Ursula Watson

We have no information about Ursula Watson before her marriage in 1711 to Thomas Layster.

As far as we know, she and Thomas had four children, but given the state of the Whitgift parish records there may have been more. (There is a contemporaneous note on the records in 1717 that they had been damaged by water.)

Ursula’s first child Thomas was baptised on 15 February 1712 (13 NS). Then two daughters, Elizabeth and Mary (our ancestor), were baptised together on 18 August 1717 – this is no real indication of their birth dates and we can’t assume they were twins. Ursula’s youngest child John was baptised on 26 November 1721.

In 1724 there is a record of the burial of Thomas, the son of Thomas Lister, who could well have been Ursula’s eldest child. On the other hand, there are at least three Thomases –  Lister, Laister or Layster – in Whitgift at this time who could have been this boy’s father. I fear the worst – I have not found any other records for Thomas Jnr.

We have no idea how the family made their living, but we do know that in 1727 Ursula’s husband Thomas died “a poor man”. I think that that phrase, often used in parish records, means the person was buried “on the parish” in a pauper’s grave. (The main purpose of parish records, let’s not forget, was that the clergymen should be paid for their work. So they would definitely record cases where they had a claim to reimbursement from the Church.)

Ursula would not have many choices open to her. She may have been forced to accept financial relief from the churchwardens, particularly as the family was known to them after the burial of her husband. Perhaps she and her children were able to take on work in the fields or on the river.

In 1730 life took a turn for the better. Ursula was married for the second time and moved to the home of her husband William Bourn (also Burn) in Adlingfleet. Ursula’s daughter Elizabeth seems to have stayed in Whitgift, where she would marry in 1732.

The Bourns had a child Ursula in June 1732; I have found no record of any other children. Sadly William died in 1739, leaving Ursula with her seven-year-old daughter. She was not alone, however. Though eighteen-year-old John may well have left home by now, Mary remained with her mother in Adlingfleet until her own marriage in April 1742.

Only three months after Mary’s wedding Ursula died. Her daughter Ursula was ten years old – maybe she found a home with one of her mother’s children or she may have been cared for by her father’s family. The next record I have found for her is her marriage at the age of thirty in Hull, but the intervening twenty years are a mystery.

Ursula Watson did not have an easy life. I believe she suffered the loss of a child. She was widowed twice. She knew what it was to be poor and to bring up young children as a single parent. Let’s hope she had a good life in spite of the difficulties and remember – without her, we would not be here!

Mother of Mary Laister

No record of birth found

Married Thomas Layster on 15 April 1711 at Whitgift, nr Goole, Yorkshire

Buried 16 July 1742

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