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.
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 …