Who were the parents of Thomas Edwards 1794 – 1871?

Thomas Edwards was one of the 3rd great grandfathers of my husband Greg. He died suddenly, of “congestion of the brain”, on 7 January 1871 at Bungaree, near Ballarat, Victoria. An inquest was held two days later. The coroner, who seems to have been advised by a member of the family,  was the informant on Thomas’s death certificate.

1871 death registration for Thomas Edwards (marked with red star)

Thomas Edwards, born about 1794, was 77 years old when he died. He had been a wheelwright. His parents are recorded on his death certificate as John Edwards and Jane Edwards nee Gilbert. Thomas’s father was a labourer. Thomas had been born in Cornwall and had spent 22 years in Victoria. He had married Mary Gilbart at the age of 33, in about 1827. Eight children – 6 boys and 2 girls – are noted, but their names and ages are not given.

There is only one baptism for a Thomas Edwards about 1794 in south-west Cornwall: Thomas, son of John and Jane Edwards, was baptised on 6 July 1794 at Towednack, a village 5 miles north-west of St Erth.

Thomas Edwards married Mary Gilbart on 14 March 1826 in the parish church of St Erth. If he was 77 when he died in 1871, he was about 32 in 1826 when he married Mary Gilbart. The witnesses to the marriage were John Gilbart and Sarah Gilbart, both of them probably relatives of the bride.

On the 1841 census Thomas and Mary Edwards were living in Bridge Terrace, St Erth. Thomas, a carpenter, was 45 (born about 1796 but on the 1841 census ages of adults were rounded to the nearest 5 years). The household members were Thomas, his wife, and five children; one child was away from home staying close by in Battery Mill, St Erth, with her maternal grandmother, Elizabeth Gilbart nee Huthnance.

After the 1841 census Thomas and Mary had a further three children. Altogether they had nine children, but one died as an infant in St Erth. 

In 1849 Thomas and Mary Edwards and their children emigrated to Victoria on the ‘Lysander’. The passenger list gives Thomas’s age as 53.  His occupation was recorded as wheelwright.

The dates on Thomas Edwards’s death certificate are consistent with those on the Lysander passenger manifest and the marriage record. 

Marriage of John and Jane Edwards, parents of Thomas

I am unable to find a marriage for a John Edwards and a Jane Gilbert or Gilbart. Some online trees have John Edwards as the husband of Jane Harvey, with their marriage on 21 June 1788 at Breage. On that marriage John is from Breage and a tinner by rank or profession, Jane Harvey is from Germoe. The witnesses were Thomas Edwards and Thomas Johns. Germoe is less than three miles west of Breage. I think this is the likely marriage of Thomas’s parents and that Thomas’s death certificate incorrectly gives his mother’s maiden name.

Siblings of Thomas Edwards

As stated above Thomas, child of John and Jane Edwards was baptised 6 July 1794 at Towednack, Cornwall. Between 1788 and 1820 there were only two other children baptised at Towednack to parents named John and Jane Edwards:

  • William baptised on 7 August 1796
  • Honour baptised on 21 October 1798

It seems unlikely that the John and Jane Edwards who were married in 1788 had only three children and that the first, Thomas, was born six years after marriage. I looked for other baptisms in south-west Cornwall for parents John and Jane Edwards in the period 1788 – 1820.

The neighbouring parish of Lelant also records baptisms of children with parents John and Jane Edwards. However, because some of these are in 1794, 1797, and 1798, thus overlapping with the children born to the Towednack family, it appears that the Lelant baptisms are for a separate family. 

On 26 December 1805 there is a baptism of a Sarah Edwards to John and Jane Edwards at Breage, 7 miles south-east of St Erth and 12 miles south-east of Towednack. It is also the marriage place of John Edwards and Jane Harvey.

There is a baptism of Charlotte Edwards on 4 May 1810 at Gulval. Gulval is just under five miles south of Towednack and just under 6 miles south-west of St Erth.

Some online family trees suggest a James Edwards born about 1805 is also the child of John and Jane Edwards, however I have not located a baptism for him with a mother named Jane in the indexes of the Cornwall Parish Records (Online Parish Clerk OPC) database. I have found a baptism for James in Germoe on 4 March 1804 with father John and mother Jenifred; Jenifred is possibly a variation of Jane. There was also an Anne Edwards, daughter of John and Jenifred baptised at Germoe on 2 May 1802.

I am puzzled though that there were apparently no children born to that marriage before 1794. However, the list of all Cornish baptisms on the OPC database to parents John and Jane Edwards has no other likely candidates for these baptisms in the period 1788 – 1794.

But there is a John Edwards baptised in Gulval on 23 November 1788. His mother’s name is not given. On 28 November 1790 there is a baptism at Madron, a village two miles west of Gulval, for Francis Edwards son of John, also without the mother’s name. On 24 June 1792 Jane Edwards, daughter of John, was baptised at Madron, again without the mother’s name. On 9 May 1806 Elizabeth, daughter of John (no mother named) was baptised at Penzance. She appears on the Madron register. I think it very likely that these four children are siblings of Thomas. 

Map of south-west Cornwall showing St Erth, Towednack, Breage, Germoe, Gulval, and Madron

To summarise, the possible family of John Edwards and Jane:

Birth yearNameBaptism dateBaptism placeParents
1788John23 November 1788GulvalJohn
1790Francis28 November 1790MadronJohn
1792Jane24 June 1792MadronJohn
1794Thomas6 July 1794TowednackJohn and Jane
1796William7 August 1796TowednackJohn and Jane
1798Honour21 October 1798TowednackJohn and Jane
1802Anne2 May 1802GermoeJohn and Jenifred
1804James4 March 1804GermoeJohn and Jenifred
1805Sarah26 December 1805BreageJohn and Jane
1810Charlotte4 March 1810GulvalJohn and Jane

Two of Thomas’s siblings, James and Charlotte, emigrated to Victoria, arriving in Portland on the Oithona in 1855 with their spouses and some of their children. Unfortunately, the death certificates for James and Charlotte give no details of their mother.

John, Francis, Jane, William, Honour, and Anne Edwards died in Cornwall. English death certificates do not record information about the deceased person’s parents and so will not help to confirm details of John and Jane Edwards.

I am yet to trace whether Sarah Edwards married or emigrated, and when she died.

Deaths of John and Jane Edwards

In May 1817 there was a mining accident at St Ives which killed John Edwards and injured one of his sons. The Royal Cornwall Gazette of 31 May 1817 reported:

A few days ago, John Edwards, of the parish of St. Erth, was killed, and his son for the present deprived of his eyesight by the untimely explosion of a hole in a mine near St. Ives. A person who called at the house of the survivor, was informed at the accident was occasioned by the use of an iron tamper, the powder and quills and a little rubbish had been put into the hole, but it had not been wet swabbed. It is to be hoped that this distressing event will deter all others from the use of such dangerous implements, and induce them to adopt such means of safety as [article ceases]

John Edwards was buried 24 May 1817 at Gulval. His residence was St Erth and he was 54 years old [so born about 1763].

On the 1841 census a Jane Edwards age 75 was living in St Erth in the household of William and Charlotte Thomas; Charlotte was Jane’s daughter. On 10 May 1842 Jane Edwards, age 76, was buried at St Erth.

Conclusion

The 1871 death certificate of Thomas Edwards seems reliable, though his mother’s maiden name appears wrong, possibly confused with his wife’s maiden name. His mother was probably  Jane Harvey who married Thomas’s father John Edwards in 1788. John and Jane Edwards lived in the area of Gulval, Towednack, and Germoe in south-west Cornwall. They had ten children .

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