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Georgian Pursers

When George the first came to the throne in 1714 Oliver Purser was living with his wife Elizabeth Pell in Oakley, a tiny village close to Pavenham in Bedfordshire. As was common at the time at the time, they had a large family with  six sons and three daughters.


The middle son Rowley is the one of interest, being the earliest Purser ancestor who is a DNA proved common ancestor to myself and other people registered with Ancestry, who also have DNA tests. For anyone interested I would be happy to send the full pedigree, but there is rather a lot of it for a web-page.

From me to Rowley Purser includes 8 generations which is about the limit for standard Autosomal DNA tests. Beyond this the DNA is so diluted, that a match may be little more than chance. A MDNA test would go back further but I do not have one of them. ( Yet ) 

So what was the big rush to baptise babies ?

Even the most casual glance at parish records shows that the vast majority of children were baptised within a week of their birth. Normally on the first Sunday after the child was born. If Mum was not fit to attend, Dad would take baby by himself.  Some were baptised on the day of their birth, especially the frailer babies.

At the time it was orthodox belief that an unbaptised child could not be buried in consecrated ground and could never go to heaven, God has subsequently changed her mind about this but only fairly recently.

As so many children died in infancy parents were very anxious to get their babies baptised ASAP. If a child was born and appeared weak and unlikely to survive long, someone would dash to find the vicar and get him to come to the house to baptise the child before its brief life was over.

OPR marriage Rowley Purser

Purser tree 1380-2021.  .

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Oliver Purser, Land tax record.

Oliver Purser Land tax.jpg
Rowley Purser, an unlucky man.

Rowley Purser and his twin brother John were both born in 1731 in the Bedfordshire village of Oakley. John presumably did not live for long as there is no further mention of him after their baptism on 21 November 1731. As was popular at the time his parents Oliver Purser and Elizabeth Pell had recycled the name John, their first child called John having died in 1727 aged just 2.


The Pursers were a large family, by the time Rowley was born he already had 2 brothers and 2 sisters and another brother John planted in the Churchyard. Over the next six years he gained a further two brothers and a sister though one of the brothers died in infancy.

In 1757 Rowley married Elizabeth Gealing from the neighbouring village of Pavenham, where they set up home and started on their own family.

Their first child John was born on the  2nd September 1759. Sadly he only survived 3 days dying on Sept 5th. Fortunately they had been able to get him baptised on the day of his birth. John doesn't seem to be a name that works well for this branch of the Pursers for some reason.

Their next child Mary did rather better, she was born in 1763, lived to adulthood and married John Roberts in 1785. So far as I can see they had no children and Mary died in 1802 age just 39.

After Mary they had another go at a John, this time with a bit more success. This John lived until he was 63 having a family of his own.

Next came Ann, born in 1770 Ann was another child who did not trouble her parents for long. She did a bit better than John but she died at 12 days old.

Their next attempt was another girl so they recycled the name calling her Ann. Born in 1773 this poor little thing only lasted 2 days.


Their vicar must by then have got used to the routine of waiting for Elizabeth's labour to finish then legging it around to Chez Purser to get the child baptised before it pegged out.


This was actually a big deal back then. As I understand it if a child died before it could be baptised, then it was not part of the church and could never go to heaven.  This seems a little harsh, after all it is not exactly the baby's fault ! I understand that at some later time God changed her mind on this one, and the gatekeeper has been instructed to admit blameless babes, baptised or not.

So after being married for 16 years of their five live-born children, two are  alive. Just in case Rowley felt that whilst this was tough, he could live with it, six weeks after burying the second Ann, his wife Elizabeth died too. She died of Puerperal fever, the consequence of childbearing.

Rowley re-married Sarah Foot, they had five children the first 3 survived the last two , twins Oliver & Rowley born October 1789, buried together November 7th 1789.  These were their last children, Sarah died in 1797 Rowley survived her by another 18 years dying himself in 1815.

Spot the Typo !
Ann Bapt 1770 & 1773.

Ann Bapt 1770 & 1773.

Burials of Ann, Ann, & Elizabeth.

By the time George one of Rowley's few surviving children, was born in 1780 the family had moved up the road to Pavenham.  Perhaps Rowley had concluded that there was something unhealthy about Oakley ! Fair point given the fate of his family.


Like his father , grandfather, great grandfather going back as many greats as you like, the Pursers were agricultural workers. Whilst they leased small parcels of land themselves, the bulk of their work would have been on other peoples larger more prosperous farms. However George would be the last of our family line to do this.


The times they were a changing. George married Ann Smith in 1802 and whilst they produced the usual large brood of children, some of them would achieve greater things than mud-slogging for others. They next appear on the cusp of the Victorian age.

Rowley Purser's children with the year of their birth and age at death.

Rowley + Elizabeth Gealing

John.       1759.      0

Mary.      1763.       39

John.       1766.      62

Ann.         1770.       0

Ann.         1773        0


Elizabeth Gealing dies 1773

Rowley +Sarah Foot

William      1777      63

George.      1780      67

Elizabeth   1783      62

Rowley.      1789     0


Oliver         1789      0

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