marriage legal in English law.

2. Michael and Anastasia were betrothed, Anastasia fell pregnant and they planned to get married to make everything legitimate. Apparently getting pregnant out of wedlock was no great shame as long as you were married before the baby arrived. Perhaps something prevented them getting married when they planned, perhaps the baby was premature. But anyway, Anastasia had to bury her stillborn child and as they were living in the parish of St John the Evangelist, she gave a "married" name to ensure that her baby would not be entered as "baseborn" in the burial register. A few months later she found herself pregnant again, but could not risk having the marriage ceremony in the parish of St John as the parish priest had been told that she was already married. Hence they married at St Mary's Lambeth.

The addresses - Pye Street and Chapter Street - still exist in Westminster today. With the family living there, this would explain why subsequent baptisms of the Fitzhenry children were held at the Catholic chapel of St Mary's Westminster.

As for the notations "N" and "H.D." after the children's names in the register, I have no idea what they mean. They do not seem to follow a set pattern with other entries in the register. A third notation was "D". Very few had no notation at all. If anyone know what these abbreviations signified, I'd be very grateful to know.

Source Citation: London Metropolitan Archives, Saint John The Evangelist: Smith Square, Westminster, Transcript of Burials, 1825 Jan-1825 Dec, DL/t Item, 091/039

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