For a long time all I knew about William was his name, and his occupation, which was listed on his son’s marriage certificate as labourer. This marriage certificate also showed that his son, William John Reeves, had been born in Plymouth, Devonshire, England, but I hadn’t been able to find any further information about the family in England.
It wasn’t until ancestry.com added the immigration lists for Victoria that I was able to find more information. I had accessed the indexes at the Public Record Office Victoria website, but these indexes only contained the basic details – name, age, date of arrival and ship. Ancestry.com had the original images of the immigration records, which gave more details. With these records, I was able to verify which immigration record belonged to my William Reeves, and this also told me where his parents were living at the time he emigrated – in Somerset.
This explained why I hadn’t been able to find the family on the 1841 census – because I’d been looking in Devon, not Somerset. Finding the family on the 1841 census was still a challenge, as their surname had been entered on the census record as Revees, instead of Reeves.
From this census record, I was now able to trace the family on the 1851 England Census. They were still living in Shepton Mallet (in Cowl Street). The household included William Reeves, age 48, M Reeves age 44, A Reeves age 17, R Reeves age 15, J Reeves age 8, Selina Reeves age 6 and R Reeves age 8.
The 1861 England Census shows William and Maria were in East Stonehouse, Devon. At this stage, only the two youngest daughters were still with them, Selena age 17 and Rosene age 14.
The 1871 England Census shows William was in the household of John Solmon at East Stonehouse. He was listed as a boarder, age 69. At this stage William was a widower. John Solmon (Salmon) was William’s son in law – John married Selina Lavinia Reeves in 1865 in East Stonehouse (ancestry.com, “England & Wales, FreeBMD Marriage Index: 1837-1915,” database, ancestry.com.au (http://www.ancestry.com.au/ : accessed 23 May 2015), entry for John Salmon, volume 5b, page 477, Jan-Feb-Mar quarter 1865, East Stonehouse district; citing the General Register Office’s England and Wales Civil Registration Indexes. ).
All the census records show that William had been born in Shepton Mallet, and based on his age on the census records, he was born around 1802-1803. FreeReg has a baptism entry that is possibly for William:
Place Shepton Mallet
Church Ss Peter and Paul
DateOfBirth 01 Dec 1802
BaptismDate 18 Dec 1802
Notes base born
The only death entry I have been able to find for William Reeves born about 1803 is the following:
William Reeves, born about 1800, registration quarter Jul-Aug-Sep, year 1877, age at death 77, registration district Bath, inferred county Somerset volume 5c page 394.
However, since William had been found in either Shepton Mallet or East Stonehouse in the census records, it seems strange that he would have ended up in Bath at the time of his death, especially since he was living with his daughter at East Stonehouse in 1871. As far as I know, there were no other family members living in the Bath area, although I have not been able to trace three of his children after the 1851 census.
The next step is therefore to apply for the death certificate for the William Reeves who died in 1877, to see if this may be our William.