Reay’s reconstruction of family kinship patterns showed that many families in the area he was studying were inter-related. He makes the point that while the nuclear family may well have been the norm in that most households consisted of two parents and their children, in fact there were numerous family members within a short distance of the so-called nuclear family, so the kinship patterns were maintained though people were not necessarily living under the same roof. Reay however was studying three villages all within a five mile radius – walking distance. It is not possible to draw such complicated kinship patterns for Elsfield as he was able to, given his greater amount of data. It is however possible in a limited way to trace what happened to families and to show to what extent the idea of the nuclear family was true. It is also noteworthy that the same patterns persisted in the 20th century.
The 19th century censuses show us how numerous families could become, often occupying more than one house within the village. Unfortunately, the houses were numbered rather than named as they are today, and were not numbered in a recognisable pattern. The enumerator at each census seems to have started at a different place, though it is possible to identify the farms, the Manor and the Vicarage.
The 1841 census shows several families who spread out from one cottage to another. The Clays, the Gurdons, the Locks, the Norths and the Harrises all occupied more than one house. The Gurdons and the Clays are here examined in detail.
The Gurdon family
John Gurdon is mentioned in the 1825 document as both a farmer and a cottager so there are two houses occupied by Gurdons. By the 1841 census, there were still two Gurdon households, both headed by a John Gurdon.
|1841||John Gurdon||aged 55||Farmer||John Gurdon||aged 40|
|Sarah||aged 50||Martha||aged 40|
|John||aged 15||m. Eliz. Taylor 1848||Alfred||aged 15|
|William||aged 10||m. Martha Stanton 1853||James||aged 15|
|Richard||aged 8||d. 1844 aged 11||Thomas||aged 15|
|Esther Gammon||aged 3||Maria||aged 14|
|1851||John Gurdon||aged 53||James Gurdon||aged 28|
|Martha||aged 50||Sarah||aged 25|
|Amelia||aged 21||Milliner m. James Cooper 1851||Henry||aged 5|
|Rebecca||aged 17||Emily||aged 3|
|Charles||aged 15||Ag. Lab.||Sarah||aged 1|
|1861||John Gurdon||aged 75||d. 1868|
|William||aged 16||Grandson born at Burnham|
|1871||Ann Gurdon||aged 82||Blind. d. 1873 (This is probably the person named Sarah in previous censuses.)|
|George||aged 24||Grandson. Had only one hand. Born in Headington.|
|Richard||aged 13||Scholar. Born in Headington.|
During the 1840s and 50s not only did they occupy more than one cottage in the village, they had links with other families. They were linked by marriage to the Taylor family when John Gurdon married Elizabeth Taylor in 1848, while William married Martha Stanton, a servant at the vicarage. James Cooper who married Amelia Gurdon is listed as living in Elsfield, but he may only have been lodging in the village, as there is no family of that name in the census.
There are Gurdons who are buried in the churchyard who are not listed in the censuses. These are Thomas who died aged 84 in 1843, Caroline, who died aged 14 in 1844, Eliza,who died aged 26 in 1848, Richard, aged 68 in 1856 who was living at St Clements, and Mary Elizabeth Wells Gurdon, aged 11 months. Lucy Gurdon living at St Clements died in 1864 aged 70 while Elizabeth aged 37 died at Headington in 1864. There is also Elizabeth Crews Gurdon, living at St Clements, who died aged 78 in 1870.
One of the Gurdons, the first John Gurdon married to Sarah, is listed in the 1861 census as a corn dealer, so he obviously supplemented his farming income with dealing in corn. Amelia, daughter of the other John Gurdon, married a baker from Headington, so it may well be that when the family moved out of Elsfield they earned a living in baking bread rather than growing the wherewithal to make it. As late as 1952, the Women’s Institute were buying cakes for an Easter party for the children of the village from Oliver and Gurdon. They spent £1-16-0d. Oliver and Gurdon had a thriving cake factory in Summertown, founded just after the First World War and closing in 1975, when they employed over 200 people.
The Clay family
The Clay family was present in Elsfield in 1825 and were still represented in the village in 1891.
|1841||John Clay||aged 25||Thomas Clay||aged 45|
|Lucy||aged 25||Letisha||aged 40|
|Emma||aged 4||John||aged 20|
|Mariah||aged 1||Elizabeth||aged 10|
|Phebe||aged 7||Richard||aged 9|
|John Clay||aged 50||Jane||aged 5|
|1851||John Clay||aged 38||Thomas Clay||aged 60|
|Lucy||aged 33||Letitia||aged 50|
|Emma||aged 14||John||aged 16|
|Maria||aged 11||William||aged 16|
|Elizabeth||aged 9||Jane||aged 15|
|Sarah||aged 1||d. 1853|
|1861||Thomas Clay||aged 72||John Clay||aged 77||d. 1864|
|Latisha||aged 62||Mary||aged 75||d. 1868|
|Jane||aged 23||d. 1865|
|1871||Thomas Clay||aged 82|
|William||aged 36.||Ag. Lab. d. 1880|
|1881||Letitia Clay||aged 80|
|Sarah||aged 55||Small shopkeeper|
|1891||Letitia Clay||aged 93||d. 1892|
|Sarah||aged 65||d. 1898|
The Clay family were poor, though not so poor that they ended up in the workhouse. Nevertheless they provided support for their children by housing, over however short a time, their various grandchildren: William in 1861 and Clara in 1881. There is a record of the marriage of Jane Clay to James Andrews in 1864 where she made her mark rather than signing her name. It is difficult to know which person this is. Was she the daughter of Thomas Clay, who died the following year? If so, then she had come back home and her married name is not recorded.
The 19th century was a transition period between an oral and a literate age and this shows in the various spellings of the name “Letitia”, who would have been more used to hearing rather than reading her own name.
By the end of the century, only Sarah remained in the village and she eked out a meagre income by selling goods she had bought in Oxford. She would walk there and back with a basket on each arm and sell what she could carry. The Parsons family at the Manor House saved their tea leaves so she could dry and reuse them.