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

Monday, 11 March 2013

Reaping what you sow

After a February dominated by family history writing but very little blogging, I’m back with a vengeance for (what’s left of) March!
Back in December I wrote a post called A tale of two discrepancies about how I’d handled errors that I had noticed in other people’s trees on Ancestry. In my final paragraph, I said: I know I would certainly appreciate a gentle correction on anything I’ve got wrong in my tree...
Well, this weekend, I received one such gentle correction, and it was indeed very much appreciated!
The Ancestry member in question sent me a message guiding me to a parish marriage record that I hadn’t yet found – on a very useful website, forest-of-dean.net, which I can hardly wait to explore further  – for my direct ancestors Charles Hancocks and Comfort Green. This record contained a priceless nugget that would appear to thoroughly disprove one of my long-held family history theories, as outlined in my post H is for Hancock(s)/(x), and re-posted here:

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 (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.

However, the marriage of Charles and Comfort gives Thomas and Ann as Charles’ parents.
My helpful contact also adds that there is an 1839 baptism for Charles, which was originally under the name of George Hancocks but has subsequently been corrected to Charles. It also confirms that Thomas and Ann are his parents. I’m still surprised that Ann gave birth at such an age (she was forty-eight in 1839, if the census is to be believed), but happy to concede that it is possible. Certainly, it seems most unlikely that Thomas and Ann would lie and baptise a child as their own if he was in fact their daughter’s illegitimate son. It’s definitely not something I’ve ever heard of happening.
Obviously I want to check out all of these new records for myself so that I’m satisfied that my theory is disproven – but I’ll be overjoyed if it is, as it means I can continue to follow my mum’s paternal line to wherever it may lead me....
L x

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