A few weeks ago we looked at the Marriage Record in 1839 (in Halkyn, Flintshire, Wales) for Matthew Grose senior (1788-1849) and his second wife, Mary Tregonning.
Initially, we wondered what he was doing in Flintshire if he lived in Foxdale, Isle of Man. Then we figured out there was a family connection to the particular location, Halkyn…
Matthew Grose’s younger sister, Eliza lived there with her husband, Absalom Francis who was the Mine Agent at Halkyn lead mines.
One of the remaining mysteries were the marriage witnesses…
The witnesses are Mary and William Davy (or Davey?)
I think their surname looks like ‘Davy‘ – what do others think?
These witnesses need further research to see if there is any family connection. Matthew Grose’s grandmother’s maiden name was ‘Davy/Davey’. Also, his sister’s (Eliza’s) mother-in-law’s maiden name was ‘Davy/Davey’.
One mystery solved… & another ‘can of worms’ opened!
From further research of the Grose and Francis family connections in Halkyn, Flintshire it has been possible to identify these witnesses. As suspected there is a family connection, but not one that was expected!
Before we look at the marriage witnesses – a reminder of the parents & siblings of Matthew Grose (1788-1849) is useful:
Matthew Grose (1761-1824) and *Jane/Jennifer (nee Williams) (1762-1841).
*The mother, Jane, is recorded as ‘Jennifer’ on some of the children’s baptisms. Note that on the following list of their children, there is no daughter called Jane (or Jennifer) which is unusual as it was traditional naming convention to name a daughter after the mother… (We’ll come back to this point shortly!)
Their children (those in bold are discussed in this post):
- Mary Grose (1784-likely died as infant before 1786)
- Mary Grose (1786-1847) married Henry Francis
- Matthew Grose (1788-1849) married Mary Wearn & Mary Tregonning
- John Grose (1793-1842) married Jane Jennings
- Elizabeth Grose (1797-) married Obadiah Ash
- William Grose (1801-1818)
- Grace Grose (1801-1818)
- Eliza Grose (1807-1864) married Absalom Francis (1792-1860)
What’s this got to do with the witnesses?
The marriage record and further research shows the marriage witnesses are Mary Davey (nee Francis) and her husband, William Davey. Research shows that they resided in Halkyn, Flintshire and several records show them baptising their children there.
This witness, Mary Davey (nee Francis), is the daughter of Absalom Francis (1792-1860) and his first wife, Jane (nee Grose) (1790-1829). Absalom and Jane married in Gwinear, Cornwall on 23rd January, 1812.
Their daughter, Mary Davey (nee Francis) was baptised in Gwinear, Cornwall on 17th May 1812.
This makes Mary Davey (nee Francis), the step-daughter of Eliza Francis (nee Grose) (Matthew’s sister). Eliza was Absalom Francis’s second wife.
So the marriage witness, Mary Davey (nee Francis) is the step-niece of the groom, Matthew Grose (1788-1849).
Straightforward? Not quite!
It is interesting to note that Absalom Francis’s first wife, Jane Grose (1790-1829), is possibly a sister of Eliza Grose (1807-1864) and Matthew Grose (1788-1849)!
On the 1812 marriage entry for Jane Grose and Absalom Francis in Gwinear, the witnesses are a Matw (Matthew) Grose and Henry Francis.
The signature closely matches that of the witness Matw (Matthew) Grose on the 1809 marriage record of Mary Grose and Henry Francis.
It is slightly different to the groom’s signature on the 1809 marriage record of Matthew Grose and Mary Wearn, so possibly the signature of their father, Matthew Grose (1761-1824).
What about the 1835 Marriage Act?
Absalom Francis married his second wife, Eliza Grose, on 6th June 1837.
Image courtesy of Shropshire Archives © via FindMyPast
This is two years after the 1835 Marriage Act. This legally prohibited a man from marrying his deceased wife’s sister. Prior to this, it was just the concern of ecclesiastical law:
Before 1835, the church would annul the marriage of a man with the sister of his late wife if reported, but if no one reported the situation, then the marriage was legal. It was a voidable marriage not a void one.
If the deceased Jane Grose (1790-1829) was Eliza’s older sister, then Eliza Grose and Absalom Francis had married secretly and illegally in Shrewsbury in 1837, but then announced it in a Cornish newspaper!
Lately, at Shrewsbury, Capt. Absalom Francis, of Halkin, in Flintshire, to Miss Grose, of Goldsithney, in this county.
Eliza Francis (nee Grose) is definitely the sister of Matthew Grose because they are both mentioned in the will of their brother from Goldsithney, John Grose (1793-1842).
“Mary, wife of Mine Agent, Henry Francis”…
“Elizabeth wife of Mine Agent, Obadiah Ash”…
“Eliza, wife of Mine Agent, Absalom Francis.” …
“the children of my brother Captain Matthew Grose as shall be then living.”…
Why would Eliza and Absalom have married?
Were there really so many brothers- and sisters-in-law who wanted to get married? Not really, but it was more common than it is now. Women often died in childbirth, and their unmarried sisters, who had few other options to support themselves besides marriage, would step in to care for the family. For convenience, and sometimes developing love, remarriage seemed like the thing to do.
Marrying the sister of the deceased wife remained illegal until 1907.
The Deceased Wife’s Sister’s Marriage Act finally passed in 1907. By that time, the prohibition had long been lifted in most of Europe, the United States and the colonies. At the same time, society was changing in a way that meant fewer women were dying in childbirth and single women had more opportunities to support themselves. Not as many people wanted to make this kind of marriage. But if they did, they finally had freedom to choose it.
We’ve discovered that the marriage witnesses for Matthew Grose and Mary Tregonning in 1839 are Mary Davey (nee Francis) and William Davey. Mary Davey (nee Francis) is unquestionably the step-niece of the groom Matthew Grose because she is the step-daughter of his sister, Eliza Francis (nee Grose).
However, Mary Davey (nee Francis) is Matthew Grose’s actual niece, if her mother Jane Francis (nee Grose) is his sister.
A matching signature of “Matw Grose” as marriage witness on Jane Grose and Absalom Francis’s 1812 marriage record (and Mary Grose and Henry Francis’s 1809 marriage record) gives circumstantial evidence, but not conclusive proof that he is the father of both brides.
A baptism record for Jane Grose (1790-1829) would be more useful to prove that she is the daughter of Matthew Grose (1761-1824) and Jane Williams (1762-1841).
However, in 1790, Matthew Grose (1761-1824) was working as Mine Captain in Loxton, Somerset and the church records are badly worn. We are still seeking the baptism records for two of his other children John Grose (1793-1842) and Elizabeth Grose (1797-?).