There are way too many people on my family tree named William, Elizabeth, John, and Sarah. Oh, there’s the occasional Charlotte, Cleopheous, and Jabez, but honestly, I have four generations of William Flanders who married someone named Elizabeth. It’s ridiculous.
Shrewsbury Flanders would be different, I was sure of it. I mean, Shrewsbury wasn’t something you see every day, right? The Shrewsbury Flanders in my tree was born in 1817 in Little Downham, Cambridgeshire, England, and was the younger half-brother of my g-g-g-grandfather William Flanders (b.1811). Yes, another William. They shared their father, Smith Flanders (1777-1846), but had different mothers. William’s mother was Smith’s first wife, Elizabeth Reed (1784-1815), while Shrewsbury’s mother was second wife Sarah Lee (1786-1874). He was the eldest of this “second family.”
Go back a generation and we hit the name jackpot: Smith Flanders’ parents were John Flanders (yes, another one) and Sarah Shrewsbury! It seems obvious and logical that one of their grandchildren was named for his paternal grandmother. But wait! More sleuthing in parish baptismal records on FindMyPast uncovered a William Shrewsbury Flanders born in 1775 to John and Sarah. Again, the name made sense.
Shrewsbury Flanders married Mary Ann Dewey on 7 December 1830 in Littleport, Cambridgeshire. But wait, that’s wrong. Shrewsbury was only 13 at the time! What’s going on here? Shrewsbury Flanders also married Mary Elizabeth Wells in Feb 1842 in Banham, Norfolk, England – but this Shrewsbury lived in Methwold, not Littleport. Did Mary Ann die before he married Mary Elizabeth?
Let’s look at some other records. If the Parish Records can be believed, Shrewsbury Flanders had 19 children from Mary Ann and Mary Elizabeth – several Williams, Georges, Marys, and Elizabeths because so many died as infants. But still, something was very wrong.
So I went back and did more searching for Shrewsbury, changing my search strategies, and this time found two baptismal records: Shrewsbury #1, son of John and Elizabeth, was baptized at age 3 on 4 Jun 1811 in Downham, Cambridgeshire. Shrewsbury #2, son of Smith and Sarah, was baptized on 25 Dec 1817 in Littleport, Cambridgeshire. They were different people! That should have been obvious had I approached this in a more systematic way but still, it explained all the inconsistencies.
John Flanders and Sarah Shrewsbury had five children: John, William Shrewsbury, Smith, Susannah, and Thomas. Both John and Smith had sons named Shrewsbury, who were first cousins and grandsons of Sarah Shrewsbury. They were born nine years apart and died one year apart: John’s son Shrewsbury (#1) died in 1895, Smith’s son Shrewsbury (#2) died in 1896 (the GRO index helped clarify which was which, since it gave age at death). In between these Shrewsburys farmed land in parishes separated by only 8 miles and were probably part of each other’s lives.
Now if only Mary Ann and Mary Elizabeth had had different names!