A love is paid The humble origins of the Vickery line

The parish registers from two hundred years or more ago can be rather basic in terms of the useful genealogical information we can glean. However, some of the quirks and comments of the old free form entries are fascinating, perhaps for baptisms in particular.

Previously the Somerset parish records made available online on various sites have only been transcriptions, of varying quality, so the foibles are missing (and probably some parishes and periods too). Ancestry now has added many of these records to its collection, with images as well as transcriptions.


Here’s the baptism for great great great great grandfather Charles Vickery, on 15th June 1788 – the only birth entry for that year in Seavington St Michael’s register. He is the “son of Elias and Mary his wife” followed by “porper”. That word appears on one or two other entries and is obviously a variant on ‘pauper’ {1}.

A three penny duty on baptisms had been introduced in 1783, as recorded at the time a few pages back in the register:


Perhaps paupers didn’t have to pay the fee – certainly Charles’ sister Elizabeth who is further down the 1788 register page, baptised 20 May 1792, is marked as “exempt”. {2}

But what can we interpret from the phrase added under Charles’ entry, which appears to be “a love is paid”? The price of love is the burden of the resulting children – a modern concept surely? That the vicar has paid the fee for them? The love of the couple has finally been (re)paid with a child – they were married in 1776 so, if Charles is the first, a long time to wait?

There doesn’t seem to be that many asides in this register, so what caught the author’s imagination to make one here? He wouldn’t really be expecting many people to read it.

Now that I’ve posted this and seen the image in a different setting – surely it is meant to read “above is paid”, referring to having paid over the fees for all baptisms to date. A rather more mundane clerical note than the current author’s initial reading. Other points still stand (and I still like the idea)!

The squiggly bits

Having resolved the above, and at the risk of another red face, what about those squiggles – between June and 15th, and in front of the A? Are they shorthand for something, or just squiggly bits?

Not really of this parish

This late addition to the article was going to be a short warning to watch out the use of the word ‘sojourner’ in marriage records, applied to someone not known to be ‘of the parish’. Ancestry transcribers have managed to include the description as part of the surname (or as the whole surname) in about 200 instances, from a  quick search of the Somerset records (as at 17th July 2016). It is easy to see why – they would need to have had specific instructions to be aware of this problem. {4}

A reply to a query on Genes Reunited forum on this topic quotes  from an unknown source:

A sojourner just means someone who is a temporary resident, but in Parish Registers its meaning is a little more precise. When the Hardwicke Act was introduced in 1754, clerks were required to enter the parish for each party to a marriage. If they had been resident for more than 3 weeks then they were shown as “o.t.p.” (of this parish). However, for someone who had only taken up residence in lodgings to avoid the necessity for banns fees, this was frowned upon and the word “sojourner” was added to the entry to indicate that they had met the letter of the law but didn’t really belong.”

Other Google results suggest that the main issue is about whether someone has settlement rights in the parish or not (e.g. for poor law relief). However, the avoiding of banns needing to be read in two parishes, and hence two sets of fees, seems to be a stronger reason for someone to take up temporary residence in the parish. Does this tie in with the many register entries in the Victorian period showing both parties as having the same address? That practice certainly wasn’t because they were all co-habiting in sin first!

There are some baptisms where ‘sojourner’ appears too – it appears quite common for a young woman to have the first child under the guidance of their own mother.


  1. Other spelling oddities spotted – coppied instead of copied, dyed instead of died. Note the z in Baptizm, too. A cousin points out that while Samuel Johnson’s dictionary was published in 1755, standard spelling would take a while to catch on.
  2. It would be nice to know more about Elizabeth.
  3. Various Ancestry trees have recorded Charles’ wife as Ann Wood. The marriage register for 27 December 1808 makes it clear that the surname is Woodland, a common name in the vicinity, and another one which later appeared in the Welsh valleys. Eldest child baptised April 1809, oops.
  4. I don’t recall having come across this term before, despite a fair amount of trawling through the Norfolk and London parish registers, images and transcriptions.

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