Answers to Questions


GRAY/GREY, Hertford, circa 1846

February, 2008




Ian Hudson (dagian2004 @t of Germany reported that he had hit a brick wall trying to research Great-Great Grandmother (Ann Gray) who was married 17 August 1865 to Samuel Hudson in Huddersfield (Vol 9a Page 419). Father Thomas Grey. Census returns agree that she was born in Hertfordshire. There was an exchange of emails in which he provided further information and I have reviewed the information he supplied, plus additional information I located, below.

The basic problem is that the name Ann Gray is inconveniently common. There is no sign of an Ann Gray, daughter of Thomas,  born in Hertfordshire, in the easily accessed baptism records on familysearch, or in the 1851 and 1861 census. In addition all the birth registrations can be explained by the baptisms, the census returns, or both - so one can assume none of them refer to a child with a father Thomas Gray.

In these circumstances it is appropriate to look for any evidence that might help answer any of the following questions:

The first thing to remember is that she was illiterate and the records were made in the North of England where the census enumerator could be unfamiliar with Hertfordshire and  a Hertfordshire accent.

Was she born in Hertfordshire? We have four census returns all of which place her birth clearly in Hertfordshire and most likely in Hertford (1901 census). The 1891 census record is probably what the census enumerator might  have written down if she said "Hertford, Herts". The 1871 and 1881 censuses are compatible with her giving the one word answer "Hertford" in reply to a verbal question. It is reasonable to believe that she considered that she was born in Hertfordshire.

Sometimes the occupation and movements of the groom, both before and after marriage can give a clue to where the couple might have met. I have tabulated what is known of Samuel Hudson's movements

Date Place Source Occupation Notes
1861 Hanley, Staffs 1861 census Coal Miner I am not 100% certain this is him - but he was boarding in a house and his place of birth is one of a series of dittos. (Inappropriate dittos are a know cause of error when the original forms were completed.) I could find no other census references to a Samuel Hudson born at Hanley.
1865 Huddersfield, Yorkshire Marriage Certificate Labourer  
1867 Stockport, Cheshire 1871 census   Ann Hudson's place of birth
1869 Chorley, Lancashire 1871 census   Mary Hudson's place of birth
1871 Blackburn, Lancs 1871 census Labourer  
1872 Burnley, Lancs Birth certificate   Eliza Hudson's place of Birth
1881 Burnley, Lancs 1881 census General Labourer  
1891 Horwich, Lancs 1891 census General Labourer  
1901 Burnley, Lancs 1901 Navvy  

Most labourers were not very mobile but between 1861 and 1872 Samuel was continually on the move, possibly working on construction sites. He may well have become a navvy working on, for example, new railways. (The word Navvy comes from Navigation - the workmen who made "Inland Navigation" possible by building canals.) This combination of high mobility and a labouring occupation is extremely unhelpful  in that he could have met Ann Gray anywhere.

This raises another unfortunate possibility. Perhaps the first Gray/Hudson contact was because Thomas Gray and Samuel Hudson had met as labourers on a construction site. If so Thomas may have a similarly mobile history. People who are mobile in this way are more likely to be missed in the censuses, and sometimes their children were not even registered.. I checked and the railway reached Hertford in 1843 so the navvies building the line would have moved on by the time Ann was born - so no clue here as to why Thomas might have been in Hertford circa 1846.

The marriage is interesting because Ann was underage. Was her father there to give permission? Perhaps he was dead (not always recorded on the certificate) and her mother gave permission? Perhaps Ann had left home and they were not there to give permission? Perhaps Samuel and Ann eloped to Kirkheaton to get married? The only possible clues (if relevant) appear to relate to Samuel rather than Ann. The marriage certificate has witnesses Charles and Ann Shaw and the 1871 census shows brother and sister Charles and Mary Ann Shaw in Huddersfield in a household including coal miners. If Samuel was a coal miner in 1861 he could have come to Huddersfield to mine coal - and perhaps stayed with the Shaw family. It would have been nice if the witnesses came from Hertfordshire - but again no such luck.

If Ann was illegitimate and invented a father for the marriage ceremony there was one Hertfordshire illegitimacy I felt was worth looking at, although there may be others.  Hannah Elizabeth Gray, daughter of Elizabeth Gray, was baptised at Thundridge (nearest town Hertford) on 20 February 1848. In the 1851 and 1861 censuses she was living with her step father who was called Joseph Brown (unfortunately not Thomas - although her (step?) grandfather was a Thomas Broughton). I have not found out what happened to Hannah after that - but noted that in the 1871 census there is a Hannah Gray in service in London of the right age born at Colney Heath (mis-transcribed on Ancestry). I don't think this is the one born at Thundridge but can't be sure. This may well all be a red-herring and I leave it for you to follow up if you are interested.

Apart from the census returns which says that Ann was born in Hertford, and the statement on her marriage certificate that her father was called Thomas (and sometimes a illegitimacy is hidden by inventing a father's name) we still have no useful information on the links with Hertfordshire and no obvious pointers as to where to look.

Sorry if this all seems negative. One can just hope that something will come up. When I started researching my own ancestors 30 years ago I had a major block - and then tripped over the answer in an unexpected place when I was researching another branch of the family. One possibility is that Thomas had other children and that someone else will track him down from a different direction and you will find him (and Ann) on a family tree published on a site such as Genes Reunited.

You should read I've hit a brick wall


Little more than a week after posting the above I got the follow message from Ian:

I have now followed a different line, as you advised, and believe I have a theory to follow.

Ann Gray's Parents:

Thomas Gray (born 1826) / Sarah Capper (born 1822) both of Lichfield, Staffs
1841 Census (still researching)
1851 Census shows Thomas Gray as a Labourer
1851/1861 Census show an Ann (born 1848) living with both.

Ann Gray's Husband:

Samuel Hudson (born 1842) Lichfield, Staffs
1861 Census shows lodging in Notts - Railway Labourer

Marriage of Samuel & Ann:

1865 married in Huddersfield


Samuel Hudson (Ann's Husband) was listed in 1851 Census  as Scholar living at Beech Field Union Poor House Lichfield.
Sarah Capper (Ann's Mother) was listed in 1841 Census as a Female Servant at Beechfield, Lichfield

Therefore Samuel almost certainly knew the Gray family.   The Hudsons & Grays are shown in all Censuses within a 10 mile radius - Rugeley/Handsacre/Lichfield, Staffs.  Possibly Thomas Gray helped Samuel get a job on the railways.

Railway Timetable:

Hertford:   In 1848 a station was built at Cowbridge with the extension of the Great Northern Railway from Welwyn. The station was adjacent to McMullen's Brewery, with access via a wide spur off of Hartham Lane. The station closed in 1924 with the opening of Hertford North.

Huddersfield:  In 1865 a wooden railway viaduct at Mytholmbridge (near Huddersfield) collapsed causing the Holmfirth railway line to be shut for one and a half years.  (This could explain why Samuel & Ann married in Huddersfield)

My Theory:

1.   Thomas Gray was working in Hertford at time of Ann's Birth.
2.   Ann was born in Hertford but the birth was registered in Lichfield, Staffs
3.   Ann associated her birth with the place her father was working and assumed that was where she was born.


The advice you and your site offer has been invaluable.  I have already ordered some Certificates and will continue to research to see if my theory has any substance.

The theory seems very likely and this is the kind of problem I like - and where I can help by taking a new outside look at the information and suggest different approaches.

July 2009

Ian reports : I have finally managed to find my way through numerous brick walls to what I believe is the answer to my original call for help.

Ann Grey was indeed was born in Hertford but appears to have lied about her age in order to marry when she was 15. She was born in Butcherly Green Hertford (slum area where Hertford Bus Station was later built).  Her Father had been imprisoned in Hertford Gaol (for Poaching) before her birth and I believe that the 'railway age' offered him the opportunity to escape poverty.

However, I have detailed the info I have accrued on a website - particular page can be seen at:

Once again many, many thanks for the advice you offered which has contributed towards finally solving the problems I had.

A very successful investigation of a highly mobile family - which is well documented on the above web page, which has some excellent pictures of Butcherley Green, Hertford. There is no doubt that many people became mobile as a result of the coming of the railways which provided new work opportunities.


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

Page created February 2008
Updated July 2009 - with link to web site