Thursday, January 18, 2007

Zachariah Hughes - still elusive


I have been looking for information about Zachariah Hughes for a long time.

I know that my great-great-grandfather John William Hughes' father was called Zacahariah Hughes from JWH's marriage certificate. JWH married on 22 May 1893 in Sunderland, where his father was described as a deceased iron worker. However, as John William did not know his birthplace and Zachariah died young, I've been unable to find a definitive association between John William and Zachariah in very many documents. Nevertheless, I have found one Zachariah Hughes after searching the entire of the North-East of England, whom I believe with a high degree of certainty to be the father of JWH. I have just received the marriage certificate of this Zachariah Hughes.

Zachariah Hughes' Marriage

  • On Christmas Day 25th December 1873 at the parish church of St. Paul's, Darlington
  • Zachariah Hughes, 20 years, bachelor, mill furnaceman, of Lansdowne St, father Joseph Hughes occupation mill furnaceman
  • Catharine Close, 24 years, spinster, of Zetland St, father William Close, occupation publican
  • The witnesses were Gomer Hughes & Elizabeth Jones

What do we learn from this?
1. This marriage is certainly that of the Zachariah Hughes whom I have found previously in the 1861 and 1871 census. Both Gomer and Zachariah Hughes are such unusual names that these must be the same people.

2. This Zachariah Hughes is likely to be the father of John William Hughes. JWH was born in about 1873/4, so this marriage is about the right date. Given this date, the unusual (almost unique) name and that the occupations of JWH's father and this Zachariah match, the balance of probabilities is that this is the right man. However, I still lack that clinching piece of documentary evidence.

3. We learn that Zachariah married Catharine Close and that her father was called William Close.

4. The circumstancial evidence: John William Hughes' children were called Matthew, Catharine and Zachariah. Matthew was the name of John William Hughes' wife's father. It is interesting that Catharine and Zachariah are also the names of who we now believe are his father and mother. Also, John William Hughes' middle name is the same as Catharine Close's father. This is more tantalising evidence that this Zachariah could be the father of John William.

What we still do not know is where Zachariah and Catharine were in 1881, or indeed, whether they lived beyond this. Given that JWH did not know his birthplace it is possible that both of his parents died when he was very young. In which case, who brought him up? and where is he in the 1881 or 1891 censuses? There are still very many unknowns with this family, but we have learned a little bit more about where Zachariah was living in 1873. Darlington would now be a good place to try and find JWH's birth certificate or birth.

Gomer Hughes
It is also very interesting to see Gomer Hughes as a witness to Zachariah's marriage - this would suggest that Zachariah was close to his elder brother, which may be important when trying to find family members who may have raised John William. Unfortunately, I have attempted to trace where Gomer is in the later censuses but have been unable to find him.

Gomer is another unusual first name. In Genesis, Gomer was the eldest son of Japheth one of the three sons of Noah.

According to the genealogies of Genesis, one branch of the descendants of Gomer became the Welsh people. Gomer and Zachariah Hughes were the sons of Josiah/Joseph Hughes who was from Wales - though there are still quite a number of links I need to make to tie-in this family with the pedigree above! Nevertheless, these unusual names could also be helpful in finding out what happened to Zachariah. Given their Old Testament nature, it is possible that the family was very religious and potentially Methodist like a lot of Welsh working class migrants of this period. Methodist records may be somewhere to look for evidence of Gomer, Zachariah and John William.

For the future
This marriage certificate has now enabled me to start searching the family of William Close. It has also confirmed that Zachariah Hughes is the son of Josiah/Joseph Hughes and the brother of Gomer. What I still do not have is the definitive proof that this is the Zachariah Hughes who is the father of John William Hughes - hopefully this will come one day.

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