More About The Hardwicks

John Holdsworth / Hardwick 1815-1875

My Great-Great-Grandfather 

Was this a man with a chip on his shoulder? Right from the start, he was marked: “Spurious son of Mary Holdsworth” it says on his baptismal record of 10 May 1815, and although his parents married and had eleven more children in their 40 years together, he was branded as “he being illegitimate” on his marriage certificate on 9 June 1851.

I wonder about his relationship with his parents, brothers and sisters. How did he feel in his early years? Did he suffer his illegitimacy as a stigma? He presumably spent his first three years alone with his mother and grandparents, so her marriage and the arrival of his first siblings may well have put his nose out of joint. Did he resent his situation?  Feel angry with his father? Is that why he used the name Houldsworth rather than Hardwick? How was he affected by the death of his grandparents and two siblings, all within 3 months, when he was eleven? And then the loss of three more little siblings during his teens?

The 1841 census shows him as a 25-year-old living at home, an agricultural labourer like his father, helping support the hungry mouths of his younger brothers and sisters. The Hardwicks’ home stood between those of his mother Mary’s 70-year-old Uncle Henry Holdsworth, a framework knitter like many others in the village of Heath, and her brother John Holdsworth, 5 years older than Mary. Did our John identify more with his Holdsworth relatives than with his Hardwick family? Although he had obviously been acknowledged as a Hardwick like the rest of his family, in his adult life he preferred to call himself Houldsworth which is the name used for all the entries in his family Bible and in all official documents, right to the end of his life.

He didn’t marry until his mid thirties, and his wife Elizabeth Moody was 12 years younger than he was, only 23 at the time of their wedding on 9 June 1851 at the Church of St Stephen’s, Woodville, Ashby de la Zouch. They lived in Common Newbold. Their first child, a little girl named Frances, was born almost exactly a year later on 7 June 1852. Sadly, she died 9 months later in March 1853.

Was there some consolation in discovering that Elizabeth was expecting another child? Alas, death struck yet again. The new baby, another little girl born on 8 November 1853, survived but her mother died just a few days later and was buried on 18 November 1853 at Holy Trinity Church, Chesterfield. John named his new little daughter Elizabeth, in memory of his wife.

What did he do then, a bereaved widower with a tiny baby on his hands? I doubt if he turned to his mother-in-law, as she herself died in 1855. His parents and many of his relatives were still in Heath, so did he go back to his parents’ house?

There’s a gap of 15 years from November 1853 to August 1868 where I can find no information as to the whereabouts of John or his daughter. When his father was killed in 1859 John may have returned to help his mother out as his other brothers and sisters were now all married and had their own families to care for, but I have no way of finding this out.

The 1861 census ought to give some indication, but so far we haven’t been able to find John, Elizabeth or Mary anywhere. Perhaps they were together somewhere? They weren’t in Heath, although they must have gone back there at some point because John Houldsworth reported his mother’s death, at which he was present. Also, 16-year-old Elizabeth Hardwick was a witness at the wedding of her friend Jane Probert in Heath on 19 December 1869.

A 55-year-old John Hardwick is recorded as resident in Heath in the 1871 census, but this may not be our man who called himself Houldsworth to the last: the first entry for the year 1875 in Heath parish register is the record of John Houldsworth’s burial on 15 February.


I have so many questions.

Where did Elizabeth grow up?

Did John Houldsworth return to Heath after his wife died leaving his baby daughter Elizabeth with one of his siblings?  She seems to have preferred to be called Hardwick rather than Houldsworth, although Houldsworth is the name she was registered under at birth, so that could indicate that as she grew up she felt closer to her Hardwick relatives. However, she didn’t show up among the Hardwick siblings and their families (Elizabeth, William, Joseph, Henry George, Hannah) in the 1861 census and by the time of the 1871 census she was married.

Now an interesting discovery:

In the 1871 census, John Houldsworth’s youngest sister Hannah née Hardwick, with her husband Charles Fletcher and their three daughters Mary, Jemima Lucy, and Sarah, are lodgers in the home of a young couple called Isaiah and Jane Jones and their baby Harriet. These names rang a bell for me. Isaiah Jones was born in Gornal, Staffs, and his wife Jane in Oswestry, North Wales. None other than Jane Probert, sister of Joseph Probert who married Elizabeth Hardwick in February 1871. (You can find out more about Elizabeth, my father’s grandmother, here and here

Is this a clue to Elizabeth’s whereabouts in the 1860’s?

How did the Fletchers and the Joneses meet?

Did Elizabeth introduce her Aunt Hannah to her friend and sister-in-law Jane?

Or were Hannah and Jane friends before she married Isaiah, and did Hannah introduce Elizabeth to Jane?

I suppose I shall never know – how frustrating!

Still Hunting Hardwicks

Mary Holdsworth 1795 – 1868:  My 3rd Great-Grandmother

(This links to my previous posts of November 2017 about my Hardwick ancestors)

My third great-grandmother – that is, the grandmother of my father’s grandmother – was Mary Holdsworth, daughter of John and Elizabeth Holdsworth. She spent most of her life in an obscure Derbyshire village, and from the few facts I have been able to glean about her, it was not an easy life.

She was baptized on 22 February 1795 in Sutton in Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, her mother’s home town, notorious for being the place where the last person to be publicly beheaded with an axe in Britain was executed in 1817. I wonder if Mary went to see that?

Mary was the sixth of eight children, most of them born in Sutton in Ashfield. Her father was from the Derbyshire village of Heath, about 7 or 8 miles away, and the family appear to have moved back there, as Mary’s youngest brother was born in Heath in 1803. Perhaps it had to do with the death in 1802 of her father’s mother, who had lived in Heath.

On 6 May 1815 twenty-year-old Mary gave birth to a son, John. His father was Samuel Hardwick, the 26-year-old youngest son of a prosperous local farmer. Why didn’t they marry at that time? Parental disapproval? Was Mary not good enough? Or were the young couple uncertain of their feelings?

Whatever the reason at the time, the relationship remained strong and Mary became pregnant again. They married on 24 November 1818 and their daughter Priscilla was born five months later in March 1819. She was followed in August 1820 by little Samuel, in March 1822 by another daughter, Elizabeth, and then another boy, Joseph, in February 1825.

In October 1826 Mary’s parents died and were buried a week apart, and then early in 1927 both Priscilla (7) and little Samuel (4) died. What was the cause of their death? Was it a very harsh winter? I don’t know, but the children were buried on the same day, 27 January 1827.

Later that year, Mary had a sixth child, William, christened on 11 November 1827. He lived. But in January 1830 she gave birth to twin girls, Mary and Priscilla Ann, who were christened on 12 January and were buried aged 3 weeks on 4 February. As twins they were probably very small babies, and again, maybe the cold weather took its toll.

The name Priscilla was presumably in honour of Samuel’s sister, who had married a grocer and tea dealer in Chesterfield and was probably well off – maybe they wanted to flatter her, or perhaps Samuel was close to his sister. The name Ann may have been for Samuel’s mother, Ann née Turner, or his sister. When Mary’s daughter Elizabeth grew up, married and had children, she also called her daughter Priscilla Ann. That Priscilla had a long life and passed the name on to her daughter.

In January 1832 Mary had another little girl, Sarah: she didn’t have to worry about this one, she lived to be 82. And in May 1835, when she was 40, Mary produced another boy, Henry George. That made five children who had survived. Sadly, her next baby Thomas lived only two days, from 10 to 12 April 1838.

How must Mary have felt when her last little girl Hannah arrived just about a year later? Thankfully, Hannah also survived. By this time Mary was 44. She had brought 12 children into the world, and suffered the death of six of them.

Her husband Samuel was a labourer working on his brother Joseph’s farm, and life in the 1840’s must have seemed more peaceful at last. But the 1850’s once again brought tragic blow after blow. Her son John – who continued to call himself Holdsworth rather than Hardwick ; didn’t he get on with his father? – married and had a little girl in June 1852. Sadly, this little girl died the following March, and in November of that same year 1853 his wife died a week after giving birth to another baby girl, Elizabeth (who was my great-grandmother).

Mary’s husband Samuel (72) was killed in a dreadful accident, crushed by a horse and hay cart in August 1859. Nine years later, on 1 August 1868, Mary herself died aged 73 at Heath Common. Her son John was present and reported her death. The cause as stated on her death certificate is “Decay of nature”. She was buried in Heath on 3 August.

The entry in the parish register following Mary’s burial caught my eye. It says:

 “Man, unknown – found in a well in Heath – buried 14 August 1868.”

Those were hard times.



Collis Continued

The search for my Collis ancestors has been another example of the frustrations and small victories that constantly accompany any family tree explorations. These are very real people to me and the more personal information I can glean, the more alive they become.

In some places, records were kept faithfully by the ministers of the Church and passed down from generation to generation. In other places, a minister took his parish registers away with him when he left so there are sometimes gaps of decades. Sometimes, the registers were not well looked after, went mouldy, were nibbled by mice, written from memory years after events, or simply not kept up to date.  Eighteenth century records tend to be better preserved than seventeenth century ones, not only because they are more recent but also because of upheavals such as the Civil War and Cromwell’s Protectorate (1642-1661) when in many parishes no written records were kept at all.

I still have a number of mysteries to solve.

It’s always a good principle to work from the known to the unknown, and in genealogy that usually means going backwards, from child to parents to grandparents. At the beginning of the 19th century, the Industrial Revolution was only just starting in rural Leicestershire, so people were less mobile than later. So we can be pretty sure of finding forebears in the villages around the town of Market Harborough.

Anne Collis’s marriage certificate of November 1836 tells us her father was a shepherd named William Collis, and her baptismal record in 1818 shows her parents were William and Alice (my 3rd great-grandparents). Her mother, Alice Collis, is aged about 55 in the 1841 census so she must have been born between 1784 and 1789.  William doesn’t figure here, so was he away or had he died before April 1841? Who was this Alice?

We have the record on 9 November 1812 of a marriage in Theddingworth between William Collis and Alice Seal. A search for the baptism of Alice Seal shows she was baptised on 1 August 1787 in Great Bowden, a few miles from Theddingworth. Her parents are named as Joseph and Alice, and it isn’t difficult to find the marriage of Joseph Seal to Alice Clarke on 25 August 1775 in the same village of Great Bowden.  Joseph Seal’s baptism is recorded in Great Bowden on 24 March 1744, the son of William Seal (1710-1723) and his wife Mary (1682-1762). William Seal is the son of John Seal and Mary Darnall, married on 24 November 1702. The same register records the baptism of Alice Clarke, daughter of John and Elizabeth Clarke, on 12 March 1755. And there also in Great Bowden is the marriage of John Clarke to Elizabeth Neal on 5 June 1751. My 5th great-grandparents! Triumph! That was easy!

Anne’s father, the shepherd William Collis, is more difficult to pin down. I can’t find him in the 1841 census, so we have scant information. He may have been out and about with his sheep on the day of the census.

However, his father, William Collis Sr, lived to a ripe old age and appears in the 1841 census. I bought his death certificate which tells me he was 88 when he died of “old age” on 1 December 1841 and that he had been a schoolmaster. That gave me his year of birth as 1753, and the Theddingworth parish registers record his baptism on 5 August 1753, son of Joseph and Elizabeth Collis. (I also found more previous Collis generations, back to about 1600 and my 10th great-grandfather. My list is beginning to look like the “begats” in the King James Bible!)

But here, my 4th great-grandparents, was William Collis’s marriage to a girl called – yet again – Alice, making two generations both called William and Alice Collis, so we have to be careful not to confuse them.

This marriage to Alice Vace startled me: 19 October 1769. William would have been only 16 at that time. Possible, but not really likely. Then I saw another entry for the marriage of William Collis to Alice Vice on 19 October 1779. Much more likely, but this really looks like sloppy record-keeping! Or has it been mis-transcribed? It is sometimes quite difficult in these registers to know exactly what year it is and names aren’t always spelled consistently.

Baptisms of children belonging to William and Alice Collis start with Eliza in 1779, and once again I’m scratching my head. This first baby’s baptism is 5 April 1779, her birth is November 1779 and her death is 21 April 1780. Baptised before she was born! It would make more sense if the baptism were April 1780. That would also make her legitimate. Somebody is definitely very careless in these records!

I couldn’t find a record for the baptism of William Collis Jr – it should have been roughly 1785 to 1790 – but the last child baptised belonging to William Sr and Alice is Samuel on 12 November 1794, i.e. after William, so that indicates that Alice must also be William’s mother. I have no information about Alice’s death, and also closed the book on her shepherd son William.

However, going back to the 1841 census, William Collis Sr (88) is living with Elizabeth Collis (70). This Elizabeth Collis also appears in the 1851 census, where she is recorded as an 80-year-old widowed schoolmistress, born in Great Wigston (another Leicestershire village) about 1771, so I suppose she was William’s second wife. However, I can’t find a marriage record, so I don’t know her maiden name, nor when she died: there are several women of this name but the death records available to me online don’t state the age.

I’m intrigued by the fact that this couple are schoolmaster and schoolmistress. This Theddingworth history website says (my emphasis):

“There was a schoolmaster in Theddingworth in 1634. The present village school appears to originate from the generosity of J. G. Cook (d. 1856), vicar 1810–41, although the building and schoolmistress’s house were erected in 1844 after he had resigned from the living. His brother John Cook (d. 1867) of Hothorpe Hall, the patron of the church, may also have contributed to the cost. The first known trust deed was dated 1856, the year of the vicar’s death, but as early as 1819 he had been paying for the education of 12 children in a small day school of 25 children run by a woman in the village. The status of this school is uncertain. In 1832 the archdeacon reported that there was only a Sunday school containing 40 children, but the parliamentary return describing conditions a year later referred to a day and Sunday school for 35 children, educated partly at their parents’ expense and partly by charity. The building of 1844 was extended by the addition of an infants’ room in 1902.”

Perhaps my 4th great-grandfather and his wife were the pioneer teachers of this little school?

Perseverance Pays!

Theddingworth churchyard

All Saints Church, Theddingworth  Photo: Wikipedia

I’ve been asked how I find relatives and ancestors as I build up the family tree, especially for people long dead and forgotten. Before the Internet made it a lot easier, you had to physically go out and pore over archives and parish registers. Nowadays, much has been digitised and it’s mainly a matter of armchair detective work. It can be time-consuming, which probably explains why so many amateur genealogists are retirees.

In England and Wales, the registration of births, marriages and deaths in the national index began in 1837, and the first nationwide census was conducted in April 1841. These usually provide enough information to allow personal histories to be followed back to the beginning of the nineteenth century, so that in most cases the last 200 years are not too difficult to reconstruct, and there is enough evidence to back up the course of events, often in surprising detail. Prior to those dates, though, a lot depends on good luck!

Here, for instance, is the story of my sleuthing in the case of my great-great-grandmother.

The widespread tradition of giving a mother’s maiden name as a child’s middle name has proved useful in tracking and verifying relationships. I have traced siblings as well as children and grandchildren, simply because they bore a familiar second name.

A name that has been – and still is – frequently used as a second name in my mother’s family is Collis. My mother’s eldest brother was known in the family by his middle name of Collis, and it has been passed on to his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, without any of them really knowing where it came from. They are happy to perpetuate the memory of a much beloved (great)grandfather.

I was intrigued by this name, which I like (I was fond of my uncle, so I’m biased), and it isn’t overly common. At least, not as common as Smith! If I had had a son, he might well have been called Collis.

I knew that my uncle had been named for his maternal grandfather, Charles Collis Cheney, and I discovered that Charles Collis Cheney had a son who died in infancy, also named Collis. This indicated that the name held real significance for him, but where did it come from? Was it his mother’s maiden name? Disappointingly, records showed that his father Eli Cheney was married in the last quarter of 1841 to a young woman named Anne Knight, not Collis. I wasted a lot of time trying to find baptismal or birth records for Ann(e) Knight but drew a blank. However, thanks to census records, I did know her approximate year and place of birth, a vital factor: about 1818 in a Leicestershire village with the lovely lisping name of Theddingworth.

Unlike later censuses, the first UK census of 2 April 1841 gives only basic information, and it usually rounds the ages of anyone older than 15 up or down to the nearest multiple of 5. My great-great-grandmother would have been 23 in 1841 and on page 5 of Theddingworth, the village of her birth, I found a 20-year-old Ann Knight employed as a servant to a grazier. That seemed plausible.

As it was such a small village, I glanced through the other pages and suddenly discovered two 55-year-old women called Elizabeth Smith and Alice Collis living with a 4-year-old girl named Elizabeth Knight. Collis and Knight in the same household: was this a coincidence?

It dawned on me that although Ann Knight was so young at the time, she might possibly be a widow. A servant girl with a child would have to find someone else to care for the little one, and an elderly relative would be the obvious solution. These names fitted this theory. Was Alice Collis related to Ann Knight?

Well, yes: further research uncovered a marriage in Theddingworth on 8 November 1836 between Anne, daughter of William and Alice Collis, to James Knight, son of John Knight and Mary Turner. So my 2nd great-grandmother was born Anne Collis. This seemed to be evidence that the Alice Collis named in the census was Anne’s mother, and little Elizabeth Knight was her daughter. At last I knew the origin of the name! It was indeed the maiden name of my great-great-grandmother.

More research was needed, and I struck lucky: a marriage between William Collis and Alice Seal on 9 November 1812 in Theddingworth, and a baptism on 7 June 1818 for Anne, daughter of William and Alice Collis, showing she would have been about 18 when she married James Knight.

Theddingworth is a very small place, and the Collis family seem to have been established there for many generations so it was quite easy to trace the line back to my 6th great-grandparents, John Collis and Martha Sprigg, both born around 1700. Prior to that, parish records become less informative, and I may have found my 6th and 7th great-grandparents, too, but there’s no way of telling for sure. Maybe one of these days I’ll get to Theddingworth and be able to discover more on the spot, including the maiden names of the other grannies. Meanwhile, I’m happy to have solved a family mystery. What a pity that my Uncle is no longer alive to hear where his name came from.

Case Closed

Just to spoil the fun of speculation, here – at last – are the facts. And the moral is that just because something is written down in black and white, it ain’t necessarily so.

Two old men, brothers, one of them a farmer and the other his labourer, are working on the harvest. Joe, the elder, dies. I don’t have his death certificate, so I don’t know the cause, but he was 79 and in 1859 that was a ripe old age. Maybe he simply over-exerted himself. He’s buried a couple of days later, on 14 August, and no doubt younger brother Sam was upset at losing him. But the harvest has to be brought in, so Sam and Joe’s son Charlie get on with it.

Maybe Sam is grieving and his concentration isn’t so good that morning. After all, he’s 72 and he’s had to get up at 5 am to start loading the wagon. It’s a big wagon, and with a full load needs 3 dray horses to pull it. Sam takes the rein of one of the shaft horses, and off they go. At a bend in the road he stands back to make way for the horse, but there isn’t enough space and the horse steps on his foot. That’s a few hundred kilos of horseflesh, and Sam doesn’t stand a chance: he falls, and the wagon runs over his chest. An inquest is held, and two days after the accident, on 24 August, Sam is buried. In the parish register, his burial immediately follows that of brother Joe ten days earlier.

The newspaper reporter got the results of the inquest right, but he conflated the brothers and got the name wrong. To add to the confusion, the clerk who copied the details of the Probate inquiry into Joe’s estate six months later wrote the date of his death as 12.9.1859 instead of 12.8.1859. Easily done. And there we have it.

I’m sorry to disappoint my readers: no foul play, no conspiracy to rid the village of its Hardwicks, no evil characters lurking in the hedges to push old rustics under the wheels of wagons. Just a sad way for an old man to end his days.

Strange Coincidence

This is a post script to my last post, and concerns a strange coincidence.

As I recounted, the two brothers Joseph and Samuel Hardwick died within weeks of one another in the summer of 1859. Samuel, who was 72, died when he was run over by a horse and wagon, according to his death certificate.

I have been aware of that fact for a long time. However, it was only now, as I was delving into what had happened to the family farm, that I have been sent a newspaper cutting describing the death of his brother Joseph, aged 78, just a few days later. And this is what it says:

HEATH: FATAL ACCIDENT: On Wednesday an inquest was held at the house of Mr Rome, The Elm Tree Inn, on the body of Joseph Hardwick, farmer, of Heath. The deceased left his home about five o’clock in the morning to assist in the harvest field. They were leading corn from the field to the stackyard about eight o’clock. They had come with a load out of the field with a four-wheeled wagon and three horses. There was a turn in the road, and the deceased was in it. He had hold of the head of one of the shaft horses. The horse turned round sharply, knocked him down and trod upon his foot, and the wheels passed over his chest. He breathed thrice and died. A verdict of “Accidental death” was returned. 

As my informant says, it looks like a case for Miss Marples – or is this a nineteenth century version of Midsomer Murders?

Hunting the Hardwicks

Genealogy has me in its clutches again! Yet another distant cousin has sailed into my sights, providing me with copies of wills made by my fifth and sixth great-grandfathers in the eighteenth century, as well as a few other documents.

I’m back with my Hardwick ancestors, a very prolific bunch by all accounts, but am still feeling dubious of claims by another distant cousin that we are actually all descended from Sir Jocelyn de HAVERMERE/Everemere de HARDEWYCKE/ Herdewycke/ Hardwicke etc who was born circa 1040 AD in the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Mercia during the reign of King Canute.  He fought on the wrong side at the Battle of Hastings, so William the Conqueror stripped him of his titles and confiscated his lands and possessions. Sir Jocelyn’s son was cannier: he married the daughter of a Norman knight, and had everything restored to him by King Henry I.

It’s a pretty tale, but I’m wary. To my knowledge, anyone who belonged to the household of the Hardwicks – including the lowest servants – or came from the village of Hardwick, could be given that surname. So we might just as well be descended from any of the Hardwick serfs – and not second cousin thirteen times removed to the great Bess of Hardwick and the Duke of Devonshire.

Be that as it may, by 1721 my sixth great-grandfather Thomas Hardwick had managed, by fair means or foul, to acquire two farms, which was convenient for him since he had two sons as well as two daughters.

I like the way Thomas wrote his will. He sounds like a straight-talking, no-nonsense kind of man, with none of the fancy formulations and legalese jargon you usually find. The clerk who wrote it had a clear, legible hand, too.

Sons James and John get a farm each, out of which they have to support their mother, either by giving her a home with them, or by paying her an annuity totalling £5. She only survived her husband by two years, so that wouldn’t have been a drain on their finances.

The newly-wed younger daughter Alice is left £20, and the elder daughter, Mary, married with a little girl, gets £10 and a “new calved cow”. Mary’s husband gets “my cloathes and wearing apparel except for a new pair of Boots” and his brothers-in-law have to supply him with sufficient land to keep one cow, summer and winter. Their little girl, Thomas’ granddaughter, is promised another “new calved cow” when she marries, but then comes the strange stipulation that she should be brought up by her uncles.

That makes me wonder. Why? Did Thomas think she wasn’t being treated properly at home? Or that her parents were feckless or too poor? Did she stay with her mother and father, and therefore not get her cow? Or did she, a little maid of seven at the time of her grandfather’s death, go to live with one of her uncles? Or did she spend 6 months here and 6 months there, and visit her parents in between?

I don’t suppose I will ever know, but I do feel sorry for that little girl and her parents.

Thomas Hardwick - Will 1721 - Heath Derbyshire

My fifth great-grandfather, Thomas’s son John, also didn’t do too badly. In his will he bequeaths £20 to each of his four oldest sons and two married daughters, and the farm he lives on goes to his youngest son. I was pleased that he treated his girls the same as his boys, but I was surprised that the baby of the family got the farm.

Then I found the will of the eldest brother – who sounds like a kind and caring husband and father – and realised that he, too, was a husbandman (i.e. farmer) with his own farm, so maybe John had already divided up some of his holdings among his lads before he died. John held his land from the Duke of Devonshire, so there must be some records at Chatsworth House (another link with Bess of Hardwick!) and maybe even some maps, showing who had what.

I was curious to know what happened to the old homestead, named as “Hallam’s Farm” in Thomas Hardwick’s will.

The “baby” who inherited it in 1779 was my fourth great-grandfather, Samuel Hardwick, and after his death in 1822 the farm passed to his elder son, Joseph, born in 1780, big brother of my third great-grandfather Samuel Jr, born in 1788.

At this point, that good old resource the census comes in useful.  From the 1841 and 1851 censuses, I could see that my third great-grandfather Samuel Jr lived next door to Joseph, and worked as an agricultural labourer, presumably for his brother. Whilst Samuel and his wife had twelve children in all (five of whom died), and Joseph had several daughters, he had only one son and heir, Charles: in 1851, a 35-year-old childless widower living with his parents on the family farm. Joseph and Samuel were now old men, and they both died within weeks of one another in August and September 1859, so Charles was left to carry on alone.

I suppose that, as it says in the old song, “The farmer wants a wife”: by 1871, Charles had not only a wife, but also a 13-year-old “general servant” called William Charles Hardwick to help him with his 30 acres. Were they related? I have found the boy’s parents and siblings, but can’t establish a blood connection with Charles. Maybe he was the boy’s godfather, and that would account for his middle name.

Whatever the situation, they must have got along well because when Charles died in 1889, he named William Charles Hardwick as his sole heir and executor. Various records have confirmed that William Charles married, had children, and was still farming in 1911 (the last census available). He died there in March 1943, so that should help us to locate the farm.

Back then to my newly discovered distant cousin, who lives not so far away from the ancestral home and is now avidly searching the records. And I am imagining plots for historical novels …