Answers to Questions


OWEN, Watford, 19th century.

July, 2003





Wendy Beckett (indychick_uk @t of Marlow, Bucks, writes My Hertfordshire connections... this is through my 2xGreat Grandmother, Sarah Ann COOPER. I have recently obtained my Great Grandmother's birth certificate which gives her mother's name as "Sarah COOPER formerly OWEN". 

I have a family bible which belonged to Sarah Ann and lists the births of her children, Frederick George, Agnes, James, David, Ann, William Abraham, Alice Susan, John, Georgina, Frederick, Florence Emily and Maud. (More information on

In 1881 she was living at 3 Eaton Grove, Islington, Middlesex:

George Cooper





 St Pancras, Middx


Ann Cooper







James Cooper





 Islington, Middx 


David Cooper





 Islington, Middx


The two eldest children are not at home but another child had just died and I wonder if there was some illness and they had been sent away ? Also, I expected them to be living at an address in Beaconsfield Buildings where David was born but that property is empty on census night. This family are very elusive and are never all under one roof on census night!!

The 1891 census give her as Sarah Ann aged 34 respectively, place of birth Watford Hertfordshire.

 The family bible s has the following dedication in it

"In Memory of James Owen Who Died August 1st 1871 Aged 74 years, Awake to righteousness and sin not for some have not the knowledge of God, Also of Susan Owen Wife of the above Who died Sept 14th 1874 Aged 78 years"

I suspect that James & Susan were probably her parents ...that's what I'm now trying to establish and would be grateful for your help with.

I am not able to easily get to the Records Office to check the BMD indexes and Sarah Ann has not yet appeared on FreeBMD so I will not be able to get a copy of a birth certificate for Sarah Ann for some time.

If you have access to 1861 or 1871 censuses I am hoping that James & Susan will be there with Sarah Ann so I can at least confirm that they are her parents and know that Watford is the place I need to look!

Sarah Ann married Frederick George COOPER and lived in Islington N London at least from 1877 onwards. Her daughter and granddaughter also lived in Islington and that's where my mother was born. Coincidentally, my mother moved with her parents to Borehamwood, Herts when she was a child and grew up there only a few miles from Watford!

I am afraid I don't have easy access to the Watford Censuses 1841-1871 but (if is is easier for you) there are copies the the Watford Central Library (but phone to book a microfilm reader in advance). However I can make a few observations which I hope you will find useful.

The first relates to the 1881 census. A quick check shows there is only one 4 year old Frederick Cooper in the London area who was not living with his parents. He was recorded as being with a widow, Mrs Emma E Thornton, at 347 Grays Inn Road, St Pancras, which places it at the Islington end of the road - and probably only a hundred yards or so outside Islington

The second point relates to Joseph and Susan Owen. If Susan was born in 1796 and Sarah Ann was born in about 1856, it is a biological impossibility that Susan was Sarah's mother. However she might well have been her grandmother. If so it is surprising that Sarah Ann's parents are not mentioned - but perhaps she was an orphan who was brought up by her grandparents, and never really knew them. In these circumstances getting Sarah Ann's birth certificate should be your first priority - and if the information that she was born in Watford is correct you should be able to get it through the post from HALS. Her marriage certificate in circa 1877 should also give her father's name (unless she was illegitimate - as many children who were brought up by their grandparents were.)

So is there any other relevant records of associating Sarah Ann or he ? grandparents ? with Watford.

The immediate answer is a possible yes in that a FreeBMD shows that a the death of a Susan Owen was registered at Watford in the quarter ending 1874. (copy certificate available from HALS).

While there were Owens in Watford there appears to be no baptism after 1809 at St Mary's Church, Watford for Sarah Ann, or for any children with James Owen as a father - which may not indicate that they were not members of the Church of England. (Source British Vital Records Index)

However (an it may only be a coincidence at this stage of the research) but a James Owen  was baptised at Rickmansworth on 21 January 1798, son of John and Sarah Owen. (see familysearch - I have not looked for other relatives.)

Another negative were a selection of trade directories - but it was only the very well-to-do and shopkeepers and principal tradesmen who were listed - so again the negative is not significant.

Once you have Sarah Ann's birth certificate you will have an address within Watford - so it would be far easier to check the 1861 census microfilm - and with any luck this will lead to James and Susan and/or her parents.

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

February 2011   New family tree website link