One Sarah or Two?

The birth families of Job Charles CHAPMAN and the IBBERSON sisters were scattered (and incomplete) on FamilySearch. I wanted to bring them together so that I could attach the photographs of the St Oswald’s memorials to their records on the Shared Tree. I happened upon two Chapman girls called Sarah who were alive at the same time and had the same parents. Or so the records indicated.

Every life is precious and should be acknowledged, but my first instinct was to put just one Sarah on the Shared Tree, to be on the safe side. But then I found that christening sources had generated a FamilySearch record for both, though without placing them in the same family unit. When I brought them together, I triggered a duplicate child warning. In my limited experience, these can be readily dismissed, when weeks, months or years pass between the death of one and the birth of the other. But with these two girls…

Here are the GRO digital records of the handwritten birth register entries: –

CHAPMAN, Sarah, Mother’s Maiden Surname: MEABE (sic). GRO Reference: 1840 S Quarter in FROME UNION Volume 10 Page 346.

CHAPMAN, Sarah, Mother’s Maiden Surname: MEAD. GRO Reference: 1841 D Quarter in FROME UNION Volume 10 Page 388.

Is it safe to assume that “MEABE” is a misreading of MEADE? The mother, Anne, is sometimes Ann, sometimes MEAD, occasionally MEADE. So why shouldn’t she be MEABE also?

Here are the christening records as displayed by FamilySearch.



The census is consistent in giving the birthplace of all the Chapman children as Rodden, a small village just outside Frome. It has a small church (All Saints) – so why would James and Anne take their babies 35 miles to be christened? The answer is – they wouldn’t. There is a Baptism record at Somerset Archives, accessed via Find My Past, giving the same date and the same parents for Sarah 1 but indicating that the family residence and place of baptism was Rodden. It also gives father James’ occupation – Slubber. I can only think that Rodden register entries were collected with those from dozens of other parish churches and placed in a Preston-Plucknett chest. (You may have a better explanation.)

Here is the death registration for Sarah 1: –

CHAPMAN, Sarah, Age at Death (in years): 1. GRO Reference: 1842 M Quarter in FROME UNION Volume 10 Page 297.

This is consistent with a record for her burial at Rodden on 18 January 1842.

The 1841 census records three children at Wallbridge Gate: Phillip 3, Emma 2 and Sarah 1.

In 1851, expecting her to be eleven years old, we find Sarah is aged 10. This would not be a caution if she was the only Sarah in the family but, in 1871, she tells the enumerator that she is 29. This year difference becomes significant if she is a second Sarah. (A record of Sarah 2’s death remains elusive.)

It seems clear to me that two little girls called Sarah were born to James and Anne. So, is the registration of Sarah 1’s death in the first quarter of 1842 and the birth of Sarah Two in the last quarter of 1841 a problem? If you don’t have a death date for someone, reckoning on three days before burial may prove to be correct in more than 50% of cases. But if Sarah 1 died on Christmas Day (say) and December was particularly cold a delay before her burial may have been necessary. The weather was not so inclement that Sarah 2’s birth couldn’t be registered “on time” in nearby Frome. But frozen ground, or a coroner’s inquest, could account for the late registration of Sarah 1’s death. (It isn’t difficult to imagine the family suffering the death of one girl child, quickly followed by the birth of another. The parents’ emotional state may have determined the naming of the newcomer. Sarah could live again.)

As I have been writing this and doing some more online searches, I have found a One-Name Study Tree that includes this Chapman family. It is a joy to behold because it is powered by Darrin Lythgoe’s genealogy software – but it also accepts that there were two girls called Sarah. Here is a screenshot: –


If you want to explore further, visit The Philo Family. And find the Rodden Chapmans on the FamilySearch Shared Tree here.

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