MILLER, Burton, [Cheshunt], Early 19th century

January, 2008

Alan Richards (ricko_15 @t of Melbourne, Australia, writes: I have been trying unsuccessfully to locate William Miller who stated on his Marriage Certificate that he was born in Burton, Hertfordshire in 1831. His parents were William Miller (farmer) and Mary Trish? (Street?) unclear to distinguish proper spelling of her surname.

On his death certificate it states he was born in Burton in Herefordshire in 1825 and arrived in Australia in 1850. The marriage and death of William were in Australia.  I also cannot at this stage determine on the name of the vessel on which he migrated to Australia, hence I am trying to establish his place of birth that may lead me to that. 

I have spent many hours tracing Burton in Herefordshire where there are numerous references to Burton such as Burton Court, Burton Manor, Burton Gardens, Burton Crescent, etc and there was a Lower Burton (Eardisland) at some stage in the county. I have been unable to find any reference to the MILLER name in Herefordshire.

Is there in fact a Burton in Hertfordshire because I cannot find the name Burton mentioned at all in Hertfordshire? and if so, is there any mention of the MILLER name?

There is definitely no parish or significant place in Hertfordshire called Burton, so I can fully understand your failure to find anywhere with that name.

There are two points to bear in mind. When asked where they were born, people may have replied with the name of an individual house or farm or a tiny hamlet, and this is recorded as the "place of birth". Secondly the information given at the marriage is more likely to be accurate that that on the death certificate - as in the later case the person most likely to know the facts is already dead - so the information is second hand.

The Place-names of Hertfordshire only lists one Burton. This is in a list of farms, etc., at Cheshunt, including a reference to "Burtons End" in the early 17th century. There is nothing on Dury and Andrew's map of 1766 (which is pretty comprehensive) or Bryant's map of 1821. There is no mention in Cussans' History of Hertfordshire and only a passing reference to "Burton Grange" as being a house with a small park in the Victoria County History (published in 1912). A search for "Burton Cheshunt" on the present day Google Maps comes up with  a "Burton Lodge" in Rags Lane, Waltham Cross [Waltham Cross was formerly part of Cheshunt] and at its southern end Rags Lane becomes "Burton Lane" (? presumably the lane leading to Burton).

A check of the online large scale Ordnance Survey maps of circa 1880 show a house or farm called Burton Grange at the location shown on the Google Maps, just south of the hamlet of Hammond Street.

The limited references I have found in this initial exploration suggest that Burton may have been little more than a somewhat insignificant farm until Victorian times, when it may have been upgraded to a gentleman's residence. However HALS has a number of manuscript maps which may provided more information about the property in the early 19th century, possibly including the names of owners and/or occupiers.

So was there anyone called Miller living in the area in the early 19th century? Your William had left England before the 1851 census, and the 1841 census is less useful. However a search for anyone called Miller in the 1841 census showed that there were several - including a couple called William and Mary Miller of an age to be William's parents, living in Park Lane in census enumeration district No 4 for Cheshunt - which puts them less than an hour's walking distance south of Burton Grange, possibly travelling along Burton Lane! William senior is described as a "gardener" - and may have either worked in the gardens at Theobalds (including the kitchen gardens) or been a market gardener. Definitely significant market gardening was carried out in the area in the past - growing fruit and vegetables for the London markets. The occupation of "gardener" is not incompatible with an occupation of "farmer" when it re-appears on an Australian marriage certificate - especially as many parental occupation descriptions were upwardly socially mobile between England and Australia.

I can't guarantee that the William and Mary Miller listed in 1841 are the ones you are looking for - but at least it is a lead which is worth exploring further. Let me know if you have any success following this up.

I contacted Sheila White (sheila.white @t because she lives at nearby Hammondstreet, Cheshunt, and she commented: Based on the evidence I think that the Burton of William Miller's birth is unlikely to be Burton Grange/Burton Lane in the parish of Cheshunt.  I have never come across it being referred to as a place named Burton, and I cannot find anything on the 1841 census to support William Miller's association with the area, other than the entry you describe.  I thought that he might have been born in Lower Burton, Herefordshire, near Leominster and that he could be the William Miller (age rounded down to 15) in 1841 in the parish of Weobley, which is about four miles from Lower Burton.  However although the head is 40 yr old William, the 40 year old woman of the household is Eleanor Miller, not Mary, although she could of course be a second wife (there is a young child in the house with a different surname).  Then I found William b 1826 in 1851 - in an Asylum in Hereford, so that rules him out!  There is William Miller baptised in 24 May 1825 in Weobley, father William, mother Ann - quite possibly the above family (and perhaps Ann died).  However, this does not fit in with Alan's information from William's certificates.

Jack Edwards in his book "Cheshunt in Hertfordshire" writes that Burton Grange was once known as Swiss Cottage and was much altered in 1875.  He also mentions Burton Lane Farm which may date from the 17thC.  Both Swiss Cottage and Burton Lane are residences in 1841. I seem to recall reading that it was for a time the local "big house" and that there were garden parties/fetes held there in the early 20thC.  It may have been in an article written by Ray Devonshire who writes short local history articles for Goffs Community News. 

Sheila's comments about Burton make it less likely that William was associated with Burton, near Cheshunt, although I would not rule it out entirely. Sheila also found there was a William Miller, son of William and Ann baptised at Weobley, Herefordshire in 1825 (familysearch) and I have a William Miller, son of William and Letitia baptised at Llangarren, Herefordshire, in 1822 (Vital Records Index). In fact the 1841 census shows 30 people with the Miller surname in Herefordshire and 150 in Hertfordshire, and in each case William was the commonest given name.

Before more time is spent it is important to know more about the Australian information and its reliability so we don't go on a wild goose chase, particularly if the information comes from modern transcripts rather than the original source documents.

There are a lot of factors that could be considered - see My Ancestor emigrated from Hertfordshire - but the starting point must be what is written on the original marriage certificate. If the Australian arrangements were the same as in England this will be in the church marriage register (which should still exist) or the copy given to the couple (which probably does not). Other copies while not include the original hand writing and there were opportunities for transcription errors. (See A Comedy of Errors for what happened in England.)

Assuming that the original certificate clearly and unambiguously says "Burton, Hertfordshire" the critical thing will be William Miller's signature. If William made his mark he obviously could not even write his own name and would have no idea what was actually recorded on the certificate, so could not have corrected any error. William may also have had no understanding of "the paperwork" and when asked where he was born may have given the name of a farm, hamlet, etc., rather than the town or parish. The place might also be the earliest place which he could remember living as a child, rather than his birthplace. A well-written signature almost certainly means that William would have been able to check what was written on the certificate. A scrawled signature probably indicated poor reading skills.

The registrar (who was probably the church minister taking the wedding) may have has no knowledge of Hertfordshire (or Herefordshire). If William couldn't spell the registrar would try to record what he heard phonetically without understanding the regional accent. If William came from Hertfordshire he might have said "Pirton" (a small village) or farms/hamlets as Burston or Bearton - and there may be other possibilities. This means, even if "Burton" is clearly written we cannot be certain that it is correct if William's reading skills were weak. The death  certificate may not help - as the information may have been copied from the marriage certificate!

The marriage certificate will also give details of the bride and the names of witnesses. Often people emigrated to Australia as a group and stayed connected,  Sometime they were paupers who were sent by the parish to get them off poor relief and all went to the same rural settlement in Australia. Sometimes a bride followed her betrothed a year or so later. This means that if you can trace the bride or witnesses back to England they may provide a link.

The location of the marriage may suggest other possibilities. If the marriage took place in a Church of England church there is a reasonable chance that there is a record of William's baptism. If he was married elsewhere he may have been a non-conformist and the relevant records for baptisms are far from complete - see Where is my ancestor's baptism before 1837?

To maximise your chances of tracking down the right William (see Right Name, Wrong Body?) you should collect together as much information as possible along the lines of  My Ancestor emigrated from Hertfordshire.

February, 2008

Alan wrote again, this time suggesting yet another interpretation of William's mother's name from the marriage certificate as possibly Mary Strish ..

As the handwriting on William's marriage certificate is very difficult to read ("Strish" is not a possibility as there in no one with this surname in England in any published census) one must look at other possibilities with a similar length and word shape. A check shows that familysearch records a marriage between a William Miller and Mary Smith on 23 October 1820 at St Leonards Church, Shoreditch, Middlesex. Shoreditch is in the East End of London. The 1841 census show that both William, Mary, and their daughter Elizabeth, were not born in Hertfordshire and if William senior was a market gardener when they moved to Cheshunt he could well have been selling his produce in the East End of London.

Alan also said: Also on his death certificate it states he was in Australia for 17 years making his date of arrival 1850.  A William Miller who was shipwrecked in 1851 is the only William I can find arriving in Australia about this time but this boat departed from China.

You must be careful not to jump to conclusions. As you don't know how, why or when your William Miller travelled to Australia I am not sure why you think he could not have come on a boat from China. While contacts between Hertfordshire and China were not common they did exist - including a farm labourer who appeared to have lived in one tiny village all his life - except that one of his children was born in Hong Kong! - see Links with China.

The fact that the shipwrecked individual was called William Miller strongly suggests that either he was born in the UK or his forebears were. The William Miller we believe was born in Cheshunt lived  close to the River Lea. There would have been inland barges going down the river to London Docks. So a young man living in the area could have easily become a seaman on a merchant ship going anywhere in the world. Alternately he may have joined the Royal Navy. In any case, as he was shipwrecked he might have had no intention of emigrating to Australia and only ended up there by accident.

There are web pages for Cheshunt, Theobalds and Waltham Cross

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


Page created January 2008