Friday, 5 September 2014

A Bit of Luck

As all good family historians know, a lot of the evidence we find is circumstantial.  We make an assumption that because there is a baptism, marriage, children’s baptisms and burial for one name in a parish register, it is all the same person.  While this might seem reasonable, there is always a little doubt.  So, there is always a search for other evidence to prove the links; the search for certainty.  This brings me to my ancestor Sarah Luck, several generations back on my maternal line.
Sarah Luck was born about 1765 in the pretty little village of Beckley, in Sussex, England.  The daughter of Richard Luck and Sarah Susans, Sarah was baptised in the parish church on 10 Mar 1765. She was the third of seven children, a fairly typical family size for the time.
In early part of Sarah’s life, the main industry in Beckley and the surrounding area was iron work.  The region was the main source of bar iron for making things like cannons.  The industry closed down around 1770, so it must have been a difficult period and a time of change for the people of Beckley.  However, the Luck family had some luck. 
In 1773, various members of the family were left significant legacies by the (currently) mysterious John Gower, including £700 in trust to Sarah Luck’s oldest brother, John.   The bulk of John Gower’s estate, including land in Vinehall, in the Sussex parish of Mountfield, was left to Sarah’s spinster Aunts, Ann and Elizabeth.  I don’t yet know why John Gower left them a fortune.  He seems to have only lived in Mountfield for a few years, having moved from a different part of Sussex.
The next event of note in Sarah’s life was her father’s death in 1789.  He left behind a fairly young family, including three teenage sons.
Sarah Luck married Henry Goodsall*, a blacksmith from Ewhurst, on 15th August 1791 in Mountfield.  Henry Goodsall served the later part of his apprenticeship in Mountfield, so that must be how he came to meet Sarah.  Their first four children, including and Sarah Goodsall (my ancestor) were born in Hollington, some distance from Mountfield and on the Sussex coast near Hastings.  Two later children were baptised in back in Mountfield.
In 1792, Sarah’s Aunt Elizabeth died in Whatlington, a village not far from Mountfield.  She left most of her estate to her sister, Ann Luck.
Ann Luck died in 1800, in Mountfield, and left will detailing various members of the Luck family, including Sarah Luck and her blacksmith husband, and leaving them various legacies.
Sadly, Sarah lost her mother and husband in quick succession, in 1812 & 1814 respectively; also a difficult time in England generally, with the country being at war with France and the US.
Ten years later, there seems to have been more trouble in the family.  Sarah Luck’s daughter, Sarah Goodsall, had an illegitimate child, Sarah Elizabeth (my ancestor), born in November 1823 in Mountfield.  Sarah Elizabeth’s father may have been Henry Playford, who her mother married in 1831.  He certainly acknowledged her as his daughter and she used his surname**.
Sarah Luck, died in 1840, still living in Mountfield up to that time.
Much of what I know about Sarah Luck and her family with such a degree of certainty comes from Sarah’s two spinster aunts, Elizabeth and Ann Luck, who left wills that include the details of family relationships, and from the will of the mysterious John Gower whose connection to the Luck family is a mystery I am still trying to solve.
Of course, the other reason for certainty is that Sarah Luck is an ancestor on my maternal line…

*There are many variations of Goodsall.  In the late 18th Century the main variations were Goodsell or Goodsall.  Earlier Gutsell and Gutsall were more common variations.

**Edit 29 Oct 2018: A descendant of Sarah Elizabeth Playford shares DNA with a descendant of Henry Playford's brother William, suggesting that Henry was almost certainly Sarah's biological father.

NOTE on lineage: Me > Mum > Daphne Madge Smith > Esther Ilma Lees > Fanny Sarah Eliza Briggs > Fanny Sarah Perigo > Sarah Elizabeth Playford > Sarah Goodsell > Sarah Luck