Sunday, March 04, 2007

Finding my Welsh/English border ancestors

I had found that my grandfather Hughes' great-grandfather was Morris Hughes who had ventured the 200 miles to Castleford, Yorkshire in around 1881 from Bilston, Staffordshire where he had been born in 1856. Thirty years earlier, his father David Hughes had also been born in Bilston. In 1849 David Hughes married Jane Lewis. From his marriage certificate I discovered that David Hughes' father was called Maurice Hughes, a labourer. Here I document my search for Maurice Hughes.

Can I find Maurice Hughes?
The first piece of documentary evidence I have that mentions Maurice Hughes is the marriage certificate of his son, David Hughes. This is from 1849, and he is described as a labourer. It is not mentioned that he is deceased, so it is reasonable to believe that he was still alive at this time. This would mean that I should be able to locate him in the 1841 census and perhaps even the 1851. I have had instances, however, where an ancestor was named as a father on a certificate and the registrar failed to add that he was deceased. I also believe that Maurice would be living in Bilston, Staffordshire as this is where his son David Hughes was born in 1826 and where he was still living in 1849. I therefore searched the 1841 and 1851 censuses for the name Maurice Hughes or Morris Hughes. Morris Hughes appears to be a family name used in at least 3 generations, so I am presuming that Maurice could also be called Morris.

The 1851 census was most interesting as I found a Morris Hughes living next door to David Hughes in Black Horse Yard. He is living with his wife Betty and sons Morris and William. Given the unusualness of the name Morris Hughes, this appears to be the right Morris Hughes. Morris is 80 years old in this census and is described as 'not able to work'. It is stated that he was born in Montgomeryshire in Cherbury - but Cherbury is actually just inside England rather than Wales. His wife Betty was born in Montogmeryshire also, though her birthplace is extremely difficult to read - I think it says Ber* which I would presume could be Berriew a parish near to the English border in Montgomeryshire. Interestingly, this is the same area where David Hughes' future wife Jane Lewis also originated. Both sons were born in Bilston, placing this Morris in Bilston in the timeframe that I already knew.

Moving back 10 years, I can also find this Morris Hughes in the 1841 census. Living on High Street, Mill horn? Yard, Bilston, Morris and his wife Elizabeth are living with sons Morris and William and daughters Ann and Margaret. David Hughes is also living with the family providing confirmation that this is the right family. Morris Hughes is described as a labourer.

To find out some more information about Morris Hughes and his family I performed as search for baptisms and marriages in the IGI. I found some extra biographical information from member submissions in the online IGI database. Importantly, I found three elder children - Thomas, another Maurice, and Mary. I am certain that these are the right family as the parents' names were given as Maurice & Betty Hughes, which is quite a unique combination.

As I cannot find Morris Hughes in the 1861 census (he would be 90), I tried to find a death certificate between 1851 and 1861 in Bilston. The closest match was for a Morris Hughes who died on 4th August 1853 of a 'decline of nature'. The death was registered by Thomas Hughes (which could be Morris' eldest son) who was in attendance. Thomas Hughes is recorded as being from Lady Moor Sedgley, but this is certainly the right certificate as the address for Morris Hughes is given as High Street, Bilston.

I have yet to find out about the earlier life of Morris Hughes.