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Brentford Families - Parsons

The starting point

When I started tracing my family tree I had not heard of Thomas Parsons: he was my gt gt gt grandfather, too far back in my family for any information to be handed down.

I found him named as the father on the marriage certificate when his daughter, Maria Sarah Parsons married John Donville Taylor in 1840 at St Mary’s Ealing. He was just a name and occupation: shoemaker, so what was I able to find out about him?

I found that Thomas Parsons was born around 1786 – 1791 according to the 1851 census (age 60) and his death certificate later that year (age 65). The 1851 census gives his birthplace as Harrow, Middlesex.

The Harrow Parsons

So far I have not been able to locate Thomas's baptism. His trade (shoemaker) is the same as that of a Joseph Parsons, who with his wife Elizabeth, baptised nine children (John, James, George, Joseph, Samuel, Sarah, Charles, Mary Ann and another Joseph, the first having died in 1801) at Harrow between 1786 and 1803.

Joseph Parsons senior was buried at Harrow in 1825, and was described as ‘from Brentford’; he may have lived with one of his children in Brentford after his wife died in 1818. Joseph and Elizabeth seem good candidates to be Thomas’s parents. Unfortunately there are no gaps in the first few baptisms to Joseph & Elizabeth to allow for an (unbaptised) Thomas. It is (just) possible that their eldest son baptised John in 1786 became known as Thomas.

Marriage and children

My first firm sighting of Thomas is at his marriage at Hanwell in 1813 to Lydia Harris. Their marriage day was about 11 months after the banns were published – unusual. Perhaps Thomas was waiting to finish his apprenticeship (although I would have expected him to have already accomplished this by the age of 26). Perhaps there were problems in his bride’s family requiring a delay (illness?), or they were unable to find a property to rent, or were waiting for Thomas to establish his trade so he could keep a wife and family?

The newly married couple settled in Old Brentford and baptised their first nine children (Thomas, Joseph Samuel, Charlotte Lydia, Lydia, Mary Ann, Maria Sarah, Emma, James and Lydia Susannah) at the parish church of St Mary Ealing between 1814 and 1825. By the time their tenth and last child George Henry was born in 1828 the family were able to baptise him at St George’s church, Old Brentford, as it had been raised in status to a district chapelry that year.

Thomas is not recorded in the 1826 Pigot directory for Middlesex in Old Brentford, but a James Parsons, boot and shoe maker is. Other local Parsons include a Henry & Martha Parsons, of Old Brentford, shoemaker who baptised three children at the same church as Thomas & Lydia in 1816 (Henry), 1819 (Martha Sarah) and 1821 (George): James and Henry may be related to Thomas.



In 1836 Thomas was an overseer for St Mary’s church, Ealing. The church had two overseers for the poor from the Upper Side (Ealing) and two for the Lower Side (Old Brentford). “They were responsible for the many aspects of poor relief, and they collected the poor rate which met their expenses.” (‘Ealing in the 18th & 19th C’, Abstracts from the Vestry minutes of St Mary’s parish church Ealing 1797 – 1879’, Ealing Local History Society & (

The Vestry Minutes abstracts include two references to Thomas: ‘#204 14 April 1836 Mr Round moved and Mr Ralfs seconded “That while the vestry is willing to give praise that is due to them as overseers, they cannot consistently as men and Englishmen approve of the conduct of Messrs Layton and Parsons, who, whatever may have been their motive, have by their extraordinary conduct in many instances, sacrificed the character this parish has long born for humanity, liberality and justice” Lost by 5 votes to 22’

Mr Ralfs may be Samuel Ralfs, sawyer, who lived at 31 High Street in 1861 (census)

‘#237 6 September 1838 Decided that all parish books etc. should be kept under lock and key in vestry clerk’s office at Old Brentford. Agreed that a copy of schedule of books and papers ordered to be delivered to Mr. Thos. Parsons for safe custody be lodged in hands of vicar.’

In 1839 Thomas’s wife Lydia died at the age of 54. She was buried at St George, Old Brentford, on May 12.



In the Ealing Tithe Apportionment the following year Thomas Parsons was recorded as owning two adjacent houses, gardens and a workshop on the High Street, one house occupied by him and the other by Thomas Sweet. A Thomas Sweet death was registered in Brentford in the Jul/September quarter of 1841 and the 1841 census shows Thomas and his son Joseph Samuel occupying the adjacent properties, which later were to become number 281 and 282 High Street.

The next generation

By the time of the 1841 census his two eldest daughters had married:

Mary Ann Parsons married William Watson at Islington in 1841: William was the son of William Watson, staymaker and as Thomas Parsons’ neighbour was William Watson, staymaker it seems likely that William junior was his son. Thomas Parsons witnessed the marriage.

Maria Sarah Parsons married John Donville Taylor at the parish church of St Mary, Ealing on February 6. Thomas is recorded on the certificate as a shoemaker and his son, Joseph Samuel, was one of the witnesses.

Later in 1841 Thomas’s second eldest son, Joseph Samuel Parsons married Mary Ann Burness, who was born in Old Brentford, in Windsor. The couple settled in Old Brentford where Joseph Samuel was a watchmaker.


Another Marconi link

The 1841 census may provide a clue about Thomas Parson’s birth, as living in his household was Harriet Marconi, aged 6, not born in Middlesex. The only woman in Thomas’s household following the death of his wife and departure of his two eldest daughters was Lydia, who was just 16 at the time of the census. It seems likely that Harriet was related to the Parsons family, although the 1841 census does not include relationship details as later censuses do.

A Mary Ann Parsons married Louis Marconi at Teddington in 1827 and they had three (maybe four) daughters: Frances (Fanny), Caroline, Harriet and possibly Ann S. Louis Marconi was ‘customs’ in the 1841 census and he died in the July/September quarter of 1841: so it is possible the youngest daughter Harriet was sent to live with relatives when her father was ill. As Mary Ann Marconi (nee Parsons) was born in Wembley (in Harrow parish), according to the 1851 census, it is possible she was the same-named daughter of Joseph & Elizabeth Parsons baptised at Harrow in 1800.

Thomas's will and Old Bailey Trial

In 1843 Thomas wrote his will on March 15th, mentioning his 7 surviving children and two sons in law William Watson and John Taylor

In March 1847 William Wood stole a pair of men’s boots and a pair of low shoes from the High Street shop, having spoken to Lydia Susan Parsons, Thomas’s daughter. William Wood was tried at the Old Bailey, found guilty and imprisoned for 3 months. The trial records include other snippets of information, for example that Thomas's name appeared in his boots and shoes.

Two years later in 1849 Lydia Susannah Parsons married Robert Gainsford, a gardener, at the parish church, Acton. Witnesses to the marriage were Mary Ann Marconi (her aunt?) and George Henry Parsons, her younger brother.

The 1851 census shows Thomas living on his own at the same High Street property as in 1841, with his son Joseph Samuel next door.

Thomas died on 3 November 1851 of ‘Inflammation of the larynx’ and his death was registered by Elizabeth Taint on 7 November; his age at death was noted as 65. He was buried at Old Brentford on 9 November. I wondered why Elizabeth Taint registered his death rather than one of his children and in November 2015 Peter Stuart emailed 'Elizabeth Taint was my wife's 4th Great Grandmother and she was a professional nurse. Maybe she registered the death as she was present at death or had nursed him'. Thanks to Peter for this information.

The will was proved at London (prerogative Court of Canterbury) on 25th November by his executors, son Joseph Samuel Parsons and son in law William Watson.


More marriages

The following year his son James Parsons married Caroline Priscilla Norminton at Heston parish church (he professed to be a gent but was a grocer in subsequent census returns). George Henry Parsons, younger brother, witnessed the marriage.

In 1860 Thomas’s youngest son George Henry married Harriet Jane Gainsford: sister to Robert who married Lydia Susannah Parsons eleven years previously.

One final link between the Gainsford and Parsons families: the youngest son of Robert Gainsford senior, Charles James, married Catherine Piper in 1861. Following Charles James’s death 6 years later she married George Henry Parsons, who lost his wife Harriet Jane in 1871.


Writing up these notes was useful in highlighting what I did and more importantly what I did not know about Thomas. It also made me revisit conclusions I had reached previously and I hope it will be a useful starting point to start to fill in some of the gaps: notably his baptism; I would like to find out more about the other Parsons who were contemporaries of Thomas, who lived in Brentford and who also were shoemakers: were they related to Thomas or just concidences?

I hope to be able to add some firmer conclusions in the future.


FreeBMD; for censuses and parish records; birth, marriage and death certificates; published extracts from the Ealing Vestry Minutes held at Leicester University Library; Old Bailey web site; Ealing Tithe Apportionment.


Page published January 2010; updated December 2015