Thomas Ball was my great great great great grandfather. He is something of an enigma.
Thomas Ball was born about 1790, apparently in Highgate, Middlesex (according to his details in the 1871 Census). His parents are unknown.
On May 25 1812 at the age of 22 Thomas married Sarah Preston by banns at St Mary church, Hornsey, in the borough of Islington. They both signed their names. Thomas and Sarah were both living in the parish of Hornsey at the time of their marriage. There are two children who are definitely known from the marriage: James and Eleanor. James and Eleanor were both baptised on 23 November 1817 at St Mary Mounthaw. There are two parish records available for that parish, one of which gives the birth dates of the children. James' birthday was 12 December 1812. A very short gestation?! (Interestingly, the family records said he was born in 1814 - this would have been much more acceptable, except that it was wrong!) Eleanor was born 17 June 1817. At the date of the children's baptisms the family was living at Old Fish Street Hill, London, and Thomas, aged 27, was working as a corn porter. A corn porter worked on the docks, usually shifting sacks of corn onto or off ships. It would have been hard, menial work.
In 1837 Thomas' daughter Eleanor was married. In the marriage register Thomas was noted as a greengrocer.
The next definite record I have for Thomas is from his son James' immigration record in 1857 - he and Sarah were noted as living in Fenchurch St, London.
In the 1871 Census Thomas was widowed and living at Francis Cottage, Highgate. There was no rank, profession or occupation listed.
Thomas Ball died on 12 January 1873 at his residence, Francis Cottage. According to a death notice his son James placed in the Sydney Morning Herald (15 Mar 1873) Thomas worked "for nearly twenty-five years in the establishment of Charles Rivington Esq., Fenchurch St, London, solicitor, to the Hon. E.I.C." I had originally assumed that this meant that he had been employed by Charles Rivington until his death, but looking at his places of residence, I suspect that he may have retired some time prior to his death. To live in Highgate and work in Fenchurch St, London would have been quite a hike! I wonder what Thomas did for Charles Rivington - that he worked in "the establishment of Charles Rivington Esq." suggests that he was employed in the business in some way, but that he and Sarah lived on the premises (in 1857) suggests alternately that he might have been household staff. He certainly wasn't still hauling sacks of corn around!
It is interesting that although Charles Rivington was a solicitor, he came from a family of book publishers who were well connected with the Stationers' Company. Thomas' son James became a bookbinder, and was supposedly made a City Freeman, which was in some cases closely related to livery companies such as the Stationers' Company. One wonders if this was (a) how James got into the book trade, and (b) a connection that made his becoming a City Freeman possible. Also, Thomas' daughter Eleanor married a solicitor's clerk, John Bache Downing. Did they meet through Thomas' work?
I have tried to find records for Thomas (and Sarah) in the 1841, 1851 and 1861 Censuses, but have no definite records for them. I wish I knew where they were hiding!