Jane Street [Street-2701, LBV2-H7Z] was my third great grandmother. She married John Martin [Martin-63919, LBV2-L49] in 1842, and while I have plenty of good information about her after her marriage, there is little to no information available about her life before her marriage. She does not appear to have been enumerated on the 1841 Census, and if she was baptised, there is no surviving record. However, from the patchy and incomplete information that we do have about her, combined with DNA matches, I have been able to put together what I hope is a credible theory for the identity of her birth family.

Where and when was Jane born?

Jane appears on the following census records. All are after her marriage, and she is listed as Jane Martin. With the obvious exception of Shrewsbury in 1851, all of the residence places are in Staffordshire; all of the birth places are in Shropshire – even where the birthplace is marked as Not Known, it does at least specify the county.

Year Reference Place Age Birth Place Implied Birth Year
1851 HO107/1992/706/6 Hook-a-Gate, Shrewsbury 29 Barrow 1822
1861 RG9/1983/61/2 Cathedral Colliery, Norton Canes 38 Coalport 1823
1871 RG10/2926/49/18 Watling Street, Norton Canes 48 Not Known 1823
1881 RG11/2786/72/11 Goldthorne Place, Cheslyn Hay 58 Not Known 1823
1891 RG12/2258/78/1 Lichfield Road, Walsall Wood 68 Broseley 1823
1901 RG13/2707/86/28 Coppice Road, Walsall Wood 77 Bridgnorth 1824
1911 RG14/17188/165 Coppy Hall Villas, Aldridge 88 Coalport 1823

We can be reasonably confident from this that she was born around 1823. This also matches up with her marriage record, on which she is listed as a “minor” (ie, under the age of 21 years) in 1842. An 1823 birth would put her at 19 years old, which is very plausible for a first marriage in this era. She seems to be less sure, however, about her exact place of birth, giving four different locations and two “not knowns”.

Barrow, Coalport and Broseley are all small places within three miles of each other, a little way south of Telford. Barrow and Broseley are parishes in their own right, while Coalport is right at the border between the parishes of Broseley, Jackfield, Madeley and Sutton Maddock - although we can exclude Jackfield from the list, as the 1870-72 Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales describes it as a chapelry of Broseley, constituted in 1862, several decades after Jane’s birth.

Bridgnorth is some six miles to the south, but would probably have been the largest nearby town in 1901 (Telford being a New Town and not really existing before the mid 20th century), and for this reason, as well as the reasons noted above, it is the least likely of the four to be accurate.

The below modern map shows Barrow, Broseley, Jackfield and Coalport, a little to the south of modern-day Telford. (Source: OpenStreetMap)

Looking at FindMyPast’s Shropshire baptismscollection, we find that the collection is complete for all of our parishes of interest around 1823, and that there is no Jane Street baptised in any of these parishes – or indeed within the entire county – within well over ten years either side of 1823.

As the transcriptions are by no means perfect, I have searched with broad wildcards and still found no good results for anyone called anything like Jane Street, and have also read through the registers for each parish for two years either side of 1823, but still found no matches.

It is not necessarily surprising that a child born in 1823 in this area would not be baptised. Ironbridge, visible on the above map, had a large Quaker population in the early 19th century, and of course Quaker children would not be baptised in the Established Church. While the Quakers kept good records of births, unfortunately none of the Ironbridge Quaker registers appear to have survived, so we can’t check them. What we can look at, however, is the record of burials in the Coalbrookdale Quaker Burial Ground - although there are no burials with the surname Street recorded there. Unfortunately this doesn’t prove anything either way - especially as we shall see later that Jane’s most likely parents later moved away from the area, so would be unlikely to have been buried here anyway.

Records for the family of John Street

What we do know from Jane’s marriage record is that her father was John Street, a miner. So another approach would be to look for any families in the area where the father was a John Street, to see whether Jane would fit into that family.

Searching for all baptisms in Shropshire with surname Street and father’s name John, including name variants in both cases, we find only one family around the 1820s: John and Mary Street of Priorslee.

Priorslee (also spelled Prior’s Lee) is now a suburb of Telford, on the north-eastern side of the town just to the north of junction 4 of the M54 motorway. In the 19th century, it was a chapelry of the parish of Shifnal, a short distance further east. It seems to have kept separate registers from the main parish church in Shifnal, and so FindMyPast indexes them as the “parish” of Priorslee, whereas (which has indexes but no images) indexes them as Shifnal - but they are the same records.

John and Mary baptised the following children:

Baptism Date Name of Child Residence Parents Father's Occupation
16 May 1813 Matilda Priorslee John and Mary Labourer
4 June 1815 George Priorslee John and Mary Labourer
1 September 1816 Charles Priorslee John and Mary Labourer
25 October 1818 Susan Priorslee John and Mary Labourer
17 September 1820 John Priorslee John and Mary Labourer
3 November 1822 Ann Priorslee John and Mary Labourer
12 December 1824 Margaret Priorslee John and Mary Labourer
27 August 1826 Harriet Priorslee John and Mary Labourer
29 March 1829 Mary Priorslee John and Mary Labourer
9 October 1831 William Priorslee John and Mary Labourer

However, we can conclude from this list of baptisms that this John and Mary cannot be Jane’s parents, for the following reasons:

  1. John and Mary baptised children regularly every two years or so for an extended period. This is what we would expect to see for a couple in this era baptising every child. It is biologically highly improbable that there could be a Jane in any of these gaps.
  2. John and Mary are shown as consistently living in Priorslee, which is a good five miles and at least four parishes away from Barrow, Coalport or Broseley, by both straight-line distance or any sensible road route, and over ten miles from Bridgnorth.
  3. John’s occupation is given as a labourer, not a miner.

While it’s true that the same people often worked as both miners and various types of labourers, we can see this family on the 1841 Census (Ref. HO107/909/10/7/8), on which John is an agricultural labourer. This occupation is certainly significant: while many kinds of labourer might get a job as a miner, an agricultural labourer is much less likely to do so. It’s highly unlikely that a man who had been a labourer all of his life, and specifically an agricultural labourer in 1841, would be a miner by 1842. John’s wife Mary is not with the family – presumably deceased, as there is a burial of a Mary Street in Shifnal in 1836; Samuel and Sarah Street appear to be John’s parents, and indeed there is a baptism of a John Street, son of Samuel and Sarah, on 18 July 1790 in Sutton Maddock.

A theoretical possibility is that Jane was a twin of either Ann or Margaret, but as it would be very unlikely for them to baptise one twin and not the other, I think we can reasonably rule that out. We might also consider that Ann, baptised in 1822, might in fact be Jane, as the two names are related. However, on the 1851 Census we can find Ann Street, the grand-daughter of Samuel and Sarah Street, is unmarried living in Priorslee with her grandparents Samuel and Sarah Street (Ref. HO107/1987/316/21). She therefore cannot be the Jane Street who married John Martin in 1842.

John’s marriage record

Searching for all marriages of anyone called John Street (or variants) in Shropshire between 1780 and 1830, we find just the one: John Street and Mary Anne Dorset at Shifnal on 5 March 1821.

At first glance, this appears to be the John and Mary mentioned above, but a closer inspection shows that this cannot be the case, as John and Mary already had five children over a period of eight years prior to the marriage. As Matilda’s parents are given as “John and Mary Street”, they must have already been married or believed to be married. Furthermore, Mary Ann Dorset was baptised in Barrow on 8 March 1801 - making her a girl of only 12 years old when Matilda was baptised in 1813.

There are no obvious matches for a marriage of the John and Mary mentioned above - although as we have already seen that they are not the ancestors we are looking for, we don’t necessarily need to solve that puzzle. Possibilities are that they weren’t actually married; that they married some distance away (perhaps in another county); that they were married in a parish whose records don’t survive; or that they were married by the Quakers - although the last is unlikely, given that they went on to baptise their children in the Established Church.

This does, however, leave open the possibility that Jane’s parents could have been Mary Ann Dorset and a different John Street. Possible baptisms for that John Street are: 26 Nov 1790, Broseley, son of William and Mary; and 14 October 1798, Barrow, son of Thomas and Susanna. Both of these are possible, although the latter is much more likely - not just because he is closer in age to Mary Ann, but we will also see a likely match for his burial record shortly that puts him as born in 1798.

The fact that Mary Ann was baptised in Barrow is interesting, as that is the area in which Jane was also born. It may well be a coincidence, or it may well be a piece of evidence pointing us towards Mary Ann as the correct mother.

DNA evidence

In order to respect the privacy of living people, I’m obviously not going to go into a huge amount of detail here. However, I have three DNA matches on where ThruLines has identified Mary Ann Dorset’s parents, John and Jane Dorset, as possible common ancestors. I’ve investigated their trees reasonably thoroughly and am satisfied that they have correctly identified John and Jane as their own ancestors, and by comparing with common matches (where the common ancestors have already been correctly identified) I can show that my common ancestors with these matches must be in this section of my tree. The suggested ThruLine ancestors are therefore consistent with all the evidence we have.

A further set of matches have a common ancestor of Richard Street, who other researchers have identified as being a sibling of Jane. Unfortunately, similarly to Jane, there are no records about him prior to his marriage - but we can use a similar approach to the above to see if we can find any information about him.

Richard’s records

Firstly let’s look at what Richard says about his date and place of birth on the census records.

Year Reference Place Age Birth Place Implied Birth Year
1861 RG9/2018/5/5 Aldridge 37 Dawley, Shropshire 1824
1871 RG10/2925/20/34 Cannock 40 Bilston, Staffordshire 1831
1881 RG11/2785/42/41 Cannock 50 Wednesbury, Staffordshire 1831
1891 RG12/2220/149/35 Cannock 60 Bilston, Staffordshire 1831

Here we have a somewhat broader range of dates and places than with Jane - although if we exclude the 1861 Census, we have a consistent birth year of 1830 or 1831. Bilston and Wednesbury are adjacent places, and don’t necessarily indicate a contradiction - but Dawley is an interesting one. In modern times it is a southern suburb of Telford - about two miles north of the area where Jane was born, and one of the more significant settlements in the area in the 19th century. These census responses would seem to imply a family that was from Dawley (or somewhere nearby) but moved to Bilston some time around the time of Richard’s birth: it could be that he was born in Dawley, but moved at such an early age that he didn’t remember it; or that he was born in Bilston, but mistakenly thought he was from Dawley as his family had told him they were from there.

The connection to Bilston turns out to be quite significant, as we shall see shortly. Also interesting is Richard’s occupation of colliery engineer, which is the same as John Martin’s, who we suspect to be his brother-in-law.

A more concrete connection between Richard and John is that one of the witnesses to Richard’s marriage was a John Martin. We can compare John’s signature on his own marriage with that on Richard’s marriage to see that they are clearly the same hand:

John's signature on his own marriage, 1842

John's signature on Richard's marriage, 1865

There are some differences between the two signatures, but nothing more than would be expected considering that they were over 20 years apart. However, the flourish of the J is similar (after accounting for the ink having run on the 1865 signature), and the unusual style of the M with its two vertical lines is clearly the same in both signatures. Note that it is important to refer to the original parish registers when comparing handwriting, as I have done here. A certificate ordered from the GRO or the local register office, while containing all of the same information, is a copy made by the registrar, and so the “signatures” will all be in the registrar’s handwriting.

The fact that John witnessed Richard’s marriage clearly shows that there was a close connection between them. In the 19th century, it was most common (but not invariably so) for the witnesses to be close family members - parents, siblings, siblings-in-law, etc were all usual choices. As we have the DNA evidence to suggest that Richard and Jane were related in some way, the most plausible explanation is that they were siblings: it’s unlikely that Richard would have asked John to be a witness if he was merely his cousin’s husband.

Richard’s father on his marriage certificate is simply given as “dead”, with no name or occupation.

The Street family in Bilston

Let’s now take the assumption that Richard was a son of John Street and Mary Ann Dorset, and that they moved to Bilston around the time of his birth in 1830, and see where that takes us. As we’ve not yet found a burial for either John or Mary Ann, perhaps we can find one in Bilston - and indeed we do: there is a John Street buried at Bilston St Leonard on 4 March 1835. His age of 37 is an exact match for one of the baptisms that we considered for the John that was Mary Ann’s husband (14 October 1798, Barrow, son of Thomas and Susanna), and of course he was long dead by the time of Richard’s marriage.

Looking further, we then find a marriage of a Richard Gittins and a Mary Street, daughter of John Dorset, at Wolverhampton St Peter on 21 May 1839. Mary is living in Bilston, and her age matches the baptism we found earlier for Mary Ann Dorset - clearly this must be John Street’s widow. The fact that she is calling herself Mary and not Mary Ann is a small but insignificant complaint - while Mary Ann was traditionally considered to be a single first name distinct from Mary, this was becoming less so by the middle the 19th century.

Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find anything further for Mary Ann after her marriage. There are census records for a Richard and Mary Gittins in Bridgnorth (for example HO107/1986/152/29 in 1851) - but these all give Mary’s birthplace as Adderley, more than 20 miles from Barrow, where she was baptised. As there are other marriages for a Richard Gittins (including spelling variants) and a Mary in Shropshire before 1851, and as this couple had no children (for whom we would be able to look up a mother’s maiden name), I’m not convinced that this is actually the couple we’re looking for. I haven’t been able to conclusively match them to any death or burial records either.


We have looked at a lot of patchy and circumstantial evidence, but taken all together it starts to point us towards a consistent story for this family. There must have been some reason why Jane, born in Shropshire, ended up living in Wolverhampton and meeting John Martin - the idea that the family moved to Bilston while she was still young and that John was a colleague of her brother explains this nicely.

It is possible that Richard was a slightly more distant relation, such as a first cousin, but much further than that would probably make my DNA matches with his descendents impossible. It would also imply that the story is that Jane and her parents and her cousin all moved to Bilston together - or that Jane’s family and Richard’s family moved separately to the same place, perhaps one inspired by the other. But that seems a less likely explanation, especially considering that John witnessed Richard’s marriage.

The fact that neither Jane nor Richard have a surviving birth or baptism record is perhaps also a small point in favour of them being siblings: if there was a baptism for one but not the other, then to conclude that they were siblings would require explaining why the same parents did things differently for each child.

Unfortunately it seems that other sources are unlikely to be forthcoming - perhaps one day a non-conformist register will be found that shows the births or baptisms of Jane and Richard, but for now we have only the above circumstantial evidence and the DNA matches. It therefore seems reasonable to me to conclude that the most likely explanation is that Jane’s parents were John Street and Mary Ann Dorset, and Richard Street was her brother.