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Who was the mysterious Sarah Smith?

Discussion in 'General Genealogical Queries' started by Bob Spiers, Mar 9, 2019.

  1. Bob Spiers

    Bob Spiers LostCousins Star

    Following a recent DNA match in my wife’s Tree which I manage and research, I came across a little conundrum which was posed first off by the manager of the Tree which had the shared ancestor. My wife’s great grandfather James Henry Smith. Here are the details which I hope are not too convoluted to understand.

    The query concerned a common ancestor named John Smith, (and that should ring enough alarm bells before I even begin). But it is not he that is the problem, but his spouse. There were two alternatives (1) Ann Dix or (2) Sarah Houghton. Here is the evidence to support both.

    (1) John Smith an Agricultural Labourer born 1805 in Brigstock, Northamptonshire married Ann Dix born 1804 from Geddington, Northamptonshire on 25th November 1828 at Brigstock, Northamptonshire. Neither had been married previously. They went on to have 10 children and for those born post 1837 GRO indexes confirm ‘Dix’ as their mother’s maiden name. Ann incidentally was a Nurse/midwife which comes into the story later.

    (2) Alternatively, John Smith (presumed Agricultural Labourer) born 1805 in Brigstock, Northamptonshire married Sarah Houghton born 1805 in September 1828 -same year, two months earlier than John & Ann- from Hannington, Northamptonshire. Both had been previously married. (Is it likely either John or Sarah aged 23 apiece, were likely to have been previously married?).

    Census information (note deliberately non sequential)

    1841: John Smith is shown married to an Ann both aged 35 in Brigstock. With them children: Elizabeth, Rebecca, Ann, Mary, Sarah, Lydia & Eliza.

    1871: Both Ann & John aged 66 on their own in Brigstock, Northamptonshire.

    1851 : (a) John Smith is shown married to a Sarah, both the same age 46. With them 6 children: Sarah, Lydia, Eliza ,Samuel, Emma & James Henry (those in caps confirmed by GRO as having a ‘Dix’ mother).

    1851 (b) to be shown later

    1861 : (a) John is at home in Brigstock with two son Samuel & Henry (really James Henry)- both sons confirmed with a 'Dix' mother. No spouse is present.

    1861: (b) Ann Smith is shown lodging in Oakham Rutland, described as ‘Mother’ (born Geddington, Northamptonshire) with married daughter Rebecca (now Mrs Dexter) and her new born son Samuel, Ann’s grandson. (Clearly there for the birth of her grandson).

    Now back to 1851.

    1851: (b) Remind (a) shows John with wife Sarah. We find Ann Smith (born Geddington) at a Brigstock address (not her home) -this time her status is given as ‘Nurse’. In the household is an Elizabeth Sturgill who has a baby Albert. The transcription records the baby 1 month old but the original, I believe, declares him to be 1 day old. At first I thought Elizabeth might again be a married daughter, but could find no marriage to support this, and besides Nurse description indicates she was there in a professional capacity.


    So, taking the above into account who do you suppose was the Sarah shown in 1851 as John Smith’s wife with children most of whom we known to have a ‘Dix’ mother and therefore Ann’s children.

    That is what I have yet to fathom – and indeed my DNA Tree contact - so if anyone can explain the mysterious Sarah, it would be of great help to us both.

    Footnote1: Another Ancestry Tree shows Sarah as Sarah (Ann) Houghton I think to try to explain why John has both a Sarah and Ann spouse,

    Footnote2: There is another John Smith from Brigstock, similar age who is a Publican. My contact tells me that is NOT our John Smith who was a Agricultural Labourer.
  2. Helen7

    Helen7 LostCousins Star

    I think you can definitely rule out marriage (2). This appears to be a completely different couple. In 1841 in Hannington (where they were married in 1828) there is a John and Sarah Smith, both aged 60 and living with them is Robert Houghton aged 25, presumably Sarah's son from her previous marriage (census ref: piece 807/book 4/folio 6/page 7). This John Smith is also an Ag. Lab. but much older than your John Smith.

    As for the mysterious Sarah listed as John's wife in Brigstock in 1851, I think this is likely to be an error in the census. As the eldest daughter is also called Sarah, it's an easy mistake for the enumerator to repeat the name in error. It is further confused by the fact that Ann is actually away on nursing duties on census night. But this wouldn't be the first time someone was entered on the same census twice in different places. I've come across this in my tree in the case of a short absence from home, where the person was entered as being both at home and a visitor elsewhere on the same night. I've also come across confusion of names, when I've had to look at all the evidence to sort it out. In this case, the other evidence is strong, with the mother's maiden name for the children being so consistent, and the 1861 and 1871 censuses, which all points to John Smith and Ann Dix being your ancestors.

    I also noticed the other John Smith, publican, in the Brigstock censuses and I see his wife was also called Ann, but she is about 5 years younger than your Ann and was born in Winwick, Huntingdonshire, so no confusion there!
  3. Bob Spiers

    Bob Spiers LostCousins Star

    Thanks Helen, received your response just as I was about to close down. I have been doing my own investigation during the day and follow much of what you say, except the Robert Houghton is new info. Will pick up the thread tomorrow and respond properly. But thank you for your input, as always, much appreciated.
  4. Bob Spiers

    Bob Spiers LostCousins Star

    Yes I agree totally I think with your input and my own further research, we can discount Sarah and concentrate on Ann. I also have found 'double bookings' in same year Censuses, and lost count of the time when I find someone named in a Census differently from their baptismal name. Indeed my wife's great grandfather in the Tree in question is shown in 1861 as 'Henry' instead of James or James Henry. Such practice is almost commonplace.

    All I have to do now is to convince my (wife's) cousin contact that she has too many children associated with (our mutual) John & Ann. I believe she has picked up children born to the Publican John Smith and his wife Ann. As I said at the start of my posting, once you encounter a John Smith you can expect 'trouble' ahead....as the song ('Lets face the Music and Dance') says.

    Thanks again for your help.
  5. Helen7

    Helen7 LostCousins Star

    I agree. I too have many examples of name changes on censuses. It seems that people often don't like their official first name and are known by a middle name or pet name and that's the one that's reported on the censuses - which makes our task of tracing them more challenging of course. I have also had problems with variations in surname spellings, which again complicates searches. One advantage of looking for very common surnames is that they don't usually get mis-spelt!

    That's easily done (I've probably been guilty of that myself in the past), but in this case the censuses should sort out which children belong to which family.
  6. canadianbeth

    canadianbeth LostCousins Member

    I do not like my official first name and only use it on official documents, such as my will. :) In fact, I just revised my Personal Directive (in preparation for a hospital stay starting tomorrow) and just put the initial in front of the name that I do use - F. Elizabeth (Beth) Everything else that is official says Elizabeth but I have been called Beth since birth. Any census information will also say Elizabeth.

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