Progress on the Identity of James Bull

James BULL is a problematic ancestor who was alive in the 1830s. He was father to James Honeyman BULL (1829-1878) and DNA studies show his descendants have a link with the Honeyman family, most likely via Mary Ann Susannah HONEYMAN (1803-?). James Honeyman BULL was baptised in 1 May 1831 at St James Piccadilly in Westminster as the son of James and Mary Ann BULL – his age was ‘above 1 1/2 years’ placing his birth around September 1829 – and his address was given as ‘6 Eden Place, Pimlico’. No such address existed at that time, but Eaton Place was an address in Pimlico and we infer that that was the intended description. James Bull was described as a leatherdresser.

On James Honeyman Bull’s marriage in 1855, James Bull is not marked as deceased (which may indicate he was still alive), and he was then described as an ‘innkeeper’. Exhaustive studies of James Bulls on the 1841 and 1851 censuses have failed to show a conclusive identity for this elusive ancestor. The search is complicated by the fact that there are several James Bulls – it is a relatively common name. There is no marriage we can trace with Mary Ann HONEYMAN.

The Good news

DNA studies may provide us with clues. My Mum had her DNA tested and she and two of her distant cousins (KA and Christine C) match two people called Chris G and Kurt T. Christine C, KA and my Mum’s common ancestors were James Honeyman Bull and his wife Martha Eaves, indicating that Chris G’s link to them is either via James or Martha. Chris and Kurt are descended from a Matilda Bull (1802-1888) who lived in Pimlico and married John GODDARD in 1827 at St George, Hanover Square. I have therefore been exploring the family tree of Matilda Bull to see if she provides clues to the mystery of James Bull.

Matilda Bull was baptised in Chatham in Kent in 1802, the daughter of William and Sarah BULL. She was married in 1827 and then had children baptised in St James Piccadilly, the same church in which James Honeyman Bull was baptised. He eldest son, John William GODDARD (1828-?), was baptised at St James Piccadilly from ‘Eaton Lane, Pimlico’ (sadly it omits the house number), the same street in which James Honeyman Bull was born.  The wedding between John GODDARD and Matilda was witnessed by George COBB, whose wife Elizabeth (1791-?, according to the 1851 census) was also born in Chatham. This Elizabeth corresponds to Matilda’s sister Elizabeth BULL (1791-?) who was also baptised in Chatham.

I have traced George and Elizabeth’s marriage in 1826 in St George Hanover Square – it was by licence and both are described as widowed. Elizabeth was at that time ‘Betsy RASBIN’ of St George Hanover Square but as yet I have been unable to find a marriage for Elizabeth BULL to Rasbin. Rasbin is not a common name, and should be distinctive, but I have been unable to trace the event. Therefore the link to Elizabeth Bull currently is unproven, even if it is intuitive. Their eldest son, George William COBB (1830-?) was baptised in St James Piccadilly out of ‘Eaton Lane’ (again omitting the house number), the same as James Honeyman Bull and John William Goddard. The records are consistent with the family are all living together in Eaton Lane between 1828-1830, precisely the dates that James Honeyman Bull is there.

Descendant Chart for William BULL 2
Figure 1: Family Tree of William BULL and Sarah of Chatham. Note that George William COBB and John William GODDARD are both born in Eaton Lane, Pimlico, where James Honeyman BULL is also born.

Do Matilda and Elizabeth Bull have a brother James? Yes, he is baptised at Chatham in 1794. He joined the navy in 1813, giving his place of birth as Chatham and mother’s name as Sarah, all consistent with this James. He was in the Navy until 1821 when he was discharged as suffering from ‘phthisis’ (tuberculosis). This allows us to create a hypothesis for our James Bull, that the Bull family (James, Matilda and Elizabeth) lived either together or close to each other in Eaton Lane, Pimlico, in the period 1828-1831. They had children during this time, but for whatever reason, they did not choose the local parish church at St George Hanover Square, but rather the church of St James Piccadilly, where all the baptisms are to be found. All of the families move away from Eaton Lane by the mid-1830s, although Matilda and Elizabeth remain close by for all of their lives. This hypothesis explains the DNA link that my mum and her cousins share with Chris G, who is descended from Matilda.

The Bad News

I have been able to trace that James Bull on the census. He is in the 1851 census in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, with his birthplace clearly shown as Chatham in Kent with an estimated date of birth of 1795. His wife is Harriet and she is also born in Chatham.  They had a daughter Elizabeth H Bull, born 1827 in Southwark, who corresponds to a baptism at St George the Martyr, Southwark for Elizabeth Harriet Bull, the daughter of James Bull and Harriet. James is a gent of Walworth Common. I cannot find confidently the marriage of James Bull and Harriet – it may be James and Harriet HOLLINS in 1822 at Stepney, but there is a James Bull (1799-1859) buried out of Stepney in 1859 who seems to correspond to that marriage. It is more like to correspond to the marriage in 1823 to Harriet BARTON at St George Hanover Square.

The family appears on the 1841 census in Langley’s Buildings, in St Mary Newington. The daughter is entered as Elizabeth Bull (forgetting the middle name), the wife is Harriet and James is now a clerk.  In 1851 they are in Cheltenham – James is born Chatham, the clerk of the manor court at Cheltenham and by 1861 they are back in Newington at 8 George Street. James is now a widower born Kent and his daughter Eliza Bull is born Surrey. James died on the 10 Sep 1868 at St Thomas’ Hospital with an address at 66 Date Street, Trafalgar Street, Walworth, Surrey, leaving letters of administration to his daughter Elizabeth Harriet Bull.

The good points from this is that James clearly survived childhood and is found in Southwark in the late 1820s when our James Bull met Mary Ann Honeyman. There is unfortunately no evidence that James Bull was ever a leatherdresser or an innkeeper, although he is educated and working as a clerk, as James Honeyman Bull himself would do in due course. The problem is that this James is married to Harriet by 1827 and apparently remains with her until her death between 1851 and 1861. There is no sign of James Honeyman Bull with the family on the 1841 census.

It may be that there is another James Bull born in Chatham in the mid-1790s but if so, I have been unable to trace his baptism. If this is our man, then his relationship to Mary Ann Honeyman must have been extramarital and taken place while he was married to Harriet. It would mean that James Bull acknowledged his son by Mary Ann in the 1830 and even moved with her in the 1830s to Eaton Lane, before returning to his original family in Newington by the 1841 census. Alternatively, he may have married one Harriet around 1825 who died not long after the birth of their daughter in 1827, he then married Mary Ann Honeyman who died in the 1830s, before marrying a second Harriet before the 1841 census. All of this is possible but unlikely. The simplest interpretation of the genealogical evidence is that James and Harriet married around 1825 and stayed together until Harriet’s death between 1851 and 1861.

The DNA match might indicate that the link is in the generations before Matilda Bull; that James Honeyman Bull was descended from Matilda’s cousin and not her brother. A Richard BULL is born in Chatham and moved to Eaton Court, Pimlico (part of Eaton Lane) in the 1820s and appears on the 1851 census there. Or it could be that the James we are following in the records is Matilda’s cousin, with her brother being James Honeyman Bull’s father, leaving a more subtle footprint on the contemporary records.

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