"Each has his own tree of ancestors, but at the top of all sits Probably Arboreal." - Robert Louis Stevenson

Friday, 20 April 2012

H is for Hancock(s)/(x)

Choosing my H was tricky – I have five major ones in my tree. However, I decided on Hancock / Hancocks / Hancox in the end, so here goes.
The first Hancock in my tree is, in fact my mum. Given that she is alive though, I don’t want to go sharing her personal details with the entire internet, so I’m just going to skip ahead to her father, Horace James Hancock.
Horace was born on 11 July 1909, in Tredegar, South Wales, to parents Philemon Hancocks and Miriam Webb. He was followed by a brother Harry Hancock (b. 1915) and a sister Violet Hancock (b. 1920). I’m not sure why there is such a large gap between Horace and Harry, as I’m not aware of any other children. Philemon died in 1922, leaving thirteen-year-old Horace as the ‘man of the house’.
You will notice already that there is a discrepancy in the name. My mum said her father always used Hancock. However, on Horace’s birth in the BMD index he is Hancocks, as he is on the 1911 census, and this, or the variant Hancox, is the name most consistently used by the family in previous generations (with a few exceptions). The first instance of Hancock appears on the record of Horace’s first marriage, to Doris Ross in 1941. However, I don’t believe that Horace himself changed the family name, because his mother’s death is also registered as Hancock. However, on her marriage in 1942 Violet did register herself as Hancocks, so it isn’t clear where the discrepancy arose. I’ve come to the conclusion that the two were used more-or-less interchangeably, as there is no discernable pattern! Beyond my mum I have tended towards Hancocks in my record keeping, as this occurs most frequently.
Horace married my nana, Margaret Goulding, in 1963 after Doris had died. He and Doris had never had children. I’m not sure why – presumably she was unable to. Margaret was in her thirties by this time, and had never previously married. Horace was in his fifties. My mum was their only child. Sadly, her father died when she was just eleven. We know very little of Horace’s life before he married Margaret. Supposedly he was a fireman in Brighton during the Second World War – however, his marriage to Doris took place in 1941, in Wakefield.
Though there has never been any indication of how or why Horace came to be in Wakefield, I discovered in the course of my research that his uncle Arthur Hancocks (b. 1860) moved to Brightside Bierlow, an area just north of Sheffield, in the early 1880s, where he fathered five children with his landlady Clara Chatterton – they married in 1891, but their first child appears to have been born in 1885. In Yorkshire, Arthur also dropped the ‘s’ from Hancocks. So, Horace had cousins in Yorkshire, the youngest of whom, Cyril, was the same age as him. Perhaps these family ties were conducive to his move to Yorkshire?
The Hancocks, you will notice, appear to be Welsh. My mum was always quite proud of her Welsh heritage. Sadly, the 1911 census reveals that her Welsh family were English-only speakers. And, it transpires, her maternal grandfather Philemon was born in Cinderford, in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire – roughly 25 miles from Cheltenham, where I currently live.
Philemon was one of ten known children born to Charles Hancocks and Comfort Green. The eldest, Arthur, we have already come across. The others were Sophia Hancocks (b. 1862), Henry Hancocks (b. 1864), Frederick Hancocks (b. 1865), Jane Hancocks (b. 1866), Charles Hancocks (b. 1867), John Hancocks (b. 1871), James Thomas Hancocks (b. 1874) and Ellen Hancocks (b. 1883).
The family moved around the Forest of Dean area, and seem to have been primarily engaged in coal mining. It would seem that it was this that also took them into South Wales, and took Arthur north to Sheffield as well. Philemon moved from the Forest of Dean between 1891 and 1901. However, his older sons had already made the move. Henry Hancocks was living there by the time of the 1891 census, as was his brother John (going by Hancock without the ‘s’). His sister Sophia had married in 1883 in Gloucestershire, but by 1891 she was widowed and living in Wales with her younger brother Charles – already a collier at the tender age of sixteen.
Charles Hancocks was born in 1839, in Longhope, Gloucestershire. On the 1841 census he appears in the household of Thomas Hancox [sic] and his wife Ann, along with seven other children: Mary Hancox (b. 1822), Charlotte (b. 1827), James (b. 1829), Susan (b. 1831), Caroline (b. 1833), Sarah (b. 1835) and John (b. 1836). Ann is aged about fifty so it immediately struck me as unlikely that she is Charles’ mother.
This is borne out by the 1851 census, which seems to confirm that Mary Hancox is the mother of Charles; he is ostensibly listed as son of the head of household, but an ink marking linking him to Mary in the row above seems to indicate that he is her son. She is listed as unmarried and the daughter of Thomas and Ann, so presumably Charles is illegitimate. The household also contains another granddaughter, Mary Ann Hancox aged seven (b. 1844), who may or may not be the daughter of Mary also. As I am struggling to find further records that are identifiably her, I am unable to prove anything either way. Otherwise, it seems most likely that she is the daughter of James Hancox – unless of course there are unidentified older children who don’t appear with their parents in 1841.
As you can see, my Hancocks, thus far at least, are not a particularly exciting bunch  – just hardworking miners mostly!
They’re not without their challenges though. And I now rather appreciate the fact that they are relatively local to me – I intend to visit the Forest of Dean soon, to check out where they lived and worked, and to investigate some local records, to see if I can add a few more pieces to the puzzle! I also joined the Gloucestershire Family History Society recently, so here’s hoping they might have some useful tips for me as well.
L x

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