The Centre of Brindle village (c) Jenni Hyde

This is the first in a short series of posts on my research into John Balshaw’s Jig. It’s a short ‘musical comedy’ written by a man in Brindle, Lancashire, in the mid-seventeenth century.  I found the manuscript in the British Library a couple of years ago, and transcribed it, and I’ve already written a blog post about that.  It wasn’t taken up by the journal I sent it to, but in some respects I’m quite glad, as it’s given me the chance to expand the project a little further.  I’m now hoping that it’s going to be published next year by the Regional Heritage Centre at Lancaster University. 

Because I’m pulling out all the stops to have the text with them by July, I’m currently up to my eyeballs in John Balshaws… You wouldn’t believe how many people with the same name there could be in one small place.  Of course, this being the seventeenth century, the records aren’t complete either, so it’s extremely difficult to make sure that baptism, marriage and burial records relate to the same person.  Ancestry has been invaluable, as has the Lancashire Online Parish Clerk Project, but my head is still spinning.  There are a few Balshaws in Pleasington, Blackburn; more in Brindle itself; others are in Walton Le Dale (which was part of Blackburn parish); some in Leyland, Preston, Cockerham and Ormskirk.  Moreover, they move between some of these places – one Balshaw, whose children were baptised in Brindle, buried two of them in Walton Le Dale.  Or was it Leyland?  I forget…. 

I’ve been quite interested in family history for a long time.  After I handed in my PhD thesis, while I was waiting for my viva, I did quite a bit of work on my own family tree. But working from a known fact, for which you have a record, is rather more straightforward.  In the case of John Balshaw, all I knew was that he was resident in Brindle at the point the jig was written, and I don’t even know for certain when that was.

As of this morning, I’m fairly confident I’ve managed to pin down my John Balshaw, and I’ve got what I think is a plausible life story, although I have to admit that I haven’t found a marriage record that looks like it could be him.  I’d be happier if I did, so I’ll keep looking this week. The problem is that the records are particularly bad for the civil war years – in some places, apparently, they were destroyed at the end of the Interregnum, and they simply can’t be full for the period 1640 – 1660 because there are children I know exist but don’t ever seem to have been baptised!

It’s turning into a very complicated jigsaw puzzle, and I really need to find a better way of keeping my records on each individual person so that they make more sense and I can see the links (or lack of them) more easily.  It’s left me wondering what genealogists do…