Answers to Questions


WALKER/FORD, Redbourn, late 19th century

December 2001




Geoff Payne  (tref @t optusnet.com.au) of Adelaide, South Australia asked the ENG-HERTFORDSHIRE-L list: I am trying to trace the origins of a Henry James Ford. He married 3 times lastly in 1903 from whom my wife's father sprang. I have received the marriage certificate for his 2nd marriage in 1891. I was in hope of moving back down the line to his first marriage to locate his origin.

This latest marriage certificate reads.... date of marriage 20th April 1891 Henry James Ford to Sophia Jane Walker age of both [full] condition he a [widower] she a spinster. He a Superintendent of life Assurance. She is listed as [conforming]? Their address is shown as resident Redbourne? His father William Ford [clerk] her father William Walker [painter or printer]. Married in church after bans signed by the Vicar W. A. Pope in the parish of [it may be Nealbourne] [Redbourn] in the county of Hertford and registration district of Saint Albans

I did a quick check on the 1881 census and there were 699 Henry Ford in the country and an average of one or two Henry J Ford born every year (and initials or second names were not always recorded). There was definitely no Henry James Ford associated with Redbourn in that year.

At first sight a check for Sophia Jane Walker in the 1881 census also drew a blank - but I looked at the Redbourn entry in the 1882 Kelly's Directory for Hertfordshire and found the following entries

  • Walker John, Crown Inn
  • Walker Mary Ann (Mrs.), beer retailer
  • Walker Sophia Jane (Miss), ironmonger
  • Walker Thomas, beer retailer
  • Walker Wm., wheelwright, coachmaker, blacksmith & shoeing forge, High St

Returning to the 1881 census I was now able to find Sophia Jane Walker, living with her mother in the High Street, Redbourn:


Head widow


Licensed Victualler

Laversham Barton, Kent




Shop Keeper

Iden, Sussex

Joseph NORTH



Ag Laborer

Datchnots, Herts [Datchet, Bucks?]




Army Pensioner

Redbourn, Herts

Alexander PEDDER



Dealer (Gen)

Redbourn, Herts

Joseph H. PRATT



Laborer On Steam Plough (Agic Attendent)

Bennets End, [Hemel Hempstead] Herts





Redbourn, Herts

William J. BONNING




Bristol, Gloucestershire




Laborer On Steam Plough (Agic Attendent)

Redbourn, Herts

Harriett BARKER



Fancy Bag Maker

Wolcester [Worcestershire?]

Bearing in mind that occupations run in families the other Walker entries in the trade directory may be relatives - and if you want to know more about them they may be listed on the 1881 census CD. It is interesting to note that Joseph Pratt and Henry Smith almost certainly worked for William Brown, who was a steam plough proprietor and engineer.

There are no Walkers listed for Redbourn in the 1851 census or 1850 Post Office Directory.

Where next on the search for Henry James Ford?? You need to know when and where he was born, and if you known his age at death this would help. He may have been at Redbourn shortly before his April 1891 marriage and so you should check on the 1891 census. Adelaide has good facilities for genealogists so you should be able to look at the 1891 census yourself, although HALS has an index - and in a year or so should be available online, while the 1901 census should be available in January. If you can identify him on the census these should provide enough information to get his birth certificate.

There is a web page with information on Redbourn.

February 2002

Geoff Payne  (tref @t optusnet.com.au) wrote I wish to thank both your self and Amanda for all the help you have given me in my search for our Henry. I have now been able to locate Henry at Plymouth and can start to move back in time. However, after Henry's marriage to Sophia Jane Walker in 1891 at Redbourn on the 20th of April the question is did they have any offspring?. Amanda placed her age in the 50's but this was incorrect another look my self proved that it was 37 years but the 3 could have looked like a 5. She was the local Ironmonger as you said she was in the 1881 census. That marriage ended in divorce around 1901/2 but where they lived and did Sophia keep her business after marriage remains a mystery? After their divorce it appears she reverted to her single name and went north to marry again in 1902.

I believe that Henry was the guilty party to end the marriage and my wife's grandmother was just 23 years when they married in the June of 1903. [On his marriage certificate to Vera Bernice Wild his father William Ford is dead]. He placed his age at 44 years when it now seems that he was actually 48 years. Henry died in 1909 [as we think from a accident]  at Chester. His last child was born there at the end of 1905. We are in contact with the daughter [my wife's cousin] of this last child and have filled in a few gaps between our selves.

We still do not know  what children's homes the 3 children were placed after Henry's death or what became of my wife's grandmother. Time may bring that to light but thank you all so much for your help.

January 2012

Mike Ford (mike @t froddles.me.uk) of  Leeds, Yorkshire, writes: I realise this is a somewhat belated response, but for the benefit of any following researchers and in the interests of completeness thought it worth recording this information. (Goeff Payne's email as given in the original post is, unfortunately, defunct.)

I am the great-grandson of Henry James Ford and his second wife Sophia Jane Walker, and I am in contact with the daughters of the person identified by Geoff Payne as his wife's cousin. Having researched this line quite thoroughly, I am reasonably certain that Henry James was born in Brighton in 1858, and registered as James Henry Foord (Henry Foard on 1861 census, and Henry Ford after that!). This would mean that make the age of 44 on his 1903 marriage was, in fact, correct.

Geoff is incorrect in several respects in his February 2002 update. Henry and Sophia lived in the Highgate area of North London after their marriage, with the 3 children of his first marriage, and had one child, my grandfather. Sophia retained the Ford surname, remained in and around North London after the divorce, and never remarried. She died at age 84 in Farnborough, Kent.

Henry seems to have disappeared again by 1908, and we are fairly sure he is not the Henry Ford who died in Chester in 1909. Between us, we have obtained half-a-dozen potential death certificates, so far without luck. We have no reason to connect him with Plymouth, although Vera Ford (nee Wild) has turned up in Portsmouth on the 1911 census, where her son is also in a children's home. (The two daughters are in a similar institution in Surrey.)

OK, that's enough of a potted history for now, although I probably have a good few more details for anyone it may be of interest to. Hope it's of use to somebody!

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