HOLLETT?, ?, Mid 19th century

January, 2006

Pamela (croesong @t of Devon writes: I am searching for a Mary Ann Hollett, born Herts c1830.  Her father was William Hollett, a shoemaker. A summary of the relevant information is:

Mary Ann Hollet married a John Griffin in a Congregational church in London in the late 1850s. Her father was described as William Hollett, a shoemaker, and the witnesses included a William and Susanna Hollett.

Mary Griffin (or Griffen) can be traced in all subsequent censuses to 1901. While her age is consistent and points to a date of birth circa 1833 there is considerable uncertainty about her place of birth, which is recorded as Tring in 1861, Watford in 1871, Hertford (probably short for Hertfordshire, rather than a reference to the town) in 1881, and Abbots Langley in 1891 and 1901. (A look at the census returns shows a similar variation about her husband's place of birth. With such variation there could be difficulty in being certain the entries are for the same couple but their son, Walter J Griffin, aged 1 in 1861, proving the continuity of identity between the entries.)

Pamela unsuccessful attempts to find matching records under the name Hollett lead her to wonder if the name has been mispelt.


The problem with all 19th century marriage certificates purchased from the General Registrar Office is that they were at best manuscript copies (possibly several times) of the original in the church register (see A Comedy of Errors) - and if in doubt it is always worth checking back to the original register (or a microfilm) which will include the actual signatures (or marks). The variations in the places of birth in the census suggest a low level of literacy - increasing the likelihood of errors at the time of recording.

As there were children Mary Ann's maiden name should be recorded on their birth certificates - so these should also be checked.

Hopefully checking the church register for the marriage, and the birth certificates for the children will clarify Mary Ann's maiden name.

However it is worth briefly looking at some alternatives

Howlett - This surname is common in the Tring area - and in addition there was a William Howlett, born Watford, circa 1834, living in Watford in 1861. I would put this as the most likely alternative as it is a simple phonetic variation.

Aylott: Pamela suggests this as a possibly phonetic variation and the name is comparatively common on the Eastern side of the county - but Tring, Watford and Abbots Langley are all in the west of the county.

Hallet: Possible copying error. No strong association with Hertfordshire

Hatchett: Possible copying error as the word has a similar written "profile" - The 1851 census has a 16 year old Mary Hatchett, born Watford, living in Northchurch (which in the west of the county on the road between Abbots Langley and Tring).

My guess is that the surname is Howlett, and will be interested to hear what the church register and the children's birth certificates turn up.

Of course, even if you have a more certain surname there may be problems as Mary was born before birth registration came into effect and as she married in a Congregational Church there may not be a surviving baptism record. See Where is my ancestor's baptism before 1837?

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


Page created January 2006