The Troublesome Oldhams ….

I started looking at my Nottinghamshire based Oldham family back in 2012 and came up against a bit of a brick wall.

Alice Oldknow Oldham (1886-1927)

My Great Grandmother was Alice Oldknow Oldham the daughter of William Oldknow Oldham (1854-1886), the son of Thomas Oldknow Oldham (c1834-1904).

My problem has been in finding a baptism for Thomas – there just isn’t one! In the 1841 Census he is living with his putative parents Eliza Oldknow (c1814-?) and William Oldham(1814-1899) on Turnpike Road in Beeston, Nottinghamshire along with his younger sister Eliza and cousin James Oldham. William is a lacemaker and, like his wife, is not born in Nottinghamshire, whereas the two children are.

William and Eliza have vanished in the 1851 census; Thomas (1834), Eliza (1839) and youngest child Gervase (1842) are living with their grandparents in Oldham’s Yard, Long Eaton, Derbyshire. There is also another child of William and Eliza Oldham, William Henry, born in 1841, he’s with an Aunt, Harriet Wallis, in 1851. I’d traced William Oldham (1814) back quite a long way, thinking he was my ancestor and there is a Harriet Oldham that fits this description in the family.

I began to realise that William (1814) may not have been Thomas’ (1834) father when Thomas’ marriage certificate arrived. He married Harriet Winfield in 1852 and gives his and his father’s surname as Oldknow.* This made me wonder if Thomas was Eliza Oldknow’s illegitimate son and that his step-father’s family had been happy to take him in and call him grandson in 1841 even though he wasn’t. This thought was consolidated via William (1814) and Eliza’s (c1814) marriage certificate – they hadn’t married until 1838, followed by the birth of their three older children in 1839, 1841 and 1842. Thomas was born much earlier in 1834. So I unlinked Thomas from William and his ancestors but kept him with Eliza Oldknow as his mother and put it to one side for a while.

Until I received a copy of William Oldham’s (1814-1899) Will that is. In it, he names all four of his children, Thomas, Eliza, William and Gervase. He also appoints Thomas and Gervase as his executors, so this could mean that Thomas is William’s son, but born before his marriage to Eliza. I decided to go back to this branch of my family and have another look.

I started with the 1851 census – I have all four children, but not William and Eliza. William reappears in the 1861 census, lodging with the Barnard family in Lenton, Nottingham and he’s a widower. I wondered if Eliza had died between 1842 and 1851, and William had left the children with his parents and sister while he worked. So I looked for a possible death for Eliza in both Beeston (Basford registration district) and Long Eaton (Shardlow registration district) as the family had links with both towns. I found three possibilities at FreeBMD:

Searching for a burial, I found the two in Beeston (Basford) in 1846 and 1849 and the ages don’t match, so I can eliminate both. Whilst looking for burials I came across one in Long Eaton that is not in the GRO indexes. This one took place on the 26th May 1844 and gives the deceased an age of 30. This one would fit so I contacted both Registry offices and neither had any record of the death, so it probably wasn’t registered. A few slipped through the net in the early days of registration which is particularly frustrating in this case. It may have included an address and the informant would most likely be a family member. So the only one I can order is the Shardlow one and hope that this is my Eliza!

To add to the confusion, there’s another family with the same names in Beeston at this time. This William and Eliza also have a son called Thomas. This family stay in Broadgate, Beeston, in 1841 and 1851 and the parents are also around ten years older than my family. Looking at both census it appears that their Eliza also died between the census.

So I looked for William Oldham on the 1851 census, most likely living alone. There’s one in Osmaston, Derbyshire, not far from Beeston, working as a servant of the Gilman family. He’s noted as unmarried but may have lied to get the job as domestic servants were expected to be single. I’ve been unable to find this one in 1861 census he could be mine, although there is an age difference.

So I still haven’t managed to place Thomas Oldknow Oldham (1834) as William’s son, but hopefully I have pinpointed a death for Eliza and found William in the 1861 census, so I’ll know what happened to the family in those years.

But do I re-attach William as Thomas’s father in my Roots Magic program? I’ve drawn up a kind of pros and cons list:

+No baptism – but I haven’t found any for the other children either. I need to check the Non-Conformist records when Nottingham Archives reopens. Although I have previously searched the Beeston ones.
+Born before his parent’s marriage.
+Uses his mother’s maiden name when he marries.

+Living with his parents & then his paternal grandparents in the census.
+Named in his father’s Will as a son.
+Lives in Calais, France for 10 years alongside his brother Gervase
+Uses his father’s name on all documents except his marriage certificate
+Shares a grave with his father in Nottingham’s General Cemetery.

I think I’m going to re-attach them – pending a trip to the archives! What would you do? Is the evidence strong enough?

*I know this is the correct marriage as Thomas and Harriet lived in Calais, France for around ten years and five of their children were born there. Luckily, French birth registrations have the mother’s maiden name.

Census information and Parish baptism searches at Find My Past and Ancestry
GRO Registrations information from FreeBMD
Calais, France birth registrations and census at les Archives du Pas-de-Calais

© Caroline Cox and Caroline’s Chronicles. 2011 – current year

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