Answers to Questions


WINGFIELD, Northchurch, early 19th century

June, 2011




Melvyn WINGFIELD (melvyn_wingfield @t of Bristol provided a lot of information, including the illustration at my request. The following text is based on selected statements from both messages, plus a few connecting words added for clarity.

I've been researching Matthew Wingfield, my G.G.Grandfather, for some years now and am unable to find a baptism/christening/birth record. He married Lydia BIRD at Northchurch in 1836

If you order a copy of a parish register you often get a print from a badly scratched microfilm. With care and patience it is often possible to edit the lines out - and this has been partially done in the above to show the effect that can be obtained . I have left the area outside the box as it is so it can be seen how scratched the top of the supplied copy was.

Three other Wingfield marriages were noted:

Charlotte Wingfield b. 1817      m. James STILES(Styles)     4th November 1838  Father William

Hannah Wingfield   b. 1818      m. Thomas CLARKE          12th December 1839 Father William

Hannah was baptised on the day of her marriage

Maria Wingfield     b. 1821       m. Reuben COOPER             18th October 1845 Father William   

The four marriages are linked by the witnesses:

The marriage record for Matthew is witnessed by Hannah WINGFIELD.
Hannah also witnessed Charlotte WINGFIELD's marriage in 1838.
When Hannah married in 1839 Maria WINGFIELD was a witness.

I've a sense that Hannah, Charlotte and Maria are either sisters or cousins to Matthew. Possibly  Matthew's father was William WINGFIELD too?

Melvyn also provides some information on Matthew Wingfield and Lydia after their marriage, which might be the subject of a further query, as there are some interesting complications.

The first thing to realise is that Civil Registration was introduced in 1837 because there were many people for which there was no record of their birth, so no legal way of establishing age (such as eligibility for military service, etc.) For those who adhered to the Church of England baptisms were recorded in the Parish Registers. For non-conformists baptisms may have been recorded but, prior to 1837 their records had no legal status, and for many no records survive. Other children may never have been baptised at all. An Historical Atlas of Hertfordshire, (just published, review to follow) suggest that in the Berkhamsted/Tring  area in 1851 about half the population were Baptists and while some non-conformist registers have survived there is likely to be a significant proportion of the population of Northchurch in the early 19th century for whom no birth records survive. (See Where is my ancestor's baptism before 1837?). In many such case there may only be circumstantial evidence to identify the parents.


We have four individuals, from Northchurch, Matthew 1816, Charlotte 1817, Hannah 1818 and Maria 1821, who could well be siblings, and three are known to have William Wingfield as father. In addition there appears to be no baptism records three of them - while Hannah's baptism at the age of 21 would indicate she was not baptised as a child. While this does not prove that William Wingfield was the father of Matthew, I would expect all children in the same family to be treated in the same way.


It would appear that the Wingfield family at the time were agricultural labourers who could not read and write - and this limits the kinds of records that might record their existence, and even if William was listed in Land Tax returns this would say nothing about the family relationships. There is no evidence that they left wills in Hertfordshire.


Christian names often run in Families (The Inheritance of Single Christian Names) so can we find a Matthew that Matthew (born 1816) could be named after. While a Matthew Wingfield, son of William Wingfield & Eleanor, was baptised on 8th August 1730 at St Paul, Bedford, the name would seem to be unusual in the Wingfield family of the Berkhamsted area.  However the name Matthew is far more common in the Carpenter family of Cholesbury, Bucks.


Why is this relevant?


The 1861 census shows Reuben and Maria Cooper living in the High Street, Northchurch. with Maria's father, William Wingfield, a 77 year old widower, who was an agricultural labourer born in Northchurch. The 1841 census shows him living in Gossoms End, Northchurch, with Maria, whose age is given as 15. He was a widower. It is reasonable to assume that he became widowed after Maria was born.


The Herts Burial Index shows that Sarah Winfield, 56 of Gossoms End, was buried at Northchurch on 19 March 1840. Familysearch reveals that William Wingfield married Sarah Carpenter at Cholesbury, Bucks, on 23 Feb 1807. Cholesbury is no more than an hour's walk from Gossoms End - so it is worth checking the Cholesbury register to see if it says the William comes from Northchurch. Familysearch also shows that Sarah was baptised at Cholesbury in 1785, and her many siblings include Matthew Carpenter, baptised 1794. There are other Matthew Carpenters recorded in Cholesbury registers.


So it appears that Maria (and most likely Charlotte and Hannah) had an uncle called Matthew - and in the absence of any contrary evidence - it is reasonable to assume that Matthew was also named after his uncle. Of course this is not proof, just very likely, but if taken far enough back every family tree encounters either a complete block or this kind of uncertainty.


Two areas of research may provide more pieces to the puzzle. If the family had strong non-conformist connections the children of Matthew, Charlotte, Hannah and Maria may have been baptised in non-conformist churches - and this could indicate which religious group, if any, the family supported.  I would also expect there to be other children between the marriage in 1807 and the birth of Matthew. I suspect that James Wingfield, who was a 44 year old bus conductor living in Marylebone in the 1851 census, could have been the eldest - and would expect  two or three more between James and Matthew.

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

June 2011   Page created