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Q and A

IS THIS EVIDENCE OF A BIGAMOUS ACT?

Q Joseph VALLARD was born on 12th March 1859, the third son of Thomas and Charlotte Ann VALLARD (nee WARREN) at Hound Street, Sherborne, Dorset. Joseph’s father died in 1861; at the time he was living with the WARREN grandparents in Yetminster, Dorset. I don’t know if his mother ever had him back home to live. The 1871 census shows him being in the Weymouth Workhouse with his younger sister, Elizabeth Jane. In 1881 he was a soldier stationed in Essex; with him was his little sister, Elizabeth Jane. Both he and Elizabeth Jane married in 1884. Joseph, still a soldier, married Alice Mary COPPIN on 8th June 1884 in Little Warley, Essex. I don’t know if either of them had any children – I can’t find any record of any. Then I find a Joseph VALLARD aged 43 (my Joseph would have been 39), a labourer of Tamworth having died in a lunatic asylum in Littlemore, Oxfordshire, on 20th June 1898. I suspect this may be the right man but if so, did Alice VALLARD, his wife, commit bigamy, as I have found widow Alice as having married on 20th March of 1897 in West Hendon to a John LUFF, nine months before Joseph died. I haven’t found any other Joseph VALLARD deaths to coincide with Alice having married again and I haven’t found either Joseph or Alice in the 1891 census to check where they lived or if there were any children.

Sara P Vallard


A I assume that you know for certain that the Alice VALLARD who married John LUFF in 1897 was she who was previously married to Joseph: the name of her father on the certificate would have confirmed this. So what then are the possibilities? Had Joseph and Alice divorced; was Alice’s second marriage indeed bigamous; or was the Joseph VALLARD who died in the lunatic asylum some other Joseph VALLARD. If there were two Joseph VALLARDs then both might appear in other records, such as the census, or birth or death registrations. If they had divorced then this can easily be confirmed. If neither of these possibilities pans out, then the chance of bigamy must increase. The Indexes to Births include two ‘Joseph VALLARD’ entries: ‘Joseph’, in 1859 in Sherborne RD and ‘John Joseph’ in 1863 also in Sherborne RD. The Index to Marriages has ‘Joseph’, in 1884 in Billericay and ‘Joseph John’ in 1889 in Sherborne RD. The Index to Deaths to 1920 has only ‘Joseph’ aged 43, in 1898 in Headington RD. A search of all the Census Returns, at least 1861 to 1901, for any Joseph VALLARD born 1857 ±5 produced in 1861 the entry you have given as above. In 1871, although noting what you have said in your question, I cannot locate either Joseph VALLARD or his sister, Elizabeth Jane, in the Weymouth District Union Workhouse – or anywhere else. However, Charlotte Anne, his mother is working as a charwoman at the Castle Inn in Weymouth. In 1881, again noting what you have said in your question, I cannot locate either Joseph or his sister, Elizabeth Jane in Essex, or anywhere else. Interestingly, the 1881 census for Scotland includes a Joseph VALLARD, aged 22, born in England. He was a ‘light porter’ living as a lodger in St Andrew, Midlothian. In the 1891 census, patients at the County Lunatic Asylum, Littlemore, are only referred to by their initials: therefore a search for ‘J V’ was made. In 1891 Joseph VALLARD (J V) was already a patient in the asylum, with the occupation of general labourer. You do now need to search for his ‘wife’, Alice in the 1891 census. Littlemore Asylum opened in 1846 and was the first provision for pauper lunatics in the county. During the First World War the asylum was transformed from May 1918 to August 1920 into the Ashurst War Hospital, and in the Second World War the military took over some of the wards. The asylum (called The Oxford County and City Mental Hospital from 1922) was transferred to the control of the National Health Service in 1948. If any patients’ records survive, they may be held at the Oxfordshire Record Office (St Luke’s Church, Temple Road, Cowley, Oxford OX4 2HT; tel: 01865 398200; www.oxfordshire.gov.uk/records). Indexes to the divorce records for the period 1858 to 1903 are available on the FindMyPast website (www.findmypast.com). I could not see any reference to a VALLARD divorce though. It may be worth investigating army service records held at The National Archives, specifically for any surviving service record for Joseph VALLARD. As he would have been discharged sometime between 1884 and 1891 the search should be fairly straightforward as the papers for this period are arranged in a single alphabetical sequence in series WO 97. However, such papers would only survive if he was discharged to pension. Nevertheless this is a source worth investigating.

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