Answers to Questions


BRIARS/BRIERS, Stevenage,  1800-1860


October, 2001




Andrew Briars (andy @t from Norway says that Edward Briers b1795 and married in 1818 to Sarah Spicer b1799. Had 7 children. One of the Grandchildren Joseph Briars b1857 was my great grandfather.( died 1907 ) Can you link Joseph to his father or mother. Info from 1861 census records.

The more information you give in your question, the easier it is for me to answer. Often there may be several people with the same name and about the same age in an area and this is the case here, and without more information it is impossible to distinguish them - see Right Name, Wrong Body?

Assuming the 1861 census said your Joseph was aged 4 the chances are that he was born in 1856 and not 1857 - but as ages are often not correct the difference is not significant. There were three Joseph Briars baptised in Stevenage parish church within a year of 1856 according to the British Vital Records Index:

Joseph Bryars, 7 January 1855, son of William James and Kezia Bryars
Joseph Briars, 7 September, 1856, son of Thomas and Amelia Briars
Joseph Briars, 7 June 1857, son of Daniel and Elizabeth Briars

Any of them could be your Joseph and all of them might be grandchildren of Edward Briers. As only one of them was living in Stevenage at the time of the 1881 census I have selected him as an example

At the time of the 1881 census Joseph Briars was a 24 year old general labourer living in Back Lane, Stevenage, with his wife Priscilla, a 28 year old laundress, and stepsons Charles Sissemond (8) and Leonard Sissemond (2).

The British Vital Records Index records what is clearly the marriage of the couple, with 24 year old Joseph Briars, son of Thomas Briars, marrying 28 year old Priscilla Sisserman, daughter of John Sisserman at Stevenage on 25th December 1880.

Coupling this information with the baptism information and returning to the British Vital Records Index we find another marriage. On 24th September 1842, at Stevenage, 21 year old Thomas Bryars, son of Edward, married 19 year old Amelia Biggs, daughter of Joseph.

It should be pointed out that there are many other Stevenage Briars records on both the BVRI and 1881 census CDs which may lead to an alternative link back to Edward (assuming there was only one Edward) and you will need to check these (including the microfilms of the source records as appropriate) - and possibly some of the other censuses - to clarify the situation.

July 2011 - SISSERMAN

"Sisserman" (scullytom @t of Ireland wrote that he could confirm that Pricilla Simmerman/Sissemond married Joseph Briars, and asked if the Sissemans came from Russia. I have sent details on to Andrew (assuming his email address still works).

The unusual name intrigued me so I decided to look further. What is quite clear is that there is a considerable variation in spelling (at least as recorded in modern indexes). For instance there was a Willim Sisseman who married in Great Wymondley in 1837.  In the 1841 census he was William Sissaman living in Little Wymondley with his wife Elizabith [sic]. Daughter  Mary Sissermon's birth was registered in 1839. Son James Sissiman was baptised in 1844. William's wife Elizabeth was buried Elizabeth Sissaphon in 1845 - and two of their children were buried with the same surname but the deaths were registered as Sisserman. In 1850 William Sissman married a widow, Mary Wolfe. In the 1851 census he was William Siseman of Great Wymondley, was 49, and born in Hitchin. William Sisserman was in Hitchin Workhouse in 1881 and was buried in 1884. The Workhouse presumably registered the death using the name in their records, so I would expect the 1881 and 1884 spellings to be the same.

In a quick search William was the earliest reference to the name in Hertfordshire that I found as he was born circa 1802 at Hitchin. However I note that a George "Siperman?" was buried at Stevenage in 1834 at the age of 51 and perhaps there is a connection with the Sismans in Huntingdonshire where a George Sisman was baptised in 1780.

In the days when most people could not read and write there were some surnames which were highly variable - and this is obviously one of those. Trying to work out the derivation of such a name is very difficult. Most people coming from Russia are likely to be well-to-do and educated (so would almost certainly know how to spell their own name) or have a particular skilled trade. There is nothing I have seen so far to suggest that the Sisserman family of Hertfordshire have such origins.

B.T.W. You may not know that a George Sissaman, a single man and labourer, left Stevenage to work for Me. Lee of Little Anstey Farm, Ippolitts for 2 a year, serving 2 years. When the hiring period was up there was an Examination and Removal Order in 1835 to ensure that he returned to Stevenage. The situation at this date was that if a poor person remained in a parish for too long they became the responsibility of that parish. To prevent this happening the hapless individual would be sent back to his official parish of settlement - which in many cases was the one he was born in. (It is said that homeless women in labour were sometimes bundled into a cart and moved to a nearby parish - to avoid having to support the new baby on the poor rate.)

If you can add to the information given above tell me.