The Firmins – farthest back


May 11, 2013 by auntkatefirmin

St Dunstan and All Saints, Stepney, about 1815

St Dunstan and All Saints, Stepney, about 1815

So far I can’t be certain of anything earlier than the marriage of John Firmin & Sarah Kenning at St. Dunstan and All Saints, Stepney, in 1816.

Without going into detail in this post, the great-grandfather of Aunt Kate is clearly John Firmin, a carman, and Kenning will turn up later as a family name, causing me to be confident that this is the correct couple.

So what do we know? 

“John Firmin of this Parish and Hamlet of Ratcliff, Bachelor, and Sarah Kinning of this Parish and same Hamlet, Spinster were married in this Church [St Dunstan and All Saints] by Banns … this twenty-fourth day of November in the year one thousand eight hundred and sixteen By me [illegible] Curate.”

Signatures from marriage record Firmin-Kenning

John was able to sign his own name but Sarah made an X.  Neither of the witnesses signed their names.  The witnesses appear to be James Tinsley and Ann Kinning.  Both witnesses have been elusive.  I hope to detail the witnesses in another post.

Sarah Kenning

Based on the census and burial records Sarah Kinning or Kenning was born roughly between 1789 and 1791; thus, she would have been about 26 when she married.  The best clue as to her ancestors comes from the 1861 census, which states she was born on Commercial Road.  Strictly speaking, this is not correct as Sarah would have been a teenager when Commercial Road was built in 1803.  However, the road follows the path of earlier streets that ran through Whitechapel and Stepney parishes including White Horse Lane in the historic hamlet of Ratcliffe.  While no baptism has been found for her in the Tower Hamlets area indexed as Kinning or Kenning, it’s quite possible she grew up or was born in Ratcliffe.  Unfortunately death certificates from this era do not include information on birthplace or parents, but one might be worth ordering anyway.  I have discounted the information in the 1851 census stating that she was born in Yorkshire.

John Firmin

Based on his burial information John Firmin was born about 1786.  Since he hasn’t yet been found in the 1841 census and died prior to the 1851 census, there is not much to go on as to where he was born or how accurate his age is in the burial records.  If he was born in 1786, then he married for the first time at age 30 – based on the one document we have that includes an age.

(As an aside, there are two John Firmins in East London of an age to be married at this time.  The other John spelled his name Firman when he married Sarah West at St. Leonard, Shoreditch, in 1818.  The marriage was witnessed by Charles Firman and Ann West.  While it would be interesting to follow up on this John & Sarah, at this point I have ruled them out as direct ancestors for a number of reasons.)


Sarah and John were about 26 and 30 when they married.  It seems likely that Sarah was either born in Ratcliffe hamlet, elsewhere in Stepney, or perhaps Whitechapel parish and that records related to her parents might be found there.  There is nothing conclusive for John’s birthplace.  There are Firmins found in early east London but also in nearby Suffolk, Essex, Kent, and Surrey.

We’ve been looking for the parents of John & Sarah for some years now.  While the search is much easier now than the microfilm days and I’ve turned up wonderful resources like John’s will, I’m still looking for that clue that will take us back another generation – I’m open to suggestions on where to look!


4 thoughts on “The Firmins – farthest back

  1. rebelhand says:

    Hi, I came across your blog via Geneabloggers and I was very pleased to see it. I have Tower Hamlets ancestors (and I love old maps) so I’ll definitely be visiting again.

  2. Thanks for the kind words!

  3. Where did your Hall come in? What was his first name? My Mother was a Hall and she came from Mt Vernon , Maine. Her family came from England. I have been looking for the Hall’s for years. Mary Ellen Libby Aube

    • Hello Mary Ellen, Emily Hall’s father was Thomas Hall, born in Barby, Northamptonshire about 1790. Until I started looking for the Hall family in London, I thought Susan Smith was a tough name to research. I have not followed the descendants of Thomas past the nieces and nephews of Emily; they all stayed in London so I don’t know if any of their children left England for Maine. I have put some more details on the “related family trees page.” Best wishes for you search!

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