Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Eighteenth Century Wrights

My 4xgreat-grandfather John Wright was born in Dringhouses, York, in approximately 1804. I found this information from the 1841-1871 censuses where he was described as a gardener still living in Dringhouses. In 1829, he married Ann Calvert, and they had 7 children together between 1831 and 1844 including my 3xgreat-grandfather James Wright in 1836. In this post I shall try and find out more about the early life and parents of John Wright.

Weighing up the baptismal evidence of John Wright
The first step in finding out more about the early life of John Wright was to find a baptism. As I've mentioned previously, this part of York at this time had 3 parishes that were very close in distance. Thus, if someone moved only a small distance then they may move from one parish to another. Therefore, one needs to search the registers of St. Mary's Bishophill Junior, St. Mary's Bishophill Senior and Holy Trinity Micklegate when looking for a baptism in the 'Dringhouses' area. When I first researched this family, I only found the one record for a John Wright - he was baptised on Sunday June 10th 1804 at Holy Trinity Micklegate, the son of Thomas Wright a farmer at Dringhouses. This is also corroborated by two other family history researchers who had been studying the Wright family and had come to the same conclusion that my John Wright was the son of this Thomas Wright (and whose research I trust!). Another positive was that Holy Trinity Micklegate was also the parish that on John Wright's marriage record in 1829 he was registered as being from - hence why I searched these registers first. Unfortunately though, the marriage record for John Wright and Ann Calvert did not record their father's names so I cannot cross-check that I have the correct baptism. I therefore do not have a direct record other than the baptism with 'John Wright son of Thomas Wright' upon to prove the link. However, as John Wright and Ann Calvert were married by banns (this is where the announcement of intent to marriage was read out for 3 consecutive Sundays in the parish church of each individual), I may be able to get these registers to check. I also need to think if there is anything else in the local records that may help me here, as well as consulting with others who have worked on this line to see what records they have looked at.

Another way to be completely sure would be to establish if any other John Wrights were born in neighbouring parishes. I found two, maybe three, born in St. Mary Bishophill Junior according to the IGI between 1802-1803. It appears as if two John Wrights may actually be one as the same date (26th September) is given for the baptism of a John Wright son of George Wright, but one is 1802 (from the parish records) and the other 1803 (from an LDS member, so perhaps not as reliable). The chances of these being two John Wrights seem slim and therefore they are probably one and the same. The other John Wright was the illegitimate son of a Hannah Wright (bp 27 Aug 1803). I cannot completely eliminate the possibility that one of these is my John Wright. I could try and start doing this by 'killing them off', i.e. checking the burial registers to see if either of them died in infancy. Alternatively, I could 'marry them off' to another wife rather than Ann Calvert, which would demonstrate that they couldn't possibly be the correct John.

Nevertheless, the fact that my John Wright stated on his marriage record he was from Holy Trinity Micklegate parish and that there was only one John Wright born there at the correct time leads me to believe that this is the correct John Wright for me. It has to be remembered that when moving into Eighteenth Century research, it becomes harder to have more than one piece of evidence that clarify relationships, though this is always the ideal. Currently, I'm happy to think that my John Wright was the son of Thomas Wright, as are the other researchers who have looked into this. I would hope to find extra records to prove this, or to look for records that eliminate those John Wrights baptised at roughly the same time in neighboring parishes.

John Wright in the Dade Registers
The complete transcript from the Holy Trinity Micklegate baptism register reads:

"Born Sunday June 10 1804, John Wright, son of Thomas Wright, farmer at Dringhouses, son of Thomas Wright, farmer at Patterington. Jane daughter of Robert Morris carpenter at Harton neigh Burlington"

In the same register, there were entries for five other children between 1799-1810 for the same parents. There were also three entries for children between 1793-1796 to the same father, but a different mother:

"son/daughter of Thomas Wright, farmer at Dringhouses, son of Thomas Wright, farmer at Patterington. Ann daughter of William Shaw, farmer at Cottingworth."

The last entry of these children in 1795 had Ann's father William Shaw being a farmer at "Pattrington".

These detailed baptismal entries are thanks to Rev. William Dade who proposed the use of the so-called 'Dade Registers', a system of detailed baptism records with much family history information as seen above. The system was discontinued in 1812 when the printed baptism form was introduced thanks to George Rose's Act, but between 1770 and 1812 many Yorkshire parishes used this system. See here for a list. A good tip for Yorkshire research is that if you find an IGI entry for an ancestor in one of these parishes, be sure to check the original entry as you may find much, much more.

Putting the Wright information together
It therefore appears that a Thomas Wright was born in Patrington (a place in Holderness, on the peninsula of the East Coast of Yorkshire, about 50 miles from York) and that he was a farmer and that he had a son Thomas Wright. The younger Thomas Wright at some time before 1793 married Ann Shaw the daughter of a farmer William Shaw who was from 'Cottingworth'. It is a bit difficult to be sure where this place is as there isn't a place exactly of this name today. The most likely candidates are the parishes of East Cottingwith or West Cottingwith which are half-way between York and Hull (Patrington is East of Hull, the other side from York). If this is the right place, one has to wonder why William Shaw then left there to move to Patrington in 1796? It is always possible that he did not and that the entry in the printed copy of the Dade Registers is a misprint or transcription error when it states William Shaw as being from Patrington. The other potential place could be 'Cottingham' which is a parish within Hull itself.

Nevertheless, Thomas Wright the younger and Ann Shaw went on to have 3 children together, after which between 1797-1799 it seems Ann died. Thomas remarried Jane Morris, whose father was Robert Morris, a carpenter from 'Harton neigh Burlington' - or 'Harton near Burlington' in modern parlance. Burlington is an older name for today's Bridlington, which is on the East Coast of Yorkshire about 40 miles from York. Again, it is difficult to be precise where this Harton may be. There is a village of Harton that is only about 4 miles Northeast of York, but this is not near 'Burlington' and yet there is no 'Harton' near to Burlington/Bridlington that I can find. There is a Marton however which is a parish within Bridlington, so perhaps this is another case of transcription error as 'H' and 'M' can often be confused. I shall have to consult the original entries rather than relying on the transcripts that were published by the Yorkshire Parish Register Society. Thomas Wright and Jane Morris went on to have 6 children together between 1799 and 1810.

In the Holy Trinity Micklegate registers I also found another baptism, unfortunately after 1812 when the Dade Registers were discontinued:

'28th April 1813, Henry, son of Thomas & Ann Wright, Dringhouses, labourer in husbandry'.

Now, there were no other Thomas Wrights from Dringhouses having children baptised during this time-period. My working hypothesis is that perhaps Jane Wright (nee Morris) died around 1810 and Thomas again remarried to another Ann and had another child - Henry in 1813.

Thomas Wright and his wives
So far I have only been using baptism records as evidence. Ideally, I need to be using death records and marriage records to reconstruct families and relationships. Therefore, I searched for the marriages of Thomas Wright using the IGI -

1. Ann Shaw - 12 Feb 1793, Acomb.
2. Jane Morris - cannot find yet!
3. Ann ? - cannot find yet, and perhaps never happened!

What leaps out immediately is that Thomas Wright (who we know was the son of Thomas Wright of Patrington in Holderness) married Ann Shaw (who was probably from Cottingworth in East Yorkshire) in 1793 in Acomb. This is the same parish that my Wright family have lived in until the present day after James Wright (Thomas Wright's grandson) moved there in 1868. Between 1793 and 1868, Thomas Wright and his son John Wright had lived in the neighboring parish of Dringhouses. It seems very coincidental that they married in Acomb without any prior connection to it. I still don't know why they married there despite not living or being from that parish. Perhaps if they were married by banns and these registers survive I may get more information, such as which parish they came originated. One reason for marrying in a different parish was if the wedding had to be 'hurried', but this does not seem to be the case here as their first child was not born for 9 months. I remained perplexed as to why they chose Acomb.

What is to be done?
From this long entry, one realises that when doing research pre-1837, things get trickier, but there is still a lot of information out there. My problem is that I am currently quite reliant on already published information that I can access, when I really need to get to the original documents - especially banns, baptisms, marriages and deaths. The only way you can completely understand a family is to know exactly when each individual was born, married and died. This is particularly true when studying a large family with a common surname such as Wright. In family history and genealogy, you can get too caught up with rushing to find out your direct line rather than looking at all related individuals. My next steps with the Wright research will be to review various side branches and cousins to myself to see if they give any extra clues as to what happened to my own ancestors.

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