Answers to Questions


WOOD, Hemel Hempstead, Early 19th Century

February, 2008



Hemel Hempstead

Elizabeth McMillan (ekmcm @t of Melbourne Australia (working in Samoa) writes: I have found Richard Wood (born about 1801 in Kings Langley) married to Hanah (maiden name unknown).  They have the following children - Stephen, Richard, William, Lydia and Henry.  I find them in the 1841 census in Hemel Hempstead.  I have also found some baptism records that state that their children were baptised in Box Lane Independent ChurchRichard and Hanah are my gg grandparents. Do you think that there is a way for me to find out the maiden name of Hanah

My mother (passed away in Jan 2007 at 99) told me that her father, Henry John Wood (born in Two Waters in 1869)
[and son of Stephen Wood] told her how he used to play in the grounds of St Pauls [Hemel Hempstead] and she thought that he was in the choir there too.

As the children were all born before 1837 and there is no sign of Richard and Hannah's marriage in the obvious indexes we need to look of clues elsewhere - and this turns up a number of interesting points - and one possible pointer to a maiden name.

The Baptisms

Three of Richard and Hannah Wood's children were baptised at the Box Lane Independent Chapel, Hemel Hempstead.

Name Born Baptised
Lydia Wood 13 Jan 1823 30 June 1837
Richard Wood 9 April 1827 30 June 1837
Stephen Winmill Wood 1 August 1829 30 June 1837

The fact that the children were baptised on 30th June 1837 has particular significance. Civil Registration was introduced on 1st July 1837 and the registers of the non-conformist chapels were meant to be handed in. The minister presumably wanted all the member of his congregation to have their children baptised "in time" to go into the book and one can reasonably assume that the above list includes all of Richard and Hannah's children born between 1823 and 1837 who were still living in 1837,

The fact that the children were baptised in a non-conformist chapel suggests that there may be significant gaps in earlier family records but there may be a bonus. Some non-conformist registers were really log books of Chapel activities - and some (I don't know about this one) contain very significant extra information. If you have not yet done so you should look at this book at your local LDS Family History Centre and see what it contains. It might even mention Hannah's maiden name somewhere.

[You mention 5 children - I will discuss William Wood below - I found no reference to a Henry Wood and will not mention Henry again]

The 1841 Census

There are some special features of the 1841 census - and while you have seen it I repeat it to help illustrate the points I want to make, and which you may have missed.

Living at Two Waters, Hemel Hempstead [address not given but same area as Weymouth Street, Two Waters, where Richard was living in 1851]

Name Age Occupation Herts?

John Waller

60 Confectioner y

Samuel Waller

25 Agricultural Labourer y

William Waller

25   y

Kezia Waller

89(?)   y

Alfred Waller

4   y

Richard Wood

45 Baker y

Richard Wood

10   y

Living about a mile away in Popes Lane, Hemel Hempstead [On modern maps close to the roundabout where Queensway meets Leighton Buzzard Road]

Name Age Occupation Herts?

Hanah Wood

43   y

William Wood

20(??) Shoe M y

Stephen Wood


It is not clear why Richard and Hannah are at separate addresses - but one possibility relates to Richard Wood senior's occupation and the fact that the qualification time for the census was midnight. As a baker, presumably working for John Waller, he may well have worked at night - baking bread in time to be ready to sell in the morning. Young Richard Wood may have been helping his father.

There is a problem with the Popes Lane entry for William. Ancestry indexes his age as 10 and at first sight this looks like a correct transcription. But if he was only 10 I would not expect the occupation of shoe maker to be recorded. A close examination of the hand writing, including comparison with other numbers on the page, suggests the age could be 20. This fits in with the birth entry on familysearch showing a William Wood, son of Richard and Hannah, being born at Kings Langley on 17 March 1822. (This is a submitted entry and the source is not recorded - but indicates that someone has researched the family). It also fits with the 1851 census which shows a William Wood, boot maker, living in Queen Street, Hemel Hempstead, with his wife and "daughter-in-law" (probably correctly step daughter). He is recorded as aged 31 and born at Kings Langley.

There is no sign of Lydia Wood in the 1841 census - but she turns up in Hemel Hempstead in 1851 as the wife of Joseph Freeman, with an infant child.

Stephen Winmill Wood

Why was he given this name? Could he have been named after a Stephen Winmill who had some connection with the family? Familysearch shows that  a Samuel Winmill. son of William and Mary Winmill, was born on 8th August 1770 and christened at St Mary's, Hemel Hempstead on 23rd September 1770. (William and Mary had other children baptised between 1763 and 1773.)

Children were frequently named after a grandparent and this Samuel Winmill is of an age to be the grandfather of Samuel Winmill Wood. As his paternal grandfather would have a surname Wood this indicates that (if Samuel Winmill was his grandfather) Hannah's father was Samuel Winmill. This is a useful working hypothesis but is not proof, and because of the non-conformist connections and missing records it may be difficult to prove this one way or another.

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