The Barcham Family


Onesimus is an unusual Christian name so it is surprising that two infants were given that name in 1790. One (name spelt ‘Onesiphorus’ in the online IGI Individual Record) was baptized in North Walsham on 7 April 1790, parents Sarah and James Paul. In her will Sarah Barcham, widow of William Barcham of Edingthorpe, left her ‘natural born’ great-grandson a bequest of ₤600 in trust until he attained the age of 21 years, with the interest accruing paid to him for his ‘maintenance, education  and upbringing’ and if he didn’t survive, and had no surviving children, half the legacy would be paid to his mother, Sarah (née Barcham) Paul. Sarah Barcham (b. 1770, at Great Yarmouth) had lost her father when she was an infant and she and her husband were minors  when they married at Blickling Norfolk, on 26 May 1789. Because he is not mentioned in Sarah Barcham’s will, James Paul may have died before 1800, leaving Sarah Paul to raise four infants on her own (see single-parent children).

The other Onesimus was christened at All Saints’, Edingthorpe, on 26 September 1790. This information was transcribed from the parish register by Thomas Barcham in 1844 and published in his Historical and Biographical Notices of the Barcham Family, but he did not give the parents’ names. Previously, it was assumed that Onesimus was one of Elizabeth (née Heldson) and John Barcham’s 15 children who all had biblical forenames: eight of them are known to have survived infancy. However, only John’s sons Jedidiah, Asher and Ezra received bequests when their father died in 1828; his daughters were all married by this time, and did not receive bequests. Since Onesimus was not mentioned in his father’s will, he might not have been one of Elizabeth and John’s children.  Another clue that Onesmus was the son of Sarah and James Paul is found in Onesimus will made in 1839 in which he made a bequest  to his ‘married sister, Sara Moore, wife of John Moore, living in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk’.

The mystery persists. Why did Onesimus’s great-grandmother not make any bequest to  his two sisters Mary and Sara and brother James, who were infants at the time the will was made? Furthermore, other than the bequest that Onesimus made to Sara in 1839, to date nothing has been found about them, nor their parents’ deaths.

Onesimus was living in London when he married Mary Templema at  St Mary’s, Lambeth, Surrey, on 5 February 1825. Mary and Onesimus lived at East Place, Lambeth, a terrace of houses on the west side of Kennington Road. According to his will, Onesimus was in the ‘coal trade’ with a partner. Their business premises were at Rutland Wharf, south of Upper Thames Street. Onesimus was living at East Place when he died in 1839, aged 52. He was buried at St Mary’s Lambeth on 1 April 1839.

Go to the Barcham Blog to read what David Blakely says about Onesimus.


1. His baptized names come from followers of the Apostle Paul. Onesimus was an Egyptian slave (Corinthians, ch 2 v 9; and Onesiphorus gave Paul kindness while Paul was imprisoned in Rome (Timothy, ch 1, v 16–18).

2. In 1790, births, marriages and deaths had to be registered at the parish church, even if the ceremony had been performed at a Baptist or other nonconformist chapel. Consequently, Onesimus’s birth might have been registered at Great Yarmouth, the baptism may have been at the Baptist Church at Meeting Hill and registered at All Saints’, Edingthorpe.