The Circumstance of Sarah Mather’s Birth

I have always wondered about Sarah Mather’s birth.  Her parents, James MATHER (1821-1881) and Fanny CROSS (1822-1867), were unmarried when she was born and her father wasn’t even listed on her birth certificate.  However, both parents were listed on her baptism and they did get married later on.

Over the past couple of weeks I have been researching further details of the Cross family with the help of two recently discovered wills. From my previous research I only knew that Fanny’s father, James CROSS (1785-1855) had been baptized in Bury, Lancashire (at the parish church of St Mary) in 1785 1 and his parents were John CROSS (-1838) and Rachel PICKSTONES (1760-1840).  James’ wife was called Ann but I could find no record of his marriage to her.  James and Ann had six children: Ann, John, Rachel, Fanny, James and Mary.  Witnesses to James and Ann’s deaths (in 1855 2 and 1853 3) were listed as Betty Yates and her son William.  Betty’s maiden name was Cross and family relationships on census entries suggested that Betty was either James’ daughter or sister – but of course I could not find a suitable baptism for Betty Cross and she was not among his children born to his wife Ann.

The Children of James Cross
The Children of James Cross

The first will I found was for James CROSS (1785-1855) himself 4.  The two main beneficiaries of this will were James’ two sons John and James.  James was bequeathed a house “which I purchased from John Smethurst and my late brother John Cross and now in the occupation of James Horsefield situate in Longfield in Prestwich (Lancashire)”.  John was bequeathed a similar property “one of the houses devised to me by my late father and now in the occupation of Humphrey Harvey situate in Longfield in Prestwich”.  Now I knew that James had a brother called John, but the will did not provide the identity of James’ father.

Further research revealed that James parents, John CROSS (-1838) and Rachel PICKSTONES (1760-1840), were married in Bury on 8th August 1786 5 (about 15 months after James birth) and had seven more children after the marriage:  Ann, Fanny, Jane, John, Thomas, Samuel, William. James’ father John died in 1838 6 and his mother, Rachel died in 1840 7.  John was a farmer at Barlow Fold just south of Bury in Lancashire.  Death duties were paid when both John and Rachel died as they are both listed in the Index to Death Duty Registers 1796-1903 (IR27) held at the National Archives.  I am not sure if wills survive for either John or Rachel.

Now I knew that James did have a brother called John.  James and his brothers, John and Thomas were all farmers like their father.  John seems to have inherited the Barlow Fold farm from his father.  Thomas had a farm at Heaton Fold nearby and James farmed at Hollins which was also nearby.

James’ will refers to his “late brother John Cross”.  In fact James’ brother, John, did not die until 1866, eleven years after James’ death.  The second will I obtained was that of John CROSS (1793-1866) who died on 17th May 1866 at Barlow Fold farm.  Probate was granted on 30th October 1866 8.

James’ brother, John, was quite wealthy at his death – probate was granted for effects under £8,000 (in comparison James and his brother Thomas, both fellow farmers, had estates valued at £300 and £641 respectively).  John and his wife Mary did not have any of their own children.  They did, however, bring up the daughter of John’s sister, Fanny (who died after her birth) a girl called Fanny Holland.

Because the value of John Cross’ estate was quite large, the will dated 18th January 1864, is long and detailed.  His executors were named as John CROSS (1828-), nephew and son of Thomas CROSS (1795-1882), and his friends John Nuttall, shopkeeper of Barlow Fold and Walker Hutton, farmer of Ainsworth. As expected there were bequests to his adopted daughter Fanny Holland (now the wife of John Hall Hampson, farmer of Radcliffe), his executors and other family members.

But the highlight of John Cross’ will for me was the following:  “among the issues of my deceased brother James Cross, Betty Yates wife of James Yates and a natural child of said late brother James Cross”. Now I knew where Betty (Cross) Yates fitted into the family.

The Children of James Cross (now with his daughter Betty)
The Children of James Cross (now with his daughter Betty)

What I also now knew was that it was not so strange (and seemingly quite acceptable) that Sarah Mather, daughter of James Mather and Fanny Cross, had been born out of wedlock.  Her own father had been born before his parent’s marriage and her aunt was also born out of wedlock.

  1. Baptisms (PR) England. St Mary, Bury, Lancashire. 26 May 1785 (Birth: 22 May 1785). CROSS, James. Drm/2/43 Bishops Transcripts. Collection: Lancashire, England, Church of England Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1538-1812. accessed 18 June 2016.
  2. Deaths (CR) England. Pilkington, Bury, Lancashire. 14 December 1855. CROSS, James. Entry No. 69.
  3. Deaths (CR) England. Pilkington, Bury, Lancashire. 24 March 1853. CROSS, Ann. Entry No. 300.
  4. Testamentary records. England. 24 January 1856 (died 14 December 1855). CROSS, James. Will and Grant of Administration. WCW/1295A/16. Lancashire Archives.
  5. Marriages (PR) England. St Mary, Bury, Lancashire. 8 August 1786. CROSS, Jon and PICKSTONES, Rachel. Bishops Transcripts. Collect: Lancashire, England, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1754-1936. accessed 18 June 2016.
  6. Burials (PR) England. St Mary, Bury, Lancashire. 8 August 1838. CROSS, John. Page 24 Entry: 231. Register transcription. Collection: St Mary Bury Register: Burials 1837-1847 : accessed 24 June 2016.
  7. Burials (PR) England. St Mary, Bury, Lancashire. 2 Dec 1840. CROSS, Rachel. Drm/2/53 Page 136 Entry 1086. Bishops transcripts. Collection: Lancashire, England, Church of England Deaths and Burials, 1813-1986. : accessed 24 June 2016.
  8. Testamentary records. England. 30 October 1866 (died 17 May 1866). CROSS, John. Will and Grant of Administration. : accessed 18 June 2016.