Wednesday, 6 March 2013

An absent brother-in-law

In 1861, our 3xgreat grandmother Jane and her sister Sarah were living at home. The two girls, then aged 15 and 12, must have had important roles in looking after their three younger siblings while Susannah ran the family business with their older brothers John and Joseph. By the Census of 1871, both girls had moved out; probably to begin families of their own.

Since Jane was our director ancestor, I knew her married name (Davies) and that should make her easy to locate. I expected that tracing Sarah might be a little more difficult.

Jane and John Davies were quickly found living with their two small children. By a stroke of good fortune, their neighbour (also with two toddlers) was named Sarah and just three years younger than Jane. Was Sarah Hollingworth formerly Sarah Davies?

A search of the registration of marriages confirmed that Sarah had in fact married John Thomas Hollingworth early in 1867. In most cases that would be all that I wanted to know about the brother-in-law of an ancestor, but for one odd feature — J T Hollingworth had not been at home on the census day.

There could be many possible explanations for this. He might be dead, or in prison or hospital, or simply working in another area. To check these possibilities through a more extensive census search, I needed to know his year and place of birth. That should be easy enough to find by looking for he and Sarah in the next (1881) census.

In 1881, Sarah and her children were living in the old family home with her mother Susannah. Sarah reported that she was still "married" and with her son Samuel Hollingworth being 10 months old, there are sound grounds for believing that her husband had at least visited recently. But once again, John Thomas was missing from the census record of the Hollingworth family.

When the next census was conducted on 5 April 1891, John Hollingworth was at home and listed as head of a household made up of Sarah and seven children ranging in age from less than 1 to 23 years old. His birth data, so long a mystery, indicated that he had been born in Stalybridge, Lancashire in 1845. Of particular interest is that, while Sarah had described herself as a "labourer's wife", John was a Gas Fitter by trade.

That should provide an ample basis for returning to the Census of 1871 and 1881 to find just where JT Hollingworth had been.

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