Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Family History Writing Challenge - Day 19

My several times Great Grandparents were John Butcher born 1795 and Mary his wife born circa 1799. What has always fascinated me is that for a very long time I could not find John's birth record, all I had was an approximate year based upon the census details. Then I could not find his marriage. One thing I knew with certainty was that John and Mary had existed, had they not I would not be here!

I turned again to the rural parish of Wonersh, about 5 miles or so from Guildford and went systematically through the parish records. I started going through the census details, the 1841 census purely told me that John was born in Surrey, the 1851 gave more details, although not about his family. I then started extracting all the Butcher references to the parish. Eventually I wondered had John been illegitimate and baptised under his mother's name?

The clue to John's parentage was actually in a will. John was baptised as a Woolgar, and the base born to Sarah Woolgar. His father's will (James Butcher) admits that he is the illegitimate son of James Butcher and Sarah Woolgar, even though his parents marry in 1801. So John was born a Woolgar and yet lived his life as a Butcher. I wonder how he felt when he was 6 years old and his parents married? James Butcher and his wife Sarah also had another son born in 1802 who inherits the bulk of the Butcher estate, which was detailed in the will of James Butcher.

The strands of the family came together very slowly and without actual planning. As I said I had extracted all the Butcher references, and by doing this I came across James and then researched each of those individuals until I found a link with John. It was slow and took several years.

I then went to the records office. In those days Surrey Records Office was split into two, the Kingston office and that at Guildford known as the Muniment Room. It was a great place, attached to the museum and I often visited weekly. I called for some documents, I can't recall what now, but it would have been probably Butcher related. Whilst I waited I inspected the name card index, and just to kill the time whilst waiting for my documents to be delivered to the table I flicked immediately to the name of Butcher and when to John. Never for one moment inspecting to find anything. On the card index was the details of John and a reference to a taxation form for 1864.

I called for the document, which came in a miscellaneous file with some other documents relating to the same surname. Once at the table I started reading them. I then spotted his will. I knew it was my John from the death records and the omission from the 1881 Census. Had I not gone through the card index I would not have found the will. There are no records of the will at the probate office. Also in the pile was the envelope the will had been in along with a note saying that the documents had been handed into Wonersh Village post office and then donated to the records office.

From his father James, John had inherited a cottage in Wonersh Street. The cottage is still standing although the son of John that inherited it upon his father's death in 1877 sold the cottage. Likewise, there are some photographs in the archives, which were housed in the local studies library at Guildford and are now at the Surrey Records Office in Woking that showed a photograph of the house and details of whom had donated the photos, which were initially to Croydon library. They were donated by someone with the Butcher surname, unknown to my branch of the family.

Another loose end, just one of many connected with this crucial part of my ancestry.

Word count 660

1 comment:

  1. That bundle of documents was a great find! You must have been pretty excited (no doubt the records office staff were excited for you too).


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