Friday, July 27, 2018

A few Frosty tales. Leicester, Knighton, Countesthorpe, Rotherby. And a non-existent Alexander Frost, the hatter.

Frosts of Knighton and Countesthorpe with two Williams: which is which?

I have recently been going down a few Frost rabbit-holes and burrowing around... coming up in places like Countesthorpe and Ratby and Rotherby, and becoming confused in the process.

(Remember Sarah Frost, my great-great-grandmother? This is her family. Carvell--Bonnett--Frost.)

I had originally traced Sarah Frost's ancestors to her grandfather, William Frost, who was born in Knighton, Leicestershire in about 1776. His date of birth comes from the 1841 census, where the census-takers did not record the exact year of birth for the adults: the enumerator was supposed to round down to the nearest five years--but not all did. Or they rounded up. So there is a big margin of error. As he died before the next census in 1851, 1776 is just a mark in the sand.

Knighton St Mary Magdalene,
Photo by Charvex from Wikimedia Commons
Knighton was then a village with a chapelry, St Mary Magdalene, which meant that it had parish records of its own but was part of the much larger parish of St Margaret's of Leicester. There were baptisms, marriages and burials recorded in Knighton, but some events--especially marriages--seem to have been carried out at St Margaret's church, or at least recorded there rather than in Knighton. Sarah's grandad William was from Knighton, according to his marriage, and my earlier research came up with a baptism for a William Frost, Knighton, in 1776: born to mother Mary Frost, no father named. A bit of a brick wall.

This research was done several years ago and involved lots of staring at microfiche copies of parish records on a squeaky machine in a dark room in a family history research centre in the USA.

Since then, more parish records have been digitised, and I recently found another William Frost, also baptised in Knighton, in 1773. Aarrgh. I cannot yet find any definitive evidence to say which of these two Williams--baptised 1773, or 1776--is the "right" William to be my great-great-great-great grandad. He could be either one. I cannot find a reliable death record or marriage record that would eliminate one or the other. So in my online tree, they are both marked with warning signs. Because I don't know which William married Mary Bryan. I just know that one of them did!

BUT: the second William Frost, baptised in 1773, his parents were John Frost (b. 1748 in Knighton) and Sarah nee Leavis or Loavis. And guess what? This John Frost was our unmarried mother Mary Frost's brother, older by a year. So... regardless of which William it is, the Frost family line goes back to William's grandfather, my sixth great-grandfather, Joseph Frost of Knighton, born about 1720. And from Joseph... the tree stretches way, way back to Countesthorpe, and eventually to a Richard Frost baptised there in 1615. That's as far as I have travelled in time so far... Countesthorpe has amazing records so if you have any ancestors there, you are in luck for research! (The only question I have in this line is around a John Frost who was baptised in Countesthorpe in 1678, but appears to have got on his bike or horse or cart and travelled to Leicester, married Elizabeth Newton in St Margaret's at the relatively late age of 32 in 1710, and then settled in Knighton. Was it a second marriage? Were there earlier children? Still to find out!)

While delving into these Frosts, I found many more Frosts, seemingly unrelated to "mine". That was the part that ended up in Rotherby, so far with no connection to either Knighton or Countesthorpe, as far back as another William Frost, who was buried in Rotherby in 1702--and where there are so many William Frosts that it is difficult to distinguish one generation and family from another. Along the way from the 1900's in Leicester to 1700 Rotherby by way of a few other places, I found some interesting and sad Frost stories:

Birth certificates for Alexander and Eliza Frost
- Two children, Eliza and Alexander Frost, who both listed their father as Alexander Frost, a hatter, on their marriage certificates. Though there never was an Alexander Frost. Their mother, unmarried, was Eliza Frost, born in 1829 in Leicester, daughter of Joseph Frost and Anne nee Taylor. I spent ages trying to find Alexander Frost, the father; an unusual name that should have been relatively easy to track down. But then I found the birth registrations. Eliza Nichols Frost, born 1862, and Alexander Nicholson Frost, born 1864, both to Eliza Frost, and neither with a father named. The registrar was the same for both: did he force the unwed mother to include the father's surname, or part of it? Or were the couple living together as common-law husband and wife when the babies were born? There was an Alexander Nickols, a hatter, born in Scotland but living close to Eliza Frost in a large, Leicester boarding house in 1861. But no trace of him ever after, and Eliza did not marry him--in 1871 she and her young son Alexander are together in the Union Workhouse on Sparkenhoe Street in Leicester, daughter Eliza is living with Eliza's older sister Ann and her husband, James Bland. Did the children know their father? Or was he just a fairy-tale Alexander Frost, pulled out of a hat like a rabbit to put on their official paperwork? We may never know...

Marriages of Alexander and of Eliza Frost, naming father Alexander
1861 census entry for Alexander Nickols in Leicester, a hatter from Scotland

- A connection between my paternal, and maternal, lines that I had no clue about. The Frosts are from my mother's side. There are Lords, on my father's side--a Ruth Lord married a Riley, her sister was Bathsheba who also married one of the Riley brothers, and they both lived in villages on the Syston side of Leicester. The Lord sisters were born in Countesthorpe. And one of their ancestors married a Mary Frost from my mother's ancestry... not part of the blood line, Mary was a second wife but--the connection is there, and I now find that I have a long-ago direct ancestor, also called Bathsheba... what a lovely name. Bathshebas on both sides of the tree. Maybe it was in the blood to fall in love with Thomas Hardy's writing. (More on the Lord story later.)

- A sad story of what were probably triplets, born to (probably) the William Frost who was buried in Rotherby in 1702. He -- or his son, or his father William -- married Elizabeth Sea, or Lea, of Market Bosworth, on 3 December, 1704, in the village of Barlestone, Leicestershire. The husband was living in Rotherby at the time of the marriage, and the family settled there, with three sons, Thomas, William and Samuel baptised in Rotherby in 1705, 1706 and 1708. Then comes the sad part: the records show three children baptised together on the same day, 16 January, 1710: a daughter, Ruth, and two more sons, Richard and Charles. Given the spacing of the older children and the marriage, it is most likely that these were triplets rather than a group of older (and possibly sick), unbaptised children being baptised together, though there is nothing in the parish records to indicate a multiple birth. But then tragedy strikes... little Richard was buried on 20th January. The mother, Elizabeth, was buried in Rotherby on 24th January, just two weeks after the babies were baptised. Baby Charles, on 29th January. Ruth survived into early February, buried on 5 February 1710. Within two weeks, William Frost had lost his wife and three children, leaving him a widower with three sons under the age of five. (I think it is this William Frost who remarries to Mary Bayley in 1716 and has more children with her.)

Sometimes the parish records will mention a multiple birth--I have seen "twin" next to a baptism record, sometimes with, sometimes without, the other twin's name. And once, a set of triplets, where the record showed the baptism of two children and also said that a third child had been stillborn. A vicar or clerk being respectful and helpful and kind. Early UK parish records only include the father's name, not the mother's. Occasionally the year, or even the exact date, of the birth itself is included with the baptism (but most often not). And then you have the very early records which simply say, John Smith baptised... and nothing else. No name of father, or mother, no age, no clue whatsoever. Could have been a newborn. Could have been a thirty-year-old who had just realised that they had never been baptised and wanted to do so before being allowed to marry. Or a ninety-year-old John Smith, preparing to meet his maker.

Family history is a treasure hunt, a mystery story, a forensic investigation, and an adventure. Be prepared for sorrow, surprise and intrigue. Even if it's down a rabbit hole that ends up nowhere near your own ancestors!