Hertfordshire Genealogy

Answers to Questions


WHEELER, Redbourn area, early 19th century

September, 2008



Redbourn, Wheathamstead, Flamstead and Markyate.

Jan Bradbury (jan.bradbury @t btinternet.com) of Milton Keynes writes: My ancestors include Thomas Wheeler and his wife Sarah Rose who lived in Leverstock Green. Thomas 1834-1911 and Sarah 1834-1915. I read in an article on your site about another Thomas Wheeler (murderer) and the suggestion not to mix him up with my Thomas. My problem is I cannot confirm my Thomas' ancestry. I believe his father was James (c1809) and Elizabeth ? and she may have come from Bedfordshire. Its also possible that James' father was also James but where exactly did they come from? Can you provide any suggestions or guidance?

In the case of Thomas Wheeler, the murderer, the problem is that sources such as newspaper reports often do not give the age, and would rarely give the place of birth. For this reason the presence of another Thomas Wheeler in the area can lead to potential confusion - which is why I drew attention to Right Name Wrong Body? This warning may have confused you in your searches.

When you are working with sources which given place of birth and age there is far less scope for ambiguity. There is no real problem over identifying your Thomas Wheeler's parents from census records alone. A search of censuses on Ancestry (looking for born Hertfordshire between 1832 and 1836) shows him in every census between 1841 and 1901 as being born in Redbourn. In 1841 he was with his parents James and Elizabeth, and sister Mary, and in 1861-1901 he was with his wife Sarah.

In the 1851 census James Wheeler is a 42 year old agricultural labourer born in Wheathamsted while Elizabeth was a 44 year old straw plaiter born in nearby Flamstead. Thomas had left home but Mary, who was also listed in the 1841 census, is listed, helping to confirm, if there had been any doubt, that they were the right James and Elizabeth Wheeler.

James and Elizabeth are still in Redbourn in 1861 - the only significant difference is that Elizabeth is described as 51 and born in "Beds, Market Street". (This is a reference to Markyate, which in 1861 was partly in Bedfordshire and partly in the parish of Flamstead, Herts.) In 1871 Elizabeth is again listed as being born in Flamstead. It seems that Elizabeth could have been born in the part of Flamstead which later became part of modern Markyate.

Working back from the census information and using familysearch there is no difficulty in finding Thomas's baptism in 1834 - confirming his parent's names. It also records his father's baptism in 1810 - giving names for Thomas's paternal grandparents. I stopped at this point, but you may be able to follow this further back.

The real problem relates to Elizabeth's maiden name. There is no sign of a marriage on familysearch or the HALS marriage index. Perhaps they never married - or perhaps there is an indexing error. As Thomas was born before July 1837 there will not be a birth certificate - but there should be one for his younger siblings - including his sister Mary. However a quick check of FreeBMD suggests that the birth of most of the children born after July 1837 were not registered and this happened with a number of mainly illiterate families in the early years of registration. However there is a St Albans entry on FreeBMD which corresponds to the birth of a Martha Wheeler (the youngest child on the 1851 census) and it might be worth getting the certificate to see if it is the right Martha - in which case it will give Elizabeth's maiden name.

You may find that some of the familysearch references to Wheeler family are submitted entries by members of the Church of Latter Day Saints. Markyate was an early UK outpost of this church (see FLITTON, Flamstead, To USA in 1868) and this information may have been submitted by members of the church in the mid 19th century, recording details of people they had personally known.

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

Page created September 2008