A year ago this week I wrote about a family who appear in records as Holborows but were, in fact, Neals. Long story short – their familial middle name of Holborow had replaced their documented surname of Neal. But whilst researching the origins of a different line of Holborows from the Wiltshire market town of Chippenham I came across a similar conundrum where the Holborow (or rather, Holbrow in this instance) line disappears, only to potentially be replaced. Unless I’m going mad. Which is a distinct possibility around these parts …!
The journey began when I was reviewing the Holb(o)rows in the 1841 census and finding a widowed Jane living with her 2 sons on London Road, Chippenham, recorded as a publican. Although the census doesn’t record any further details about the location, there are very few pubs along that road so I had a good idea that it may have been the Pack Horse, which is still there and a functioning pub today. This was confirmed when I came across the following article from The Hampshire Chronicle of Monday 09 February 1829:
This was further corroborated by the discovery of his will, in which he describes himself as a “victualer [sic]” – that is, in all likelihood, a licensed victualler, or more commonly known today as a pub landlord. He mentions his wife, Jane, and two sons – William Thomas and Thomas (very keen that the name Thomas was passed down!) – and makes his brother, Edward, his executor. What is interesting is that Thomas could not write and signs only by making his mark. Perhaps it was Jane that ran the business and that is why she was still the landlady 12 years after his death (by 1851 she is living more centrally in Chippenham with her one surviving son, William Thomas (his younger brother, Thomas, died in 1850). She herself died in 1857. William died in 1861 without marrying or having children.
Using the Wiltshire Parish Register collections at both Ancestry and FindMyPast, as well as the transcribed Wiltshire Wills at Ancestry, I was able to follow Thomas’ line back to his father, Edward, and then his father, Thomas, and then to his father, Thomas, who died in 1758 in Chippenham. Interestingly, his burial is recorded under the name Holdborough which is an unusual variant.
Parish registers indicate a few children possibly born to this Thomas:
- Elizabeth, 1698
- Susanna, 1701
- Mary, 1704
- Thomas, 1705
- Richard, 1708
(Of note is that Thomas in the above list named one of his sons Richard, improving the familial link hypothesis.)
The parish registers for Chippenham St Andrew are wonderfully complete, but I cannot find a likely Thomas Holbrow being baptised c. 1677 (roughly 20 years before the birth of Elizabeth) nor can I find a possible marriage or identifiable burial of any wife.
However …. there are a number of baptisms of the children of Josias Holborn in the 1670s – after Josias’ marriage in December 1671. These include:
- Mary, 1672
- Joane (also Jane), 1674
- Thomas, 1674
- John, 1677
- Josias (also Jonas), 1679
What’s more, there are no further entries for these children as Holborn. There are two burials for Josias Holbrow (1688 and 1721) with no corresponding baptisms. In addition, there are three infants baptised as the children of John Holborn: Mary (1664), John (1654) and Edward (1661). Similarly they too ‘disappear’. But then we come across the will of a John Holbrow of 1684 who names his children Anne, John, Elizabeth, Mary, Edward, Katherine, Jane and Cornelius. Several of these have corresponding Holbrow baptisms or burials. The wills of Edward and Cornelius confirm several of the sibling connections.
Is it possible, then, that the Thomas Holbrow who died in 1758 was actually baptised as Thomas Holborn, the son of Josias and Elizabeth? And that John Holbrow who died in 1684 was perhaps the brother of the said Josias Holborn who in turn was buried under the name Holbrow either in 1688 or 1721?
Looking at the burial register for Thomas in 1829, might it be possible to see how one name was recorded as another? Holbrow to Holbron to Holborn? This does not, of course, account for the way in which people spoke their surname. Holborow to Holbrow makes sense, Holborn to Holbrow less so.
In this instance wills do not come to my rescue as there are no Holborn wills and limited Holbrow ones from the right period and time. My old friend, the British Newspaper Archive, also lets me down. Although there was one intriguing result for Holborn & Chippenham:
Needless to say, I have reached out (via email) to St Bartholomew’s Hospital Museum to ask for more information on this – primarily who the Mr Holborn is rather than the identity of the mother or child – to see if I can find out more. Who was he to the parent(s) to give away their infant to the museum? Whilst attitudes toward conjoined twins and – presumably – stillbirths have altered over the last 200 years, I can’t imagine the parents handing it over to just anybody, implying that this Mr Holborn was somebody – especially as he had contacts or at least knew about the museum. And is the Mr Abernethy the same as John Abernethy, one of the founders of St Bartholomew’s Medical School (although wikipedia seems more concerned with him being known for giving his name to a type of digestive biscuit)?
Update: I had a wonderful response from an archivist, and sadly the “malformity” as it would have been called at the time isn’t identifiable in any of the catalogues.
In 1841 there is one family in Chippenham enumerated as Holborn (the image does seem to agree with this), although they seem to be cloth-workers who have come from Bradford-on-Avon rather than native Chippenese, and the name Holborn outside of this incoming family doesn’t continue down in the PRs. Is it, then, that the Holborns simply died out (or moved away) and this just happened to be the same time that the Holb(o)rows moved into Chippenham? Am I reading too much into the Josias connection? Of course, it doesn’t help that the marriage of Josias in 1671 puts his year of birth at somewhere around 1650 and that is solidly in the … patchy survival of old parish registers bracket, meaning that I have yet to find any likely baptisms or parents for Josias. Looking at burials and other baptisms in the are, it is possible that Josias was the son of another Josias, or he was a widower when he married in 1671 as there is a burial of a Mary Holborn in 1667, which names her as the daughter of Josias. Is this the same as the Mary Holborow baptised in 1656 the daughter of Josias? I have already mentioned the possibility of a brother to Josias, John.
So, when is a Holbrow not a Holbrow? When they are a Holborn …. possibly.
Or maybe I am completely barmy ….?!