GOUGH, Watford, Early 19th century

February, 2006

Angela Hay (Pianangel @t of Pontefract, West Yorkshire, writes: My cousin and I are trying to locate the birthplace of my Great Grandfather Francis Gough, born Watford 1825, and to find any info about his father Richard Gough, profession Banker's clerk (on his son's first marriage cert and Gent on his son's second marriage cert)  This info is on all the census returns and is the only information we have.  I have been to Hertford records office and could find nothing about his birth.  Family rumour has it that Francis may be connected in some way to the Clarendon family at the Grove, Watford.  Apparently, he used to drink and became morose and was in the habit of taking his son, (my grandfather) out to a big house and saying "all this should have been mine."   If information about Francis is not available, I would love to find out about his father Richard, the banker.  Could he have worked for the Clarendon's?  Would a trades directory have anything on Richard?  I have been through all the usual sources, census returns, IGI, Ancestory. Com and can find plenty of Gough's but no Francis. According to the rumour, Francis is supposed to have been set up in business by the Clarendon Family in a Corn Chandlery business, but the financial help stopped when he married his first wife Emma Pettit.  His second wife was a woman from Chelsea, Mary Brooker.  The Pettits may have been in the banking business as well.

The first thing to say is that failures to find records of a birth or baptism are common before civil registration started in 1837 - see Where is my ancestor's baptism before 1837? and no great significance can be drawn, especially if it can be shown that the family had a non-conformist background.

Because of this other clues - such as the names given to children, and occupation - may suggest where to look.  I did a quick look at the census returns on Ancestry and was surprised at what I found. 

Francis had a large family starting with Francis R Gough born in about 1844 at St Pancras, Middlesex, followed by Margaret, Thomas, Emma, Mary A, Edwin, Ellen, Alfred, Charles, Arthur, Rose, Minnie, Herbert, Sophia, Kate,  and Edgar. Most of the family were born in Islington, Middlesex. No resident servants are listed. At this period one would expect some of the children's names, particularly early on, to match up with Francis's ancestors and siblings. If Francis's father was called Richard one would expect at least one child called Richard - and it may be that the full name of the eldest was "Francis Richard", but I have not checked this. (See The Inheritance of Christian Names). There is no reason to associate Francis with Watford after about 1844.

Francis's occupation was decidedly variable:

1851 St Pancras General Dealer
1861 Islington Fishmonger & Bookseller
1871 Islington Paper Hanger
1881 Islington Dairyman
1891 Islington Dairyman & Coal Merchant

The combination of occupations (and who would want to buy books smelling of fish) is unusual, both in terms of their variety and the fact that several suggest he was self employed. Coupled with a history of drink, I would think he must have had some family financial support, but obviously I can't say whether it was from the Gough or Brooker side.

As an aside, the strangest combination of occupations I have found was a grocer who became a manufacturer of industrial grade flooring (he laid the flooring, still in place 100 years later, of the pedestrian tunnel between the South Kensington Tube Station and the Natural History Museum) and ended up as a theatre manager in London. I am sure there were "business problems" and I believe that his wife's family (who were well-to-do) bailed him out after each crisis.

The next step is to see if we can find any other Gough reference associated with Watford around the time that Francis was born. There is nothing in Pigot's directories for 1823, 1828/9 or 1839 - but if Francis's father was only a bank clerk you would not expect him to be listed.

 The British Vital Records Index is more helpful. It records a Jane Gough, daughter of Richard and Charlotte Gough, who was baptised on 7th November 1830 at St Mary's, Watford. Could this have been a sister of Francis? You will need to check the parish register to get Richard's occupation, and perhaps his residential address. (While checking the register it would be worth looking for Francis around 1825 - in case an unclear entry has been wrongly indexed.)

Possibly also relevant was an illegitimate baptism. Ellen, daughter of Charlotte Goff, was baptised at St Mary's, Watford, on 1st April 1849. Was Charlotte a sister of Francis (named after her mother) - or was Charlotte Richard's widow?

The only problem is that if Richard and Charlotte were Francis's parents I would have expected one of his 16 children to have been called Charlotte - unless he had been disowned by his parents for his drink problem!

There is one other source you might try. HALS have the land tax for Watford up to 1830 and if Richard Gough was the owner or tenant of property in Watford around 1825 you may be able to confirm this - and perhaps even find an address, or his landlord. They may also have other manuscript documents, such as rate books, which contain details of residents of the town.

There is a web page for Watford

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


Page created February 2006