This site is a work-in-progress. There is a massive amount to cover. I have included both male and female lines, and some go back 30 generations. Keep coming back for more.
I have numbered the generations working backwards from my own as (1)
JOHN SAMPSON and MARY EDWORTHY (6)
1774 John son of Richard & Mary Sampson was baptized the thirteenth day of November.
This would make him about the same age as his wife, which was typical for working-class couples at this period. The fact that he called his first son Richard is also consistent with the Devon custom of men giving their father’s name to their eldest son.
If so, then he was the second of four children. He appears to have grown up in a family with an uncertain income, but not in poverty. His father varied between having his own farm and working as a labourer for others. John would have been 13 and out at work in 1787-8, when his father is first mentioned in the accounts of the Overseers of the Poor as receiving money for being ‘in distress’.
At some point John moved a little way south from the hill parish of Meshaw to West Worlington in the valley of the Little Dart. The villages are five miles apart. There are no other Sampsons in the West Worlington register. Since his parents remained in Meshaw for a time, he appears to have moved on his own to take up employment, or to take on the tenancy of a farm. When he married Mary Edworthy , he had been there long enough to be registered as ‘of this parish’.
By 1776 her family were using West Worlington church for baptisms, and this remained their home.
Mary grew up in poverty. Throughout the 1780s her parents were designated as paupers in the parish register. Since it was only necessary to record this at baptisms over a short period they may well have continued to need parish relief afterwards.
A contributing cause of their poverty would have been the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic War, which disrupted trade, especially wool exports on which Devon depended, and drove up food prices.
John and Mary married in 1798, in their mid-twnties. This was the year Nelson defeated the French fleet at the Battle of the Nile.
Marriage. West Worlington.
17 April 1798. John Sampson of this parish and Mary Edworthy of the same parish .
Married in this Church by Banns this seventeenth Day of April in the Year One Thousand Seven Hundred and Ninety Eight by me Jas May Minister
For the signatures, ‘ John’ is quite neatly written, but ‘ Sampson’ looks like the straggling hand of a young child who hasn’t achieved joined-up writing. It may be that the parson helped him out by writing the first part. This is followed by ‘ the mark of Mary + Edworthy’ . It is witnessed by ‘ the mark of Rich d Edworthy’ and Abraham Greenslade . Richard Edworthy was married a year before them and was probably Mary’s brother. Abraham Greenslade witnesses many marriages and may be a sexton or churchwarden.
They had eight children baptised in West Worlington.
Baptisms: West Worlington:
1798. Sarah, Daughter of John & Mary Sampson. Oct r 28th.
1800. May 18 th Anne, Daughter of John & Mary Sampson.
1805 Mar 17 th Mary, Daughter of John & Mary Sampson
1807 Feb ry 15 th Elizabeth, Daughter of John & Mary Sampson
1808. Apr l 24 th John, Son of John & Mary Sampson.
1810 Oct r 7 th Frances, Daughter of John and Mary Sampson
1812 Jan y 26 th William, Son of John and Mary Sampson
1814 Nov 13 Jane, daughter of John and Mary Sampson, husbandman.
At this last baptism, John is described as a husbandman. In the 19 th century, this can be another term for an agricultural labourer, But his father’s will shows that John had prospered and had his own farm.
The same year that Jane was born, in May 1814, John’s father, Richard , drew up his will. He was then a yeoman farmer in Chulmleigh. He appointed John and his younger brother Richard as executors. They too are described as yeomen.
The money in the house and the proceeds of selling the livestock was to be invested to provide John’s mother Mary with an income. After Mary’s death, this money was to be shared between the two sons. The farm, for the remainder of the tenancy, went not to John, but to Richard junior. This may indicate that John was already well enough off not to need the farm, which might otherwise have gone to the elder son. Or perhaps his brother was already living there and helping his father. John’s daughter Sarah was given Richard’s clock and case. This is the only one of Richard’s possessions which is individually named.
In February 1815, four months before the Battle of Waterloo, John and his brother Richard, went to the archdeacon’s court in Barnstaple to prove their father’s will as his executors.
In 1822 John and Mary’s daughter Anne married Samuel Price, Husbandman.
Their oldest son Richard also became a husbandman, first in the parish of Chulmleigh, where he married Mary Mathews . A husbandman is a lower status than a yeoman, indicating that he farmed only a few acres.
The family were still in an era of relative stability, though farming and the wool trade were in steep decline. Those who grew corn profited during the Napoleonic wars, which ended in 1815 with the Battle of Waterloo. But North Devon was a sheep farming area, and the wool trade was hit by the difficulty of exporting.
As he grew older, John’s status declined. Still, John and Mary were able to stay in one village for the births of several children. As the 19th century developed, settled husbandmen with a small plot of land became itinerant farm labourers, moving from farm to farm with successive hirings. Their son Richard was one such, reduced to an agricultural labourer and moving between farms in the parishes of West Worlington, Cheldon and Chulmleigh.
Anne’s husband, Samuel Price, Husbandman, was also an agricultural labourer by 1841. This couple were then living with Richard and his family in Cheldon.
1841 Census. Bishops Nympton. Village.
John Sampson 65 Ag lab Y
Mary Sampson 65 Y
William Sampson 25 Ag lab Y
Eliza Sampson 3 Y
These names and ages would also fit with a different family who had a son in South Molton. The names are common ones, but allowing for the rounding down of ages in this census, William could be John and Mary’s youngest child. Eliza would presumably be his daughter, and we may assume that his young wife had died.
There is a burial for Mary Sampson, aged 76, on 20 Mar 1848 in West Worlington. A note on the transcript mentions Byshop Nympton, which may have been Mary’s residence when she died.
The 1851 census for Bishops Nympton shows J Sampson , Father-in-law, as a 79-year-old widower and a Pauper Ag Lab. He is said to have been born in Chulmleigh, not Meshaw, but his son-in-law may have been mistaken about that. Or John himself may have been unclear. His father’s settlement certificate says that over the years including the time of John’s birth, he “lived at several other places”.
John is living with John Puncher, also an agricultural labourer, his wife and five children. John Puncher’s wife is J Puncher, born in Worlington in 1813-14, which matches John Sampson’s youngest daughter Jane. She married John Puncher in Bishops Nympton in 1839.
The 1851 census shows that Anne Price was now a widow, in employment as a Nurse Keeper to the family of John Bragg, who farmed 200 acres at Barton, West Worlington. John junior was an agricultural labourer in Bishops Nympton.
John’s death is probably that of John Sampson , registered in the South Molton District in the 4 th quarter of 1855.
Next Generation: 5. SAMPSON-MATHEWS
Previous Generations: 7. SAMPSON-NICHOLS
The search for a farm labourer
ancestor leads to a murder.