of Folkestone writes: I have been trying to find out the parentage
of my ancestor Catherine HORN of
Gaddesden born around 1790. Catherine
had 7 children out of wedlock, whose baptisms are recorded in the
9 April 1809
Hannah 28 April
17 October 1813 (mine)
5 January 1817
William Henry 16
29 June 1823
George Thomas 10
The father's name is not recorded on the baptism registers
or on the two marriage certificates I have.
Family lore has it that she had a long and loving
relationship with someone above her social status.
could find no bastardy records relating to this family so there was clearly no
financial drain to the Parish.
Catherine does not
appear in the 1841 or 1851 census for the area and, as there seems to be a large
cluster of HORN names in the
area as well as just over the Buckinghamshire
border in Ivinghoe, it is difficult to
establish her parentage. I have also been trying to track her down in
various sets of microfiches I've bought for nearby villages, but so far no luck!
It's inspiration I need, I've run out of ideas!!
This type of problem is always difficult and I will throw out
a few ideas - but don't have a sure-fire answer. Whether it can be solved can
depend on luck as to what documents have survived. One of my ancestors was born
in Aylesbury at about this time and the crucial clue to parentage turned up as a
one line entry in a bulky account book, while a supporting clue came from a
contemporary private diary which had been reprinted in a Victorian newspaper and
the cutting stuck in a scrapbook which is now in the Buckinghamshire Records
Office. (I found the latter while looking in the scrap book for a different
branch of the family.)
- Find out what parish records have survived, most likely at HALS,
and which are on microfilm and available through your local LDS Family
History Centre. If there are rate books they will record the names of rate
payers in the parish, while overseers' account books will record payments to
the poor, to local traders, and occasional receipts. In my case the search
turned up a payment by the father to the overseers for the expenses
associated with the mother's lying in month. It is clear that there was no
dispute as to who the father was - and hence no need for any formal bastardy
- Family reconstruction of all nearby persons with the same
surname in the area, from a variety of sources, is very time consuming and
can be helpful, and may provide evidence for non-conformist families whose
children were not baptised in the parish churches - but whose marriages and
and burials were so recorded.
- Given names run in families - so it is possible that any
other Catherine (or Kate)
Horn could be a close relative. It may
well be that one of Catherine's
daughters was named after Catherine's
mother - but unfortunately the names are sufficiently common to make this
test of limited value. See The
Inheritance of Christian Names.
- Parishes did their best to minimise their financial
liabilities - which meant that pregnant unmarried mothers without
residential qualifications were extremely unpopular - as if a child was born
in the parish the parish became responsible for it. This means that one of
the following is probably true:
- Catherine was born
in Little Gaddesden
- Catherine was
brought up in Little Gaddesden - so
her parents lived there
- Catherine was a
widow - whose had lived in Little Gaddesden
with her late husband. (This turned out to be the situation in my case.)
- Catherine has
adequate financial support from some source.
- In relation to Catherine's
children it is possible that there was more than one father - and the change
of naming policy in the case of William Henry Horn
could indicate a "higher class" father (two given names were
unusual in most rural parishes at this date). In fact one might wonder if
the father was called William and/or Henry.
- A check of the National
Burial Index shows that there were 20 Horn burials in Little
Gaddesden between 1800 and 1850 - but this did not include any of
Catherine's children. An unmarried
mother who successfully raised seven children almost certainly had some
income/support, perhaps from her parents, or the father.
- The occupation/economic status of the children may well
indicate Catherine's social status - and
hence the level of financial support she had. See All
things bright and beautiful. There might also be a possibility of
cousin marriages - which could provide an alternative route to Catherine's
A final thought - If you have other ancestors in the area, it
may prove just as profitable to concentrate on them but keep and eye open for Horn
links, as to make a full frontal approach to the task, and end up spending
hundreds of hours banging your head on a brick wall getting nowhere.
If you can add to the information given
above tell me.