Hertfordshire Genealogy

Answers to Questions


ROLPH/ROAFE, Kimpton,  18th century

March, 2005




Rebecca (beccaclaire8 @t gmail.com) of Leeds writes: I'm having a lot of problems tracing my ancestors William Roafe and his wife Rachel. They 'appear' in Kimpton in 1743 when their son William is baptised, prior to this I can find no trace of either. I've been hunting high and low for a marriage - I've checked the parish registers so know for certain that it didn't occur in Kimpton, and I've searched the Herts Marriage Index at HALS with no success. There is also no likely marriage on the LDS website. There isn't a settlement certificate for them, either, unfortunately.

Both William and Rachel died in 1792, so there are no census records available, but I'd love to be able to find out where they came from and trace this line back further. I'm wondering if they came from somewhere with a thick accent due to the spelling of 'Roafe' but I may just be clutching at straws in desperation to try and work out where they originated from. I'd be very grateful if you could suggest any sources I might check to try and find their marriage and birthplaces.

I am afraid there are no easy answers but you might find it useful to look at I've hit a brick wall. However I can make a few points which might help.

First of all I don't think you can put too much weight on the spelling in the Kimpton register which initially is recorded as Roaf, Roafe, Roaffe and later as Roffe, Rolf, Rolfe, and Rolph. The reason is that spelling variations can be due to the minister making the entry (who is the most likely person not to be local) and to have any significance one has to see whether there are similar changes in other names in the register at the same time.

Secondly the name Rolph and its variants is very common in Hertfordshire - and the last question I answered - ROLFE, Tring 1860-1885 - involved two William Rolfes. This means that the cautions in Right Name, Wrong Body?  are particularly relevant.

The problem is that simply tracing names back through registers has very definite limitations and before the Hardwicke Marriage Act of 1754 a couple could get married by affirmation in front of witnesses anywhere they liked, and there was no need to record it in the parish registers. The reason you cannot find a marriage record may be that it was "out of area" but it could also be that it was local but not recorded.

To try and go further back a change of approach is needed - and it helps to know as much as possible about the social status, occupation and abode of the family. in order  to know where records might be found. For instance information on the well to do may be found in wills, while if very poor may be mentioned in the records of the overseers of the poor (if they survive). If you have not already done so I would start from the 1851 census returns and try and augment the earlier generations with information from other sources than registers. For instance the 1838 Kimpton Tithe Map may show where members of the family  lived and perhaps so did earlier generations. Land Tax and Militia lists could well give further clues. Your best hope may well be any manorial records that survive as these deal with the transfer of copyhold property, usually from generation to generation.

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

Page created March 2005