Answers to Questions


 SWANNELL, Rickmansworth, 19th century

August 2001




Judith White (judithwhite @t of Frome, Somerset writes: In 1884, my 2x great grandfather, William Holinshead of Marlowes, Hemel Hempstead, [HOLINSHEAD, St Albans area, 19th century] wrote a codicil to his will. The codicil dealt with the disposal of the real and personal estate that he had become entitled to receive as "the heir or next of kin or otherwise of Sarah Swannell late wife of Owen Swannell of Mill End, Ricksmansworth".

I have drawn a blank when trying to find out who Sarah Swannell was. I have found Owen Swannell in the 1881 census. He was a 76 year-old widower, occupation gentleman. I have been unable to find any entries for an Owen Swannell on the IGI, BVRI, NBI or on the FreeBMD site.

I have 3 possibilities for Sarah. She could be William's sister, but in 1881 she was still married to Thomas Saunders. She could be William's niece, the daughter of William's deceased brother Frederick. The third possibility is that she could be Frederick's widow, remarried. Do you have any suggestions as to how I could find out who Sarah Swannell was?

What do we know?

If I was faced with this problem I would probably plan a day in London and do the following:

Visit First Avenue House, Holborn, and look in the Will index for all Swannells living in or near Rickmansworth - between 1858 (when the index starts) and about 1890. Make notes on those you find - as while not many people made wills the indexes for this period are very informative. (This should take about an hour.) If you find any which related to Sarah or Owen (including as executors) purchase a copy. (Slip out for some light refreshment as delivery may take about an hour - alternately I might spend the time looking for any possibly relevant Holinshead wills.)

Go to the Family Records Centre, Myddleton Street, and check the death indexes between about 1870 and 1885 for Sarah and Owen - assuming that dates of death have not bee found in a will entry. Order copies of the certificates to be posted home. (The index volumes are very heavy ... and you may to look in about 60 - so allow a couple of hours unless you are a competent weight lifter!)

While at Myddleton Street look at the microfilm of the 1851 census microfilm for Rickmansworth. This may take some time as there are probably about 250 pages and the Swannell household may be on the first or the last. This will hopefully give you information on the family, including Sarah's age and place of birth. Photocopy the relevant page(s).

If there is time and energy available look at another census year, or possibly look in some of the will indexes before 1858.

Finally, have a good meal and go to a concert, play, or other entertainment, to bring the day to a satisfactory conclusion - just in case the day's searches failed to turn up anything.

Judith White (judithwhite @t replied: Thank you for your reply to my query about Sarah Swannell. You've given me some very helpful suggestions to work on. I can check the death indexes at a nearby local studies library, and I can check the parish registers and censuses at the nearest LDS centre (an easier option for me than a day in London).

My query referred to the codicil of William Holinshead's will. The original will was dated 20 Sep 1865. Sorry I omitted that information.

October 2001

Judith White (judithwhite @t reported: Thanks to the Allen marriage index and HALS' photocopying service, I've discovered that Owen SWANNELL of Rickmansworth married Sarah HOLINSHEAD of the parish of Watford at the parish church of Watford on 27th April 1833. The marriage was witnessed by John HOLINSHEAD and Jane HOLINSHEAD. I already have 4 Sarah HOLINSHEADs in my tree, none of whom can be this one. The search continues...

and later in the month Judith reported: Sarah SWANNELL (nee HOLINSHEAD)'s death was registered in Watford in the March quarter of 1873, when she was 64. From this, I should be able to get a copy of her will. I'm fairly certain that this is the right entry, as Sarah's husband Owen's death was registered in the December quarter of 1882, also in Watford, when he was 78.

I've already found a link to Watford in my HOLINSHEAD family, as my grandmother Annie Katherine HOLINSHEAD, was born there in 1879.

April 2002

Judith White (judithwhite @t reports  I have discovered that Sarah SWANNELL was the married daughter of William HOLINSHEAD's uncle, John HOLINSHEAD. I obtained this information from John HOLINSHEAD's will (having searched unsuccessfully for Sarah's). Thank you very much for your advice - as you suggested, looking at wills solved the problem.

February 2004

Tony Hill (tonhi69 @t of Sydney, Australia, reports: I have SWANNELL ancestors from Rickmansworth...great difficulty in finding them until I checked the BAPTIST records...and there they perhaps Judith should check Baptist church records too?

March 2004

Judith White (judithwhite @t has provided a file containing information on Owen Swannell and family - with sources clearly identified. She writes: The (distant) link is through Sarah Holinshead: her father John was my 4 times great uncle. My interest in the Swannell family came about because of a codicil to the will of my great great grandfather, William Holinshead, mentioned an inheritance from "Sarah Swannell late wife of Owen Swannell". It took me some time to discover that Sarah Swannell and William Holinshead were cousins.

If you can add to the information given above tell me.