This is the story of a lateral branch of the family which suddenly began to adopt the middle name of Simpson. My research has led me from Furness to Essex, back to Furness, and to Liverpool and Manchester. I have tied up several loose ends but, nevertheless, a central mystery remains. The following account summarises the main facts rather than the process of discovery

Perhaps you can throw some light on the problem or suggest a way forward.

Early Days

The story begins with Edward Croasdell, son of John Croasdell of Old Hall, who was baptised at Colton on 11 June 1786. Old Hall was a hamlet about quarter of a mile from the village of Bouth in the parish of Colton in Furness, Lancashire. John Croasdell was a mariner who had married Jane Keen in Liverpool in 1783. His death has not been found but his widow re-married in 1788 and died the following year. So Edward was orphaned by the age of 3.

But his relatives looked out for him. In 1800 Edward was mentioned in the wills of his uncle and grandfather, both named Richard. The Uncle died in 1801 in Liverpool but it is likely that any money went to Edward's cousins. Richard senior died three years later in 1804 and Edward was left the yearly interest on 10 guineas until he reached 21, when he would inherit the full sum.

In January 1812 Edward again benefited, this time in the will of John Walker, cordwainer of Bouth. He shared with two other nephews John Walker's wearing apparel and was bequeathed the sum of £9. He is described in this will as a cordwainer, like his uncle, and this helps to link him with later references to the trade of shoemaker.

Change of Name and Change of Scenery

After 1812 there is at first sight a considerable gap in information concerning Edward's whereabouts. But we now know some of what happened, if not why.


Dunmow Parish Church

In August 1825 Edward Simpson, bachelor, and Thirza Joyce, spinster married at St Mary's, Great Dunmow.

Subsequent research has shown that Edward Simpson and Edward Croasdell were one and the same. Three of their children, Priscilla, James Acquila and Edward, were baptised, as Simpsons, at Dunmow Congregational church.

In 1841 in New Street, Great Dunmow the Simpson family consisted of Edward (45) a journeyman shoemaker, not born in Essex, Thirza (40), Priscilla (14), James (12), Edward (10), William (8) and Henry (5) The birth certificate of John b 2 December 1843 at Great Dunmow gives his father as Edward Simpson, shoemaker and his mother as Thirza Simpson, formerly Joyce.

From 1838 to 1847 the Simpsons are recorded as receiving financial help from the church. So shoemaking was not enough to sustain the family. Then the register shows a very interesting minute inserted at an unknown date by the minister Richard Frost. It reads as follows: "The names of Croasdale having been legally added to the names of Edward and Thirza Simpson, the names of their children recorded in this book ought to be registered thus and I hereby certify to have baptised all and each of them." The names of Priscilla, James Aquila, Edward, Henry and John (Bap January 1844), but not William are listed with their birth and/or baptism dates.

The financial records also note, undated, that Edward Simpson removed to Ulverston - back in Furness.

A Sudden Change of Fortune

The next we apparently hear about the family seems to be in 1848 when Edward Croasdell of Ulverstone, gentleman, loans £1200 to the Trustees of the Liverpool Docks. In 1851, the census shows Edward Croasdell aged 64, born in Bouth, Lancashire, living at Moss Side, Ulverstone, as a gentleman. With Edward are his wife Thirza Croasdell (55) and his children Priscilla, (24) J A, (22) Edward, (21) William, (19) Henry (15) and John (8). Thirza and all the children are shown as being born in Dunmow, Essex.

Moving On

Sometime during the next 10 years the family moved again - this time to Manchester.

Finally on 21 January 1861 Edward Croasdell, aged 75, an annuitant, died at 22 River Street, Hulme. The informant was Henry Croasdell of the same address, present at the death. His burial has not been found and his obituary is brief but describes him as a gentleman, late of Ulverstone. Sadly there is no will to enlighten us more.

Progress through the country

Further information on certificates and census records traces the children's progress and shows how some retained the Simpson name in their families.

William Simpson Croasdell, aged 22, a greengrocer, married Eliza Roberts at St Anne's Liverpool on 23 April 1855. His father is given as Edward Croasdell, shoemaker. William and Eliza had several children and appeared in Liverpool on the 1861 census where he is shown as William S Croasdell, 28, greengrocer, born in Great Dunmow. His brother, John Croasdell, shopman, aged 16, also born in Great Dunmow, is living with the family. William's son Robert carried on the trade of greengrocer and his grandson Rupert Leroy moved to the USA where he died in Florida in 1969.

John Croasdell later married on 22 February 1872 in Liverpool to Bella Irwin, the register again showing the father as Edward Croasdell, shoemaker. Several of their children died young and the family seems to disappear from view after 1881.

Priscilla Croasdell then living at River Street, Hulme, married James Cooper in Manchester on 18 May 1857 giving her father's details as Edward Croasdell, shoemaker. An Edward Croasdell, father or brother witnessed the marriage. By 1881 James Cooper had died and Priscilla, a widow was employed as a dressmaker looking after their three children and her widowed mother.

Edward Simpson Croasdell aged 36, a broker of River Street, Hulme, married Eliza Turner of Upper Jackson Street at Manchester Cathedral on 28 June 1866. His father is given as Edward Simpson Croasdell, Gentleman. The following year, in January 1867 the same Edward Simpson Croasdell, now an Estate Agent, and Eliza, formerly Turner, had a son, Edward Charles in Hulme, Manchester. Four years later the family appears in the 1871 census at Upper Jackson Street, Hulme where Edward is shown as Edward S Croasdell, aged 40, Estate Agent, born in Essex, Dunmow. His wife is born in Finchinfield, also Essex and there is a daughter, Thirza M. Members of this branch of the family moved to Newcastle on Tyne, Leicester and Canada.

Henry Simpson Croasdale in 1861 was a warehouseman living with his mother in Hulme, Manchester. By 1871 he had become an estate agent and broker and when he died in July 1875 was described as a mechanic. He remained unmarried. One family version of The Scarlet Woman has Henry discovering the truth about the family's missing fortune on a trip to Paris, and dying there before he could return and explain all to his anxious brothers and sister. But his death certificate quite clearly shows that a Coroner's inquest decided he died in Manchester - suddenly from excessive drinking!

The Story So Far .....

So Edward Croasdell was born and died with the same name but mysteriously changed Croasdell to Simpson sometime between 1812 and 1825 - during which time he moved to Essex, where there were no known family links. His children were born Simpsons but changed their names to Croasdell in the mid 1840s. Some preserved Simpson as a middle name and as a name they passed on to their children and later generations. I wonder what took Edward so far from home and what made him want to return? I wonder how everything was explained to the children? And how did Edward, an apparently humble shoemaker, become wealthy enough to make substantial investments in Liverpool docks and become a gentleman. It may be that he was complying with the wishes of a benefactor in yet another will but no trace of any such document can be found to explain either or both of the changes. STOP PRESS Recent research has revealed more about the 2nd half of this mystery and a brief summary is here.

Any suggestions on how to solve the first part of this mystery will be very gratefully received!

Further details are available on several of the families of Edward and Thirza's descendants.Any contact from descendants would be welcomed.


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