WILLIAMS, Hertford, mid 19th century.

July, 2003

Gwenda Spendlove (gwenbob @t, of Boronia, Victoria, Australia, writes I starting researching the Williams family about 3 years ago, but do not seem to have got very far. It started when I received my great grandparents marriage certificate. Benjamin PINK married Agnes Williams in London in 1862, Agnes lists her father as Thomas a bricklayer. Agnes died in 1868 at 26. The only person in the Birth Index to fit her was:

Born 2nd June 1842 11 p.m. at Fore Street, Parish of Saint John, Hertford
Mother - Mary WILLIAMS
Informant - Mary WILLIAMS, mother, Fore Street, Saint John
Registered - 9th June 1842 (I have the certificate)

So then I started looking for a Thomas Williams and I found the following [in the 1881 census, living at 56 Davisville Road, Hammersmith, London]:

Thomas WILLIAMS widower, bricklayer 57 years, b. Wiggington, Herts.
Sara WILLIAMS, daughter, cook, 35 years, born Hammersmith.
Louisa WILLIAMS, daug., gen. servant 20 years born Hammersmith.
Thomas G. SCHOFIELD, grandson 5 years b. Camberwell, Surrey.

How can I prove this Thomas is Agnes's father what else should I be doing?

The reason I would like to find the Williams family is when Agnes died in London her husband and 2 children came to Australia leaving another child Kate about 1 behind. I know Kate did not live with her paternal grandparents so I was hoping to find her with her maternal grandparents.

Your question raises a number of further questions. Agnes Williams is not an uncommon name and a quick check of the 1881 census suggests that about five children a year were being born with this name circa 1840 - and you do not explain why you believe your Agnes Williams is the one born in Hertford in June 1842 - bearing in mind that you should always be prepared for errors in age at death - and be aware that not every birth was recorded in the GRO indexes in 1842 - and there are many errors (see A Comedy of Errors)

In particular the Agnes whose birth certificate you have was illegitimate, as if her parents were married the father's name would be on the birth certificate. Williams would be the mother's maiden name (or her married name if she was a widow) and there is no knowing the father's forename or surname from the certificate. If this Agnes is the one who married Benjamin Pink her father's details may have been invented to avoid social embarrassment - but on the face of it, it is more likely that the Agnes born in Hertford in 1842 is not your Agnes.

Thomas Williams is a much more common name than Agnes Williams - so there is much more room for mistaken identity. While the one you have identified was a bricklayer in 1881 (not an uncommon occupation at the time) I would be reluctant to associate him with either the Agnes who married Benjamin Pink in 1862 or the Agnes born in Hertford in 1842, without strong additional evidence.

In the circumstances I suggest that it would be advisable to "start again" in the search for Agnes Williams. Some of the information on the marriage certificate could be helpful.

(1) It should include the place where the marriage took place, and the addresses of bride and groom. Do they all refer to the same parish or were one or both married in a different place to where they were living at the time?

(2) What age was given for Agnes? As the age at death suggests that she was about 20 when she married this may not be very helpful, as a 19 or 20 year old could pass themselves of as 21 - or "of full age" to avoid the need for parental consent.

(3) Was the marriage by banns (usual) or by licence? In the latter case there may be a surviving licence which could given additional information.

(4) Who were the witnesses? They may have been his relatives, her relatives, friends, or just the local church warden who witnessed many marriages. If they were (or could have been) her relatives this could provide a clue to her identity.

(5) What was Agnes's occupation when she married? If she was a domestic servant she may have lived in the house of her employer for some time prior to her marriage. (Her employer might also have been a witness at her wedding.)

(6) Did she (and/or Benjamin) sign the certificate - or did they simply make marks. If they couldn't even write their own names they could not check the accuracy of the information on the certificate.

The birth certificates of the children should give the couple's address in the years between the marriage and Agnes's death.

Hopefully the couple were both living in the same area in London before they married in 1862 and continued to live there immediately after the marriage. If so there could be a good chance they were in the same area in 1861 and could be found in the 1861 census - which should give a place of birth for Agnes Williams - which is ideally what you are looking for.

It is possible (but much less likely in London) that Benjamin and Agnes had a common origin (and might even be cousins) so it could help if you can find information on Benjamin's place of birth - from the 1861 census, from the 1871 census (if he was still in England at that date), or from Australian records. Kate may also be findable on the 1871 census if she was still in the same area of London.

You will almost certainly find that the relevant census microfilms are available in Melbourne, together with relevant maps of London. (My Australian genealogy contacts are always singing the praises of the amount of information available there.) However the 1861 census for the part of London of interest may not be indexed, so searching will be at best time consuming, and at worst very frustrating if nothing is found. However it is important to realise that not all information is indexed, and much less is available online.

The best of luck with your searches. It may be that you find there is no Hertfordshire connection - in which case I cannot help further.

There is a web page for Hertford

P.S. Having said the above I note that familysearch records the baptism of an Agnes Williams on 26th June 1842 at Thundridge, Herts, the daughter of Thomas and Mary Williams. It could be worth checking the microfilm of the register to find out Thomas's occupation. Thundridge is close to Hertford. It is worth noting that a 2 year old Agnes William was buried at Thundridge on 12th February 1841 (National Burial Index). 

It is just possible that the birth certificate you found was incorrect and might be relevant (for instance Thomas and Mary were living together as Mr and Mrs Williams without being married - and when asked Mary told the registrar she was not married - so he did not ask for information about the father.) On the other hand there may be two Agnes Williams in the area (see Right Name, Wrong Body) with a third dying in infancy at about the same time.

 If you are sure Agnes came from Hertfordshire it should be worth checking the 1851 census for Thundridge and possibly Hertford. HALS has indexes which have not yet been published - so it might be quickest for you to pay them to check the records for you.

There is a web page for Thundridge

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