TOOLEY, Watford, Mid 19th Century

February, 2007

Debra Summers (msgumms @t of San Pedro, California writes: I am looking for the parents of  Lucy Puddifoot nee Tooley who, according to her death certificate was born 18 July 1828 in Watford, HertfordshireLucy Tooley (spinster, no father given) & Alfred Puddifoot (labourer, father Thomas deceased) married at Old Church, St. Pancras, London on 25 September 1853. Both gave St Pancras addresses and the witnesses were Eliza Tooley and William Hearn. Lucy signed her name. while Arthur made his mark, so he could not read or write

Lucy & her husband Alfred Puddifoot had their 1st child Mary Ann, 10 August 1855, in Watford Hertfordshire before coming to America. Mary Ann was christened 5 May 1856 at St. Mary's church. Watford. I have their marriage license and birth record for Mary Ann but cannot locate any family for Lucy who was my 3rd great grandmother.

In looking at this problem I agree that there is no obvious entry for Lucy Tooley on the IGI at familysearch, or in the British Vital Records Index. This is a comparatively common problem discussed in Where is my Ancestor's baptism before 1837. In fact you are fortunate that she died in America - as this means she had a more helpful death certificate than the British certificates at the time.

A quick check of the 1851 census on Ancestry showed Lucy Tooley (indexed incorrectly as Lacy Tooley) as a lodger living in Neale's Yard, Bushey (a village adjacent to Watford). It records that she was a 23 year old silk throwster and all living in the house are shown as being born at Watford. She does not appear in the Ancestry index of the 1841 census.

Lucy would have worked at the Silk Mill at The Rookery, Watford, which in 1832 was employing children as young as 5 to work the machines - See Silk Mills in Hertfordshire.

The 1853 marriage is interesting. The absence of a father's name almost always indicates "not known" suggesting that her mother was unmarried at the time of Lucy's birth. Her signature (the original signature will be in the church register - and the "signature" on the certificate you have will have been made by a clerk copyist) shows she was educated to the level of having been able to write her own name. The church at which they married was sometimes used as a kind of "Gretna Green" for couples from Hertfordshire who wanted to get married away from their home parish, with no questions asked. In 1853 it was conveniently close to Euston Station (when the main line trains south from Watford terminated.) Couples routinely gave St Pancras addresses to get a residential qualification but these may have been addresses of convenience. Whether this was the case with Lucy and Alfred is uncertain.

A least two witnesses were needed and Eliza Tooley was almost certainly family. While William Hearn could be a relative a check of other weddings in the register at the same time could well indicate he was a lay member of the church (possibly a churchwarden) who frequently stood in as a witness. Definitely there was a William Hearn living in St Pancras in the 1851 census who could have been the person who signed.

So can we find Eliza Tooley? In the 1851 census an Eliza Tooley - aged 22 Born "Walford, Herts" was a servant in a house in Dunstable Road, Luton, Bedfordshire. The online copy of the original book is almost totally unreadable - and she was almost certainly born at Watford a year after Lucy - so possibly a sister. Again no entry could be found in the 1841 census and no baptism records on familysearch or the VRI.

If Lucy and Emma Tooley were born in about 1828 and 1829 are there an other Tooley births in Watford around that date?

The VRI comes up with a baptism! An Emma Tuley, daughter of Sarah Tuley, was baptised at St Mary, Watford on 15th Jan 1826. She may be the Emma Tolly working as a servant in Yorkshire at the time of the 1851 census whose place of birth was recorded as Batchworth, Hertfordshire. (Batchworth is in the parish of Rickmansworth - only a short distance from Watford.) I could not find Emma or Sarah in the 1841 census, or Sarah in the 1851 census.

So we have Emma Tuley/Tolly, illegitimate daughter of Sarah, baptised Watford in 1826, Lucy Tooley born Watford 1828, and Eliza Tooley, born Watford in 1829. None can be found in the 1841 census. They could well be sisters.

There are two ways forward:

Let me know how you get on - and whether you can find a Watford family in the 1841 census with the wife called Sarah and children Emma, Lucy and Eliza of about the right age - as if there is such a family Sarah is virtually certain to be your great(4) grandmother.

There is a web page for Watford

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