Tuesday, June 16, 2015

William Hough's mysterious beginnings

Manchester Cathedral in 1903*
William Hough was my grandmother Margaret Annie Bentley's great grandfather. As I mentioned in my previous post, a number of unanswered questions appear in his story.

The most important of these relates to his birth. According to the various census records he was born about 1831, the second son of brickmaker  John Hough and his wife Elizabeth Hurst of Salford. But unlike every other child in the large Hough family, he wasn't baptised in the cathedral in Manchester, or anywhere else for that matter. Or at least no baptism record can be found.

To put this in context, it seems from the records that John and Elizabeth had nine children:

James Hough, baptised in the cathedral in March 1830
William, born about 1831
Samuel, baptised Sept 1833
John Hough, born Sept 1834, baptised  Feb 1835
George, baptised March 1837
Isaac, baptised April 1839
Mary Ann, baptised March 1844
Elizabeth, baptised Jan 1846
Harriet, baptised July 1848

It seems strange that John and Elizabeth would have had 8 children baptised in the same church, but skipped baptising William. Even stranger is that a 5 year old child named William Hough, with parents named John and Elizabeth, was buried at Manchester cathedral in November 1833. No baptism record exists for this child either, as far as I can tell.

One possible explanation is that the original William, born in 1828, died just after his baby brother Samuel was baptised. The family then started calling the baby "William" instead of Samuel. If this was the case, then the original William would have been John and Elizabeth's first child. (They married in 1828).

In favour of this theory is that Samuel, Isaac, Mary Ann and Elizabeth don't appear in any of the census records. I've found likely deaths in infancy for Isaac (1840), Mary Ann (1844) and Elizabeth (1846) but not for Samuel. It was not unusual to name a child after a deceased sibling, though it was usually done from birth, when the later child was born after the first child's death.

Against it is that it would leave a longer-than-average gap between the births of James and Samuel a.k.a. William. Other explanations are possible - maybe the minister had a busy day and simply forgot to record William's baptism. Thousands of children were baptised in Manchester Cathedral in the 1830's. I'd be interested to hear suggestions for alternative explanations, or relevant information that might explain this puzzle.

 *Officially the Cathedral and Collegiate Church of St Mary, St Denys and St George. Image from Wikipedia.