Answers to Questions


RICKETTS & LECOUNT, Ware, Early 19th Century

September, 2008




John Griffiths (jmgriffiths @t of Felixstowe writes:

James Ricketts   Born Henham, Essex ~1786
8 Jun 1807 - 5 Aug 1811 Royal Marines
17 Feb 1815 - 1 Feb 1819 Army - 9th Foot
1841 Living Crib Street, Ware, age 57 with wife Susan 42, children Sarah 18, Eliz 16, Ann 8.
1851 Living 80 Crib Street, Ware, age 65 with wife Susanna 52 and child William 13 or 15.
1859 died Crib Street age 73, described as Army Pensioner

Sarah, mentioned in the 1841 census, is my great great grandmother.

In various censuses all the above children say they were born in Ware but I have been unable to find any baptisms nor a marriage of James and Susan[na] in IGI or any of the other lists I can find.  Interestingly when Sarah married James Nicholl on 3 Sep 1843, she called herself Sarah Lecount but when their first daughter was born in December 1843 she was recorded as 'formerly Rickets'. I assume 'Lecount' was her mother's maiden name and Sarah married with that name as she was 6 months pregnant. Perhaps her ex-army father was not happy!  The marriage witnesses were Susanna Lecount's sister and her husband, Ann and John Akers.

My puzzle is the lack of baptisms or marriage.  It is possible they did not do either I suppose. In case the marriage took place in Essex I have done a big search there but no result.  Any ideas very welcome?

In looking at your question I am starting with the 1851 census which records the following household in Crib Street, Ware (which was not numbered in 1851 - the number you quote being no more than the sequence number on the enumerator's return form).

James Rickets Head 65 General Labourer Henham, Essex
Susanah do Wife 52 General Labourer's Wife Ware
William do Son 15? General Labourer Ware

If William was only 13 his birth would have been after June 1837 and should have been registered - but my reading of the census return is that the corrected census age is almost certainly 15 - and FreeBMD does not show any suitable birth registration. - So that line of attack is ruled out.

So what evidence do we have that William was "William Rickets" and the son of James Rickets.  In 1851 most labourers would not be able to read and write - so someone would have had to fill in the form. So they asks "And your boy - what's his name?"  "William" - so down goes "William do" and "Son". While this may be correct in most cases it is very common for step-children to be recorded as having their step-father's surname in the census. The same might apply to the children in the 1841 census - where there is no record of relationship between the members of the household.

We now come to Sarah Lecount's 1843 marriage to John Nicoll (as spelt in the FreeBMD index). At the time James Rickett was still alive, and if Sarah was married from Crib Street one would have expected James to have given her away. Under these circumstances it is reasonable to assume that if the appropriate box on the marriage certificate does not list James Ricketts as her father he was definitely NOT her father. This suggests that at the time of Sarah's birth her mother was Susanah Lecount - and either Sarah was illegitimate or her mother (maiden name unknown) was a Mr Lecount.

When Sarah's daughter's birth was registered in 1843 you say that Sarah was described as "formerly Rickets". Who registered the birth? - after all Sarah's husband James Nicholl would clearly have treated James Rickett's as his de facto father-in-law and as the baby's grandfather - and to record Sarah as "Formerly Lecount" would, in effect, record the fact that James Ricketts was not the child's grandfather. 

The 1851 census shows that Susanah was born in Ware circa 1799. A check of the IGI on familysearch shows that 21 girls called Susan/Susanna were baptised in Ware between 1797 and 1801 - although there may have been a few more that were not baptised in the Parish Church. This list includes Susanna Lecount and a check of the online marriage index at HALS provides no evidence of a Susanna marrying a Mr Lecount at a suitable date. It would therefore seem most likely that Sarah was illegitimate.

What about the other children? Step-children often adopted the surname of their step father and the fact that Sarah married as Sarah Lecount suggests that she was known by that name as a child perhaps even into her teens - which suggests that James Ricketts was not around for some years after her birth. This would suggest that her sister Elizabeth was probably born Elizabeth Lecount. There is then a gap until Ann and William (I wonder where 5 year old William was in the 1841 census?) and it could be that James was their father. There may be clues in how Elizabeth, Ann and William described their father when they married. (BTW - was the Betsey Lecount who married in Ware in 1846 Sarah's sister Elizabeth?)

So far I have not mentioned the missing birth/baptism records. It may be that there are no surviving records - and you should look at the pages Where is my ancestor's baptism before 1837 and Where to look before 1837 when the Parish Registers don't help. Unfortunately an illegitimacy makes it more likely that there are no records - especially if the mother and child remained living with the grandparents - or the child was brought up by the grandparents and the mother went elsewhere to work unencumbered with a child.

I note one possible long shot. There were clearly links between the Akers and Lecount family as James Akers married Charlotte Lecount  and John Akers married Ann Lecount - both in Ware in 1822, and you mention a John and Ann Lecount were witnesses in a 1843 wedding. HALS has information on file linking the name Akers to a Quaker Burial Ground - and it may be that if the Akers family were Quakers there may be relevant Quaker records of the Lecount family. I have no experience of researching Quaker records but if you want to follow this somewhat unlikely possibility up you should start with My Ancestors were Quakers. Even if there is no connection with the Quakers any information about the religious affiliations of the people concerned may help to suggest where records might be found.

Another possible avenue (again outside my experience) would be if Army Pension records record any information about James Ricketts movements and/or family after he left the army. It could even be that James was married before he came to Ware, and the possibility that he did not marry Susanna because he was already married and deserted his first wife should not be excluded.

To conclude - I have provided a possible interpretation of the information available to me, and suggested some avenues for further research, and this may allow you to fill in some of the gaps. However problems of missing births involving the poor (but not destitute) who did not get their children baptised in the Church of England can be very difficult and you may find the advice I have hit a Brick Wall useful

December 2010

John Griffiths (jmgriffiths @t replied with the following information:

The father's name box when Sarah married in 1843 says 'James L'. The surname was not spelled out which is the first time I have seen that, but James Nicholl's father was also 'James N'.
You ask who registered the birth of Sarah's daughter in 1843.  It was Sarah herself.
You ask where William was in 1841.  He is on the next page!
Betsy Lecount who married James Bolton was Sarah's sister Elizabeth.  In 1861 Susan Ricketts was living with them as mother-in-law (RG9/805 f56 p36). Sister Ann probably married Sidney Bygrave in Oct-Dec 1851 (freeBMD) as a Rickets

November 2011

Lecount / Akers / Stracey

Janet Stracey (janetsand @t of Hillcrest South Africa, writes: Charlotte Akers nee Lecount (b 1804)  married my grandfather's grandfather - Charles Stracey  - she was 9 years older that Charles and in the 1861 census her eldest child was 18 recorded as son of head, so I imagine they married around 1842.

Charlotte Lecount married James Akers at Ware in 1822. The had at least two children Caroline Akers, who died at 5 weeks in 1825 and Abraham Thomas Akers who was baptised (and possibly born) in 1826 after his father's death and who quite clearly survived as he was married and living at the Red Lion, Stanstead Abbots, at the time of the 1851 census.

James was buried at St Mary the Virgin, Ware, on September 1st, 1826, aged 28. Familysearch shows that Charles Stracey married Charlotte Akers at Great Amwell on 3rd March 1833 and also lists details of the baptisms of some of their children. The 1841 census shows that Charles and Charlotte were living at Stansted Abbots their oldest child being Charles, aged 8.

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

October 2008   Page updated
November 2011   Page updated