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Week 11: Serendipity

Researching our family history depends on careful research over time, but is often progressed by a large slice of luck! I have had two major ones – both when I was looking for something else, one for my paternal line and one on the maternal.

Maternal lucky find

Gloucestershire Archives; Gloucester, England

My great x2 grandfather, John Gillett, was baptised in Stow-on-the-Wold in 1835, before civil registration of course so no idea of his mother’s maiden name. He was the oldest child and even had his birth announced in the the newspapers, but with no clue there either. Richard Gillett his father had come from Brize Norton and as a tenant farmer, could have been married anywhere and there were several possibilities in various locations. It didn’t  help that the place of birth varied for her in the census returns and could even have been two different wives called Anne – she is also listed as being deaf in one census.

I bit the cost bullet and sent for the birth certificate for the next child, born in December 1837,  which said that her mother’s maiden name was Wood. Given my doubts about whether there might have been two different wives called Anne I still wasn’t sure. Even when the GRO eventually allowed searching by maiden names more recently and all the children came up with the same maiden name, I still wasn’t 100% convinced. Whenever likely counties records came on line I would look for this marriage but no joy.

Anne Gillett

As everyone does, every so often I randomly google the names or locations in my tree to see what pops up, and last summer, I came across some Oxfordshire records which I’d not seen before, the Index of Oxford Diocese Marriage Bonds and Affidavits, 1661-1850 and as usual went to the page for G and there it was – the missing marriage!! Thank you to Donnette Stringham Smith who had paid $200 for three rolls of microfilm to be filmed in June 1976.

Anne would have been about 18 years old then and Richard was 24. I can see from the index that John’s future wife’s grandparents (my 4x great grandparents)  also appear on the index so I have more work to do yet on this set of documents.!

G 265
Gillett, Richard, 21 a.u. of St. Aldates, Oxford
Wood, Ann, under 21 of Hawling, Glos.
At St. Aldates, Oxford 14 Oct 1831
d. 47
f. 312

In some ways that serendipitous discovery has taken me no further since tracking down her parents is proving a challenge but I have found out a lot about the Wood family from the Stow-in-the-Wold and Naunton area of Gloucestershire and it was very satisfying to have found out my great x3 grandmother’s maiden name, It is possible that I have a picture of her as we do have pictures of John and a man believed to be Richard and we have also one of Susan Gillett’s grandmother, Anne Gillett – trouble is, both her grandmothers were called Anne Gillett.

Paternal discovery

Thanks to work done by Neville Lewcock I had a rough outline of my recent paternal family history and through work done by John Manning and Phyllis de Fraine, I had a fair idea of the bare bones of my maternal side. Their work was done by visiting archives and family memories but I was lucky in that when I was able to start my own research in 2002 there was already some online and more and more arriving all the time.

Thanks to the IGI and an unusual surname, I was quickly able to confirm Neville’s research back to Samuel Lewcock. baker, and his marriage to Sarah Taphouse in Farnham, Surrey in 1793 and the baptisms of their children. Through Genes Connected, I was soon in touch with other Lewcock researchers. Early on we had realised that there were distinct pockets of Lewcocks and Lucocks across England.

The nearest to Farnham were a family group in Pyrford, Surrey who were sometimes recorded as Lewcock. but mostly as Lucock and another group in Odiham, Hampshire who were generally recorded as Lewcock. Give the numerous possibilities of variant spellings with the name I had learned every quickly not to get precious over the spelling!

Will of Samuel Lewcock, baker, of Farnham. National Archives.

I had learned early on of the value of wills and my first foray took me to Samuel’s own will and also those of his daughter-in-law’s ancestors.

There was a baptism of a Samuel Lewcock in Odiham but the dates weren’t quite right so a tentative place of birth was recorded for him along with his potential family group but it was a few years before we could get much further with any confidence – unfortunately he had died before 1841 which didn’t help and the putative father had died quite young.

In the meantime, George Lucock’s family in Pyrford were being followed up and I added them to the tree in the hopes that one day I would find the join if there was one. By then we had been tracking Samuel’s possible siblings and there was a possible ink to a family in Hampton, Surrey.

So, we had a John Lewcock born c. 1767 born out of Surrey in 1841 in Hampton and a John Lewcock baptised in Odiham in 1867, possible brother of our Samuel, and their father Richard. Richard was baptised in Odiham, the son of George and Barbary Lewcock. We also had George Lucock of Pyrford, son of another George who had married a Jane Chitty. His age at burial was about the same as a George who was the son of George and Barbary of Odiham.

The Hampshire Baptism CDs were gradually being published along with various Surrey CDs and the possible family groupings for all three branches were being firmed up along with checking with the wills available. And then when I was exploring just to see what they had for another family entirely, I came across their new collection of wills from Surrey. And there it was – the missing link! (some of the correspondence appears here.)

Surrey & South London Will Abstracts  1470-1856  – now available on findmypast.

Samuel Hare of Farnham, carpenter, indisposed 28 Mar 1758
to my brother Richard Hare all my two freehold tenements in Cove, Hampshire in the occupation of Thomas Gardiner and Thomas Wooldridge for life and then to my nephews Richard Lewcock and George Lewcock sons of my sister Barbara Lewcock; to my said nephews Richard and George Lewcock all my messuage in Castle Street, Farnham on east side in my occupation paying to my said sister Barbara £10, to my sister Mary Gregg, widow £5, to my nieces Mary Humphreys and Sarah Hare daughters of my brother Richard £10 each, to my nephews and nieces Samuel Lewcock, Thomas Lewcock, Mary Lewcock and Barbara Lewcock children of my sister Barbara £10 each, to my nephew and niece William Vice and Ann Vice children of my sister Ann Vice £10 each; to my nephews Richard and George Lewcock all my goods, execs.
Witnesses: John Crook; George Smith (X); John Lacy
Proved: 5 Apr 1758 to execs. 

By now I had also acquired the fiches for Odiham – they were really hard to read and it took some time, but I did eventually find George’s marriage to Barbara Hare. Lewcock was mis-transcribed as usual but I had found what I needed without even deliberately looking! I remember being really excited and telling anyone who cared to listen.

It also took me a few generations back as the Hares were very good at leaving wills. Finding George’s baptism to get that line back further was tricky though and needed a trip to Winchester to look at their copies of the fiches – but we found it – for George Leeucock, son of yet another Richard.

We’re still looking to see if we can “find the join” with another group of Surrey Lewcocks from the Dorking area, but hopefully one day I will stumble upon it.

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