FLINDALL, Ayot St Peter, Early 19th century

January, 2008



Ayot St Peter

Phil Staveley (philstaveley @t tiscali.co.uk) wrote from Sheffield to say: I have been tracing my family history for almost 20 years now, and still have one mystery that eludes me.

My GGGG Grandfather was Thomas Gurney Flindall, and he can be found on the 1841 census living in Welwyn with his wife Jane (nee Wells - who he married on 16/4/1823 in Ayot St Peter) and 6 children (John, Ann, Thomas, Edward, Rebecca, Esther).

The marriage register should say what parish he was from - and the witnesses might include one of Thomas's relatives - which might provide a lead.

As at least some of the children were baptised as Ayot St Peter it would seem that he supported the Church of England at the time the children were born - which reduces - but does not eliminate - the chances that his baptism was in a non-conformist chapel whose records have not survived. Have you checked his occupation from the baptism register to see if he was regularly described as a blacksmith, or whether his occupation changed with time.

The census reports that he came from within Hertfordshire, and was born around 1799. His occupation is listed as blacksmith.

The 1841 census return is technically incorrect, but in a way that is helpful. Thomas's age should have been recorded as 40, not 41, and Jane's age should have been recorded as 40 rather than 42. This error makes it increasingly likely that the ages are correct and not rounded off.

The only evidence you have as to where he was born is the 1841 census. Most entries as "Y" as most people living in Welwyn would have been born in Hertfordshire and the possibility of an error should not be ruled out.  For instance a Thomas Flindall was baptised on 24 Feb 1799  at St John, Hackney, London - son of Thomas Flindall.

Thomas Gurney Flindall died in 1845, so unfortunately I am not able to check these details on the 1851 census (although Jane and the children can be found living in Westminster in 1851)

What was his age when he died? And was he still described as a blacksmith? It would be interesting to know whether the cause of death was related to his occupation. Unfortunately he doesn't seem to have made a will ...

The mystery is that no matter how hard I have tried, using as many internet sources and parish registers I can lay my hands onto, I cannot find a record of his birth/baptism, so am unable to take my research any further back.

No mystery - before 1837 there was no legal requirement for any record to be made of a birth; baptism did not always taken place ; and there were many non-conformist chapels where no records of baptisms survive. See Where is my ancestor's baptism before 1837

All genealogy involves some uncertainty as just because a birth/baptism fits does not ensure that it is the right one - see examples on Right Name , Wrong Body and How can I be certain about ...

If you want to go further back you need to look at other records. For instance you may be able to follow the owner/tenant of the blacksmith's shop in Ayot St Peter using Land Tax records - which exist between 1715-1831 (see Tracing Your Family History in Hertfordshire). It would seem that overseers' rate books have not survived for Ayot St Peter - apart from a valuation of property in Welwyn Union for poor rate assessment in 1838 (reference from Access to Archives) while HALS also holds a Tithe map of the same date which indentifies the occupiers of property in the village. HALS also has a lot of estate papers covering the village -

Interestingly, information exists on the IGI and other sources to say that there was a Gurney family living around the area, who married into the Wells family. William Gurney married Frances Wells in Edlesborough in 1791. Is it a coincidence then that Thomas Gurney Flindall also married a Wells?

When most people  lived and died within a few miles of where they were born cousin marriages were common - with marriages usually being constrained by social factors. Have a look at Who is Related to Who? which looks a a cousin network among mainly well-to-do tenant farmers. Sometimes a detailed study of a cousin network can help to support an otherwise weak links in an ancestral tree - or show that the provisional link was wrong!

I have decided that there are two main possibilities of where Thomas' name comes from. The first being that his mothers maiden name was Gurney, and as was the custom in the 18th century, it was passed onto Thomas as a middle name.

Clearly a possibility - but originally it was only an upper class practise. It was virtually unknown among normal village dwellers in the 18th century and still uncommon in Hertfordshire in the first half of  19th century. (Just look at the microfilm of any Hertfordshire village baptism register for the period and you will find very few examples.)

The second theory, and in my opinion more likely theory is that Thomas Gurney Flindall was an illegitimate child of a female Flindall, and a male called Thomas Gurney. Again, the custom of giving illegitimate children their fathers name was rife around this time, as it was a sure way of letting the world know who the child's father was.

One of my ancestors was named in this way at the end of the 18th century, and is an example of a missing birth/baptism information. (see William Speed Locke). However the names might be the name of a patron (including a  case where I believe the infant was given the name of the doctor who helped at the delivery). While I suspect it was not common, in 1802 at Aylesbury, Bucks, several children were names after the candidates in an election. Politics also came into in other ways. Around 1800 names such as "George Washington" (president of the United States 1789-1797) turns up among some educated families who admired the idea of independence from a Royal family.

I was hoping that you or any of the other visitors to the web site may have some knowledge of the Flindall/Gurney/Wells family interaction around 1800, and may be able to offer some assistance in solving this riddle.

If you can add to the information given above tell me.

Page created January 2008