Saturday 26 April 2014

The Wrong Surname

A little bit of research this week to resolve some conflicting evidence, and to explain a missing marriage. Lost marriage registrations are not unknown, and transcription errors are not uncommon, but this error could be traced right back to the original source.

Francis Leafe (aka Frank) was born in 1842 in Woodborough, Nottinghamshire, England.[1] He was baptised on 25 Sep 1842 at Woodborough St Swithun. No father was recorded and his mother (Martha Leafe) was recorded as a ‘Single Woman’. Interestingly, his given name was recorded as “Thomas” at that point. The fact that there’s no civil registration found for a Thomas (but there was for a Francis), and no baptism record for a Francis, and yet their dates are within the same year, would suggest that they were the same person. The possibility of twins is not supported by the mutually exclusive use of the names.[2]

Martha married a Richard Hallam in 1846 at Woodborough St Swithun.[3] The surname for Francis is recorded as Hallam in both the 1851 census[4] and the 1861 census[5], although he appears to revert to Leafe in the records for his later life.

In the 1871 census, Francis had moved north, to Doncaster in South Yorkshire, and was married to a Harriet who was born c1843 in Heighington, Lincolnshire (see Geographical Note below).[6] He was using the given name “Frank” but both Frank and Francis Leafe were quite easy names to locate. A quick search through the GRO marriage index showed that a Frank Leafe married a Harriet Williams in the Lincoln Registration District in 1867.[7] This was the only marriage of a Frank/Francis Leafe in the preceding 1861–1871 period, and there were none to a Harriet under the Hallam surname. A check through transcriptions of Lincolnshire marriages showed that this marriage occurred in Lincoln St Swithin on 2 Jun 1867.[8]

Fig 1 - Lincoln St Swithin[9]

Everything looked to be in order here, except that Harriet’s father was recorded as “William Hodgson”. This might have indicated that Harriet’s birth name was really Hodgson and that she was previously married to a Williams, but I wasn’t too concerned at this point. These transcriptions generally record just the given name of the fathers — for instance, with Frank’s father appearing as just “Richard”, even though Richard Hallam wasn’t his real father. If an explicit surname was needed then it was provided in uppercase to avoid ambiguity, and so the appearance of a mixed-case “Hodgson” in the name field was a little odd.

Harriet sadly died in c1875 aged just 32[10], and there were no children that I could find.

Things started to unravel, though, in the 1881 census. Frank was a widower living on the same street as before, in Doncaster. In the same household was a Thomas Hodson (aged 27) with his wife and their two sons. The interesting thing here is that Frank’s “RELATION to Head of Family” field contained “Brother by Marriage” (although he is the head) and for Thomas it contained “Brother-in-law”.[11] Despite the odd usage of these fields, it is clear that Thomas Hodson must have been a brother to Frank’s deceased wife. However, I could find no marriage of a Harriet Hod(g)son to anyone with the surname Williams. It is conceivable that she was previously married twice — even aged just 24 — but there were no Lincolnshire registrations that would support this theory.

Some researchers might have been content to assume that a prior marriage record was lost or mis-indexed, but I still had this nagging doubt about the marriage transcription showing Harriet’s father as “William Hodgson” without implying Hodgson was his surname. A comparison with the equivalent FamilySearch transcription confused things further since her father’s name was recorded there as “William Hodgson Williams”.[12] This might have explained why “Hodgson” wasn’t in uppercase on the previous transcription, but how did it tally with the surname of Harriet’s brother (Thomas) being Hodson? Frank’s father was given in this transcription as Richard Leafe, rather than Richard Hallam, but that sort of adjustment was not uncommon.

The information so far suggested that the surname issue laid with Harriet’s father (William) rather than any previous marriage of hers. However, I could find no further evidence of a Williams surname in the context of his family. William Hodson married a Jane Marsden on 6 Aug 1838 in Navenby, Lincolnshire, about 10 miles south of Lincoln.[13] Harriet Hodson was baptised in Washingborough on 7 Aug 1842[14], as were her siblings: Mary (1840), John (1844), George (1846), Henry (1849), William (1850–1850), Thomas Charles (1852), Ellen (1855), and William (1857). There is no mention of any Williams here.

The marriage of William to Jane gave his father’s name as Henry. It was then not hard to show that Henry Hodson married to a Mary, and that their son, William Hodson, was baptised in Washingborough on 1 Nov 1817.[15]

In the census returns, too, William and Jane consistently used the Hodson surname:

Book 3




So where did the Williams surname come from. It can’t have escaped people’s notice that it may have been a confusion involving his given name: William. Although the FamilySearch transcription of their marriage record (see note [12]) was not accompanied by an online image, they kindly sent me a copy by email.[16] This showed that the Williams surname was actually on a separate line to “William Hodgson”.

Frank and the two witnesses — John Hall and Matilda Green — signed in their own hand, but Harriet simply made her mark (an intralinear ‘X’ with “her mark” split above and below).

My conclusion to all this is that William’s surname was Hodson, although spelled Hodgson in this instance, and that Williams was added due to a clerical error; an error that resulted in Harriet’s name also being mis-recorded and the marriage registration being indexed under the wrong surname. I can almost imagine a response of “William’s?” being misconstrued as a requested surname. Although this conclusion cannot be guaranteed, there is nothing else that fits the evidence that I have.

Heighington is currently a village and civil parish in the North-Kesteven district of
Lincolnshire, about 4.7 miles E-SE of Lincoln itself and about 1 mile SE of Washingborough.  The North-Kesteven Local Government District was formed on 1 Apr 1974 under the Local Government Act 1972. It was a merger of the previous
Urban District of Sleaford with the East-Kesteven and North-Kesteven Rural Districts, all of which were in the Administrative County of Parts-of-Kesteven. Washingborough is both a village and a parish which lies on the south bank of the River Witham, about 4 miles E of Lincoln.

Lincolnshire has a tortuous history because of numerous governmental changes, and the creation or movement of administrative entities. Separate divisions once existed called Kesteven, Lindsey, and Holland. These had some county administration (Quarter Sessions) for a while but in 1888, as a result of the Local Government Act 1888, they each received their own separate county council. These entities became the Administrative Counties of Parts-of-Kesteven, Parts-of-Lindsey, and Parts-of-Holland in 1889. They were subsequently abolished in 1974, though, when the Lincolnshire County Council was created.

Heighington was therefore in the county of Lincolnshire from 1837–1889, and Parts-of-Kesteven from 1889–1933. The Rural Districts of Parts-of-Kesteven were re-organised by a County Review Order in 1929 to create four new districts called the North-, South-, East-, and West-Kesteven Rural Districts. These districts were also abolished in 1974, and should not be confused with any similarly-named Local Goverment Districts created from then on. Heighington was therefore in the North-Kesteven Registration District from 1 Jan 1934 to 1 Apr 1974. It was in the Lincoln Registration District before and after this. Also, in the 1851 census (see note [4]) Heighington is described as the “Township of Heighington” in the “Parish of Washingborough”.

[1] Transcribed GRO Index for England and Wales (1837–1983), database, FreeBMD ( : accessed 25 Apr 2014), birth entry for Francis Leafe; citing Basford, 1842, Dec [Q4], vol. 15:397. 
[2] Nottinghamshire Family History Society (NottsFHS), Parish Register Baptism Transcriptions, CD-ROM, database (Nottingham, 1 Jan 2013), database version 6.0, entry for Thomas Leafe, 25 Sep 1842.
[3] NottsFHS, Parish Register Marriage Index, CD-ROM, database (Nottingham, 1 Jan 2013), database version 3.0, entry for Richard Hallam and Martha Leafe, 13 Jul 1846. FreeBMD (accessed 25 Apr 2014), marriage entry for Richard Hallam and Martha Leafe; citing Basford, 1846, Sep [Q3], vol. 15:651. 
[4] "1851 England Census", database, Ancestry ( : accessed 25 Apr 2014), household of Richard Hallam (age 33); citing HO 107/2128, folio 93, page 29; The National Archives of the UK (TNA).
[5] "1861 England Census", database, Ancestry ( : accessed 25 Apr 2014), household of Robert Goodwin (age 48); citing RG 9/2445, folio 112, page 5; TNA.
[6] "1871 England Census", database, Ancestry ( : accessed 26 Apr 2014), household of Frank Leafe (age 29); citing RG 10/4720, folio 101, page 5; TNA.
[7] FreeBMD (accessed 26 Apr 2014), marriage entry for Frank Leafe and Harriet Williams; citing Lincoln, 1867, Jun [Q2], vol. 7a:961. 
[8] "Lincoln (City): 1837-1870", transcription spreadsheet, Lincolnshire 1837+ Marriage Indexes ( : accessed 26 Apr 2014), entry for Frank Leafe on 2 Jun 1867.
[9] Lincoln St Swithin, Lincolnshire, taken 4 Sep 2004. Attribution: Source Author Dave Hitchborne. © Copyright Dave Hitchborne and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence. Image via FamilySearch ( : accessed 25 Apr 2014).
[10] FreeBMD (accessed 26 Apr 2014), death entry for Harriet Leaf [Leafe]; citing Doncaster, 1876, Mar [Q1], vol. 9c:473. 
[11] "1881 England Census", database, Ancestry ( : accessed 26 Apr 2014), household of Frank Leafe (age 37); citing RG 11/4692, folio 117, page 23; TNA.
[12] "England Marriages, 1538–1973", index, FamilySearch ( : accessed 26 Apr 2014), Frank Leafe and Harriett Williams, 2 Jun 1867; citing Lincoln, Lincoln, England, reference b 1/20 p 116 cn 232; FHL microfilm 1542065; no image for this transcription was available online.
[13] "England Marriages, 1538–1973", index, FamilySearch ( : accessed 26 Apr 2014), William Hodson and Jane Marsden, 6 Aug 1838; citing Navenby, Lincoln, England, reference ; FHL microfilm 1542196 IT 2.
[14] "England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975", index, FamilySearch ( : accessed 26 Apr 2014), Harriett Hodson, 7 Aug 1842; citing Washingborough, Lincoln, England, reference b 1-5 p 26 #204; FHL microfilm 1542202.
[15] "England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975, index, FamilySearch ( : accessed 26 Apr 2014), William Hodson, 1 Nov 1817; citing Washingborough, Lincoln, England, reference ; FHL microfilm 508068, 508083.
[16] FamilySearch (, marriage of Frank Leafe and Harriett Williams, 2 Jun 1867; citing Lincoln, Lincoln, England, reference b 1/20 p 116 cn 232; FHL microfilm 1542065; JPEG image of entry received by email on 27 Mar 2014.

No comments:

Post a Comment