Hertfordshire Genealogy

Answers to Questions


WARREN, Barkway, 1830-1870

August, 2003




Jill Lauter (jlauter @t ev1.net) of Houston, Texas, writes: I'm hoping you can give me some direction in finding out more about the Warrens of BarkwayAlfred James Warren was born 7 Aug 1865 in Barkway.  Parents were Thomas Warren and Damaris Charlotte (Alice) Richardson.  According to 1881 census Thomas was also from Barkway and was born 1 June 1834 (date from family bible.) Thomas and Charlotte had several other children including William, born in Barley, and Albert, born in Barkway.  I would like to be able to get beyond Thomas Warren to find out his parents, grandparents, etc.  I have a copy of his (Thomas') death certificate which lists his father's name as Thomas Warren and mother's maiden name as Cannon.  However, there is an 1851 census showing a Thomas Warren age 15 with parents James and Martha, in Barkway.  The age is close and he is an apprentice carpenter.  My Thomas Warren was also a carpenter. I realize from reading your website that there are likely multiple Thomas Warrens in Barkway, though.  I think the family I'm looking for still lived in Barkway in 1871, although they were in Kent in 1881.

So to sum up (sorry this is so long), I'm trying to trace the ancestors of Thomas Warren, and I am also interested in finding out, if possible, where in Barkway they lived, &/or went to church.  Someday I will get over to England and would love to be able to go look at the place my ancestors came from.  Luckily in England you don't tear down old buildings nearly as often as we do here in Texas.  Thanks so much for your great website and for your help with these inquiries.

You are wise to be cautious as the data doesn't quite fit so something is "wrong". Before I answer your question I will add a copy of the 1881 census data showing the family at 1 Sydney Street, Ashford, Kent, as there are some points I want to refer to.

 Thomas WARREN   Head   M   Male   46   Barkway, Herts   Carpenter (Railway Works) 
 Dauries WARREN   Wife   M   Female   37   Hastings, Sussex   
 Alfred WARREN   Son   U   Male   16   Barkway, Herts  Turner (Engine) (Railway Works) 
 William WARREN   Son      Male   11   Barley, Cambs  Scholar 
 Albert WARREN   Son      Male   9   Barkway, Herts   Scholar 
 Thomas WARREN   Son      Male   7   Brede, Sussex   Scholar 
 Ruth WARREN   Dau      Female   4   Hythe, Kent  Scholar 
 Maud WARREN   Dau      Female   3 m   Ashford, Kent    

The first thing to note is that the family has moved around a lot in the last few years - possibly connected with work on the railways. There is an age gap between Alfred and William which suggests at least one "missing" child - who may have died or who may be working elsewhere. As neither Barkway or Barley (actually in Herts but on the Cambridgeshire border) are very big a search of the 1871 census microfilm could be useful, and might show whether there was an earlier child than Alfred.

Next you mention you have information on Thomas's parents from his death certificate, which suggests that Thomas did not die in England - as English death certificates say nothing about the deceased parents. One of the problems is that when someone dies they are no longer alive to confirm that this part of the form is correct, but it is a hell of a lot better than nothing.  A particular point of interest is that his mother's maiden name is given as Cannon (see below). However Thomas's father's name and occupation should be on his marriage certificate and, from the census data it is likely that Thomas married about 1863/4. In effect the question we want to know is whether the marriage certificate shows his father's name as Thomas, James, or possibly something else. 

At this point is is worth commenting on handwriting, and whether there could have been some mistake at some stage, especially as Thomas came from a time when most working class people could not read and write - and those that could may well have not been very good at spelling or writing in a clear script. In print form there is no danger of confusing "Thomas" and "James" - but in poor Victorian handwritting it could be easy to misread a "James" for a "Tomas". ... This is one of the reasons why one should always refer to original documents (or microfilm copies) rather than rely on indexes and transcriptions.

So back to the 1851 census. The Thomas you found there was too old to have a birth certificate, but did he have any siblings who were born on or after 1st July 1837? if so they should have certificates (although it didn't always happen) and these certificates will include their mother's maiden name - which hopefully will be the same for all the children in the family, including those born before 1837. The names of the other children in the family may provide other clues - see The Inheritance of Single Christian Names.

A check of the IGI index on familysearch is very interesting. Three Warren children were christened on 30th June 1837 at the Independent Church, Barkway. They were Rachel (born 25 June 1832), Rebecca (born 4 May 1834) and Thomas (born 28 June 1835). Their parents were James and Martha Warren (nee Cannon) and clearly relate to the 1851 census. Surely the surname Cannon, which occurs on your Thomas's death certificate cannot be a complete coincidence. 

The fact that the children were christened on 30th June 1837 is also significant - in that it was the day before civil registration was introduced, and the day before the church had to submit its records. There was no legal reason why they should have been christened on this day but I have come across other cases where a minister has used the change-over to urge his congregation to get their children baptised before the deadline! It is therefore reasonable to assume that if James and Martha Warren had older children, they had already been christened - presumably in a non-conformist church - and where there may be a question of whether the records survive.

Now for the family bible - and you query has made me realise I have been over-optimistic about the accuracy of records, and I am modifying the Sources and Reliability text accordingly. Most family bibles were kept as an ongoing record of births, marriages and deaths, with the details being written  at the time the events occurred. This can usually be recognised by different entries being written in different handwriting or with different pens. However in some cases people will have entered data from memory many years after the event, and in an extreme case a genealogist may have written a "family bible" generations after the events described.

A further search on familysearch shows that a James Warren married a Martha Cannon at Great Hormead, Herts, on 9 November, 1820, and assuming that this is the couple I am sure they had further children between 1820 and 1832, but I haven't looked for them.

To conclude: If we assume that all the information you have provided is correct, we have a Thomas Warren (wife's maiden name Cannon) and a James Warren (wife Martha Cannon) living in Barkway at the same time, and having children called Thomas within a year of each other in circa 1835. This is possible, and the fact that at least one of the couple was non-conformist could explain some of the absence of records. On the other hand the only evidence for the existence of the first couple is in a death certificate issued in a different country many years later, where there was scope for a transcription error at some stage, while the only evidence that two, rather than one, Thomas was born in Barkway around 1835 is a one year discrepancy in birth dates.

Clearly more evidence is needed but my expectation is that additional evidence will support the idea that the Thomas in the 1881 census is the same person as the Thomas in the 1851 census.

I will be most interested to know how this develops.

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