Answers to Questions


SHORTLAND, Berkhamsted, circa 1830 and later.

March, 2004




Nick Shortland (nshortland @t of Cork, Ireland writes: My Great Great Grandfather, John Shortland was born in Great Berkhamsted C. 1832 and moved to High Wycombe according to the 1851, 1881, 1891 and 1901 censuses.  I have been unable to find documentary evidence of his birth. Neither do I know his father or mother's names. Where do we go from here?

You don't mention John Shortland's occupation (which can be an important clue as to what records to look at) so I checked the Berkhamsted entries in the 1839 Pigot's, and 1846 & 1851 Post Office, directories - with no result. The 1851 census for Berkhamsted also failed to produce a Shortland - but see later.

To get more information on his occupation and his family (see The Inheritance of Given Names) I decided to fill in the gaps by looking at the 1881 census. He was living at 40 Oxford Road, Wycombe, Bucks:
 Name  Relation Age Birthplace Occupation
 John SHORTLAND   Head Widower  49   Gt Berkhamstead, Herts   Staff Sergeant Bucks Militia 
 Clara SHORTLAND   Dau   23   Wycombe, Bucks  Keeps House 
 Margaret SHORTLAND   Dau   12   Wycombe, Bucks   Scholar 
 George SHORTLAND   Son   9   Wycombe, Bucks   Scholar 
 Mary SHORTLAND   Dau   7   Wycombe, Bucks   Scholar 
 Rupert SHORTLAND   Son   4   Wycombe, Bucks  Scholar 

This suggests that John was married after 1851 but before 1858 and you should be able to get his marriage certificate - which would give the name and occupation of his father - and also information on his wife. If there is any difficulty the birth certificate of any of his children will give the mother's name. As the family were not moving about you should be able to track them down in the 1861 and 1871 censuses, including the names of some of the older children who were not at home in 1881.

As he was in the Bucks Militia there may be information about his military career, possibly including his father's name, in the Bucks Records Office and/or the Public Records Office.

Another useful approach in such cases is to use the 1881 census to look for possible siblings. The following entry relates to 16 Annette Road, London:

 Name  Relation Age Birthplace Occupation
 Joseph SHORTLAND   Head   47   Gt Berkhamstead, Herts   Cab Driver 
 Anna SHORTLAND   Wife   46   L Metton, Norfolk    
 Sydney SHORTLAND   Son   5   Barnsbury, Middlesex  Scholar 

It is likely - but not certain, that Joseph was John's brother - and this sent me straight back to the Berkhamsted census for 1851. Among the lodgers staying in the Five Bells Inn, High Street, (landlord Thomas Rickets) were Francis Shortnal (married. 50, master rope maker, born Berkhamsted) and Joseph Shortnal (17, rope maker's assistant, born Berkhamsted). Could Joseph Shortnal and Joseph Shortland be one and the same person? with Francis being the father? In addition there was an Eliza Shortnal (married, 49, straw plait schoolmistress, born Little Gaddesden) living in Prospect Place, Berkhamsted. Could she be Francis's wife?

Returning to the trade directories Francis Shortnal is listed as a rope and twine maker, High Street, Berkhamsted, in the 1846 Post Office Directory, and Francis Shortnall appears as a rope maker in the 1839 Pigot's directory.

Clearly you need to establish whether the names Shortland and Shortnal(l) refer to the same people - and I suggest you give priority to getting John Shortland's marriage certificate and looking at the 1841 census for Berkhamsted.

April, 2005

Nick Shortland (nshortland @t provided the following useful update:

John Shortland was a chair maker and also a Staff Sergeant in the Bucks. Militia. The military connection carried over to Ireland with John's son Frank coming to Cork with the British Army and marrying Annie Mitchell in 1883.This chair making trade also appears to have been passed down to at least one Irish generation, because an uncle of my father's taught the residents of Cork Blind Asylum to make wickerwork chairs in the early decades of the 20th century.

John Shortland (b. 1832, Berkhamstead) married three times.  Marriage certs show his father WAS Frank (Francis) Shortland, Rope-maker, from Berkhamsted.  The implication is that the entries in the 1851 census under the names Shortnal are my Shortlands.  The matching names and rope-making occupations are a strong indication.

Marriage 1, Sep 5, 1857 in Wooburn, Bucks.:
John's (age 24) first wife was Lavinia Rockell (22) from Wooburn whose father was Thomas Rockell, a labourer.
Lavinia died in childbirth in 1862, as did the child Harry Vine Shortland.

Marriage 2, (no cert as yet):
Married Eliza Harman, formerly Cowell (a widow?) in Marylebone, Middx.
Widowed by 1881 census.

Marriage3, Dec 23, 1882 in Berkhamsted, Herts:
John (43) came home for his third wife, Rebecca Grover (35) from Berkhamsted whose father was John Grover, a labourer.  Married in the Established Church by J. W. Cobb, Rector.  They returned to live in High Wycombe.

John died on Feb 23, 1916 - of "old age" - in the Workhouse Infirmary, Saunderton, Bucks.

The following entry for Waterside, Berkhamsted, from the 1851 census transcript for Berkhamsted almost certainly relates to Rebecca:

Fanny Winters Head, widow 60 Laundress Berkhamsted
John Groves Son, widower 36 Labourer Berkhamsted
Eliza Winters Daughter, unmarried 25 Straw plaiter Berkhamsted
Ellen Winters Granddaughter 12 Type setter Berkhamsted
Rebecca Groves Granddaughter 4   Berkhamsted
William Winters Grandson 1   Berkhamsted

December, 2005

Gaye Shortland (gayeshortland @t wrote: Further to the excellent answer you sent my cousin Nick Shortland. HALS copied me a page from a parish register where Francis Shortland (bachelor) married Jane Ridgeway (spinster) on 13/10/1831 in the parish church of Hemel Hempstead (no ages or professions given). As our great-great-grandfather John (father's name Francis, Ropemaker) was born circa 1832 (supposedly in Gt Berkhamstead), Francis and Jane could easily be his parents. The question remains: is this the same man as the rope-making Francis Shortnal(l) you located in Berkhamsted? Francis Shortland signed his name on the parish register and I can see how his indecipherable scrawl of "Shortland" could be easily read as "Shortnal" or "Shortnanl"! Perhaps that is the answer to the puzzle. 

The immediately relevant census entries strongly suggest that in the period 1851-1871 Francis Shortnall's wife was Eliza. It is likely that he had a son called Joseph (born Berkhamsted circa 1834) and probably step children, surname Lawrence, born in Lambeth, Surrey), one of whom married a John Smith and lived in Wales. The following summaries the census data and you should look full details up on Ancestry if you want to know more. 

In the 1851 census (printed transcript & Ancestry) Eliza Shortnall (wife of absent head of household, 49, Straw Plait School Mistress, born Little Gaddesden) was at Prospect Place, Berkhamsted, with daughter Adelaide Lawrence (born Lambeth, Surrey) and Henry (born Lambeth, Surrey). In addition (printed transcript), lodging in an inn in Berkhamsted High Street was Francis Shortnall (married but wife not present, 50, Master Rope Maker, born Berkhamsted) and Joseph Shortnall (17, Rope Makers Assistant, Berkhamsted. - possible son??) (Ancestry indexes name as Thortnall - but clearly Shortnall). A John Shortlin (18, chair maker, born Berkhamsted) was in High Wycombe, Bucks, could well be your John.

In the 1861 census (Ancestry) Francis is listed (as Francis Shortnal) as a rope maker, living on his own in the High Street, Berkhamsted, in 1861 (Ancestry). His probable wife Eliza is listed as "Aliza Shortnall" of "Goddesden, Herefordshire" in Brymbo, Denbighshire. She was visiting a John and Louisa Smith (born Lambeth, Surrey) and infant Mary Ann Smith (1, Brymbo, Denbighshire, Wales).

In the 1871 census (Ancestry) Francis Shortnall (81, Rope Maker, Luton, Beds) and his wife Eliza were living in the High Street, Berkhamsted with their unmarried granddaughter, Mary Ann Smith (10, straw plaiter, Wrexham, Wales)

(Note that there the current spelling is Berkhamsted - but variant spellings are used in some census returns.)

I am surprised you haven't found that there are two Berkham(p)ste(a)d marriages for Francis Shortnell on familysearch - which could be his first and second wife. If you look you will also see that a Frances and Elizabeth Shortnell had a number of children baptised at Berkhamsted in the 1830s - including a John Shortnell, which could well be your John. There is also no shortage of Shortnall in Luton around 1800 - which is where the later census returns say Francis came from

I believe that the literacy of the family was not high (at the time many families had no-one who could competently write, even if a few had learnt to scrawl something like their own name) and that errors/inconsistencies in ages, names and places are due to this factor. 

If you had not found the Hemel Hempstead marriage I would have said that the evidence points to your John Shortland being born John Shortnell/Shortnall but that at some time this was written on an official form as Shortland (perhaps when he joined the Militia) and Shortland became his official surname. The Hemel Hempstead marriage suggests that there is more than one set of potential parents in the area, and you will need to find more evidence. Apart from the routine sources it might be worth contacting the Bucks Records Office to see if they have militia records. In addition your John's marriage certificates may include the name of siblings. 

April, 2007

Jimmy P. Hunke (jh_gen @t of Springfield, Virginia, USA, writes: Here is an additional piece of information possibly linking the names of Shortland and Shortnall.  Regarding the Joseph Shortland noted in an earlier posting, who was listed in the 1881 census (wife Anna and son Sydney):  after Joseph's wife Anna passed away, Joseph Shortland remarried to Clara Barnard, widow of James Horatio Barnard.  The GRO marriage record for Joseph Shortland and Clara Barnard shows they were married 25 December 1888 at St. Andrews Church in Lambeth Parish, SurreyJoseph was a 54 year old cabdriver (thus born about 1834) and his father was listed as Francis Shortland, deceased.  (Unfortunately Francis Shortland's occupation was not listed.)  In each census from 1861 through 1901, Joseph's surname was clearly listed as "Shortland" and his place of birth as Great Berkhamste(a)d, Hertfordshire.  So the 1851 census entry showing Francis Shortnall, ropemaker (age 50) and Joseph Shortnall, assistant rope maker (age 17, thus born about 1834, and born in Berkhamsted) looks very promising.

For information, here are the other census entries for Joseph Shortland:

  • 1861 Census, listed in London, Paddington Parish, Kensington registration district, Marylebone municipal borough in the household of Alfred Keyser at 21 Norfolk CrescentJoseph Shortland, age 27, is listed as an indoor servant, born in Berkhamstead, Herts.  His future wife, Anna Cunningham, age 26, is also listed in this household as a ladies maid, born in Little Melton, Norfolk.
  • 1871 Census, listed in London, Wandsworth registration district, All Saints parish at 25 Ram Sq.  Joseph Shortland, age 40, born in  Great Beckhamstead, Herts., was a domestic servant/butler.  His wife, Ann, age 37, born in Hethersett, Norfolk, and daughters Sarah, age 6, born in Willesden, Middlesex and Edith A., age 4, born in Marylebone, Middlesex.
  • 1881 Census, listed in London in Islington registration district at 16 Annette Rd., Joseph Shortland, age 47, born in Gt. Berkhamstead, Herts., was listed as a cabdriver.  Also listed were his wife, Anna, age 46, born in L. Melton, Norfolk, and his son Sydney, age 5, scholar, born in Barnsbury, Middlesex.
  • 1891 Census, listed in Block 6C, Peabody Buildings, in Lambeth registration district.  Joseph Shortland, age 57, born in Great Berkhamstead, Herts, was listed as a cabdriver.  Listed with him were his new wife, Clara [Barnard], age 56, born in Somers Town, Middlesex, and two of her children from her earlier marriage, Emily S. Barnard, age 20, born in Bethnal Green, and Charles J. Barnard, age 17, a clerk, and also born in Bethnal GreenJoseph's son Sydney Joseph C. Shortland, listed here as Joseph C. Shirtland (sic), age 15, born in Bermondsey, Surrey, was listed as a bookbinder's porter.
  • 1901 Census, listed in St. Pancras, London at 30 Rochester Sq., Joseph Shortland, age 67, born at Gt. Berkhamstead, Herts., was shown as a cabdriver, with his wife Clara, age 66 born in Somers Town, London.

Following your earlier thread of Francis Shortnall and his wife Eliza, this family appears to be listed in the 1841 Census at Gossums End in Great Berkhampstead, Hertfordshire, pages 23-24, as F. Shortnal, age 45, ropemaker, Eliza Shortnall, age 40, John Shortnall, age 9, Tom Shortnall, age 7, Adelaid Lawrence, age 10, and Henry Lawrence, age 8--all born in Hertfordshire.  This might be the John Shortnall/Shortland sought by an earlier correspondent, but the 7 year old named "Tom" doesn't seem to equate well to the Joseph Shortnall/Shortland I am seeking, who would have been the same age.

I suspect the marriage record of Joseph Shortland's first marriage to Anna Cunningham (registered Oct-Dec 1861 in Berkhamsted, according to the GRO indexes) may tell if Joseph's father, Francis, is the elusive ropemaker, thus making a stronger case for this Shortnall - Shortland connection.

So the key question is whether the "Tom Shortnall" in the 1841 census was actually "Joseph".

If the 7 year old son was recorded as "Joseph" there would be no reason to question it - as long as the 1861 marriage certificate confirms that his father was Francis, the ropemaker.

If the 7 year old son was Tom/Thomas there are the following problems.

Bearing in mind my earlier comments that the family may not have been able to read and write, I decided to take a close look at the 1841 census return and in particular the other entries for 3 pages either side. Such an action provides evidence about how the census enumerator carried out his task. There is not much to go on, but there are three individually minor irregularities:

While it is far from proof it seems likely that the census enumerator had some difficulty in collecting information about the family in 1841.

Until some contradictory evidence emerges it is reasonable to assume that the seven year old son in the 1841 census was Joseph.

April, 2010

Jimmy P. Hunke (jh_gen @t of Springfield, Virginia, USA, writes: Just to close the loop on Joseph Shortland, I finally received the marriage certificate for his first marriage to Anna Cunningham Joseph Shortland's father is shown as Francis Shortland, ropemaker, as suspected, providing further evidence for the family relationships from prior posts.  For reference, Joseph Shortland, age 27, a servant living in Berkhamsted, married Anna Cunningham, age 27, a servant, also living in Berkhamsted (father was William Cunningham, bootmaker) in the parish church of Berkhamsted on 8 November 1861.  Thanks very much for your help in helping us to establish these family relationships and for the additional information on the family!

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

April 2010   Message update