A Strange Coincidence …

When I met my future hubby back in 1981, he was living with his parents on their farm in a village a few miles from my home, we still live locally now. The farmhouse is lovely, four hundred-ish years old, with beams, thick stone walls and a huge fireplace. My hubby and his brother inherited the farm following the very sad loss of my father-in-law in 2014 and we made the decision to sell the house and land – apart from one field which we kept to rent out in the future.

The farmhouse, showing the front lawn and orchard
The farmhouse in 2015
Photo my own

The solicitor kindly gave me copies of the deeds he held, disappointingly only dating back to 1902, but I was excited to see who some of the previous owners had been. I built a ‘quick & dirty’ tree for the house, including Census returns and birth, marriage and death information for the owners and then put it to one side. I didn’t want to trace their trees backwards, I just wanted information from around the time they occupied the house.

Fast forward to today. I’ve got as far as I can for now with both my South Derbyshire and Oldham ancestors so I turned my attention to my Wallis side. I’ve got back to my 2x Great Grandfather James Wallis (1857-1911) born in Codnor near Alfreton in Derbyshire. I don’t have parents for him as yet, but luckily he lived with his grandparents George (1803-?) and Mary (1808-1866) in both the 1861 and 1871 census so I know who he belongs to. I suspect he is the illegitimate son of one of George and Mary’s daughters, I’ll find out once his birth certificate arrives.*

Family tree showing my Wallis line
My Wallis side

Looking at George Wallis in the census, I noticed his wife, Mary, was born in Pilsley, Derbyshire, where my in-law’s farm is. I was pretty happy with this as I haven’t any other ancestors in the area still local to me, it’s nice to already know a bit about the area. I needed a marriage for them to find out her maiden name, which I found by searching the Derbyshire Parish Records on Ancestry. They’re also freely available on FamilySearch. I found that George Wallis married Mary Hays on the 5th January 1830 at North Wingfield church, Derbyshire. This really piqued my interest as from the house deeds I knew two of the farm owners had been Hays.

So I started to look more closely at the Hays family. I found a baptism for Mary Hays on the 1st May 1808, the daughter of John and Millicent Hays. They baptised eleven children between the years 1800 and 1825 that I’ve found so far. In order to find a connection, I started to trace the family tree of Anthony Hays (1869-1945), who bought the farm in 1909. I found his birth in 1869 on FreeBMD and his family in the 1871 census; revealing his parents to be William (1841-1911) and Mary Ann Hays. Following the census returns backwards, I found William with his parents John (1814-1847) and Hannah Hays in 1851 and 1841. Checking the parish records again for North Wingfield I found William’s baptism in 1841 and his parent’s marriage in 1839.

St Lawrence's church North Wingfield
St Lawrence’s church, North Wingfield, Derbyshire
Photo from Geograph.org.uk

I’m getting closer to the dates of my Mary Hays’ marriage, so I look for a baptism for John Hays and find one, also at North Wingfield church on the 13th March 1814 – amazingly he is also the child of John & Millicent Hays, making him my 4x Great Uncle and the younger brother of Mary, my direct ancestor!

So to my total surprise I’ve found a link between my family and my hubby’s family home, what a weird coincidence when I thought I had no connection to the area at all! Another, smaller coincidence is that Millicent, John and Mary’s mother, so my 5x Great Grandmother, is from Pentrich in Derbyshire. Some of her relatives took part in the uprising there in 1817, which I wrote my dissertation on some fourteen years ago!

Curiouser and curiouser!

*I’ve since found out another even closer link between the families and the property. Blog post here.

*James is indeed the illegitimate son of Mary Wallis, George and Mary’s daughter.

Census information from Ancestry and Find My Past
Parish Baptisms from FamilySearch and Ancestry
GRO Index references from FreeBMD


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

17 thoughts on “A Strange Coincidence …

  1. What a fun connection. It really is a small world. I’ve done a house history on my childhood home, which isn’t nearly as old as yours as mine was built about 1898, but old enough find lots about the people who lived there before my family.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Caroline, it’s always fascinating to see how we are all connected. I loved finding that my paternal grandmother’s foster mother was once married to my mother’s great-great-granduncle. And to top it off, I then discovered she was my dad’s paternal grandfather’s aunt, and had raised him too.

    Liked by 1 person

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