Mystery Monday – Was She the Liz Taylor of the 1840s or a Red-Light Mama?

For so many years, descendants, family historians and genealogists have believed that Great Aunt Mary from our “prolific starter family” (first family to North America from the Old Country) possibly married a minimum of three times.


the candidates

I found a little information on the first two candidates, but this SOLTON character?  When did she find the time to marry him?

The easiest way I can explain this, is to present all the facts in reverse order, starting with Mary’s death and work back through time – something genealogists do and can relate to very easily.

On her death record, Mary is listed as SHAW, not SOLTON, so her last marriage was to Lancelot SHAW, and her son William John BRUNSKILL (the informant) is, of course, from a previous marriage. Further to support this, her gravestone in Wesley United Cemetery (Walpole Township, Haldimand County, Ontario) is listed as: SHAW, Mary [dates illegible], wife of Lancelot SHAW.

Now, this information does not disprove that Mary had three husbands, it only clarifies that SHAW was Mary’s last husband.

Mary wed Lancelot SHAW on 14AUG1847 in Toronto, sixteen months after the death of her husband Thomas BRUNSKILL in Weston, Ontario (27APR1846).

With the details from this source, we know that Mr. SOLTON was not Mary’s husband before or after Lancelot SHAW.  Mary was buried with the name SHAW, and when she did marry Lancelot, her previous name was BRUNSKILL!

So, the only unanswered questions are: [1] When did she marry Thomas? And did she marry the mysterious Mr. SOLTON?

Let’s consider some other overlooked details:

In 1851, census-takers came visiting to record data for the 1852 Census, which ended up listing Lancelot and Mary SHAW with three children, aged 14, 12 and nine years of age; as well as Mary’s parents, John & Elizabeth ATKINSON.  Lancelot & Mary SHAW had only been married five years, and yet the census taker recorded them as having three children.

Nine-year-old William John, would report the death of his mother in 1877 — some 25years later.

A lot of the early pieces of information on my ancestors, came through inherited research, which was passed down to me.  I have managed to clean some of it up, but not all of it — some pieces still do not make any sense.  One example, makes me wonder:

What if it had been presumed, like the 1852 Census, that all the children born in England were BRUNSKILLs, because earlier researchers (circa 1927) had not located any documentation whatsoever to provide a clearer picture?

This assumption could easily carry on over generations , re-written and re-written again, without question, to present day and accepted as fact — but what if Mary’s six little ones were born SOLTONs rather than BRUNSKILLs?  This could possibly make the child Mary was carrying in 1833, the first-born child to her and Thomas BRUNSKILL rather than their seventh.

But, I haven’t told you about the messy, confusing part yet.  I’m saving that for tomorrow


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