Answers to Questions


WEEDON, Abbots Langley, late 18th century

March, 2011



Abbots Langley

Beverley (patter_son @t writes from Spain saying: I read through your site with great interest and identify hugely with some of the cases you mention.  I always thought Weedon (or Weeden) was an uncommon surname.  Not in Abbots Langley it seems! My great-great-great grandfather Samuel was born there in 1788 or early 1789 (the LDS show him baptised on 8/2/88).  His parents were John and Elizabeth and he had three sisters also born in Abbots Langley - Hannah, Charlotte and Elizabeth.  My problem is identifying John and Elizabeth Weedon.  I thought I had it sorted but it appears not.  I am pretty sure that John jr. was born on 20/5/1764, son of (sigh) John and Elizabeth.  HALS gives John Weeden marrying Elizabeth Hitchcock on 2/2/1786 which would tie in nicely since there was possibly an older brother born before Samuel.

However - this Elizabeth according to the LDS  died in 1790 and so could hardly be the mother of Samuel's siblings.  Further investigation reveals that there are at least 4 John Weedons born in the vicinity.  Apart from the John who was the father of Samuel, there's another John (m. Elizabeth) who had a family in the 1780's plus another couple of Johns born in the mid-1760's.  This is just in Abbots Langley without going further afield to Watford, Kings Langley etc.  I AM STUCK!  I've searched HALS and Genesreunited and the LDS but can not identify the mysterious John and Elizabeth.

Living in Spain my resources are limited. I am hoping that maybe you can advise me on where to go from here?

I am afraid this is the kind of difficult problem which I can only really answer in general terms. Family history research is like trying to solve a giant jigsaw puzzle where many of the pieces are missing. In many cases you get stuck because you you cannot find a piece that will fit while in cases such as yours there are many similar pieces which look as if they might fit but when you put them together it doesn't look right and there are odd pieces left over which are not accounted for. If someone (perhaps even yourself) has fitted some pieces together wrongly you may spend a lot of time assuming they are correct. It may be possible to find more pieces which at least suggest a way forward (perhaps by closing down some alternative solutions) but there is no guarantee that the pieces you need have survived the years - if they ever existed.

There are a number of topic pages on this site which look at the problem from various angles, for instance How can you be certain about ...Right Name, Wrong Body and I've hit a brick wall .... What I can tell you for certain is that there will come a point on every branch of every family tree when you can't go back any further because suitable evidence has not survived. When you get to a serious difficulty you have to decide how much time and money you want to invest on that branch of your family tree, and what the chances of gleaning further generations are. 

So what about the Weedon family. A good cheap source of information you may not have tried is the Militia Lists - which are available on CD from the Herts Family History Society. The CD contains 427 references to the Weedon name in the period form 1758 to 1786 in 23 different parishes. Basically it lists men eligible for military service, and their occupations, and where they lived. There are often multiple entries for the same person. It also gives details of spelling variations in the surname. Less commonly it will record that a man had been exempted because of the size of his family. Nearly all of the people with the name Weedon (and variants) lived in South West Hertfordshire with the largest number in Rickmansworth, followed by Watford, with Hemel Hempstead, Abbots Langley and Kings Langley being 4th, 5th and 6th in the list. A problem is that Rickmansworth is a long narrow parish with Middlesex on the South and East and Buckinghamshire on the West - and your ancestors' movements are unlikely to have been limited by the county boundaries. The Militia lists will not immediately answer your question but will help to clarify who was living where and what they were doing - acting as a guide for further research.

The Society also have a CD of Burials between 1800 and 1850 which might also fill in some details. There could be other references to the Weedon family in some of the other printed indexes published by the Society - for instance I note that a 22 year old John Weedon, of Watford, was sentenced to be transported to Australia  in 1744. (Transported beyond the Sea)

If you haven't already read it you could find the book Tracing Your Family History in Hertfordshire useful.

If your Weedon ancestors lived in copyhold property they would have technically been tenants of the Lord of the Manor (and there may be more than one manor in a particular parish) and there may be records of the way the property transferred from one generation of the family to the next. If they lived in one of the better properties they may have paid Poor Rates and if they were very poor (or infirm from old age) they may have benefitted from parish relief. Documents such as these can often tell you more about the way of life of the people you are interested in and hence act as pointer as to who was who. The problem is that the documents (if they survive)  will almost certainly have not been indexed and will not be available online. I have worked on similar documents for some branches of my own family, and I am afraid that it can proved very expensive in time as it means that you (or a paid agent) travelling to, and spending hours in, the right records office (not all Hertfordshire documents are at HALS). Perhaps in five or ten years time more of these documents will have been indexed and online ...

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

March 2011   Page created