On 14 January 1852 my 3 x great-grandfather, Thomas Halliday Hurcombe, was born.
When I was first researching my family history – apart from putting out feelers regarding my American grandfathers – the Holborow/Hurcombe lines of my mother’s ancestry marked my initial steps into this world. My mother was very close to her maternal grandmother, Edith May Holborow nee Hurcombe, and also to Edith’s parents, Alfred William Hurcombe and Harriet nee Robins, so it seemed fitting that I started here.
Back row, l-to-r: Eva, Edith, Ver.
Front row, l-to-r: little me(!), my brother Alex
I’ve always relied on the kindness of strangers (especially about 2am when the lights come on, but that’s a different story), and starting the genealogy journey I was somewhat suckered in to the use of other people’s information over finding things out on my own with the actual records. Consequently, I was happy enough when I found information regarding Alfred’s father, Thomas Halliday Hurcombe.
Alfred & Harriet Hurcombe, near Devizes
Thomas’ mother was quickly identified as Ann Hurcombe, formerly Halliday, and his father as Stephen Hurcombe. Stephen was somewhat older than Ann, being born on 13 January 1799 in Leighterton, Gloucestershire. In fact, records show that he had been married before. On 13 December 1823 he first married spinster Jane Davies and they had two children: David (27 February 1825 – 8 May 1857) and Mary (10 December 1826 – 12 May 1846). Four months later, in April 1827 Jane died.
After several years, the 36-year-old Stephen married 19-year-old Ann Halliday on 12 October 1835 in Leighterton. Ann brought another child into the family – a one year old son, George Marsh Halliday. Ann hadn’t been married before Stephen, but there was a prominent farmer in the village called George Marsh. Whilst I can’t prove anything, it may be a case that George senior fathered a son on the young Ann who then named the son after the purported father.
Stephen and Ann went on to have a number of children:
- Elizabeth: 21 Aug 1836 – 1918
- Emanuel: 03 Feb 1839 – 1922
- Emily: 11 Apr 1841 – 08 Jun 1851
- David Henry: 24 May 1845 – 10 Jan 1919
…and it was during this research, after tracing the Hurcombe line back a further couple of generations, that I came upon the death entry for Stephen: 28 March 1850.
As Thomas wasn’t born for another almost two years, it would be extremely unlikely for Stephen to be his father – as so many people had presumed and slavishly copied down (and, in fact, Stephen can still be found listed as Thomas’ father in online trees despite this glaring error in mathematics – and I doubt that Ann concentrated on the wallpaper that hard for two years …).
Other than using both her maiden and married names in her son’s name, there is no additional clue as to the identity of his father. Ann would go on to have another illegitimate son, Alfred Thomas Halliday, in 1859. Despite having been registered as a Halliday at his birth, in 1889 when Alfred married, he did so under the name Alfred Hurcombe, and appears in all of the relevant census as such. His children were all baptised with the surname of Hurcombe.
Aged almost 60, in January 1876, Ann married a Chelsea pensioner named Peter Adams – who was 13 years her junior, reversing the earlier age difference with her first husband!
Descendant Chart for Ann Halliday
So who was the father of Thomas (and Alfred)? His birth certificate simply has a line in place of father’s name. Contact with other Hurcombe/Halliday researchers mooted that at least one of the fathers may have been a younger brother of Stephen’s called David – but that is sheer speculation, and without anything such as bastardy papers we will perhaps never know how much of a Hurcombe Thomas and his (half) brother Alfred were.
Thomas went on to marry Emily Raines in the Tetbury Register Office on 17 February 1974, and the pair had 7 children – their third child (and third son) was Alfred William, my 2 x great-grandfather. He passed away on 13 March 1927 in Leighterton, with Emily following on 26 January 1938.
Gravestone of Thomas Halliday Hurcombe