SOLVED: Elizabeth Levitt Where Are You?

Genealogy solved! John, Elizabeth and Richard Levitt have been found – hiding as a ‘Harding’ in the 1871 Swaffham Bulbeck census from Cambridgeshire.

Last night, after posting about how I was struggling to find some Levitt relatives on the 1871 census, I stumbled across them.

I’d spent quite some time trawling through records on sites like FamilySearch.org, Ancestry.co.uk and FindMyPast. I even manually went through each folio scan one-by-one, courtesy of my copy of the 1871 census for Cambridgeshire from S&N Genealogy. There was no sign of them at all in Swaffham Bulbeck.

Assuming that all three had perhaps eluded the census enumerator (as a few people did), despite being in the same place before and after this census, I gave up and put them aside for another rainy day.

One last little search on Ancestry.co.uk just before retiring for bed saw me searching very vaguely for any John and Elizabeth in Cambridgeshire 1871 with a John being born in 1838 or 1839.

A list of search results appeared and nothing remotely Levitt, Livett, Levet, Levit etc stood out. So I thought that I would just work my way through a few and started clicking to view the census returns regardless of the surname it had turned up – after-all I had exhausted all other search ideas.

The faux-Hardings on the 1871 census
The Levitt family were 'hiding' as Hardings.

John and Elizabeth Harding were just one of these, and after clicking through and staring at the census return for a few seconds, I noticed that Elizabeth Skeel was living immediately next-door aged 90.

This was significant as Elizabeth Skeel was an ancestor – that was certain. She was the mother of the Elizabeth Levitt that I was looking for.

I then noticed that one of the Hardings was a 27yr old unmarried Richard S Harding. Again, Richard Skeel Levitt never married and would have been 27yrs old.

I’d found them!

So who were the Hardings? Well, amongst John and Elizabeth Levitt’s children was an Ann Maria Levitt born about 1841. She went on to marry a George Hunt Harding. This fact help me unravel what I was staring at.

John ‘Harding’ was noted as the ‘Head’ of the household, with Elizabeth ‘Harding’ noted as his wife. Then, the unmarried Richard S ‘Harding’ was listed as the son. Following him was the married Ann Harding noted as the daughter, and lastly two children noted as ‘grandson/granddaughter’.

This doesn’t exactly make sense. At first glance, you might have thought that Richard and Ann were married with two children and were living with his parents. If Ann was Richard’s wife, then she would have usually been noted as something like ‘son’s wife’ or ‘daughter-in-law’. Noticing Richard’s marital status was the final piece of the jigsaw.

One question here is though, and maybe it was one that confused the enumerator, was that whilst Ann Harding is noted as married, there’s no sign of her husband George. I’ve started looking for him, but as yet, he’s missing… so the search starts again!

 

Surname Saturday: FREEMAN

Surname Saturday takes a look at the FREEMAN surname in Cambridgeshire.

An old name that stretches as far back as the Middle Ages.

Dating from at least the Middle Ages, it is widely believed that it was historically given to a person who was not a ‘serf’ (a slave) and were therefore quite literally ‘a free man’.

Distribution

In 1881, there were 19,124 people with the surname in Great Britain, ranking the surname as the 197th most common surname. Current estimates suggest that it hasn’t changed very much at all, with 24,892 (an increase of just over 5,000), placing it as the 208th most common surname. Over in the USA, there’s an estimated 162,686 people with the surname.

1891 statistics from Ancestry.co.uk show that the distribution of the surname gave a few concentration areas in England.

Freeman in Cambridgeshire

The most recent Freeman ancestor in my tree was Mary Ann Freeman, born in Prickwillow – a village close to Ely, in Cambridgeshire in 1837. She was the oldest of ten children of John Freeman and his wife Mary Grey.

Mary Ann married Edward Moden, an agricultural worker of Coveney. Together they had six children, the last of which (my ancestor) was born four months after Edward’s death in 1867. Mary Ann, with a large but young family, remained widowed until 1871 when she re-married to David Seymour in Coveney. A few months later, the family had moved to Green’s Farm in Ely, and they welcomed their first child together, followed in 1874 by their last child.

Mary Ann’s parents, John and Mary, were from Prickwillow and Ely respectively. John was one of 11 children of John Freeman and his wife Phoebe of Coveney. John (snr) was in turn, one of seven children of William Freeman and his wife Sarah, again of Coveney. Prior to this generation, the family remain a little tricky to locate, with only a few speculative possibilities – but all in Cambridgeshire.

Freeman as a middle name

There are two occasions in my tree, one of which is an ancestor, where the surname has been used as a middle name. Whilst middle names were often the maiden name of the child’s maternal side, which fits for John Freeman Moden, whose mother was the Mary Ann Freeman detailed above. The same cannot be said for John Freeman Dewey.

John Freeman Dewey (b.1856) was illegitimate. Therefore, the use of the name could be a nod to his paternity, like in the case of Sabina Steadman Taylor. Alternatively, the choice of ‘Freeman’ could easily just hark back to the origins of the name – ‘a free man’ (of no master – or father). The identity of John’s father remains, and probably always will, a mystery.