Hertfordshire Genealogy

Answers to Questions


WREN, Ware, late 19th century

June, 2004




 Jennie Window (j.window @t senet.com.au) of Elizabeth East, South Australia, writes  Emily Wren was born in Ware, Hertfordshire, in approx   1863. She worked with her mother Annie and sister Fanny as a confectioner.  Emily married Dan Hankin and they had a farm called Cotton Farm at Stone, Kent. Emily's brother Josiah Wren, JP. was an Alderman for the Hertford Town Council in 1925.  Emily's other brother was called Percy. He ended up working as a Drapers Assistant in Manchester. I would like to know the name of Emily's father.

If you look at the 1881 census return on familysearch you will find the following entry for New Road, Ware:

 Name  Relation Gender Age Birthplace Occupation
 Annie WREN   Head, widow  Female   30  Luton, Beds   Confectioners 
 Emily M. WREN   Daur   Female   18  Ware   Confectioners 
 Fanny M. WREN   Daur   Female   15  Ware    Confectioners 
 Kate A. WREN   Daur   Female   13  Ware    Scholar 
 Josiah WREN   Son   Male   11  Ware    Scholar 
 Percy WREN   Son   Male   3  Ware     

Quite obviously something is "wrong" as the record as it stands says that Emily is Annie's daughter - which suggests that Annie was only 12 when Emily was born. In such a case the first thing to do is to check the microfilm of the original to see if there is a transcription error. (... But of course a mistake may have been made in preparing the census in 1881.)

If there is no obvious error the most likely (but not only) interpretation is that some (or all) of the children are actually step children. Bearing in mind the "gap" it is possible that the older four children had one mother, while the youngest is Annie's son, and the father died in the three years before the census.

A check on familysearch quickly shows the following christenings of children of Josiah and Emily Wren(n) in Ware (presumably St Mary's):

 1. EMILY WRENN - 14 DEC 1862 Ware 
 2. ELIZA WRENN - 31 JUL 1864 Ware 
 3. FANNY MARIA WREN - 17 DEC 1865 Ware 

The British Vital Records CD records:

WREN, Percy JosiahChristening     Gender: Male
Christening Date: 9 Feb 1879 Recorded in: Ware, Hertfordshire, England
Collection:Christ Church
Father:Josiah WREN     Mother: Annie
Source: FHL Film 1040661 Dates: 1858 - 1886

This would support the theory suggested above.

To progress I would suggest that at a minimum you need to get copies of Emily's birth certificate from 1862 and her marriage certificate with Dan Hankin - as these together will confirm you have the right Emily. You should look for Josiah's marriage certificate (probably 1857-1862). To go further it would be useful to find Josiah in the 1861 or 1871 census.

The marriage with Josiah and Annie could also be of interest and I had a quick search for it on FreeBMD (which is not complete so cannot be fully relied on to prove the negative). It would appear that Josiah married Annie Barrett in the St Olave, Southwark (London/Surrey) registration area. The reference for ordering the certificate is "Marriages Dec 1875 St Olave 1d 362". 

This is extremely interesting. Why did they marry in London south of the Thames? What address did they give as their residence? It could be an example of quite a common occurrence. A wife dies - possibly in child birth, leaving a widower with young children to look after. The family rallies round and an unattached female member of the family (typically a sister or a close cousin of the deceased) moves in to help. A year or two later they decide to get married - but because they are closely related someone might raise an objection when the banns were read if they are married in a church where they were known. For people living in the Home Counties it was easy enough to arrange to be married in church in London. (Not quite the same thing as running away to Gretna Green to get married - but similar in that the couple got married in a whole unexpected location.)

Of course much of what I suggest needs to be proved by confirmatory certificates and/or looking at microfilms or other records. Some of the information is available online (there may well be much more I haven't found), and a lot more will be available on microfilm, etc. in Adelaide, which I am told has excellent facilities for researching English ancestors (if only by request in your neared LDS Family History Centre - address on familysearch). In addition civil registration certificates can be ordered online - so there is a lot you can do as easily in Australia as in England. 

It is clear that you have an interesting family. Good luck with your searching - and tell me how you get on.

April, 2006

Chris Page (superpicop @t btinternet.com) writes: My information relates to the query concerning Emily Wren. You pointed out that the census appeared to be worthy of further investigation as Emily's mother would appear to have been only twelve years old when she had Emily. The Wrens are part of my family and Emily's brother Josiah (who later became mayor of Hertford) wrote an autobiographical book called 'Round the World in a Windjammer' in which he details his early life on a clipper to Australia. In this he gives information that clears up the mother's age question. He says that he was four years and nine months old when his mother died and his father then married again. His father died on March 4th. 1877 leaving his stepmother with himself, four sisters and a stepbrother born six months after his fathers death. Unfortunately Josiah did not have the greatest regard for future researchers of family trees and the above detail is almost all the family information that I have (he does not even give his father or mothers names although he states that his fathers occupation was that of fish curer and wholesale salesman at Billingsgate Market).

Very interesting. If you look at the 1871 census you will find Josiah Wren senior, fishmonger, at the Fruit Shop, New Road, Ware, with his first wife, Emily Mary, and their young family. Next door is an elderly Eliza Wren, fishmonger's widow, who was probably his mother. I checked the 1851 Post Office Directory this shows a William Wren, fishmonger, Baldock Street, Ware. This suggests you will find much more about the family by looking at the census returns, and birth, marriage and death certificates, by following the approach illustrated in the Tutorial. However you may find that Jennie has carried out this research.

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