The Elusive Mister Brown

I had always thought that the most difficult line to trace would be Brown, and so it has proved. Some hope lay in the knowledge, from the entry of birth to grandfather Edwin Brown, that great grandparents’ names were Jonas and Rebecca Brown formerly Eagles, which are not the most frequent of first names. It was also said that Edwin was from the Black Country, a heartland of heavy industry or “metal-bashing” in the Industrial Revolution and subsequently.

wellington all saints postcard
All Saints, Wellington.  Creative commons, via ShareHistory

My uncle has a commemorative mug. It reads simply: “Jonas Brown, 27/8/38, Shropshire”. Although it seemed likely to be date and place of birth, no one was really sure.

The first setback was that the birth was not registered with the General Register Office (GRO), so I would have to think laterally to find out his parents. What made things worse was that in the two England censuses that were available online at the time did not include Jonas: in 1901 Rebecca, widow, with four mainly grown-up children, appeared at Lichfield Road, Brownhills, but there was no sign of either in 1881.

Rescue came via FamilySearch, where I found a baptism of Jonas Brown, 16 December 1838 at Wellington, Shropshire; parents John Brown and Mary Ann, but, although there were no other likely records, I could not be sure if this was the right person.  Later, the image would turn up on Findmypast, which gave the abode of Dawley Bank, now a part of Telford, Shropshire.

Extract from parish register All Saints, Wellington, Shropshire, England

The relatively rare names made finding the entry of marriage straightforward enough and I sent off my application to GRO along with the £9.00 fee (as it was then). They were married at the parish church of Tipton, Staffordshire in the industrial heartland of the Black Country. Jonas, it records, was 25, widower, miner, resident of Tipton and his father’s name (heart sinks!) was John Brown, also a miner.

Widower?! I obtained the entry of marriage for his wedding to 19-year-old, Phoebe Young, also at Tipton, on 10 Dec 1860. I never did get around to ordering the entry of death for Phoebe, but it was registered at Dudley in the last quarter of 1862; she was 20 or 21. As far as I can work out there were no children.

John Brown would take some tracking down …

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