WREN, Kings Walden, circa 1800
A Lydia born 10/12/1794 to William & Elizabeth Wren at Bethel Independent Welwyn.
A Lydia born 29/4/1796 to Thomas and Mary Wren at Tilehouse Street Particular Baptist, Hitchin.
Can you advise how best to track down which of these families are my ancestors.
When you have non-conformist ancestors you can find that the track goes cold - because no records survive. On the other hand you can be lucky, as some surviving registers are in fact chapel "log books" which can provide a mine of information about the members of the congregation. If you have not already done so you must put at the top of your "to do" list a visit to HALS (or possibly the Society of Genealogists in London) to look at the microfilms of the registers you mention for references to the Wren family, which may well include details as to where they lived, etc., etc.
You should also check out the 1822 marriage to see where the couple came from and who the witnesses were. By law only the Church of England could marry you - and many non-conformists would not want to be seen entering their local parish church - so would get married some distance away from their home village.
It is also important to realise the parish boundaries relate to the Church of England, and the catchment area for non-conformist chapels could well cover a number of parishes, and may fluctuate depending on the popularity of the preacher. If the information relates to a non-conformist record you should not assume that the chapel was in the same parish as the abode of the person recorded. Kings Walden is nearer to Hitchin than to Welwyn, but is not so far from Welwyn to rule out a link.
Two people with the same name and about the same age can be a problem - as Right Name, Wrong Body clearly shows. If you have problems with one individual it can sometimes be solved by looking at siblings and discovering what happened to them. A quick check of the IGI using batch numbers shows Hannah (born 15 Sept 1793) and Lydda (born 10 Dec 1794) recorded at the Bethel-Independent, Welwyn. The Tilehouse Street register records Benjamin (born 26 January, 1789), Hannah (born 22 February, 1790), Elizabeth (born 12 May 1793), Lydia (born 20 April, 1796) and Thomas (born 26 April, 1801). Benjamin's birth fits in well with the marriage of Thomas Wren and Mary Anstee at Houghton Regis, Bedfordshire, on 18th December 1787.
A minimal search (and you may find much more evidence) showed that in the 1861 census a Benjamin Wren, aged 72, born Kings Walden, shoe maker, was living in Church Street, Luton, with his wife and children. This is almost certainly the Benjamin born 1789. However it would be worth checking what happened to other members of the families.
The evidence suggests that your Lydia was the one whose birth was recorded in the Tilehouse Street register - but there is much more checking of original records for you to do, before one can be certain. Other records to be examined (at HALS) are land tax returns, militia lists, etc., which could tell you more about the Wren family in Kings Walden. As occupations run in families, Lydia's father, Thomas Wren, may have been a shoemaker or some other leather-related occupation. The fact that both families had daughters called Lydia and Hannah may suggest that they are closely related - see The Inheritance of Christian Names.
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Page created November 2006