Michelle Dennis re­turns to her Lon­don an­ces­tors, to show how she found out about their work from dif­fer­ent sources…

Your Family History - - Contents - By Michelle Dennis

Michelle Dennis looks at the al­ter­na­tives to ap­pren­tice­ship records that she found use­ful in her re­search.

Michelle is a fam­ily his­to­rian and free­lance writer liv­ing in Mel­bourne, Aus­tralia. She has been re­search­ing her fam­ily his­tory for the past 30 years.

For­mal ap­pren­tice­ship in­den­tures for our an­ces­tors are not al­ways easy to find, un­less passed down through the fam­ily, and al­ter­na­tive doc­u­ments are not al­ways held in the places you may ex­pect. A case in point in­volves my Lon­don an­ces­tor, sur­geon Sam­son Davis, and his gun­maker brother Joseph Davis.

Joseph (1807–1884) and Sam­son (1818–1860) were born in Aldgate, Lon­don to par­ents Sa­muel Sam­son Davis, a gun­lock maker, and Betty Hol­brook. Joseph mar­ried El­iza Hodges in 1831 at St Leonard, Foster Lane. They had six chil­dren to­gether, and the bap­tismal abodes of his chil­dren were given as Great Prescott Street and Cham­ber Street. His Sun Fire In­sur­ance pol­icy - ob­tained from Lon­don Metropoli­tan Archives - con­firms Joseph’s res­i­dence as be­ing 62 Cham­ber Street, Good­man’s Fields, in 1835. Pre­sum­ably Joseph learned his gun­mak­ing trade from his fa­ther, pos­si­bly with­out any for­mal ap­pren­tice­ship doc­u­men­ta­tion be­ing cre­ated. I there­fore de­cided to look else­where to piece to­gether his early train­ing and ca­reer.

Firstly, I con­tacted the Wor­ship­ful Com­pany of Gun­mak­ers ( www.gun­mak­ers. org.uk), in the hope of mem­ber­ship or ap­pren­tice­ship records. Suc­cess! In the guild mem­ber­ship ad­mis­sion reg­is­ter, Joseph Davis ap­pears as be­ing ad­mit­ted into the free­dom of the com­pany by re­demp­tion (pay­ment) in 1845. But un­for­tu­nately, no for­mal ap­pren­tice­ship in­den­ture was recorded.


De­spite not find­ing him in guild ap­pren­tice­ship reg­is­ters, there are two other im­por­tant places to look that re­quired their orig­i­nal doc­u­ment com­pil­ers to con­sult (and pos­si­bly copy) pri­vate ap­pren­tice­ship in­den­tures at the time. Firstly, court records were cre­ated to doc­u­ment the set­tling of ap­pren­tice/ mas­ter dis­putes and can be a real bonus if your an­ces­tor does ap­pear. They may list the ap­pren­tice and fa­ther or mas­ter’s name, trade and res­i­dence, term or length of in­den­ture and other par­ties (such as the wife or busi­ness

part­ner of the mas­ter). They may dis­cuss the con­di­tions and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of the ap­pren­tice and mas­ter, and some­times the fail­ing of a con­di­tion may have pro­voked the ap­pren­tice end­ing up in court.

Also in­cluded may be the type of breach (mar­riage, ab­scond­ing, mis­con­duct or not com­pleted the term of in­den­ture) or that cloth­ing or food was promised in the in­den­ture, but not pro­vided by the mas­ter. It will give the out­come of the court process, such as pun­ish­ment or re­lease, or sign­ing over the ap­pren­tice to a new mas­ter. It may in­clude a tes­ti­mo­nial of char­ac­ter of the ap­pren­tice or mas­ter, and as­so­ci­ated in­quest pa­pers if the ap­pren­tice or mas­ter died dur­ing the term.

Se­condly, tax records such as the UK, Reg­is­ter of Du­ties Paid for Ap­pren­tices’ In­den­tures, 1710–1811 can also give clues to our an­ces­tors’ trade. Ap­pren­tice­ship Duty Reg­is­ters were com­piled by tax of­fi­cials to record the duty paid on pre­mi­ums. They will in­clude in­for­ma­tion such as who paid the duty, the mas­ters full name, res­i­dence and trade, the ap­pren­tice full name, the pay­ment date when the in­den­ture was reg­is­tered, the amount of duty paid, and some­times the abode and oc­cu­pa­tions of fa­thers.

But nei­ther Joseph or Sam­son ap­peared in court or tax records, so I had to look else­where. I found three other al­ter­na­tive sources to for­mal ap­pren­tice­ship in­den­tures. Firstly, I ob­tained an Apothe­caries’ Hall doc­u­ment from the Wor­ship­ful So­ci­ety of Apothe­caries ( www.

apothe­caries.org) about Sam­son Davis. This pro­vided a wealth of in­for­ma­tion – his full name and trade; street ad­dress; de­tails of his guardian (his fa­ther was de­ceased, so a brother was named); his mas­ter’s full name, ad­dress and oc­cu­pa­tion; his ap­pren­tice­ship term (five years); his in­den­ture date; a tes­ti­mo­nial of mo­ral char­ac­ter; his age and bap­tism date; de­tails of his du­ties (such as at­tend­ing Univer­sity Col­lege Hospi­tal lec­tures for 12 months, nam­ing in­di­vid­ual lec­tures and lec­tur­ers); the date of qual­i­fy­ing for Li­cen­ti­ate So­ci­ety of Apothe­caries; and records of ad­mis­sion into Free­dom of the City of Lon­don. Minute books may in­clude en­rol­ment of in­den­tures, mis­be­hav­ing or ab­scond­ing ap­pren­tices, and new mas­ters.

I also found Joseph’s 1845 Free­man pa­pers on Find­my­past (as part of the City of Lon­don Gun­mak­ers’ Com­pany Free­doms and Ad­mis­sions 1656–1936 records). Th­ese con­tained in­for­ma­tion in­clud­ing the ap­pren­tice’s full name, ad­dress, and trade; his fa­ther or guardian’s name, trade and full street ad­dress; the com­pany name, ad­mis­sion date and place; the type of en­try - re­demp­tion (pay­ment), pat­ri­mony (in­her­i­tance), servi­tude (ap­pren­tice­ship), or pre­sen­ta­tion (distin­guished ser­vice to the com­pany or city); the premium amount (although my an­ces­tor’s fa­ther was a gun­maker in the Tower of Lon­don too, Joseph paid 46s 8d to be­come a free­man by re­demp­tion in 1845); and sworn state­ments by the ap­pli­cant that he was over 21 and not an alien - in­clud­ing his sig­na­ture and wit­nesses.

My third re­source was the his­toric news­pa­per. News­pa­pers can con­tain ac­counts of court pro­ceed­ings in­volv­ing, for ex­am­ple, run­away ap­pren­tices; ad­ver­tise­ments for new ap­pren­tices; ad­verts by a fa­ther or guardian seek­ing an ap­pren­tice­ship for the child; in­quests into the mal­treat­ment of an ap­pren­tice lead­ing to death; and lo­cal news ar­ti­cles that in­clude men­tion of ap­pren­tices. I found a re­port about my an­ces­tor, Joseph Davis, in an 1842 edi­tion of the Morn­ing Chron­i­cle. He was com­plain­ing about the mis­con­duct of his two ap­pren­tices. He stated, “they were neg­li­gent, de­voted a great deal of their time to ‘spout­ing’ and talk­ing of the­atri­cal pro­duc­tions and re­hears­ing plays”. Joseph took them to court as they both ap­peared in a play with­out his per­mis­sion. The judge rep­ri­manded the the­atre owner for let­ting ap­pren­tices ap­pear in his pro­duc­tion. His Wor­ship di­rected that they be taken to the near­est bar­ber shop and be “shorn of their flow­ing locks” as pun­ish­ment for their be­hav­iour. The youths had no ob­jec­tions.

Joseph Davis was ad­mit­ted into the Gun­mak­ers' Com­pany in 1845

Joseph Davis was men­tioned in a case re­ported in the Morn­ing Chron­i­cle in 1842

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