Thomas GOODMAN, Rickmansworth,


November, 2013





Gillian Harris (gilbertlouise @t of Basingstoke is looking for the birth place and parents of Thomas Goodman, who was married in Rickmansworth in 1795 and who was described in the 1851 census (shortly before he died) as having been born in an unidentified places in Wiltshire called "Russel". This appears to be a typical late 18th early 19th century "missing records" type problem, where one reach a point where census records and  civil registration run out, and there are no clear lines to follow in parish registers. 


In this case the best way I can help is to go through the information supplied and add comments to clarify the situation and suggest some paths that might prove useful, but first there are some advice texts on this web site relevant to the problem you have.


Where to look before 1837 when the Parish Registers don't help

Right Name, Wrong Body? warns against the danger of assuming that, because a person's name fits it they must be your ancestor.

I've Hit a Brick Wall ... so don't spend too much time banging your head against it.

There are five of us who have met on ancestry and rootschat who have found that we are related through the Goodman family. We have scoured the internet of Wiltshire but we cannot trace Thomas. There are other Thomases but not ours.

Thomas Goodman
is our fourth great grandfather.


Thomas's birth according to the two census results [The 1841 census is only approximate] say he should have been born about 1768. It also says he was an ag labourer/pauper as at 1851 he was abt 83 years old.


He was married in Rickmansworth in 1795 to Zilpah Harding, we know this because we have the church record.


The important thing to realise is that the marriage register only records that Thomas Goodman was resident at Rickmansworth at the time of the marriage - and says nothing about his place of birth. It also tells us that neither he nor his wife could even write their own names, so they would have no way they could have checked the accuracy of any written documents. There were two witnesses at the wedding and in difficult cases it is always worth trying to identify who the witnesses were as they could be relatives. Knowing who William Collier was might help. However the second witness William Halsey (who could sign his own name) was a witness to several other marriages on the same pages of the registers so may well have been someone like a church warden who helped with the service, and is unlikely to be a relative.

We have information on the baptisms of the couple's children and relevant census records.


Sarah Goodman B: 1796
Mary Goodman B: 1799
James Goodman B: 1801
William Goodman B: 1804
Harriet Goodman B: 1806
Sarah Goodman B: 1809
John Goodman B: 1812
George Hale Sloper Goodman B: 1814
Maria Goodman B: 1816
Robert Goodman B: 1819
Henry Goodman B: 1822

It is important to note that these records for are for the parish church - and not from one of the surviving non-conformist  registers. However the mother usually had a say in such things so it does not mean that Thomas was baptised in the Church of England. If his parents were non-conformist (or just ignored religious worship) there may be no surviving record of his birth, and there may never have been one!


It was very common (see The Inheritance of Single Christian Names) for the first son to be named after the father or grandfather, the first daughter after the mother, and the others after uncles and aunts. I would not be surprised if Thomas was the son of a James or William Goodman.


The entry for George Hale Sloper Goodman sticks out like a sore thumb. Families, particularly working class families, were very conservative about naming their children and this name suggest a pretty high social status connection - but sometimes a poor family invited someone rich (perhaps their employer) to be a god father by naming the child after him - so a search for a George Hale Sloper might be useful. I notice with considerable interest that a infant George Sloper was buried at Rushall, Wiltshire, on 5th April 1797 - so could the Goodmans have known the Slopers of Rushall!!!! Surely the name Sloper is sufficiently unusual (and very much a local Wiltshire name) for this not to be a complete coincidence. Well worth a more detailed investigation.


 Zilpah died in 1832. We know she was born in Rickmansworth to Elizabeth Long and James Harding.

 There was a marriage on the HALS site for a Thomas Goodman in 1832 in Watford, we are assuming it is the same Thomas.



There is also a tithe record mention of Thomas at HALS which says he was an occupier in 1838.


My branch is through their son James Goodman born 1801. James married Sarah Hanstead and they had children including James Goodman who married Louisa Gristwood and they had many children including my great gran Emma Goodman who married James Green of Moor Lane, born March 1867. His line were based around Moor Park. My fourth Great Grandfather on James Green's side was a Gamekeeper at Rickmansworth. James Green and James Goodman worked together in Moor Park.


The problem we are having is:


The church record for their marriage say that Thomas Goodman was 'of this parish' at the time of his marriage and the only census records that we can find that match up age wise, are the 1841census where he is recorded as not being born in Hertfordshire and the 1851 census for West Hyde say that Thomas was born in Russel, Wilts. There is no Russel in Wiltshire and we have had the archive ladies of Wiltshire search various times and places including Rushall for us and they cannot locate Thomas Goodmans baptism/birth.


What we know is that Thomas Goodman was illiterate so could not have filled in the 1851 household census form himself. He may have been hard of hearing and his old age may have caused other difficulties for whoever it was who was filling in the form for him. Thomas (and perhaps the person who filled in the form) would have no understanding of the formalities involved in conducting a census. So when Thomas was asked "Where were you born" he might have given the name of the village, or hamlet, or he might have simply said something like "Mr Russell's Cottage" which could be anywhere. In any case it may have been the earliest place he could remember living and not where he was actually born!


Names (both personal names and place names) can become distorted in many ways starting with when it is is first written down on the household schedule by someone who misheard (perhaps because of regional dialects) what the illiterate householder said. It  was then transcribed onto the summary sheets (copying errors possible) and then mis-indexed perhaps because of appallingly bad handwriting. The prize case I know of is when the householder probably said "Aspenden" and the computer index recorded "HARPSTON"


One useful trick is to search the census to see who else claims to have been born there  - In 1851 we have the following people claiming to be born in "Russel, Wiltshire"


Henry BUTCHER, 77, living in Wiltshire

Samuel CURAS, 40, living in Middlesex (no county given)

Thomas GOODMAN, 83, living in Hertfordshire

Thomas HAMBLEN, 67, living in Wiltshire

Jane HEATH, 27, living in Middlesex


and you get some more claiming to be born in "Russell, Wiltshire."


If you check for the each individual in the 1861 (or later) census they may give a different place of birth. I have only looked at one case and in 1861 a Mrs Elizabeth Feltham's place of birth was given as "Rushall, Wilts". This fits with the search carried out in the Wiltshire Records Office - but it may be that if you check them all you will find an alternative.


Another possibility: Could a badly written "Herts" have been copied into the enumerator's summary book as "Wilts" - I have known other cases where such an error has been made, but would not expects confusion over the word "Herts" in a document produced in Hertfordshire. However if he came from Herts there was a Russells at Oxhey, only a few miles from Rickmansworth, and close to the Middlesex Boundary. In addition a 1766 map shows a Russell Farm at Abbots Langley, only a few miles away.


And what about him popping over the border from either Buckinghamshire or Middlesex - I note a Thomas Goodman baptised in 1769 at Hanworth, Middlesex




Possible long shot lines of investigation in Hertfordshire if we reject the Wiltshire place of birth.


If Thomas Goodman came from Wilts one should ask when and why did he come?  And did he come on his own? He may have come as a child with his parents - in which case their burials may occur in the Rickmansworth burial records, and there might be some records of where they lived in the Land Tax Records. These records are at HALS and are annual lists of the landlords and tenants of each property. We know from the Tithe Returns that Thomas was in a property in 1838 and it MAY be possible to trace his occupation back year by year until he became tenant. If the previous tenant was also called GOODMAN it could have been his father. However it can be a hellish job extracting the information, complicated by the fact that there would be other people called Goodman who were not relevant, and the chances of success are not high.


I don't know about the survival of manorial documents for the Rickmansworth area (I am sure HALS can advise) and if Thomas was a copyhold tenant of a manor whose records have survived this could explain how he became a tenant - which could involve inheriting it from his father.


If Thomas was caught up in activities such as poaching (or worse) there might be relevant criminal records at HALS.


If Thomas worked on a big estate in the area (for instance Moor Park) there may be unindexed manuscript records which have survived - which may still be in private hands.






I drafted most of the above before I spotted the relevance of the Sloper reference - and now feel that the 1851 census reference is genuinely to Rushall, Wiltshire. I notice from an old map of 1773 that at the time Thomas was born the tiny village contained a church and a meeting house. A quick check suggests that it was a General Baptist meeting house and it could well be that Thomas Goodman's parent worshipped there, and as a result there is no baptismal entry in the parish church register. There may be some records relating to the Wiltshire Baptists at the time, but this may not include the names of members of the congregations (but you may be lucky). There may well be surviving manorial records that could help.


February 2014


Alan Mead. (alanfmead @t of Twyford, near Reading, writes: I am 3X great Grandson of Thomas Goodman and Zilpah Harding. Their daughter Harriett married Thomas Kibbles in 1826 and their son was my great grandfather James Kibbles who married Ellen Cook in 1866. Their daughter Alice married my Grandfather, Alfred Mead in 1890 and their son Thomas was born in 1897. All these marriages took place in Rickmansworth. Thomas Mead, my father married Mildred Buck in Willesden in 1921 as he had moved for employment to the Metropolitan Steam engine sheds at Neasden. He was a Steam engine Driver through the 1930s from Rickmansworth to Aylesbury, Brill and Verney Junction in Bucks.

Your researches into the birthplace of Thomas Goodman is interesting and I am sure you are correct that he came from Rushall Wilts, The Hale / Sloper connection is very strong. Robert Hale married Mary Sloper in Chirton, Wilts 1727. Their daughter Susannah was born in Marden 1777 and she married  William Sloper in Marden in 1796. They were parents of George Sloper who was born in Rushall in 1800 and George Hale Sloper Goodman was born in Rickmansworth 1814.

I had a quick look to see if I could find any other Sloper link between Hertfordshire and Wiltshire.


Rev Charles Sloper of Hitchin, 1817-1825.


I discovered that the Rev. Charles Sloper, minister at the Independent Chapel in Hitchin, was buried on 4th February, aged 50 (Hertfordshire Burial Index).  Nonconformity in Hertfordshire records Charles as being minister at Hitchin from 1817-1824. There is a detailed account of his ministry in The History of Hitchin which records that there were disputes with his congregation and that the Church-book records that he died "of a broken heart."   The 1841 census shows a widow, Sarah Sloper (60) and possible daughter, Emma (25) living in Bridge Street, Hitchin. The 1851 census shows Sarah (75, born Peterboro, Northamptonshire) living at Old Park Road, Hitchin. At the same time Emma (40, born Wilton, Wiltshire) and her sister Lydia (38, born Wilton, Wiltshire) apparently running a private boarding school in Beccles, Suffolk. All very interesting - but no evidence of a connection with the Goodman family of Rickmansworth, especially as Hitchin is a long way from Rickmansworth. Another Sloper family were at Flamstead, but in a quick check I could find nothing to link them with Wiltshire of Goodman.


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

November 2013   Page created
February 2014   Sloper update