Sunday, 20 September 2009

Jabez Brown (1843-1921) Railway clerk of Litchurch, Derby

Each Saturday night the indefatigable Randy Seaver of Genea-Musings posts an article inviting fellow Geneabloggers to join him in some fun, usually a little exercise on the lighter side of family history. This informal but regular event is a popular one in the geneablogging community but, for one reason or another, I haven't yet got around to participating. This weekend's challenge is what Randy calls "Ahntenafel Roulette," and I thought I'd get in on the act for the first time, albeit a few days late. So here goes.

The assignment is as follows:
(1) Divide the age of your father (or the age that your father would be if he were alive today) by four, and round the result off to the nearest year,
(2) consult your Ahtenafel using your favourite genealogy software to find the ancestor whose number corresponds to the answer arrived at in (1), and
(3) write three things about this ancestor in a blog article.

Five-generation Ancestor Chart for C.D.B. Payne
with Ancestor number 20 (Jabez Brown) highlighted

My dad would have been eighty-one this year, which produces a rounded integer of 20. Because of the regular and reproducible manner in which the Ahtenafel system works, number 20 is the paternal grandfather of one's paternal grandmother, one of eight possible great-great-grandfathers. In my case his name was Jabez Brown and he has been one of the more elusive of my Victorian ancestors.

Image © and collection of Charles Bernard Payne
Jabez Brown (1843-1921) of Rosehill, Derby
Undated paper print (109 x 159 mm) by unidentified photographer
Image © and collection of Charles Bernard Payne

My aunt Bunnie believes that the subject of this photograph is our ancestor Jabez Brown. The reverse of the undated print is annotated:
Mother died Aug/14
Father died 14 Feby/21
I have recently established from the acquisition of their death certificates that Jabez Brown died on 14 February 1921 and his wife Annie died on 18 August 1914. The implication is that Jabez and Annie's son Frederick Montague Brown (1870-1960) - my great-grandfather - wrote the inscription referring to his parents, and it therefore seems very likely that the subject of the photograph was Fred's father. This rather battered paper print is the only known surviving portrait that we have of Jabez and, sadly, we have none of his wife at all.

Image © Brett Payne
What I knew about Jabez, c.1999

Ten years ago I would have struggled to find three solid facts concerning Jabez Brown about which I could write authoritatively. My original information came from my father, who as a "steam age," pre-computer/internet family historian had created a card index system to document and rationalize the family history. Some of his material about the Brown family had originated with his cousin Gillian through correspondence in the 1990s. All we knew about Jabez was his name, that he worked for the railways, and a possible death date. As he died some years before my father was born, my dad had no first hand knowledge of him, and didn't recall his mother speaking much about her grandfather either.

Image © and courtesy of the LDS Church
Jabez Brown and family, 14 Rose Hill St, Litchurch, Derbyshire
1881 Census-As Enumerated Microfiche: NA Ref. RG11-3402-14-21
Image © and courtesy of the LDS Church

Those of you who have been researching for over a decade or so may recall the microfiche version of the 1881 Census (produced by the Federation of Family History Societies in conjunction with the Genealogical Society of Utah). A kind fellow genealogist found Jabez and family and extracted the information for me that he was born in Dent (Yorkshire) around 1843, that he was married to Annie, with whom he had four children, that they were living at 14 Rose Hill Street, Litchurch (near Derby) and he was working as a railway clerk. And that was about it. From the birth places of their children I deduced that they had previously lived in Nottingham and Lincoln. I wondered if he had moved around while working for the railways, as Lincoln and Nottingham were both main line stations of the company Midland Railway, which had its headquarters in Derby. However, I had no real evidence to work with.

Image © and courtesy of the LDS Church
Jabez & Annie Brown, 50 Sale St, Derby, Derbyshire
1901 Census NA Ref. RG13-3219-134-19-125
Image © The National Archives and courtesy of

Ten years later and things have changed considerably, mostly courtesy of the internet and the improved means of genealogical research that it has enabled. I now have images of the original census sheets for the census every decade from 1851, when Jabez was still living with his parents, until 1901 - see image above - by which time his own children had all left home.

Image © and courtesy of the General Register Office
Certified copy of marriage certificate for
Jabez Brown & Annie Hazard, 8 October 1865,
St Peter-at-Arches, Lincoln
Image © and courtesy of the General Register Office

I also have Jabez Brown's birth, marriage and death certificates, all obtained from the General Register Office using their certificate ordering service and reference numbers from FreeBMD. The census and BMD information alone has provided an excellent framework of dates and locations on which to hang the story of his life. I would find it very difficult to restrict myself to only three things that I now know about him, so I won't bother to hold back in sharing the picture that I've built up about Jabez and his family.

Image © and courtesy of Steven Watson
Dent village & St Andrew's church, Cumbria
Image © Steven Watson and courtesy of his Flickr photostream

Jabez Brown was born in the small and picturesque village of Dent, situated in the West Yorkshire dales, on Tuesday 18 April 1843. He was the youngest of ten children of a sawyer William Brown (1795-1867) and his wife Dorothy née Parrington (1797-1858). By the time of his birth his two oldest brothers had already married and left home, although they were still living nearby in the village. Then, in the late 1840s, the entire Brown family moved, lock, stock and barrel to the town of Lancaster. I don't know why they moved, but I can surmise that it was for economic reasons - most internal migrations in mid-Victorian England were towards better employment prospects. Presumably the town of Lancaster was booming and needed plenty of sawn timber, and a skilled sawyer was no doubt in more demand than in a small Yorkshire village.

View Brown family migration in a larger map
Click on the yellow buildings for details of their movements

By 1861 Jabez (aged 17) and his older sister Margaret were living with their widowed father at 3 Upper Robert Street in Lancaster. Jabez is shown in the census working as a railway clerk, and it is presumed that he was employed by Midland Railways which, according to contemporary trade directories, served this Lancashire town.

Image © and courtesy of The Roy F Burrows Midlands Collection Trust
Silk map of Midland Railway Network, undated
Lancaster, Lincoln, Nottingham & Derby highlighted
Image © and courtesy of The Roy F Burrows Midlands Collection Trust

Some time during the next four years Jabez moved to Lincoln (Lincolnshire), which was also on the Midland Railways network. He married Annie Hazard (1835-1914) at St Peter-at-Arches, Lincoln in October 1865; the marriage certificate shows his occupation mnerely as "clerk" and states that he was living at 15 Park Street. Their first son George was born at Lincoln in January 1867, but between then and 1870 they moved to Nottingham.

Image © Reg Baker and courtesy of Picture the Past
Ryehill Cottages, Kirke White Street East, Exchange, Nottingham, June 1973
Image © Reg Baker and courtesy of Picture the Past
Image Ref. NTGM009920

They lived at number 18 Rye Hill Cottages, in a close on the south side of Kirke White Street, Exchange Ward, and that is where Annie gave birth to twin boys named Christopher Dickenson and Frederick Montague Brown (my great-grandfather) on 17 April 1870. The actual building where they lived was probably one of the Victorian terraced houses shown in the photograph above, taken a century later, just before they were demolished under a 1970s clearance scheme. It was located in the former King's Meadow area, not far from Nottingham's Midland Railway station. The census of a year later shows Jabez again working as a railway clerk. A daughter Maggie and another son John Henry were born in 1872 and 1875, but sadly the elder of the twins Christopher died in late 1872, aged two-and-a-half.

Image © Reg Baker and courtesy of Picture the Past
Junction of Rose Hill & Madeley Streets, Litchurch, Derby, c. 1980
Image © John S. Grant and courtesy of Picture the Past
Image Ref. DRBY002084

Some time in the twelve months prior to November 1880, the Brown family moved to Derby and into a house at 14 Rose Hill Street, Litchurch. Jabez again described himself to the 1881 Census enumerator as a railway clerk.

Image © and courtesy of GoogleMaps
The former Brown residence, 50 Sale Street, Litchurch, Derby
Image © and courtesy of GoogleMaps
Click on image for interactive Streetview version

In June 1887 Jabez Brown stood unsuccessfully for election for the post of Relieving Officer with the Derby Board of Guardians (The Derby Mercury, 22 Jun 1887). The Derby Borough Electoral Registers show them living at the Rose Hill Street address until October 1887, after which they moved to 50 Sale Street, also in the suburb of Litchurch and only a few blocks away. By census night of 5 April 1891 all three sons - George (23), Fred (20) and John (15) - had become railway clerks too! This was the last census that would find all of the family together in one house. George married a year later and moved to Station Road, Borrowash (just east of Derby). Fred married my great grandmother Edith Newman Miller at Mugginton in 1894; they settled first at 18 St Giles Road, Pear Tree, Derby, and in the early 1900s at 121 Crewe Street, Normanton. John became a commercial traveller and moved to Nottingham, where he married prior to 1901. It is not known what happened to daughter Maggie Brown.

Image © Reg Baker and courtesy of Picture the Past
Derby Union Workhouse, Uttoxeter New Road, Derby, c.1908
Postcard by Frank W. Scarratt
Image © and courtesy of Picture the Past
Image Ref. DRBY001173

Annie Brown died at 60 Holcombe Street, Litchurch on 18 August 1914. Jabez's death certificate shows that he died on 14 February 1921 at Boundary House, Derby. Boundary House was the former Derby Workhouse in Uttoxeter Road. After 1948 it was known as the Manor Hospital, and it was where my grandfather died in 1975 too. I can remember my father telling me that it still had all the old connotations of being the former workhouse, and my grandfather had a dread of going in there when he got sick.

Instead of restricting myself to three things that I know concerning my great-great-grandfather Jabez, I'm going to list three things that I still want to find out about him. The first of these concerns some Crimean War medals that my father recalled seeing in the Brown family household when he was a boy - that is, the family of his maternal grandparents Fred & Edith Brown - together with clasps for several of the battles. He didn't know who had earned them, but presumed it was a member of the Brown family. Sadly, nobody seems to know what has happened to them. The Crimean War took place between 1853 and 1856, when Jabez was aged 10 to 13, and it seems rather unlikely that he was the one, unless he was perhaps a drummer boy, but who else in that branch of the family could it have been? What happened to the medals, and who earned them? I hope to answer that question one day.

Image © Daniel Richardson and courtesy of
Nottingham Road Cemetery, Derby
Image © Daniel Richardson and courtesy of
Licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

The next thing I'd like to know is where Jabez and Annie Brown are buried. The location seems likely to have been the Nottingham Road Cemetery in Derby, about which I have written previously, since several other of my Derby family were buried there during that time frame. Created in 1855, it was the first municipal cemetery in Derby and is still used to this day. The cemetery registers are kept on site, but sadly they don't appear to have either an online presence or an email address. Perhaps they are wary of the flood of enquiries such a move might precipitate.

Lastly, I'd like to able to confirm that Jabez Brown's employer from the early days in Lancaster until his retirement was indeed, as I have always assumed, Midland Railways. An article in The Derby Mercury in June 1887 stated that he had "been a collector on the Midland Railway for 25 years," giving a start date of around 1865, when he would have been about 22 years old. However the 1861 Census, taken four years earlier, also showed him working as a railway clerk. In January this year, my cousin Lynne Tedder from Alberta sent me some photocopied Midland Railway staff records dating from 1881 to 1906 for George William Brown which she had very kindly obtained on a visit to the National Archives at Kew, London. However, she could find nothing for William's father Jabez or William's brothers.


Midland Railway Staff Records for George William Brown, 12 Feb 1881 to 14 Mar 1906, National Archives, Kew, London, NA Ref. RAIL 491/1068, Courtesy of Lynne Tedder

Derby Borough Electoral Registers 1877-1900. Derbyshire County Record Office, Matlock, Derbyshire, England. Accessed on microfilms from the LDS Church Tauranga Family History Centre

1881 Census-As Enumerated Microfiche from the LDS Church Courtesy of Alan S. Flint

General Register Office (GRO) Index to Births, Marriages & Deaths from FreeBMD

UK Census 1841-1901 Indexed images from

19th Century British Library Newspapers from Gale CENGAGE Learning
- The Derby Mercury

Slater (1869) Royal National Commercial Directory of Cumberland, Lancashire and Westmoreland from

The Workhouse web site, & the Osmaston Road Workhouse, Derby, Derbyshire

Seddon, Peter (2007) Nottingham Road Cemetery - Derbeians at Rest. Bygone Derbyshire.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Brett,
    Coming to Scanfest tomorrow?

    Brilliant article (as usual) you show off! LOL I learn so much from your work, research and writing style. Thanks.



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