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Sunday, September 28, 2014

52 Ancestors # 39: Matthew Blunt, Hair-dresser/Barber

     Matthew Blunt was born in about 1735 in London, England, probably in St. Botolph, Bishopsgate parish. His parents were Luke Blunt, a carpenter and Mary Browne.  I know this because in the "U.K. Register of Duties Paid for Apprentices and Indentures 1710-1811" I found Matthew Blunt listed as an apprentice to John Pursse of St. Nicholas, Debtford, barber. It gives Matthew's father as Luke Blunt of Greenwich. Several other children of Luke and Mary were baptized at St. Botolph's, Bishopsgate, London but I couldn't find Matthew's baptism. He was the youngest of the four children I have found record of. At the age of 11, in 1746, he started apprenticing as a barber.  On 1 Jan 1766, at the age of 31, he married Sarah Birdseye at St. Giles, Cripplegate, London, her home parish.

     Matthew and Sarah had seven children, Sarah, Elizabeth, William, Joseph, Rebecca, Grace and Mary. Their baptism records are found both in the Non-Conformist Church Records and in St. Luke and St.Mary, Islington, England. Matthew was a barber or hairdresser by trade.  He is listed as a hairdresser in Islington in the U.K. City and County Directories of 1791. Barber-hairdresser was a very important profession in the mid 18th Century due to the elaborate wigs that were in style for both men and women. the hairdresser was a wig maker, designer and maintainer. He was as important to fashionable men as to stylish women.

     In our family, discovering Matthew's profession was a bit of a revelation. That's because there is a lock of hair that is framed and hangs on the wall in the home of the late Jim Brown (also a descendant of Matthew Lane). On the back of the frame is written the following: "The hair encased in this frame has been in the possession of my family many years.  My grandmother, Sarah Lane Kay, told me that it was hair taken from the head of King George III of England, by her Great Grandfather Blount, who was a companion and guardian of King George III, when the King was in his dotage. Emma A. Crosson Pinkerton March 8th 1924." Another descendant, Jo-Anne Roberts of Vancouver, Canada, had the Royal Archivist search for Matthew Blunt in the archives but no record was found. However, I think it quite likely that he simply cut King George's hair at some point and kept the cut hair. Perhaps he was filling in for his regular barber so wasn't in the official register.

     The story of the hair took an interesting turn in 2013. In April of that year I received an e-mail from Stephen Pinkerton. He had traced the history of the Pinkerton's of New York, Iowa and Michigan which included Emma's husband, Charles Allen Pinkerton.  It seems that in her will, Emma directed her son to give the portraits of William Lane and Sarah Blunt Lane to her niece along with the King George hair. Her son correctly delivered the portraits but gave the hair to Goodwill or otherwise got rid of it. It was in a wig box(!). Late in 2012 or early 2013, an historical artifacts dealer found it along with a note similar to the one quoted above. It was sent to London for DNA testing and a British Family history mystery TV show was interested in doing a show about it! This died when the sample tested turned out to be not hair but materials that didn't exist until the 20th Century. However, they never tested Jim's sample in the frame.  Since this was in the possession of Sarah Lane who died in 1896, this is likely not the case with this lock of hair. Unfortunately, Jim died in September 2013, so the test was never made.  the lock of hair is still in the frame on the wall of his family home, now in the possession of his niece, Sarah. If we wanted to  we could still test it.

     I also found Matthew in some tax records which gave me his street of residence.  He lived in Pierrepoint Row in Islington which is still a residential and commercial street, there are a number of antique and vintage shops on the street.

     So there is Matthew Blunt, husband, father, barber and hairdresser and possible hairdresser to a king!

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