Family Feud in Exeter!!

I’m still running through clearing out documents that are scattered across my virtual desktop. The files were amassed over the last few weeks while I was importing the Early Devon court records. Whenever an original document is available, I read and decipher the entire thing and I come up with an Abstract of the family members mentioned in it. That helps me to track certain dates for the loved ones.

Today, I read the Last Will and Testament of James Babb who was a Wine & Sprit Merchant in Exeter. So, I already was fond of him just knowing that much about him. The will is actually a copy that was likely made by Olive M. Moger. More about her later as it is a story for another day.

Her copies are very easy to read, unlike the originals that she would have copied them from. I initially started preparing my abstract but was taking special caution because James is one of those people who came to Exeter and started a life. Sadly, we didn’t know where he came from, so he was at the top of his tree.

As I was reading down the Will, I froze when I saw the following sentence.

There will be a good for nothing fellow make application for some of my property named John Babb Tailor bit I hope and trust that not one of my Executors will give him of any of family the worth of a pit as he has robed me of enough.

I went back to the top of the will and immediately started a full transcription to make sure I had a complete view of the document and James’ life.

Here is a copy of the Will followed by the full transcription. I’ll explain more below that. Note that there are 3 pages to the document.

James Babb Last Will & Testament
Wine & Sprit Merchant of Exeter
Died 02 Mar 1844
Will Proved 13 Mar 1844

This is the last Will and Testament of James Babb of New town St. Sidwell Exeter late of Teignmouth and Exmouth wine and sprit merchant. I give and bequeath to John Roberts, son of Mrs. Maria Roberts of the Globe Inn Bartholomew Yard, Exeter, 100 Pounds now in the Exeter Bank Messers Sanders & Co. I likewise give said John Roberts all my books and shelves.

I give and bequeath to Jane Roberts sister of the above John Roberts my gold watch and my portable writing desk with all its contents

and to William Henry Roberts, brother of the above named John and Jane my silver watch with chain and keys.

I likewise give and bequeath to the people with whom I lodge and die my bed and furniture and bedding and all my boxes except what I shall name to other friends.

I give and bequeath to John Pratt Jr of Whimple my black trunks with all its contents not to be opened in his abstance [sic]. I likewise give and bequeath to said John Pratt my Gun and Pistol and all the ammunition.

I give and bequeath to the people with him I lodge everything I possess at the time of my death that is not named above.

There will be a good for nothing fellow make application for some of my property named John Babb Tailor bit I hope and trust that not one of my Executors will give him of any of family the worth of a pit as he has robed me of enough.

I hereby nominate and appoint John Pratt Jr of Whimple and John Roberts of Bartholomew Yard Exeter to be Executors of this my last Will dated this either day of February one thousand eight hundred and forty four. The interest of money due from the Savings Bank and Messers Sanders & Co Banke to go towards my funeral expenses.

Signed James Babb

Signed sealed published and declared as and for the last Will and Testament of the said James Babb in the presence of us who in his presence and in the presence of each other have hereunto set our hands as Witnesses thereto on the 8 day of February 1844

Signed James Hughes, John Fryer – Witnesses

In Search of a Match

Armed with all this new contextual information about James, I set about trying to prove a connection to an existing Tree. Starting at the top of the document, I looked first for Maria Roberts and her children that are listed in the will. The information was inconclusive as the records all referred to Mary and not Maria. Swapping those two names is something I’ve seen with some frequency in these records, but a bigger problem arose when I found two families and neither of them seemed to be a good match. I also tried looking up the children’s baptism records, but also met with mixed results.

I skipped over John Pratt Jr and headed to our problem case John Babb, who is a tailor. In Family Tree Maker, I am able to conduct complex searches for data. I added all the John Babbs and then filtered out those that would have already been 100 years old in 1844 and those who were not yet born or had died before that date. This left me with 32 John Babbs who were all connected to Devon. Reviewing each one I had just one Tailor, who was born in Chudleigh. I only had his 1861 & 1871 Census’ on file and he was in Lambeth (which is now part of London, but at the time was in Surry County). I initially dismissed him, but then decided to take a deeper look and find his 1841 & 1851 Census’.

Although John was born in Chudleigh, he was already in St. Petrock Parish in Exeter by the 1841 Census. Moving forward to 1851 he is found in St. Sidwell Parish in Exeter. This is the same parish that our James Babb lives in at the time of his death in 1844. John, as I mentioned, was a tailor. In Chudleigh in 1823 he took in an apprentice by the name of John Burnett. He apparently carried this profession the remainder of his life.

Next up was to see if I could establish a connection between James and John. John didn’t have a brother named James, so I broadened my net and found he had an Uncle James, who’s trail went cold after his birth. James’ twin brother John is John the Tailor’s father. When checking the Uncle James’ record I noticed that I hadn’t yet downloaded his 1841 Census record. It revealed that this was the proper match. in 1841 Uncle James was living in Exmouth which is within Littleham Parish. He was a Wine Merchant by trade. You may recall that Exmouth is mentioned in James’ Will as one of his former residences.

Now satisfied that this is a good match, I merge the two James’ and notice another similarity.

Between 1824-1828 James was involved in a court case revolving around the Exeter Inn in Teignmouth. This was the other location mentioned in his Will. I don’t have copies of the images of the case yet, but it appeared in 5 different Quarter Sessions in West Teignmouth. You may recall that the first people he provided for in his will were Maria Roberts who operates the Globe Inn at Bartholomew Yard in Exeter and her children. I don’t see a connection to Maria and her children or to John Pratt Jr. From the will it is clear that James had no children that were still alive at the time of his death.

But today we have one less stray tree in the database and all it took was a feud to make it happen. It’s this level of forensic analysis that solves mysteries.

James has now joined the line we refer to as Devon Pedigree (Chudleigh 1665) which is a culmination of 3 trees from Ian’s old system. They are Devon Pedigree 14, 17 & 26.

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