My 4th great grandmother Harriet Palmer married John Creber on 9 Jun 1794 at Marystow, Devon. Harriet was a spinster of the parish who made a mark rather than signed, and banns had been duly published without denial on 25 May, 1 Jun and 8 Jun. John was a sojourner to the parish, a bachelor who signed.

Their witnesses were Richard Creber and Samuel Martyn. I suspect Richard was John's father (baptised 1746) rather than his cousin (baptised 1778). His father was a carpenter (from his burial record) like John (from the 1841 Census). Samuel Martyn witnessed 37 marriages at Marystow from 1783 to 1804 so I suspect he may have been closer to the church than to either family.

I am unable to find a record of Harriet's birth or baptism.

For the 1841 Census, she and John were living at Tavistock, and her age was recorded as 65, suggesting that she was born in about 1776, but the Marriage Record makes no mention of her being a minor in 1794, and so I think it likely that Harriet was born no later than 1773. The 1841 Census also says that she was born in the county of Devon. Also, as commented by @vervet, ages on the 1841 census were supposed to be rounded down to the nearest 5 so a birth as early as 1771 might be plausible even if she knew her age accurately.

There was an Ann Williams living with John and Harriet on the 1841 census record but @vervet has investigated and found that she was the widow of John Williams with her maiden name probably being Brooming (born Bere Ferrers in 1785, a daughter of John & Agnes Brooming).

Harriet's death was registered in Q4 1844 at Tavistock (Volume: 9 Page: 358). I have not yet obtained her death certificate, but according to this guide, I am not expecting that to name her parents. As commented by @HarryVervet the new GRO index says that Harriet (indexed as Harriott) was aged 80 when she died so her baptism should be looked for from about 1764.

The best candidates I currently have for her parents are John Palmer and Grace Cole who:

The names Harriet and John gave their seven children, all baptised in Marystow, include their own, but neither Grace, Susanna nor Roger, appear as names amongst their children so there is nothing to help tie Harriet to those parents and siblings:

  1. Mary Ann (1795)
  2. John (1797)
  3. William (1799)
  4. Henry (1801)
  5. Elizabeth (1804)
  6. Richard (1807)
  7. Harriet (1810)

Does anyone have any thoughts on how/where else I might be able to find Harriet's birth/baptism record and/or parents?

I've tried searching the available records for surrounding parishes but so far nothing appears more, or anywhere near as, likely as the above.

I could look through the images of the Marystow Parish Registers at FamilySearch to see if Harriet's baptism has missed being transcribed, or has been transcribed incorrectly, but I am unsure how to find the relevant images for baptisms for the few years around 1773. As an update I have just found these images available and better indexed at FindMyPast so I will perform my manual search there instead.

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    Ages on the 1841 census were supposed to be rounded down to the nearest 5 - thus someone 65 could be between 65-69. The death certificate or burial would give a more precise, though not necessarily accurate, estimate of age.
    – Harry V.
    Commented May 17, 2015 at 11:32
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    Do you know who is the Ann Williams living with John & Harriet on the 1841 census? Just wondering if she may be a relative of Harriet's?
    – Harry V.
    Commented May 17, 2015 at 12:44
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    Nevermind - looks like no luck there. Ann Williams was the widow of John Williams. It looks like her maiden name was Brooming and she was born in Bere Ferrers in 1785, a dau of John & Agnes Brooming.
    – Harry V.
    Commented May 17, 2015 at 13:01
  • Many thanks for helping me with this @vervet - so that your efforts don't get lost later as comments I have incorporated them into my question. You may also notice a link to an earler Q&A here about Harriet's husband John where ColeValleyGirl suggested I look at Settlement Records. I suspect that may prove enlightening when I can organise a trip to England (which is not on the horizon at the moment)..
    – PolyGeo
    Commented May 17, 2015 at 22:33
  • A spanner in the works – the new GRO index shows Harriet died age 80 in 1844, which would place her birth in abt 1764. Perhaps you're looking for a baptism in the wrong decade? In any case it seems extremely unlikely that she was baptised at Marystowe.
    – Harry V.
    Commented Mar 16, 2017 at 1:01

2 Answers 2


Perhaps it's a good idea to expand the search area if you're stuck. It's possible they moved or traveled for a short time, as well as expand the year range and look at original record images to see if there are transcription errors.

I found a record for Harriet Palmer, but her birth and baptism was in 1778 to Robert and Elizabeth Palmer, in St. John, Preston, Lancashire, Eng. Another baptism record from the same St. John and for the same family has her born and baptized in 1780, which leads me to believe there may be some sort of transcription error. It would be worth it to get the original record and decipher it yourself, as the correct date might look something closer to what you're expecting.

FHL Film Number: 94006, 94007

I also found a birth and baptism record for Harriot Palmer, to William and Mary Palmer, 21 Mar 1773, baptized 25 Apr 1773, in St. Leaonards, Shoreditch, London. Could they have been in London for the baptism?

FHL Film Number: 396229, 396230

  • Thanks for trying to help find Harriet's birth. My first thought is that this Harriet and Harriot appear to have been born/baptised too far from her marriage place but I will try to keep an open mind to any additional evidence that could support either. I think these families were poor, and unlikely to be moving too far from their local area.
    – PolyGeo
    Commented Nov 10, 2017 at 7:25
  • Thank you. The main point I was making is that the dates on the records are likely incorrect due to the fact that they came from the same town and are supposed to be the same records but have vastly different dates. Look up those films and read the dates for yourself and see if it makes more sense to you than what the transcriber interpreted. Also, people travelled. I have records that show that she may have travelled to New Orleans even.
    – Christia
    Commented Nov 10, 2017 at 7:33
  • Do you have an interest in Harriet beyond just being helpful on this site?
    – PolyGeo
    Commented Nov 10, 2017 at 7:37
  • Being helpful, but I was studying New Orleans immigration and thought it was interesting that her name came up. I'm avid on other Stack Exchange sites and in genealogical research in general.
    – Christia
    Commented Nov 10, 2017 at 7:39
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    Two like-named baptisms to the same family don't have to be a transcription error. The first Harriet could have died in infancy, and the parents gave the same name to another daughter, born later. The parish burial records for the intervening years may be helpful in that case.
    – AndyW
    Commented Nov 10, 2017 at 9:02

I'm toying with the idea that Grace Palmer, baptised 1771, may have become known as Harriet, perhaps to distinguish her from her mother of the same name.

I need to check again but I think that Grace Palmer is only known from her 1771 baptism record.

I am hopeful that DNA may help shed some light sometime because from AncestryDNA, I share 10.5 centimorgans across 2 DNA segments with a user whose most recent common ancestor with me appears to be Harriet Palmer.

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