ATKINS, Stanstead Abbots & Much Hadham, mid 18th century

September, 2008

Jeffrey Atkins (jeff.atkins @t of Hove writes: According to a letter by an ancestor doing research in 1860, Henry, John, Thomas and Sarah Atkins as children, had to leave their estate in Stanstead Abbots in around 1740, because it had to be sold to pay debts. Their fathers/mothers Christian names are unknown along with any d.o.b's. Moor Place in Much Hadham was owned from 1690(ish ) to 1742 by a Robert Atkins who had to sell the estate to pay his debts. Is this the same Estate and father?? I have visited HALS once and the parish records for the period do not exist  (and didn't exist in 1860 when the original research was done). I cannot find any more info on Moor Place to establish the possible link. To add to confusion, the property was also owned in 1650 by Sir Richard Atkins, but there is no link in his pedigree to mine that I know.

I have a complete line from Henry Atkins to myself. It is just the parents I need to go further. Of course it could be a family legend, but the names and dates match up.

The first thing to remember is that the person who prepared the letter in 1860 would not have had the easy access to records (such as parish registers, will indexes, county records offices, etc.) that we have today. However, assuming the letter writer was elderly, he could have personally known people born around 1740 and the "research" may have been no more than recording personal knowledge, asking other members of the family, and consulting available family documents.

Such letters, written by the elderly, going back to grandparents (and sometimes great grandparents), to pass on to their children or grandchildren, are not that uncommon. The information can be very useful - because it may refer to people and events not recorded elsewhere - but earlier parts can be misleading because memories are imperfect, and the writer may not have paid much attention to what his grandparents said to him when he was a child. In my own family a letter written by my grandfather in his 80's and referring to his great grandfather contained information about someone who turned out to be a step great uncle, It would seem that my grandfather was unaware that his grandfather was illegitimate. It is important, when you have such a document, to check everything against records that are now available to get some idea of how accurate it is - and also to fill in missing details.

A common type of error in such documents can be confusion between place of birth and place of residence as a child. When Robert Atkins sold Moor Place in 1742 he and his family must have lived somewhere. I would expect a document written from family memories is more likely to record a major downturn in the family wealth caused by a bankruptcy 100+ years earlier than to distinguish between the places the family lived before and after the bankruptcy.

Apart from the reference to the missing registers of Stanstead Abbots you don't name any sources you have consulted - so at the risk of duplication of what you have already done I will just point you to a few sources that might help you.

There are web pages for Stanstead Abbots & Much Hadham

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


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