Sunday, March 3, 2013

Which Richard is 'our' Richard?

On the 17th of August 1809, in Walton Le Dale, Thomas Ward and his wife Frances had a son named Richard. His birth date was recorded in the register of St Leonard’s Anglican church when he was baptised on October 1st of the same year.1

However, on the 20th June, 1813, another child named Richard Ward was baptised at St Leonard’s. The record states that he was born on the 27th April 1813 and his parents were Thomas Ward, joiner, and Fanny.2

This creates a problem – which of these two Richards was ‘our’ Richard, husband of Mary, the father of John, and the grandfather of Thomas Henry Ward? Having looked at the images of the original documents (online) there doesn’t seem to be any doubt about the accuracy of the transcriptions. The fact that the dates for the two births and baptisms are so different makes it highly unlikely that they’re records of the same events. I can think of a number of other possibilities:
  1. The first child died in infancy and Thomas and Frances called the later child by the same name. This was a common practice in those days. Unfortunately for this theory, I can’t find any record of a death for a Richard Ward between 1809 and 1813.
  2. Another child of Thomas and Frances was mistakenly recorded as Richard instead of by their correct name. If so, it would be very difficult to trace them.
  3. There could have been two couples in Walton Le Dale named Thomas and Frances/Fanny Ward and both had sons named Richard. These names are all very common.  However, I can’t find any record of another Thomas Ward married to a Frances, or Fanny, anywhere in Lancashire, who would be of roughly the right age.
The census records don’t shed much light on the problem. The date of birth for ‘our’ Richard, calculated from his stated age on the census, varies from 1809 (in 1861), 1810 (1871 and 1881) to 1812 (in 1851). When he married for the second time in 1861 he was said to be 51, giving a date of birth about 1810. Overall, these dates suggest that Richard was more likely to have been born in 1809, but that leaves the question of what became of the Richard (if he was Richard) born in 1813?

In all the census records I can only find one Richard Ward of approximately the right age who was recorded as being born in Walton Le Dale, although there was another Richard Ward living in Walton Le Dale in 1841 and 1851. (Born in Treales in 1801, he was the husband of Margaret, and possibly a cousin of the other Richard.) It’s all rather confusing.

1. Lancashire, England, Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1538-1812 [database on-line].
2. Lancashire, England, Births and Baptisms, 1813-1911 [database on-line].

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