Ancestor Spotlight: John Torrance

In this week’s Ancestor Spotlight, we meet John Torrance, my paternal 4 x Great Grandfather.

John Torrance was born on 22 January 1800 in Walmgate, York to James Torrance and Elizabeth Johnson.   As seen in his birth record below, both sets of his grandparents are recorded as well.   His paternal grandparents were John Torrance (a Stone Mason from Kilmarnook, Aryshire, Scotland) and Ann Kindley.  His maternal grandparents were Thomas Johnson (a Shoemaker from Sutton of Forest – now Sutton-on-the-Forest, Yorkshire) and Ann Fibb.

“England & Wales, Non-Conformist and Non-Parochial Registers, 1567-1970”, entry for John Torrance, 22 Jan 1800, Walmgate York, Piece 3518, database and images, Ancestry ( accessed 3 Feb 2019); citing National Archives, Class No: RG4, Piece No: 3518.


On 21st December 1821, John married Sarah Moorcroft at St Matthews Church, Walsall, Staffordshire.

In 1824, John had finished his Glover apprenticeship and applied for Freedom of the City papers, which would allow him to practice independently.

42617397_1878761185510343_1620138367872139264_o (1)
“City of York Apprentices and Freemen 1272-1930”, entry for John Torrance, 1824, database and images, FindMyPast ( accessed 3 Feb 2019). 


Over the next 16 years, John and Sarah had four children – Elizabeth Emma (1827-1853), John James (1830-1882), William (1831-1879) and Mary (1839- 1895).

In 1841, John was living in St Luke, Finsbury with his wife Sarah and their four children.  In 1843, their final child Sarah was born.

1841 England Census,St Luke, Middlesex, Piece 666, Folio 20. Book 8, Page No. John Torrance, database and images, Ancestry ( accessed 3 Feb 2019).


In 1851, John was living with his wife, three of his children (John, Mary and Sarah) and a grandson, James.  The family was living at 21 Old Street, St Luke, Finsbury, a fairly middle class area just outside the City of London.  John was still working as a Glover, his son John was now a fishmonger and his daughter Mary, a Flower Maker.

1851 England Census, St Luke, Middlesex, Household Schedule No: 30, Piece 1522, Folio 317, Page No. 6, John Torrance, database and images, Ancestry  ( accessed 3 Feb 2019). 


Tragically, John died just a year later on October 10th 1852 aged 52. In a surprising twist, his death certificate states that he died a “Natural Death by Visitation of God”.  In the early 1800s, this was a common description used for those who died young of natural causes.  It was believed that when one’s time was up, that was it!   From the 1840s onwards, this phrase was being phased out, but many coroners still used it up until the late 1890s.

John Torrance death 1852
General Register Office. Death Certificate, St Luke, London, John Torrance, Oct-Nov-Dec 1852, Vol. 1b, Page 342. 



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