The village of Noke, in Oxfordshire, was a favoured location for the Jeffs family of William and Mary, and three of their daughters were married there in the early nineteenth century. In 1803 Mary Jeffs married Joseph Bland and in 1819, a younger sister, Rose/Rosanna Jeffs, wed Joseph’s brother, John, and, in 1823, Jemima Jeffs married Hezekiah/Ezekiel Allford/Alfred.
Joseph and John Bland were the sons of John Bland sen., and his wife, Ann Davis, who married in Buckinghamshire in Aylesbury in 1769, by which time they had already baptised a daughter, Catherine, at Aylesbury in 1767. They baptised a son, James, at Meppershall, Bedfordshire, in 1770, and Helen at Chicheley, in Buckinghamshire, in 1775 (she was also married there in 1802 to John Orchard), Nancy in 1785 at Portsea St. Mary, Hampshire (could she possibly be the Ann Bland who married Joseph Orchard in Hampshire in 1809 ?), as well as Harriet in Sutton Courtenay, Berkshire, in 1789, who partnered a James Orchard and died at the age of 24, at North Moreton, Berkshire in 1813.
Of the next generation Joseph and Mary Bland baptised an Ann in 1807, named for Joseph’s mother, another Joseph in 1810, Matthew in 1813, Elizabeth in 1815, John in 1819, Moses in 1821 and possibly also a James. Their eldest son may well be the Joseph Bland who partnered a Susanna Smith and baptised Leanda Bland at Tingewick, Buckinghamshire in 1835, ‘a Gypsy.’ Matthew Bland formed a union with his cousin, Naomi Jeffs, daughter of William and Mary, whilst Elizabeth Bland united with Naomi’s brother, Matthew Jeffs.
Meanwhile, John and Rose Bland, two weeks after their marriage at Noke, baptised a daughter Naomi, then named another daughter Harriet, born in 1824 (the name of John Bland’s sister, who had died in 1813), a son John, born about 1830, who united with an Elizabeth Waite, (they later married, in 1893). A daughter, Mary Ann, was born to John and Rose in about 1832, a son James, born around 1834, who united with a cousin, Cinderella Jeffs, and a Joseph, born about five years after James, who formed a partnership with Patience Austin.
Naomi Bland, daughter of John and Rose, partnered William Dipper and they appear to have had two sons, William Dipper Bland, who died in 1856, and Joseph Bland/Dipper, baptised in January 1847 at Harwell, Berkshire, ‘poor travelling people.’ Naomi is also probably the Naome (sic) Bland who died, ‘aged 30 years,’ in May 1855 at the Newbury Union.
There are three known baptisms of Jemima Jeffs’ children with her husband, Hezekiah/Ezekiel, a Mary Ann, baptised in Buckinghamshire in 1831, Martha, baptised at Rotherfield Peppard, Oxfordshire in March 1834, having been ‘born on Sonning Common,’ and an Eliza at Denham, in Buckinghamshire in 1836, ‘hawker.’
Subsequently Matthew Bland, son of Joseph and Mary, who united with Naomi Jeffs, daughter of William and Mary, had several children and two of their daughters, Ann Selina and Phoebe, would repeat the patterns of siblings marrying first cousins, when Ann Selina married William Jeffs, son of Elizabeth Bland and Matthew Jeffs, and Phoebe partnered their son Matthew.
Families, of course, often travelled together, and are found camping out, or even baptising their children together. At Brize Norton, Oxfordshire, on 25th February 1880 Cinderella and James Bland baptised their six-year-old son, Matthew, whilst Moses and Susannah Davis baptised their three-year-old boy, George, both couples recorded as having ‘no settled home, peg makers.’
In the 1881 census at Steventon Cow Common, Abingdon, these two families are together: Cinderella Bland, with her children Albert, Britannia and Matthew, living with cousins James Bland, his brother John, and a nephew, also John. She omits to mention that her cousin James Bland is her husband, and the father of her children. Moses and Susannah Davis are there, too, with their several children, Annie, Sophia, Elizabeth, Henry, Jane, George and Walter.
More than 20 years later we catch up with some of these families once more, when they are arrested for vagrancy and assault in 1903. Susannah Davis, 65, hawker, and her youngest daughter, Alice, 21, are easy to identify (although Susannah is about 8 years younger than claimed). Susannah’s husband, a basket maker, appears to be Moses Davis, and is about the right age, but now claims to be called Henry. There is also an Annie Portsmouth, with four little children, and her husband, James Portsmouth, 42 (actually James Bland, using his partner’s name as an alias, the son of Moses Bland), a John Bland, 54, and an Albert Portsmouth, 36.
Is it possible that Susannah was a Bland before her union with Moses Davis? It would explain the links between these people travelling together, as well as finding her and two of her children lodging with Moses Bland in the 1901 census, although the age he gives is a decade younger than he actually is, having been born in Painswick, Gloucestershire in 1821. We really only know that Moses was James Bland’s father because they were arrested together, and that a John Bland, a year or two older than Moses, was his brother, and they were often in court together for various misdemeanours.
There is also a Susannah Bland arrested for vagrancy together with Moses and John, all three mentioned in the Berkshire Chronicle of January 1899 as ‘sleeping in a shed at Drayton.’ Is this Susannah Davis, who is recorded four years later, and by then seems to be with her Davis partner, or a completely separate member of this extended family?