When I found my 3x Great Grandfather William Freeman in the 1851 census, I was surprised to see that his eldest son, John, was born in Stockport, Cheshire. The family had no connections there and their ancestry seemed well rooted in the Netherseal/Overseal area of South Derbyshire.
I’d not been able to find a marriage for William and his wife Elizabeth around the Derbyshire area, so I expanded my family search to Stockport. If their first child was born there, perhaps they married there. And indeed they did, marrying on the 4th July 1813; William’s occupation is noted as a cordwainer, another name for boot & shoe maker, which fits with the other information I have for him. The record also gives me Elizabeth’s maiden name – Shakespeare.
I also found a baptism for John Freeman in Stockport in May 1814 – at The Tabernacle Baptist Chapel. I’d previously had no idea that there was a baptist connection in the family. The next child born to William and Elizabeth was my 3x Great Grandfather, another William and he was baptised in Burton-on-Trent, much closer to their home turf. Actually, as I’m typing this I’ve realised that he was baptised in a Baptist Chapel! So there was a connection, I just hadn’t registered it!
I decided to switch my search to my newly found Shakespeare family, to see if there was a Baptist and Stockport connections with them.
Looking on Family Search I found a baptism record for Elizabeth Shakespeare in Netherseal and using the batch search method I found seven siblings of Elizabeth, all born to William and Elizabeth Shakespeare.
I then switched to a batch search in Stockport looking for baptisms of any Shakespeares and found that Elizabeth’s older brother, Samuel, had also been living in Stockport at the same time Elizabeth married William Freeman there. Samuel and his wife Phoebe baptised five children at The Tabernacle before returning to Netherseal around 1814.
It still didn’t explain why the families were in Stockport though, so I did a general search of Samuel’s name with the term Baptist. This threw up a book on Google books – Baptist Reporter and Missionary Intelligencer – Volume 21 had an obituary for Samuel Shakespeare and notes he was a Baptist preacher.
So my theory is that Samuel went to Stockport to preach in The Tabernacle, taking his wife, Phoebe, and his younger sister, Elizabeth with him, possibly to help his wife with their young family. William Freeman had probably met Elizabeth closer to home and moved to Stockport to marry.