READING, Redbourn, late 19th century

May 2001




PLEASE NOTE: When this question was asked the amount of information available online was very restricted and the only census available (on a CD) was the 1881 census. The answer given below should be carefully checked using the additional information now readily available online.

Pat Clark (pclark @t wrote As a beginner I am trying to trace my Grandad's family who all seem to be in Redbourn. I have found my Grandad's family i.e. Thomas Reading (b 1895), his brothers and sisters and mother. Emily Reading (b 1864) had 7 children and died at the age of 45 a spinster. She never married my Grandad's father, believed to be James Mailing (b 1863) but named most of her children by giving them his name (Mailing) as their middle name. My Grandad names James Reading as his Father on his wedding certificate. James however, at the age of 27 (1890) married a lady by the name of Eliza Elizabeth Thorn in the Weslyan Chapel, who was 50. They both lied about their age on their wedding certificate, he said he was 30 and she 42. I haven't yet managed to find when she died. I find it strange that he should marry Eliza and yet have his children with Emily, especially as she was so much older than him.

Maybe she was rich I don't know. Maybe I will be able to find a will later on if I can find out when she died. My query really was - do you know anyone else who is searching the "Readings". I have never come across anybody. Also, Emily Reading was a domestic servant before she had her children and James was a carpenter. It was always thought that they met in "some big house where they worked. Do you know of anywhere in the area where that might of been. Emily lived in Church End Redbourn and James on The Common. I would love to hear from you if you have any news. I love the web site I am at work now but have to go home but I will return. Thanks for your time.

You don't say anything about your sources and I would guess that the following people listed in the 1881 census are the people you are talking about:

Emily Redding (16, silk weaver, born Redbourn) living at Church End Common, Redbourn with her widower father, Daniel Redding (49, labourer) and siblings Walter, Elizabeth, Thomas, Albert, Sarah and Jabez.

James Mailing (17, carpenter's apprentice, born Redbourn) living at Frogmore, Redbourn, with his parents William (45, gardener) and Sarah and siblings Moss (Moses?), Daniel, Fred and Charles.

Eliza Thorn (41, straw plaiter, unmarried, born Harpenden) living on Redbourn Common with her widowed aunt Sarah Thorn (66, straw plaiter).

Have you tried to get the birth certificates of any of the children or their baptisms. The latter may be difficult as - at least for the people mentioned above - an examination of the IGI index at familysearch, and the British VRI index, reveals no baptisms. This suggest that the families did not make use of the parish church of Redbourn - so any baptisms are not in the parish register. Any Methodist records baptism records that may have survived are not at HALS, but may be still with the church.

When James Reading married did he sign the certificate? Many people could not read or write, or could do little more than write their own name and the certificate would be written by the minister. When your grandfather married he would have been asked for his father's name and he may have replied "James" and the cleric automatically assumed the surname. The age difference between 27 and 30 is not particularly significant and the age of 42 instead of 50 may be that she was embarrassed to say anything and the cleric write in a good guess.

I can't say what James though of the age difference when marrying - and he might not even have known the difference. If she was reluctant to admit the age gaps when marrying the cleric taking the service could have guessed. The marriage certificate should give their occupations at the time of marriage - but the occupations given in the 1881 census suggests that they were all poor. This means it is unlikely that they made wills.

As to who slept with whom - when and why - I cannot add much. Illegitimate children were sometimes named after their father - but could also be named after the richest bedfellow to try and bribe them into supporting the child when the mother actually didn't know the father. It may be the Emily's mother was a Mailing and they were named after relatives ... Names can be given for all kinds of reasons - I have come across cases where children have been names after the candidates in a parliamentary election where there was a large number of brought votes. I guess it was on the basis "if you become godfather of the child and make a suitable sized donation I will vote for you".


You also ask about other people who are researching Reading. In fact one of the names on my family tree is Susannah Reading who married George Burchmore in nearby Flamstead on 28th October 1784, and died on 13th January 1788, and is buried in Flamstead. However I have never found her baptism, or other means of identifying her parents. I have reposted an old message on BURCHMORE, Flamstead, 18th century which shows Susannah Reading and also links to the Thrale example in Right Name, Wrong Body. I have also reposted an edited version of the earlier message READING, St Albans, 19th century.