This blog is designed to record the findings of our family history, mainly for the benefit of the family, and to document the dead ends, the breakthroughs and the journey.
I’ll post the family stories as I’ve written them to now, and I’ll be grateful to anyone who can add further information or pictures, or point out errors.
Particular thanks to my sister Julia and my cousin Mandy who between them have done much more of the work than I have.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

The Jasper Family Story

The Jasper Name

In 1881 the heaviest concentration of the name Jasper was in mid Cornwall ( and indeed Julia knows some Jaspers in Launceston). There was a mid concentration in the Black Country and a scattering in East Wales, Suffolk and Sussex. I can find no particular link between these areas of settlement unless it is something to do with mining.

The surname database suggests that the name derives from one of the Magi, Caspar and means a keeper or bringer of treasure. The name is not registered with the Guild of One Name Studies.

In our family the name is spelt either Jasper or Jesper at various times.

Mary Ann Jasper 1854-1924

Mary Ann Jasper is probably the most shadowy figure of all the great grandmothers.. No one has passed on any memories of her;  I can’t recollect my grandfather ever speaking of his mother, and of course my mother never told us anything about the Billinghams.

And yet – she and her husband upped sticks and went to the North east for some years, which when one considers all the other branches of the family who never moved out of the Black Country, probably took some doing.

Her son Frank, my grandfather, was a handsome, charming and rather feckless man, everyone’s friend, but unreliable. Did these traits come from the Billinghams or the Jaspers?

Mary Ann Jasper was born on 9th December 1854 in Quarry Bank. Her parents were William Jasper and Mirah Edwards.

The 1861 census shows the family living at Vine Terrace Quarry Bank, where they remained in 1871. 16 year old Mary Ann is described as a common nail maker. It’s not clear whether common describes her or the type of nails she made.

On Christmas Day In 1876 Mary Ann married Thomas Billingham an iron puddler. Their eldest daughter Sarah was born in Quarry Bank in 1880, but by 1881 the family had moved to Middlesborough, where there was presumably work for iron puddlers in the Teeside shipbuilding industry. Their address was 45 Hatherley Street, Linthorpe, which seems to no longer exist, (and which is only four miles from the town of Billingham).

However by 1891 they were back in Quarry Bank living at 57 Vine Street. Two children were born in Middlesborough, Joseph in 1882 and Maria in 1884. Three more children were born after their return to Quarry Bank; Hannah in 1886, Frank in 1890, and Annie in 1893. At this time they also had lodgers, Reuben Bloomer a coal miner, his wife Violet and their infant daughter Sophia.

1901 saw Mary Ann and Thomas on the move again, but this time only as far as 6 Victoria Road Quarry Bank, and a further child Harriet was born in 1896. Sarah was working as a domestic servant and Joseph as a bucket factory saucepan maker.

In the 1911 census the family has moved along the road to 32 Victoria Street, and of the children, only Frank and Harriet were still living at home.

Thomas died on 5th March 1913, at home, aged 61 of bronchitis, but Mary Ann lived on till 17th November 1924 when she died, also of bronchitis, aged 70.

William Jasper 1826-? and Mirah Edwards 1829-1885 -.

William is a bit of a mystery. His birth isn’t registered of course, and our story is also complicated by there being a William Jasper also born in 1826 who is a gardener in Kidderminster and whose wife is also called Emma (the name of our William’s second wife).

According to IGI a William Jesper was christened on Christmas Eve 1826 at St Thomas Dudley. His parents were Edward Jesper and Mary. I’ll assume that this is the Kidderminster William because, according to the marriage certificate of William Jesper and Mirah Edwards, his father is William Jesper a labourer. And in the 1841 census there is a Jesper family in Quarry Bank with a son called William of the right age, and the parents names are William and Sarah.

William married Mirah Edwards at Holy Trinity Amblecote on 18th November 1849. The witnesses were Hannah Jesper and Edward Jarratt. Hannah and Edward married each other in 1851. It’s not clear what relation Hannah is to William. IGI gives her parents as David and Phoebe Jesper.

By the 1851 census William is married to Mirah Edwards (or Maria as she appears in the census), and they don’t yet have children. They are living in Quarry Bank and are lodging with Jane Edwards, Mirah’s mother. William is, and remains an iron puddler.

William and Mirah had 8 children
Henry 1853
Mary Ann  1854
Sarah  1856
Samuel  1858
Alice 1860
Jane 1864
William 1867
David 1872.

By 1861, the family is living in Vine Terrace and although Jane Edwards is still living with them William is shown as head of household

In the 1881 census Mirah appears as Mercy and is shown as being born in 1826. The family is now living in Vine Street with three of the children, Jane, William and David

Mirah died in 1885 aged 55 and William married again in 1891 to Emma Collins a widow with two children. They appear in the 1891 census living with William. Emma died in 1898.

I have not found a death record for our William. (Kidderminster William died in 1904). William does not appear in the 1901 or 1911 censuses so we must assume that he died between 1898 and 1901. In 1898 he registered the death of his second wife Emma. At the time he was living in Sheffield Street Quarry Bank. I have checked the 1901 census for Sheffield Street but there are no Jaspers living there. (There are however 7 Billingham households in the street).

William Jesper  1793-1872 and Sarah Green 1796 -

William was born in Oldswinford in 1793, according to later censuses, and according to IGI he was christened in Oldswinford on 19th May 1793. His parents were Humphrey Jasper and Pridence..

According to IGI William Jesper married Sarah Green on 14th April 1816 at Oldswinford.

By the census of 1841 he is married to Sarah. They live in Quarry Bank and have 8 children

Mary 1821
Joseph 1826
William 1826
Henry 1828
Elizabeth 1833
Harriet 1835
Thomas 1838
John 1840

By 1851 Joseph and William have left home (we know that William was married by then) and all the remaining boys are working in the ironworks. The girls are nailers.

I can’t find William and Sarah in the 1861 census, but they show again in 1871. They children have all gone and they are living in New Road Kingswinford. William, who is 78, is described as an annuitant, which suggests that he had an income. But from where, he was a labourer? Did something happen in those missing years.

William died in 1872 at Quarry Bank. I can’t find a record of Sarah’s death but she is missing from the 1881 census.

Humphrey Jasper 1761–1841 and Prudence Skidmore 1771- 1842

In the census of 1841 Prudence is living with her children in Quarry Bank and according to the WMBMD Humphrey died in 1841 and Prudence in 1842. According to Humphrey’s death certificate he was living in Amblecote and was 80 when he died, which means that he was born around 1871. IGI doesn’t give us a birth record for Humphrey, but I have searched the public member records on Ancestry, which suggests that Humphrey was born on 14th July 1763 in Alveley in Shropshire and that he married Prudence Skidmore in Oldswinford.  His parents are shown as John Jasper and Jane Rolls, and his grandparents as Joseph Jasper and Elizabeth Robinson.

These public trees suggest that the children of Humphrey and Prudence are

William              1793
Ann                  1795
Jane                 1803
Sarah                1812

Of course most of the family trees in Ancestry feed off each other, so will need to be verified at the County Record Office, but for once we have some leads rather than a cold trail.


  1. Hi,

    I'm a Jesper, and William and Sarah would've been my great great great great grandparents. I too have settled upon the assumption that Humphrey moved to Oldswinford from Shropshire. He seems to have been responsible for most of the bunch of Jaspers and Jespers in that part of the world.

    Having done a bit of research on this section of my tree, I can tell you that Violet Bloomer was Mary Ann's cousin (her dad was Thomas Jesper, William's brother). Her sisters, Agatha and Jane, also married Bloomers.

    It is conjecture on my part but I think Hannah was William's cousin. It would neatly fit a little hole if David were Humphrey's son. It looks like Hannah may have died in the 1850s: an Edward Jarrott seems to have married Hannah's sister, Matilda, in 1856!

  2. Thanks so much for your comment, which is really useful. For reasons I won't go into I haven't looked at the family history or the blog for over a year, but now I'm back and will be looking again at the Jespers.