Did my an­ces­tor marry his aunt?

Our team of ex­perts of­fers tips and in­spi­ra­tion, help­ing read­ers solve prob­lems in their re­search

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QWhy is my an­ces­tor, Sarah Butcher, de­scribed as be­ing the wife and aunt of her hus­band?

The bap­tism of Maria Butcher on the 9 Fe­bru­ary 1806, records her par­ents as “John Butcher ju­nior and Sarah his aunt”. Maria’s sib­lings in­clude Ge­orge (born 1807), Wil­liam (born 1810) and Su­sanna (born 1812), and they also have “John Butcher and Sarah his aunt” listed as their par­ents. Sarah Butcher was buried, age 55, on 2 July 1821, “the wife and aunt of John Butcher”. Jackie Wood­mansee, by email

AIt was, and is, al­low­able to marry one’s aunt and I am not sure why at­ten­tion was brought to this fact in the parish reg­is­ters. To find the ori­gin of the aunt it was log­i­cal to work back to her par­ents to see how they re­lated to John Butcher’s fam­ily. She was not aged 55 years when she died, as you sug­gested, but was some­what younger: 55 was the en­try num­ber in the Sparsholt burial reg­is­ter. The full en­try is: “Reg No 55, 2 July 1821, Sarah Butcher aged 38, the aunt and wife of John Butcher.”

This makes much more sense in the light of her chil­dren be­ing born be­tween 1807 and 1812. Al­le­ga­tions for mar­riages in Hamp­shire, Winch­ester, place the mar­riage of the cou­ple some miles away in Twyford: “John Butcher of Lain­ston, 21, labourer, and Sarah Wise of Twyford, 21, spin­ster at Twyford, 4 Oc­to­ber 1805.”

Now we know Sarah’s maiden sur­name and her year of birth, we can es­tab­lish her parent­age. This en­try ap­pears in East Strat­ton bap­tisms: “17 Novem­ber 1782, Sarah daugh­ter of Ge­orge and Avis Wise.”

John Butcher was the son of an­other John Butcher, as the suf­fix ‘ju­nior’ in­di­cated, and a search for the mar­riage of John Butcher se­nior to a Miss Wise turned up this mar­riage un­der This 1821 mar­riage al­le­ga­tion shows the union of John Butcher se­nior and Sarah Wise a vari­ant among the mar­riage records for Brown Can­dover: “23 Fe­bru­ary 1784, John Bestcher and Charlotte Wise.”

Charlotte was bap­tised in East Strat­ton on 30 De­cem­ber 1763, the daugh­ter of Ge­orge Wise. So, al­though there were some 19 years be­tween them, John Butcher ju­nior’s wife and mother were sis­ters and this made his wife his aunt. Ge­orge Wise mar­ried Avis Smith in 1777, so there may be at least one sec­ond mar­riage in­volved here. There may also be a sec­ond mar­riage on the Butcher/Bestcher side, too, as the dates only just fit. Fur­ther re­search will fill out the pic­ture. Stephen Thomas

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