Answers to Questions


REYNOLDS, St Albans area, 19th century

MAY, 2004



London Colney



St Peters

Lynda Fase (lynda @t of Chingford, Essex, writes: I hope this query is not too long. A  lot of the detail  is  relevant, but I have included a few bits and pieces which could have been left out because I thought they might just be of interest to other  people reading the site.  I have consulted  original parish registers at HALS for the places mentioned, as well as censuses, but I haven't looked at any non-conformist records.   All  the people mentioned are labourers, unless otherwise stated.        

My 3x great grandfather, Jonathan Reynolds, a labourer, was married in St Peter's, St Albans on 23.8.1842 (to Ann Worham, born Bloomsbury, daughter of a butler). His father's name was John, and his residence at the time 'St Peter's'. Very shortly afterwards, according to censuses, a daughter, Ann, was born in St Pancras/Camden Town and then a son, George, was baptised in London Colney in 1848. In 1851, Jonathan, Ann and these two children were living at Broad Colney. Jonathan was then a shepherd. By 1861 the family had moved to Barnet and Jonathan had become a grocer. I haven't found him in 1871 but did find in that census his married daughter, Ann Slow, living in Barnet with her husband and her brother George. When George married in 1872, he gave his father's occupation as butcher. Jonathan was buried in London Colney on 3.8.1880, aged 66, and his abode was given as Barnet. In both of the census entries Jonathan's birth place is given as Ridge, but I have searched the registers for Ridge, South Mimms, Shenley, London Colney and St Peters without success. What I have found is a baptism of a Jonathan Reynolds at exactly the right time (1.10.1815) in Sandridge - parents John and Elizabeth

The reason I was looking in Sandridge was to investigate links between Jonathan and the one other Reynolds family in London Colney in the 1841-61 censuses. These were John and Elizabeth, aged '60' and '50' in 1841. John's birthplace was Sandridge and Elizabeth's Kings Walden or St Paul's Walden. These two were married in Lilley on 22.1.1810 and sons George and James baptised there in August 1810 and June 1812. After that there is no more record of them in Lilley and I have no idea where they were between 1812 and 1841. The sons do appear in London Colney censuses. James was with his parents in 1841, married in 1842 and brought up a family in the village. He was buried there in 1860, but his widow and family remained at least until 1871. In 1881 the widow and eldest son were running a pub in Colchester. The only trouble with James is that his age at marriage (27) and burial (44) is consistently a little young for his date of baptism - but his birthplace is always given as Lilley. There was a George Reynolds with father called John married at St Peters, St Albans in 1842, but George is listed in the 1861 census as unmarried, living with his widowed mother. He was buried in 1868, aged 56. John was buried in 1860, aged 83 and Elizabeth in 1865, aged 75.
Going back, I think it is possible that Elizabeth was baptised in Kings Walden on June 9th 1789, daughter of Thomas and Sarah Saunders, and that John was the son of George and Sarah Reynolds, baptised in Sandridge on 20.12.1778. That George Reynolds appears in the Sandridge militia records of the period, and the fact that two of his sons were buried together in 1784 ties in with the rising and falling number of children listed for him in those records. John and a sister, Sarah, were probably the only surviving children. It looks as if John was responsible for the pregnancy of Sarah White, and in August 1801 marriage banns were read out. However, there was no marriage and Sarah's child was baptised Sarah Reynolds White in the following year.  Perhaps John took himself off to Lilley at this point! I have found the marriage of Sarah Reynolds (John's sister) and burials of George and Sarah (his parents) but there was apparently not a large clan of Reynolds in Sandridge in the early nineteenth century - no other couples were baptising couples at the time when Jonathan Reynolds was christened there. 

 I would be interested in your comments
(a) On the likelihood of the Jonathan Reynolds baptised in Sandridge in 1815 being a third son of John and Elizabeth. They probably retained links with Sandridge, because George, although baptised in Lilley, gave Sandridge as his birthplace in the  1861 census. He clearly was either born there or had some reason to believe that to be the case. I'm not quite sure how common a name Jonathan  was, but Mary Saunders, witness at the wedding of John and Elizabeth and possibly Elizabeth's sister, later gave birth to an illegitimate son named Jonathan.

(b) On the likelihood  of that Jonathan Reynolds being my own ancestor. I am basing the possibility on the London Colney link (particularly the fact that he was buried there even though living in Barnet - I would expect that to show the place had some family connection rather than being somewhere he had just lived in for a few years), the name George given to his son, and simply the coincidence of the right name coming up at the right time in a place which could be linked. I know all of those are tenuous and dangerous links to make - and the difference in birth place is a big sticking point. Have you ever come across instances of Ridge being confused with Sandridge ? I would rather put this down to an enumerator's error since Jonathan ought to have been familiar with both places, but that is unlikely to have happened twice. I suppose it is not out of the  question that he was born in Ridge - very close to London Colney - but taken to his father's previous parish church to be baptised. Unfortunately neither James nor Jonathan asked  relatives to witness their marriages.

Do you have any suggestions as what more I could do to confirm or rule out these suppositions, or to find the true parents of  my  Jonathan

Thank you for a very full and helpful account of your detailed investigation. All family history researchers eventually reach a point where the surviving evidence is incomplete or unreliable and I have covered the matter in the topic How can you be certain about ... so will not repeat it here.

As I see it you have a John (who came from Sandridge) and Elizabeth Reynolds who had children in Lilley in 1810 and 1812 and Sandridge in 1815, and who ended up in London Colney. We therefore know that John moved around, and may have been in other parishes at intermediate dates. You don't mention his occupation which might give a clue to his moves. (Some people had more mobile occupations, others could have moved because their employer moved. Agricultural labourers moves were often done during hiring fairs - and all the places mentioned are near enough to be have access to the St Albans fair.) I get the impression that John would have been unlikely to have left a will which is unfortunate as a will can be useful if it identifies living relatives. Because he moved John may well have lived in a cottage provided by an employer and there may be no record of such a tenancy. If he lived in copyhold property there could be a reference in a manorial role - but this is unlikely as he moved around. Information from Tithe maps may provide an address, but is unlikely to provide any relationship information.

As I see it the only real problem is that the census says that your Jonathan Reynolds was born in Ridge, which does not fit with a Jonathan Reynolds of the same age who was baptised in Sandridge. I don't know if you had realised it but if Jonathan was born in Ridge he may have been born in what is now London Colney. This is because the parish of London Colney only came into existence in 1826 - and part of the new parish was formerly part of Ridge. Would you be less unhappy if the place of birth was recorded as London Colney.

My advice to you is that you work on the hypothesis that there was one Jonathan Reynolds and realise that you may never find indisputable contemporary evidence to confirm this. The important thing to do is to keep a weather eye open for any relevant evidence which might suggest that there was more than one possible Jonathan Reynolds. (We all get such problems - one of my ancestors was illegitimate and while we know the name of the father there are two possibilities! We may never know whether the father of the child was a randy young man, or the young man's father!)

[There is no reason to think that there is any connection between your Jonathan Reynolds and my Jacob Reynolds, who moved to Sandridge from Norfolk.]

Lynda Fase replied: Thank you for putting this on the site. I did think it was a bit of a lost cause, myself, but perhaps someone else will  recognise something in there. I do actually already have an address for John because the censuses put him in a cottage in Lobel Lane - by the river, opposite the church, and in Shenley parish for census purposes, even after 1826.   Jonathan, when he was there, lived further down the river, towards Shenley. I  lived in London Colney when I was a child and went back recently to have a look at these places. The parish arrangement round there has always confused me and in previous bouts of research I used to flounder round the census without really knowing where I  was or whether I'd checked everywhere. I think I did finally work it out this time though, and saw that there are bits of what might be called London Colney in Ridge parish. John was a labourer, by the way, or a 'husbandman' in the Sandridge records - which I guess is the same thing since nearly all of the men had that occupation. In 1851 John was actually a 'pauper' so you're certainly right about a will not being likely.

Just a note about "Husbandman" as an occupation. There seems to be some uncertainty about its usage. The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary gives "A man who tills and cultivates the soil, a farmer".  I find it in two modern lists prepared for the genealogist: A Dictionary of Old Trades, Titles and Occupations, by Colin Waters, defines it as "Farmer who worked with animals. Also a general term for a farmer in the 1700s." Joyce Culling's Occupations - A Preliminary List defines it as "A tenant farmer". Ogilvie's Victorian Imperial Dictionary of the English Language records it as "A farmer , cultivator or tiller of the ground, one engaged in agriculture". Ann Fisher's 18th century Spelling Dictionary and Expositor of the English Language gives "One employed in tillage".

My own feeling is that normally it was used for someone who had land to farm, rather than as an agricultural labourer employed by others, and may well have been applicable to many people in the days of the strip fields, before enclosure. In the 19th century it is very rarely used as a description of occupation in baptismal registers - except that one vicar regularly used it in Sandridge for a time to describe people whom his predecessor and successor would have described as labourers. It would be interesting to know if there are other parishes where it is used in the 19th century baptismal registers,

For possibly related individuals see REYNOLDS, Ridge & Colney Heath, 19th Century 

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