Answers to Questions


GURNEY, Wigginton, 18th Century

March, 2006




Shayne Gurney (shayne.gurney @t of Magrath, Alberta, Canada , writes John Gurney was born about 1745 in England.  He married Alice Birch 4 Apr. 1768 in Tring.  Their son, William Gurney (b. 6 Nov. 1768) is my direct ancestor. William married Frances Wells (b. 5 May, 1771 in Edlesborough, Buckinghamshire) on 23 July 1791.

John and Mary's other children are: 

John Gurney b.1770 Wiggington
Thomas Gurney b.1772 Tring
Job Gurney b.1779 Tring

I am looking for more information about John Gurney and Alice Birch.  I believe Alice Birch was born in 1747 in Wiggington and her parents may have been William Birch and Mary. This information comes mostly from the IGI.

My first reaction to your query was "Oh Dear". When I started seriously investigating my own ancestors in about 1977 I discovered that there were several marriages to spouses called Gurney in the Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, area - only a few miles from where I live in Tring. I wanted to find out if these Gurney spouses were related and I soon discovered that someone had researched the family about 100 years ago and their records were in the Museum in Aylesbury. (They are probably now in the Buckinghamshire Records Office). I decided to look at them and found the records consisted of boxes of slips of paper, in chaotic order, each with references (often not properly sourced) to the Gurney family. It was clear that the name was so common in the area that trying to untangle who was who would take more time than I could afford to spend. 

You say your normal source was the IGI, and as Gurney is a common name in the area and many would have used chapels whose records have not survived, I suggest you have a look at the following pages:

In terms of your specific query I started by looking at the Militia List for Wigginton (obtainable from the Herts Family History Society). This lists seven references to a John Gurney/Gurny, labourer, between 1769 and 1784, and suggests that in this period his family increased from 2 children in about 1772 to 6 in 1784. He may be the John Gurney who was listed as a servant in Tring in 1768.

So who were the six or more children of John Gurney of Wigginton (he may have had others who died in infancy). A check on the IGI on familysearch came up with the following baptism entries from the register extraction programme for Tring and Wigginton.

  • No entry for a William Gurney on the IGI
  • John -/12/1770 Wigginton - son of John Gurney 
  • Thomas 1/11/1772 Tring - son of John & Alice Gurney
  • Job 28/3/1779  Tring - son of John & Alice Gurney

Definitely there is no sign of six plus children so the situation is far from clear. A look at the burial registers might identify some child deaths.

Familysearch also has an Ancestral File submission (NOT the IGI) which gives William as being born on 6th November 1768, the son of John and Alice Gurney. This was submitted by a Mrs Desmona Harris of Magrath, Alberta, Canada - who may even be known to you. At first sight this information would appear not to have come from the Wigginton parish register (which would have, in any case, recorded a date of baptism rather than of birth, and may not have recorded a mother's name) and you really need to find out where the creator of the Ancestral File got the information from. 

In particular I notice from the Ancestral File that one of William's children, John, was born in Whipsnade, Bedfordshire and died in Utah in 1888. Markyate (not far from Whipsnade) had one of the earliest Church of Latter Day Saints churches in Hertfordshire. (See FLITTON, Flamstead, To USA in 1868 - which includes some background information relevant to this enquiry). It may well be that John was associated with this church, and left records in the LDS archives - and it is of vital importance to distinguish between information recorded perhaps 150 years ago by John about his parents, siblings, and grand-parents (very likely correct) and additions added by recent amateur genealogists which may be less reliable. 

Using my local knowledge I should point out that there are several things that worry me about the Ancestral File information as it stands. If John was the son of  the William Gurney and Frances Wells who married at Edlesborough in 1791 and the information came from records left by John, you would have expected John to record the names of his siblings - including at least several children who would have been born between 1791 and about 1800. I also note that a  William Gurney was baptised at Edlesborough, 6 April 1772. son of Henry & Elizabeth Gurney. He was probably the William Gurney who married Frances Wells at Edlesborough in 1791 and unless John recorded otherwise when he got to Utah I suspect that the Wigginton connection could be a red heading. 

Until the sources/accuracy of the information on the Ancestral File have been clarified there seems little point in looking further at Wigginton/Tring records,

December 2009

Terry Mclain.(terencegmclain @t of Minneapolis, MN, USA, writes: Alice Birch is indeed the daughter of William Birch and Mary Sealing married Feb 26 1745/6 in Whipsnade Beds she in turn is the daughter of John Sealing and Alice Rodgers married Nov 18 1716 Chesham Bucks. This information is confirmed in the wills of Thomas Sealing 1803 brother of Mary Sealing  and Thomas Sealing 1756 uncle of Mary Sealing. I am a descendant of John Birch, Alice's younger brother..

January 2008 - Link updated
December 2009 - Further communica