Field Notes by Rick Watson
Some time ago, I was combing the genealogical library in Salt
Lake City, trying to pick up on the trail left by the excellent
work of Leslie Watson on the Watson family tree. I was able
to locate a marriage record as well as some baptisms, which
are of interest, thereby adding some detail to the story of
our little clique. But first, a digression about calendars....
In dealing with the year of an event, one must keep in mind,
that until very recently, the new year began on March 25, as
opposed to January 1. This is admittedly a small point, but
intriguing nonetheless. In his book "Calendar - Humanity's Epic
Struggle to Determine a True and Accurate Year," David Duncan
notes that the date of the New Year was changed by an Act of
British Parliament entitled "An Act for Regulating the Commencement
of the Year, and for Correcting the Calendar now in Use." The
Act also hacked eleven days out of the calendar by causing Wednesday,
September 2, 1752, to be followed by Thursday, September 14,
1752. Just try and get away with that today...Thus did England
and America adopt the Gregorian calendar and abandon the Julian
calendar, almost 170 years after had been done so by most of
Which brings us to the 1841 census. This is where I found the
Watson's living in Beverly, Yorkshire, a small town slightly
north of Kingston upon Hull in England. If I may be allowed
another digression about the census...Under the 1841 census,
or "An Act for the taking of an Account of Great Britain" for
the purists in the room, persons who refused to answer or gave
false information to the census taker could be fined "...a Sum
not more than Five Pounds nor less than Forty Shillings, at
the Discretion of any Justice of the Peace or Magistrate..."
Five Pounds had to get you much further in life in those days
than it does now.
The directions to the "Enumeration Schedule" were quite clear
and precise. Census takers were instructed to write the age
of every person under "...15 years of age as it is stated to
you. For persons aged 15 years and upwards, write the lowest
of the term of 5 years within which the age is." Well, the directions
were somewhat clear. Fortunately, they provided a little
table as follows:
When we run across the Watson's in 1841, they are living on
Hengate in the Parish of St. Mary in Beverly, Yorkshire. St.
Mary's church was on the north side of town during the mid-Victorian,
period on the corner of Hengate and North Bar Within. The family
is sharing an abode with George Clark, who appears to be outnumbered
by Watsons. In addition to John, who gave his occupation
as "Male Servant," and Jane, both listed as aged 40,
their sons and daughters are as follows: Thomas, aged
12; John, aged 8; Harriet, aged 6; Ann,
aged 4; Mary Jane, aged 2; and Jane Baker, aged
one month. Considering the almost uniform spacing of two years
between each child, one wonders about the four year gap between
Thomas and John. Given the high mortality rate of children in
those days, it is possible that there was a child between Thomas
and John who would have been 10 years old in 1841.
The relevant portion of the 1841 census is duplicated below
- "do" is used to indicate that a common surname is shared.
There are two more curious facts about this census. Living in
the same household in 1841, is a second Jane Watson, also aged
40. No doubt the Mormans are silently nodding their heads in
approval (I did say that I was rummaging around the library
in Salt Lake City!), but rather than a second wife, Jane quite
possibly could be a sister. Although, you do have to consider
that the Watsons did live in Salt Lake City when they first
came to the States. More about siblings later.
The second curious item concerns John and Jane's (Jane #1, that
is) neighbors on Hengate...more Watsons! George Clark must truly
have been a kind and benevolent soul (or possibly hard of hearing)
to have been surrounded by so many of us. In one household are
listed John and Sally Watson, both aged 60. I believe
that John and Sally Watson could probably be John's parents.
Their age is correct and when asked "Whether born in same County,"
John answers "no" to this question, whereas Sally answers "yes."
In his work on our family tree, Leslie Watson notes that the
father of John Watson was, wait for it..., John Watson (we got
more creative with names in the 20th Century, e.g. Moya Lynn,
Samantha Caleigh and McKenna Skye for openers...). John Watson,
the Patriarch as opposed to the Son (a feeble pun if you will),
is listed as hailing from Ferris, Scotland, "north of Glasgow."
This could only in fact be Forres, Scotland, near the Moray
Firth, which is actually quite a bit north of Glasgow and slightly
east of Inverness.
If my supposition about the neighbors is correct, this means
that John left Scotland for sunnier climates as a single man.
When in Yorkshire, he meet his wife Sally, settled down, and
proceeded to populate Beverly, and poor George Clark, with Watsons.