Ann Harding
Sex: Female
Birth: c1791
Death: c1840
Spouse/Partner: Thomas Underdown
Marriage: 15/10/1811 Southleigh, Devon

The circumstances of Ann's birth and baptism are currently unknown. She is most likely the daughter of John and Susanna Harding who was baptised at Southleigh on 12th September 1790, but further research is required to determine this.

Child out of wedlockEdit

Ann gave birth to a daughter Elizabeth who was christened in the local Southleigh parish church on 15th January 1811, despite being born out of wedlock. The child's father was Thomas Underdown, the son of Benjamin and Elizabeth Underdown (nee Bishop) who lived in the local Southleigh area.

Death of UncleEdit

It appears that Thomas's family was in a reasonable financial position while Thomas was young, until the death of his uncle, Robert. Robert had been well known in the community as the Captain of the East Devon Local Militia, but he appears to have had some debts. Upon his death, he appointed Thomas's father and uncle Emmanuel as executors of his will. A local newspaper advertised that Thomas's father had to sell his house on 3/10/1811 in order to cover his uncle's debts. From this point on, Thomas's father was employed as an agricultural labourer, and their financial position waned.


Thomas must have thought that he should leave home as soon as possible in order to put less financial strain on the family. He was the first of his siblings to marry, and did so in the local Southleigh parish church on 15th October 1811, only 12 days after his father had to sell his house. He married Ann, the mother of his out of wedlock child.

Thomas and Ann's out of wedlock child had been christened on 15th January 1811. This would have also been an incentive to marry as soon as possible.


Thomas and Ann christened their family in Southleigh, where Thomas worked as a labourer. He is recorded as a labourer on some of the baptism records.

The couple did not have their second child until the year 1814, so they may have taken time to establish themselves and may have assisting Thomas’s parents. Their last child, William, was born in 1830. He was their 13th child.

Possible BankruptcyEdit

The Taunton Courier newspaper lists a T. Underdown of Colyton, ironmonger as a bankrupt on 10/12/1812. This could potentially be the Thomas of this family (although it could also be his uncle, husband to his aunt Susannah). The bankruptcy is also recorded in the London Gazette issues 17209 (14/1/1817), 17229 (11/3/1817) and 17783 (19/01/1822).

I think the likelihood is that the bankruptcy refers to this Thomas, as it would also explain the gap in him not having children immediately after his marriage.

It appears that the bankruptcy tarnished the family’s reputation considerably, and had a long lasting impact on the lives of Thomas and Ann’s children. As you will see in the following section of this book, Thomas’s children felt the need often to change their names and ages, to hide their connection to the bankruptcy in order to obtain work. They also had to travel distances to escape people that knew them and of their circumstances and, because of their difficulties, some even encountered trouble with the law.

Death of HusbandEdit

A burial for husband Thomas has been located dated 24th February 1833 at Southleigh. He was only 42 years old and the circumstances of how he died are currently unknown.

His youngest child, William, was only 2 years old at his death, his eldest child was 19.


A matching death for Ann is yet to be located, but if a settlement examination believed to be held for daughter Sarah is correct, it is after 1837.

The Devon Record office also holds a document dated 14/12/1836 (Ref MH 12/2095/89), which is a letter from Charles Bond, clerk to the Guardians of the Axminister Poor Law Union, to the Poor Law Commission, enclosing extracts of minutes of meetings. In it includes a reference to Parish officers of Musbury applying to be reimbursed for 16s 6d for internment of Ann Underdown, ordered to be paid and charged as out relief. This could also be a reference to Ann, but considering the locations mentioned, the settlement certificate for Sarah Underdown is more likely.

As a result of the early deaths of Thomas and Ann, all their children were sent to be servants to other families in the local area or to join the navy. In the 1841 census, they are scattered on different farms around the local district.


Name Birth Death
Children of Thomas & Ann Underdown

Elizabeth bap 15/1/1811
Southleigh, Devon
before 1829

James bap 20/2/1814
Southleigh, Devon

Amelia bap 25/12/1814
Southleigh, Devon

Jane bap 28/1/1815
Southleigh, Devon
March Q 1843?
Honiton District, Devon?

William bap 28/1/1815
Southleigh, Devon

Sarah bap 13/7/1816
Southleigh, Devon
Jun Q 1891?
Axminster, Dorset?

Agnes bap 19/9/1819
Southleigh, Devon
between 1861 & 1871

Thomas bap 1/7/1821
Southleigh, Devon
Portland Estate, South Australia

Robert bap 10/8/1823
Southleigh, Devon
Bendigo, Victoria

Catherine bap 9/10/1825
Southleigh, Devon

George bap 27/1/1828
Southleigh, Devon
after 1891

Elizabeth bap 25/10/1829
Southleigh, Devon
after 1891

William bap 28/07/1830
Southleigh, Devon
after 1851


  • Parish records
  • Genealogical information from Peter Underdown
  • Settlement Examination of Sarah Underdown
  • Free BMD
  • 1841-1891 census
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