Holborow Research Puzzle

As I’ve said a few times, I’ve taken the opportunity that this year has given me to go over old research and re-evaluate old assumptions that have perhaps niggled the back of my brain over the years but have been ignored due to being low risk. (And so speaks the Project Management Professional in me.)

All I’m saying to that is … oh boy. I might have made a bit of an error. I’ll set it out below and perhaps anyone could let me know their thoughts. I’d be grateful!

I’m coming out of the gate now and saying that I am proud of my research skills. These have developed over 25+ years of personal and professional research. I try not to go with the “easy option” or the most high-profile match just for the sake of it, but let the records tell me the facts. Are there assumptions? Of course. Sometimes you have to go with Option A is more likely than Option B because of X, Y and Z. But I’m not sure about this one.

Tracing my Holborow line through the census returns was fairly easy. Whilst there were some wonderful transcription errors (both by the enumerators and subsequent transcribers), I can get back to my 4 x great-grandparents, Joseph and Maria (Haynes) Holborow. Thankfully, my 3 x great-grandfather, Henry Holborow, got married relatively late in life (he was born in 1823 but married in 1867) so I was able to confirm his parents names in different records (baptism, census returns and marriage certificate).

Which leads us nicely to examining Joseph.

He is alive and well in the 1841 census, living in Oldbury on the Hill in Gloucestershire (close to Didmarton, slap bang in the middle of what I refer to as Holborow Country) with his wife, Maria, and five of their eight children. He is living on Oldbury Street, and his occupation is a baker, which matches Henry’s marriage certificate. His given age would give a birth year of approximately 1787, and he states that all of his family were born in county (ie Gloucestershire).

Joseph and family in 1841 England census.
Courtesy of FindMyPast/National Archives

This information matches a death in 1849 and associated burial in Oldbury on the Hill for a Joseph Holborow, aged 64 – giving an estimated birth year of 1785. Maria is listed as a widow in 1851.

Their marriage of 15 June 1813 in Oldbury simply states they are both “of this parish”, and all of their children are baptised in the same parish. The marriage took place with consent of the parents, and Maria’s parents were the witnesses along with a Louisa Dowding who doesn’t seem to be related.

So far so traceable. But what of Joseph’s birth and parentage? After all, that is key to moving back a generation.

If (and it is a big if) the 1841 census is to be believed, Joseph was born in Gloucestershire. However … there are no matching baptisms from 1784-1790 in Oldbury or elsewhere in Gloucestershire.

Now, originally, I had attached Joseph to parents Henry and Mary. This pair had already baptised a child, Sarah, in 1778 in the parish of Ozleworth (also in Gloucestershire, about 12 miles away by road – although under 4 miles as the crow flies) who I believe died in 1792. I also believe that Mary died shortly after the birth of Sarah. However, I don’t know why I attached Joseph to them – other than a case of right place, right time. There is a will of a Henry Holborow who died in Ozleworth and buried in Oldbury in 1813 which got me excited. But …

Section from Henry’s will of 1813

This Henry leaves everything to a number of nephews and names his deceased sister, Rachael, and his brothers. What he doesn’t name is any surviving wife or children of his own. Which, if he had them, is strange, and lends credence to him being a widower (not that he states this) with no children. All of Henry’s other siblings also leave items to their nieces and nephews but no mention of “son of my brother Henry”. Hence no Joseph.

(Interestingly, this Rachael had married a Joseph Holborow who was the brother of both the Daniel and William mentioned below!)

There is a Joseph who marries a Kezia Knight in Wotton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire on 14 July 1808. Perhaps this is my Joseph and an earlier marriage? Well, the marriage entry states he was “of Bagpath”, which would seem to equate to a baptism in that parish with parents Daniel and Betty in 1778. Not the 1785-7 given for my Joseph. What happened to this Joseph and Kezia? Joseph died in 1810 and Kezia remarried Joseph Sims (as so named in Joseph’s will).

But Holborow Country straddles the county border of Gloucestershire and Wiltshire. Might Joseph – despite how he filled out the 1841 census – actually have been born in that county?

Searching, there seems to be two possibilities: a Joseph baptised in 1783 in Luckington, the son of Daniel and Martha and a Joseph baptised in 1784 in West Kington, the son of William and Sarah.

The former we can discount as he more than likely marries Emily Comley in Luckington in 1807 and is alive and well in 1851 in Luckington, and only dies in Malmesbury Workhouse in 1860. Which only leaves the latter Joseph of West Kington.

Baptism of Joseph Holbrow [sic] of West Kington

There are no associated burials or marriages that offer an alternative. West Kington is close to Chippenham, but only about 10 miles by road (about 6.5 miles cross country) from Oldbury so slightly closer than Ozleworth is to Oldbury.

What does add support to this theory is his mother here being called Sarah, as was Joseph and Maria’s first child. Is it tenuous? Yes. After all, Henry did have a daughter called Sarah who died young which could have lead to a sibling naming one of their children after her, but then see comment about the wills of Henry and his siblings.

Here is a cute (debatable) little tree I made (yes, its in PowerPoint…). As you can see the Joseph of West Kington is the cousin of the Bagpath Joseph, and both have an uncle-in-law relationship to Henry in Oldbury as well as a much more distant blood relationship. The Luckington line isn’t shown as I am confident in my decision to exclude him.

Graphic by, er, me showing the Josephs
(not including other siblings, or the Joseph of Luckington)

So the question remains: Am I mad for making my Joseph one and the same with the Joseph of West Kington? Please let me know …!


  1. It seems that through logical process of elimination and a lack of other prospective candidates, you have a very plausible theory. I don’t think your mad. Would this be a case of negative evidence combined with the beginning of Sherlock Holmes inductive reasoning? “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” I don’t thing you have an “however improbable”, though… plausible, and compelling.

    Liked by 1 person

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