Some of you will remember a previous blog titled “Thomas Is Missing”, which was about my endeavours to try and find my maternal Great Grand Father. From the marriage certificate I had some details and had found all the census information for him and his family there after, but I could not find anything prior to his marriage.
First I created a spreadsheet and checked the register of Births for each quarter from 1859 to 1865, paying special attention to those registered in districts around Ripley Derbyshire. This narrowed it down to two, I felt that neither were likely to be the one’s I wanted but I went ahead and ordered them. I waited for them to arrive with an air of anticipation. One arrived but the father’s name was not William and according to the marriage certificate that was Thomas’s father’s name, so that was not my Thomas. The second certificate had him registered as Tom William but he had always been referred to ‘Thomas’, and the father was named William. I entered the parental details into an ancestry tree and searched the records, but although I could find the parents and more children there was no mention of ‘Tom’, I had a hunch and followed the idea and sure enough sadly there was a corresponding entry in the register of deaths before he could appear in a census.
This meant that there were no Thomas Handford births registered that corresponded to my Great Grand Father. I was utterly stumped. After a little cogitating I thought about writing to my Aunt and Uncle and ask them if they remembered anything about their Grand Father, maybe a name of a sibling, it would be too much to hope that they might remember Thomas’s mother’s name.
Then in the wee wee hours I had something of a mild eureka moment. On his marriage certificate of 1863 it gave his address as 17 Radbourne Street Derby, my mind wondered who was living at that address on the 1861 census. Fortunately that particular census the enumerators had put the street and house numbers on each page, I scrolled through the entries and there at number 17 was William Handford, his wife and a few children, I was not expecting to find Thomas as he would be of an age to be working and living somewhere else. Finding this 1861 entry did give me his wife’s first name, Mary, I entered the information into a tree and searched records and discovered that she was also born in Ripley and that her maiden name was Stanley, and that she had married William in 1861.
I returned to the register of Births and started in 1861 and worked backwards for the name Thomas Stanley. There it was, a Thomas Stanley born in 1860, registered in Belper the registration district that covered Ripley. I ordered the certificate and waited again. When it arrived it confirmed by suspicious, the mother’s name was Mary Stanley and there was no named father.
I entered this fresh information and made yet more discoveries. On the 1861 census for Ripley Derbyshire Thomas was an eight month old baby described as a boarder at the home of a husband and wife who were not related to the family. On the 1871 census, Thomas was living with his Grand Father and Uncle at the family farm but I am yet to find him on the 1881 census and as yet no idea when [or why] he started using the Handford surname, or even whether he changed it legally.
It seemed unimaginable that a young mother could hand-over her child, but we have no way of knowing the whole truth. It was not uncommon for illegitimate children to be boarded out, that the mother paid someone to house, feed and care for the child. So many heart aching scenarios spring to mind. The convention of the time seemed cruel.
This latest discovery has brought me closer to completing my research and I can now concentrate on polishing the tree before adding that to my web site, and completing the various profile document to print off and file with the certificates I have amassed. This project has been long winded but interesting, some of the lines go back as far as the 1500’s, to the times of King Henry VIII, quite remarkable.