Thomas Underdown was christened on the 16th February 1791 at Northleigh in Devon. His parents were Benjamin and Elizabeth Underdown (nee Bishop). Thomas was the second oldest child, after his brother Benjamin. Siblings born after him were James, Eliza, Robert, Emanuel, Ann and Alfred.

Child out of wedlock[]

Thomas had a child out of wedlock, a daughter Elizabeth who was christened on 15th January 1811 in Southleigh. The child’s mother was a woman called Ann Harding.

Death of Uncle[]

It appears that Thomas’s father, Benjamin, was in a reasonable financial position while Thomas was young, until the death of Thomas’s uncle, Robert in April 1811. Thomas’s uncle Robert had been well known in the community, but he left substantial debts upon his death. His uncle Robert appointed Thomas’s father and uncle Emmanuel as executors of his will. A local newspaper advertised that Thomas’s father had to sell his brother’s house and property on 3/10/1811 in order to cover his uncle’s debts. The sale took a long time to occur and impacted on Thomas’s father financially.


Thomas must have thought that he should leave home as soon as possible in order to put less financial strain on the family. He was the first of his siblings to marry, and did so in the local Southleigh parish church on 15th October 1811, only 12 days after his father had to put his uncle’s house up for sale. He married Ann Harding, the mother of his child out of wedlock. Ann’s origins are currently unknown.


Thomas and Ann christened their family in Southleigh, where Thomas worked as a labourer. He is recorded as a labourer on some of the baptism records.

The couple did not have their second child until the year 1814, so they may have taken time to establish themselves and may have assisting Thomas’s parents. Their last child, William, was born in 1830. He was their 13th child.

Possible Bankruptcy[]

The Taunton Courier newspaper lists a T. Underdown of Colyton, ironmonger as a bankrupt on 10/12/1812. This could potentially be the Thomas of this family (although it could also be his uncle, husband to his aunt Susannah). The bankruptcy is also recorded in the London Gazette issues 17209 (14/1/1817), 17229 (11/3/1817) and 17783 (19/01/1822).

I think the likelihood is that the bankruptcy refers to this Thomas, as it would also explain the gap in him not having children immediately after his marriage.

It appears that the bankruptcy tarnished the family’s reputation considerably, and had a long lasting impact on the lives of Thomas and Ann’s children. Thomas’s children felt the need often to change their names and ages, to hide their connection to the bankruptcy in order to obtain work. They also had to travel distances to escape people that knew them and of their circumstances and, because of their difficulties, some even encountered trouble with the law.


A burial for Thomas has been located dated 24th February 1833 at Southleigh. He was only 42 years old and the circumstances of how he died are currently unknown.

His youngest child, William, was only 2 years old at his death, his eldest child was 19.

Wife Ann would outlive him by 4-6 years.


Name Birth Death
Children of Thomas & Ann Underdown

Elizabeth bap 15/1/1811
Southleigh, Devon
before 1829

James bap 20/2/1814
Southleigh, Devon

Amelia bap 25/12/1814
Southleigh, Devon

Jane bap 28/1/1815
Southleigh, Devon
March Q 1843?
Honiton District, Devon?

William bap 28/1/1815
Southleigh, Devon

Sarah bap 13/7/1816
Southleigh, Devon
Jun Q 1891?
Axminster, Dorset?

Agnes bap 19/9/1819
Southleigh, Devon
between 1861 & 1871

Thomas bap 1/7/1821
Southleigh, Devon
Portland Estate, South Australia

Robert bap 10/8/1823
Southleigh, Devon
Bendigo, Victoria

Catherine bap 9/10/1825
Southleigh, Devon

George bap 27/1/1828
Southleigh, Devon
after 1891

Elizabeth bap 25/10/1829
Southleigh, Devon
after 1891

William bap 28/07/1830
Southleigh, Devon
after 1851


  • Parish records
  • Genealogical information from Peter Underdown
  • Settlement Examination of Sarah Underdown
  • Free BMD
  • 1841-1891 census
  • Deaths records for South Australia and Victoria