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Mary Ann Tongue was my Great-great-great-grandmother, and although I know about her married life, I know very little if anything about her birth and parentage. Dying in June 1869 in Tiverton Devon, Mary Ann is recorded as having an age of 62 years, putting her birth sometime around 1807.

So, what do I know about her?

  • March 1831 – Tiverton, Devon – marries John Clemmons (surname also spelt Clemons)
  • 1832 – Devon – birth of daughter Mary Ann
  • August 1835 – Tiverton, Devon – birth of son John Nicholas
  • December 1837 – Tiverton, Devon – birth of daughter Sarah Ellen
  • Jan-Mar 1840 – Tiverton, Devon – birth of son Charles (died Oct-Dec 1850)
  • June 1841 – English Census – living at “Rackfield, Tiverton, Devon”. Mary Ann’s age is recorded as being 30, and her birth place is recorded as “N”, indicating she was not born within the county.
  • Oct-Dec 1841 – Tiverton, Devon – birth of daughter Jane
  • Oct 1845 – Tiverton, Devon – birth of son George Henry
  • Oct-Dec 1846 – Tiverton, Devon – birth of son Frederick William
  • Oct-Dec 1848 – Tiverton, Devon – birth of birth of Thomas Francis
  • Feb/Mar 1851 – Tiverton, Devon – birth of daughter Emily Emma
  • March 1851 – English Census – living at “Rackfield, Tiverton, Devon”. Mary Ann’s age is recorded as being 40, and her birth place is recorded as being Chelmsford Essex.
  • December 1852 – Tiverton, Devon – birth of daughter Fanny (my great great grandmother)
  • April 1861 – English Census – living at “Rackfield, Tiverton, Devon”. Mary Ann’s age is recorded as being 50, and her birth place is recorded as Chelmsford Essex.
  • December 1868 – Tiverton, Devon – husband John Clemons dies aged 66.
  • June 1869 – Tiverton, Devon – Mary Ann Clemons dies, and her age at death is recorded as being 62.

Age at death in 1869 is 62… that puts her birth as c1807. Yet each census that she appears on, her age is consistent in progression, and consistent with a birth year of 1811. Why the sudden jump in age? Her cause of death is listed as “Sinectus et Imbecillitas”, which translated from the Latin, apparently means “Age and Weakness”. Ok, so cause of death – pretty much old age, nothing unusual there, perhaps her age was mis-recalled when her death was registered 3 days later. 62, or 60 in 2 years – it’s a theory.

There are still two problems though, both to do with her declared birthplace of Chelmsford, Essex. I have been through the parish registers for Chelmsford’s Cathedral, St Mary the Virgin St Peter & St Cedd, and in the time period of 1805-1816, I have not seen any surname that could be considered to be Tongue or a variant of it. I considered that she may have been baptised at another church in the city or even another parish just outside of Chelmsford, so while I was able to, I checked the registers for a dozen other parishes close by, mainly for baptisms within the years of 1805-1812. Again, no surname that could be considered to be Tongue or a variant of it.

The second problem with her census declared birthplace is that through checking a lot of census records and following up and cross-referencing and checking other household members, it can be determined that her father, or at least the man who she called her father, that his name was John Tongue. John Tongue was born in Manchester, Lancashire around 1780 and was an Innkeeper. Sometime before 1819, John Tongue makes his way down from Manchester and ends up in Tiverton, where in Feb 1819, he marries a lass named Hannah Hewitt who had been born about 1792 in Bradnich, about 12km south of Tiverton. I have considered that Mary Ann was the daughter of Hannah Hewitt, but I did not see any Hewitt (or variant) surnames when looking through the parish registers of Chelmsford Essex and surrounds.

So, as far as my research so far can tell, neither John Tongue, nor Hannah Hewitt, had reason or cause to be in Chelmsford Essex between 1807 and 1811, and therefore can not account for this birthplace being recorded. Yes it is possible that Mary Ann was born in Chelmsford while her parents were enroute from a previous location (Manchester?) to the next one (Tiverton?), but with her father’s occupation of Innkeeper, I would have expected to find him somewhere along the line if that was the case.

Mary Ann Tongue – where were you born, and when? Was your father John Tongue, and if so, who was your mother? Or was your mother Hannah Hewitt, and if she was, then who was your father? Whoever your birth parents were, John Tongue and Hannah Hewitt were the parents you knew for the 12 years prior to your own marriage, and they would have been the grandparents your children knew.

Mary Ann Tongue, later Clemons – born between 1807 & 1811, died Tiverton Devon 1869

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