Answers to Questions


HOPKINS, Markyate, circa 1781

July, 2009







Stephen Hopkins (stephen.hopkins @t of  France writes: My great great grandfather Thomas Hopkins, according to the 1851 census, was born in Marketstreet in 1781 and lived in Flitwick Beds in 1851. He is also recorded in the 1841 census. He married twice in Flitwick to Ann Hill in 1806 and to Sarah Keep in 1821. He died in Flitwick in 1858. Can you give me any advice about how and where to look for his ancestors?

First a comment on the census entries you have found. The 1841 census records that Thomas Hopkins was between 55 and 59 years old and was not born in Bedfordshire. The 1851 census records that he was 70 and was born at Marketstreet, Bedfordshire. You don't say what age is recorded on the death certificate in 1858 but I assume it is compatible with a birth date circa 1781.

Market Street - or Markyate as it is now normally called - has a complex history, because of boundary changes. In the late 18th century part of the village lay in the parish of Flamstead, Hertfordshire, and part lay within the parish of Caddington - a parish which was half in Hertfordshire and half in Bedfordshire. In addition a part of Studham (another parish then split between Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire) may also have been described as Market Street. This situation still applied at the time of the 1851 census - and if someone said they were born in Market Street this might be recorded as either Herts or Beds.

I assume you question arose because you could not find a matching birth/baptism on the familysearch web site. This situation is quite common for reasons given in Where is my ancestor's baptism before 1837?.

To see what you would have found I carried out a search for a "Thomas Hopkins" born in Bedfordshire (reasonably close to both Flitwick and Markyate) and the adjacent parts of Hertfordshire within 5 years if 1781 I found the following Thomas Hopkins recorded.

Event Date Place Father Mother Source
Christening 28 Feb 1776 Leighton Buzzard, Beds Samuel Elizabeth Submitted
  about 1778 of Flitwick, Beds     From Marriage to Catherine Usher, 15th Oct 1803
  about 1781 of Flitwick, Beds     From the Marriage to Ann Hill, 18th Feb 1806
Christening 13 Jan 1786 Leighton Buzzard, Beds William Elizabeth From Register

There are four distinct Thomas Hopkins (or three if the two "of Flitwick" are the same person, marrying first Catherine Usher and then Ann Hill). The first three entries are dubious for reasons given in The Limitations of the IGI on Familysearch.

The 1776 entry comes from a family tree submitted by a member to the Church of Latter Day Saints - and may come from a family bible or similar source - as it appear not to be from the parish register. This could suggest that this branch of the family might have been non-conformist (children NOT baptised in the parish church) and one of the family might have joined the Mormon church around 1850 and recorded their ancestral details then. (It is could be relevant that on of the earliest UK Mormon churches was in Flamstead - see FLITTON, Flamstead, To USA in 1868.)

The two "of Flitwick" entries are pure guesses - almost certainly for both date and place of birth.

A similar look at the marriages (over a somewhat longer time period) provided the following:

Date Place Wife Source
1st Mar 1802 Eaton Socon, Beds Susannah Emery Register
15th Oct 1803 Flitwick, Beds Catherine Usher Register
18th Feb 1806 Flitwick, Beds Ann Hill Submitted
5th Oct 1807 Kensworth, Herts Elizabeth Wetherhead Register
18th Oct 1808 Luton, Beds Elizabeth Rodish Register
5th Oct 1817 Leighton Buzzard, Beds Elizabeth Pinne Register (Submitted entries give wife's surname as Guess and Pinner)
29 Mar 1819 Flamstead, Herts Sarah Todd Register
17th Jul 1821 Flitwick, Beds Sarah Keep Register
17th Jun 1826 Leighton Buzzard, Beds Ann Tompkins Register
17th May 1829 Toddington, Beds Elizabeth Lowings Register

All but one of the entries is reliable and it suggests that there may have been about half a dozen Thomas Hopkins in the area at the time you are interested in, most of which having no birth/baptism records. If you have not yet done so you should read Right Name, Wrong Body.

Two queries immediately present themselves.

You refer to the marriage with Ann Hill, yet this is a potentially unreliable entry and it would seem that this does not occur in the Flitwick register. You should carefully check the the information which suggests that this marriage took place, and the groom was your Thomas Hopkins. Was Thomas described as a bachelor or a widower in the Flitwick parish register? (Available through your nearest LDS Family History Centre - address on familysearch.)

Because two Thomas Hopkins married two brides called Sarah, one in 1819 at Flamstead (which could have been Thomas's "home" church) and the other in 1821  at Flitwick (where Sarah was born - 1851 census) you should get documentary evidence to  show you have the right Sarah. Their youngest child, Ann Hopkins (aged 11 in 1851), was born after 1837 so her birth certificate will confirm her mother's maiden name.

I am afraid there is no easy answer to the question of Thomas's parents. To make progress you will need to collect all the information you can about Thomas Hopkins and his family  - see Where to look before 1837 when the Parish Registers don't help.

Page created July 2009