We might be a little closer to putting the record straight about Elizabeth Mashford's illegitimacy.
Given the limitations of online searches and not 'being on the ground' I have taken on the services of a Devon researcher, who, for a few hours work might be able to establish once and for all if the Elizabeth Mashford born to Mary Cann and John Mashford is my great-great grandmother; in which case she clearly would not be illegitimate.
The researcher sent me the following email:
Initially, I think we need to check the Parish Registers, and confirm the accuracy of the indexed data you have. Sometimes the original entries have extra information. The entry for Elizabeth Mashford's baptism in Winkleigh certainly looks like an illegitimate birth. There are bastardy returns for Winkleigh up at the North Devon Record Office in Barnstaple, so I could ask a colleague to check these.
The 1841 census has 2 Elizabeth Mashfords of the same age, one in Coldridge, and the other working as a servant in nearby Morchard Bishop. It may be that they are the same person. This did occasionally happen.
Winkleigh and Coldridge are very close to each other, and Mashford is not a common name, so I would think it likely that all the Mashfords are related.
I checked the GRO for Mashford entries, and found a marriage of an Elizabeth MASHFORD in 1845 in the Crediton District, which includes Coldridge and other nearby Parishes. Do you have a record of this marriage? I was maybe thinking that this could help us exclude one or other of the Elizabeth Mashfords!
I can take images of the records with my camera. These cost 50p each. They are taken directly of the microfiche image, which produces a much better result than a photocopy. You may also obtain your ancestor's signature, if they were literate, and signed the marriage register.
Clearly an 'on the ground' researcher who actually knows what she is doing, is more likely to come up with relevant information than I might through hours, if not days, of online searching. So, fingers crossed that we might establish the veracity of the illegitimacy story, one way or another, sooner not later.
If the story is found to be true and our Elizabeth was a relative of John Mashford then we will have another avenue to pursue.
One way or another, within the twists and turns of ancestry research, we are finding faces and names and places to put together the ancestry puzzle of so many missing pieces.