Answers to Questions

John BAIL, Hemel Hempstead, died 1850's

October, 2007

Shirley Mirams (kmirams @t of Australia writes:

Family oral history says that my Great-Great Grandfather, John Bail, died in 1854 as a result of a quarry accident.  He is buried in Hemel Hempstead.  Is there any way to confirm this accident and details of the quarry accident?  John was married to Mary Bail (maiden name) on 3.11.1838 in Tring.  I have looked on the internet for any mention of mine/quarry accidents in the UK during that period with no results.

Unfortunately there are unlikely to be any surviving reports of the accident. The area around Hemel Hempstead is bereft of minerals and there isn't even any decent building stone. The underlying rock is chalk - and there would have been many small quarries (I doubt any were more than about 20 feet deep) where the chalk was used to make lime for the land, or mortar for building with brick. Occasionally there might be short mine tunnels at the back of the quarries - as at Roughdown Common, near Hemel Hempstead. There would also have been pits (again not very deep) used to extract brick earth, to make bricks. The number of people working at any one site is likely to have been very small - and I suspect that a quarry associated with a lime kiln might only have involved two or three casual labourers as and when required. If John Bail died in an accident in a chalk or brick pit he would almost certainly have been the only person killed.

[For information on brickmaking see "Bricks" in the subject index.]

There would have to be an inquest. These were usually held quickly (before the corpse began to smell badly) - sometimes in a local pub or other convenient building near the place of death. Unfortunately I understand that the coroner's records from this period have not survived - so the only official record will be what the coroner wrote on the death certificate. As FreeBMD lists a John Bail dying at Hemel Hempstead in 1854 you should find it very east to order a copy of the death certificate online. This would tell you where the death occurred, and the cause of death in medical terms - which may give a clue to how the accident occurred. It should also give you his age and occupation at the time.

It is very unlikely that there were any press reports. Before stamp duty was removed in 1855 there were very few local papers. Possibly the nearest were the Hertfordshire Mercury (at Hertford), and the Bucks Advertiser and Bucks Herald (at Aylesbury, Bucks). These papers would have had no more than a half of a page of "local" news - centred on the town of publication. The death of a labourer in an "everyday" industrial accident 20 or more miles away would not have been newsworthy. The best one might find is a one line death notice.

While you should be able to see a copy of the Hemel Hempstead burial registers at your nearest LDS Family History Centre (see familysearch for address) I doubt they would add add anything significant to the death certificate.

It may be that John Bail's occupation on his marriage certificate, on the birth certificates of his children, and on the census returns might give a clue to what he was doing and where he was working. However brickmaking was seasonal - and apart from a few specialist workers - those that did casual work in the brick pits would have simply given the occupation "labourer". The same may well have applied to those making lime from chalk.

When you get the death certificate let me know exactly what it says - as I might be able to comment further. For instance the name of the location might suggest whether it was more likely that he died in a brick pit or a chalk quarry. Of course, if he was injured and died at home some time after the accident it might be harder to make deductions.

Shirley Mirams later wrote:

Further to my John Bail query - I have now obtained his death certificate.  He died on 15 Nov 1854 at the Union Workhouse, Hemel Hempstead.  Cause of death was "Decay" - no mention of result of accident etc.  He was 92 years old.  Maybe I can surmise that he was ill or infirm and had to be hospitalized at the workhouse.

While it is not biologically impossible it is unlikely that the John Bail who married in Tring in 1838 and then raised a family was 75 years old at the time he married. Could the John Bail who died in Hemel Hempstead Workhouse in 1854 have been, or example, the father (or even grandfather) of the John Bail who married in 1838? However the page Right Name Wrong Body should alert you to not jumping to conclusions.

The 1841 census lists 6 John Bail living in Hertfordshire and maybe some others have been recorded as John Ball. The John Bail whose certificate you have may be the John Bail, rope maker, living in Chapel Street, Hemel Hempstead, in the 1841 census. His age is given as 65 - but ages for adults in 1841 were rounded down and tend not to be very accurate. At the time it appears that your John Bail was living at Hastoe, Tring. His age is given as 40 - no occupation quoted - and there is a 20 year old Mary in the household (presumably the Mary who married John Bail in Tring in 1838). The children in the household suggest that John already had children when he married Mary.

Your original question did not indicate how much research you had done on the family - but if you have not done so it would be useful to sort out who was who, etc., using the online census records, certificates, etc. It may well be that the family tradition is partly correct (most family "memories" include some truth). Your John Bail may well have died in a quarry accident - but not in Hertfordshire and/or not in 1854. Locating him in the 1851 census, and his widow & children in the 1861 census, may provide important clues. The marriage certificates of his children may establish whether he was dead when they married - and also his occupation.

December, 2007

Shirley Mirams responded with information and some more questions:

You were right, the John Bail I had found could not have been my ancestor.  However, I have acquired another Death Certificate for a John Bail who died on 21 April 1857 in Dagnall [Buckinghamshire], aged 65, cause of death "Accidental Death", occupation Labourer, which ties in with the birth of his last child (which I have just found), Sarah Martha Bail on 21/5/1856, Hemel Hempstead, (Birth Certificate shows father as John Bail, agr. labourer. They were living at Bods End, Hemel Hempstead at the time) and subsequent remarriage of his wife, Mary, to Thomas Oliver in June 1858. (She was listed as a widow)  I found them in the 1861 census.  Mary's children were listed as son and daughters-in-law of Thomas

Was it normal to list step children as "in-laws"?

It often happened. It is even more confusing if they are simply recorded as son or daughter and given the step-father's surname - which is what happened to Jane and Martha Bail in the 1871 census, their mother Mary having died by this date, leaving them in the care of their step-father.

And where was Bods End? I cannot find any reference to it at all.

Hemel Hempstead became a "New Town" after the Second World War and much of the surrounding countryside became housing estates, with many of the old rural names being lost. However you should have no difficulty tracking it down using the technique described in Locating Census Addresses on Maps. Bods End is mentioned in the 1851 census for Hemel Hempstead - when there were two households there - one being headed by - guess who - Thomas Oliver. He was still there in 1861 (now married to Mary). Using the census enumerator's "walk" round the district you can now go to the 1880s large scale Ordnance Survey maps available online at Old Maps. By tracing the enumerator's walk on the map you will find Bods End and get to know more about the kind of place they were living.

Bods End is also marked on Dury and Andrews' map of 1766, and Bryant's map of 1822, and reprints are available for both these maps. The Place-names of Hertfordshire suggests it took its name from Richard Bodde, who lived in the area in 1248. I suspect the place was never much more than a small farm and perhaps a couple of cottages for farm labourers.

Are coroner's reports available so I can find out more about the cause of his death?  The informant on John Bail's death certificate was a Deputy Coroner in Aylesbury, Bucks.

As I mentioned earlier most Hertfordshire Coroner's reports of the period have not survived (see Inquests). The situation is probably the same in Buckinghamshire - and if any are available they will only be available for view in the Records Office. The two papers mentioned earlier, The Bucks Advertiser and/or the Bucks Herald may have reported the death and/or inquest.

I now know John Bail's approx. birth date (1792) and his father's name, William, (from his marriage certificate) but I have drawn a blank on finding where he was born - I have looked at Latter Day Saints Family Search, Roots Web, and others with no luck.  Any suggestions?  All I know is that he was not born in Hertfordshire as written in the 1841 census (abode - not of this county). I cannot find them on the 1851 census.

Sometimes census records contain errors that make finding difficult (see Examples of census problems), and in a few cases some people were left out! The birth certificates of children born either side of 1851 should give an address and one can then look at the census to see who was living at that address, which might then clarify the situation. As John Bail was a widower with children when he married Mary in 1838 it could be worth looking for them in the 1851 census to see if that gives a clue to what happened to John.

See Where is my ancestor's baptism before 1837? The problem you have is quite common if your ancestors were non-conformists - and the best hope is to collect as much information about them, including things such as witnesses of marriages, church/chapel of any baptism, etc. Have a look at some of the answers I have given on the subject to other people, and follow up any relevant linked pages. For instance The Inheritance of Christian Name can provide clues as to the names you expect to find in previous generations.

October, 2008

Shirley Mirams (kmirams @t of Australia writes:

John Bail was living at Hastoe at the time of the 1841 census.  Having read your page about Hastoe, I presume John Bail lived in one of the farmer's cottages there.  Is there any way of finding out exactly which cottage, and its address, John and his family lived in at the time of the 1841 census?  I am planning a visit to Hastoe and Tring within the next few years and would love to be able to see the exact cottage if it still exists.

The 1841 census simply lists a number of cottages as being at "Hastoe" with no indication of their relative position, and it is impossible to work out where the cottages were from that census. However the three cottages listed immediately before John Bail's cottage were occupied by William Fulks, George Batchelor and William Wright - and in the 1851 census there are three houses at "Astoe" occupied by the same three people. The next property listed is a farm of 123 acres called "Astoe Cross" followed by a larger farm called "Week".

On some modern printed road maps Hastoe Cross is marked on the road between Tring and Cholesbury - with a farm "Marlin Hill Farm" immediately adjacent and "Wick Farm" along an unfenced track leading from the cross and called Wick Road at the Wigginton end of the track. (On Google Maps it is the un-named cross-roads at the top of Marlin Hill.) Knowing where it is on modern maps you should be able to find Hastoe Cross on the Old Maps web site which shows the area as it was in about 1880.

It is hard to know where the cottages were but there are buildings shown along the road between Hastoe Cross and Hastoe Farm on the circa 1880 map on the Old Maps web site - and you may be able to tie the location down more precisely if you can find the cottages occupied by William Fulks, George Batchelor and William Wright in the 1861, 1871 and 1881 censuses and relate them to the circa 1880 map - using the techniques described on Locating Census Addresses on Maps (which I mentioned in connection with your previous enquiry). However when the Rothchilds arrived at the end of the 19th century Hastoe Farm appears to have been completely rebuilt to a very high standard (as were many other farms in the area) and I suspect that any "sub-standard" labourer cottages were replaced at the same time. A look at the satellite images on Google will show you that the houses currently on the road between Hastoe Farm and Hastoe Cross are of a type unlikely to be much more than 100 years old.

December, 2008


Ordnance Survey 6in  Map
Surveyed 1876-7
Revised 1923

There are web pages for Hemel Hempstead and Tring

Page updated November 2008