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BENJAMIN SERJANT, 1810-1870 & AMELIA VIGAR, 1814-1897

Journal by jim77

Compiled by Jim Sargant, great great grandson of Benjamin & Amelia

Benjamin SERJANT is a bit of a mystery at present. With no birth or christening records found so far, we rely on census returns for the information that he was born in 1810 in Horley, Surrey. It is likely that he is the Benjamin Sargeant among the many family adult christenings recorded at St Bartholomew’s Church, Horley, on January 15 1832. This record names his father simply as Benjamin. If this was our Benjamin, a christening at about this time would have been a prerequisite to his Church of England marriage in 1834. Most likely is the theory that Benjamin was the eldest son of Philip Serjant (1785-1833) & Mary Cook (1792-1874). Records indicate that Philip had two wives, some of his children’s mother being named as Mary, others as Sarah. The sequence of the children’s births, plus the absence of any information about Sarah makes it likely that Mary Cook was also known as Sarah.

So far, the name Benjamin does not occur among any of Philip’s recorded children, but several of his offspring had Anglican christenings in adulthood. A Philip Serjant, who was a member of the Baptist Church in Horley, was probably our Philip, which would account for the absence of infant christenings records for most of his children, including Benjamin.

Church of St Peter & St Paul, Nutfield
Church of St Peter & St Paul, Nutfield

Apart from the census material, the first date we have relating to Benjamin is April 13 1834, when he married Amelia Vigar at the Church of St Peter & St Paul, Nutfield, Surrey. Nutfield Parish Records include another very interesting event on that same day – the adult christening of Thomas Serjant, son of Philip & Mary Serjant. Thomas has not been found on any other record of Philip’s children. Significantly, the witnesses at the wedding of Benjamin & Amelia were Thomas Serjant & Catherine Brown – surely a strong indication that Thomas & Benjamin could have been brothers. Thomas & Catherine were to marry two weeks later at Horley. Only Amelia was able sign her name in the Parish Register. She was a daughter of John Hewitt Vigar & Ann Mitchell, and had been christened at Burstow, Surrey, on May 15 1814.

The 1841 census shows Benjamin & Amelia with their early children living at Alderstead Heath, Merstham, Surrey. This is a wooded area on the North Downs, on the old turnpike road between Merstham and Chaldon. It is said to have been used to store tanks prior to D-Day in World War 2.

By the 1851 census, the family were at Pigeon House, Chipstead, Surrey. Since Benjamin was an agricultural labourer, like the majority of our male ancestors, addresses such as this probably refer to farm cottages adjacent to the house named, although it is a matter for conjecture how their usually large families fitted into the small cottages.

Census areas seem to have had strange boundaries in the mid 19th century. The 1861 census has our family living at Joliffes Road, Leigh. Ten years later, the were at Joliffe Row, Merstham, which is some miles from Leigh, so maybe Joliffe Row had been in the census district of Leigh.

Joliffe Row Cottages, Merstham
Joliffe Row Cottages, Merstham

The fact that so few people could read or write in those days accounts for the diversity of spellings of our family name, it usually being a matter for the discretion of the person recording an event. Most records show Benjamin as Serjant, yet records of his children have different spellings :

Philip Serjant      christened  Nov 14 1835     at Nutfield
Ann Serjeant        christened  Feb 12 1837     at Nutfield
Ellen Sarjeant      christened  April 28 1839   at Chaldon
Mary Sergeant       christened  March 21 1841   at Merstham
Thomas Sergeant     christened  July 16 1843    at Merstham
James Sargeant      christened  May 10 1846     at Merstham
Benjamin Sargeant   christened  March 11 1849   at Merstham
Amelia Sergeant     christened  June 1 1851     at Chipstead
John Sergeant       born        Dec 3 1853      at Merstham
William Sergeant    born        Dec 3 1853      at Merstham

Several of these children later changed their spelling of the surname – especially Philip & William adopted Sargant, John adopted Sargeant.

Benjamin died on April 15 1870, the cause of death being stated as chronic cystitis on his death certificate. Amelia survived him, marrying again in 1877 to Joseph Atkins, and eventually passing away in 1897.

I am in touch with many ‘family members’ – descendants of Benjamin and relatives of various spouses who married into the family, also descendants of the wider family of Benjamin’s probable siblings (children of Philip Serjant & Mary Cook). The uncommon first name Hewitt – Amelia’s father was John Hewitt Vigar – was to be repeated three generations later, with John Hewitt Sargant, grandson of Benjamin via his son William.

Surnames: SARGANT SEARGEANT SERJANT
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by jim77 Profile | Research | Contact | Subscribe | Block this user
on 2010-06-06 07:42:26

I have been researching the Sargant family, with its variety of spellings for over 10 years. My immediate ancestors came from Surrey, but I am keen to find links with families in other parts of the country & overseas.

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