Another Black Sheep – William Hays (1841-1911)

I’ve been looking at the family of Anthony Hays (1869-1945) who owned my father-in-law’s Derbyshire farm for part of the 1900s. I’ve managed to find Anthony in all the census returns, but I’m missing his father, William Hays in the 1861 returns.

After quite a few searches on both Ancestry and Find My Past, I discovered the most likely candidate for William was resident in Derby Gaol. So I need to see if I can find out if it is the right one and also what he did to end up in there. A search on Ancestry’s Criminal Database revealed that this William had been given a three month sentence for burglary at the Assizes on the 16th March 1861 but doesn’t give his age or where he was from. The date is good though as the sentence would cover the census date of the 7th April.

So I have a look at the newspapers available on Find My Past and The British Newspaper Archive. My search takes a while, as OCR (optical character recognition) can be a little hit and miss. I narrow down the date and the County and search for William Hays and find a report from the Derby Mercury:


The Burglary at Clay Cross – Wm. Hayes of Pilsley, collier was brought up in custody of Inspector Gorman, on remand, charged with having on the night of the 6th instant, burglariously and feloniously broken into the shop of Mr. Wm. Sears, boot and shoe maker, Church-street, Clay Cross, and stealing therefrom a quantity of boots. – The Inspector produced the stolen property, part of which was found in the prisoner’s lodgings. – The evidence having been completed, he was committed for trial at the assizes.

Derby Mercury 20 March 1861
Alfreton Town hall where the weekly Petty Sessions were held
Alfreton Town Hall today. Where the weekly Petty Sessions were held. Photo from Google StreetView.

I think this is the William Hays I’m looking for; his age, occupation and place of residence all fit, so I look a little further and find a short report from the Derby Assizes on the 16th March 1861:

The newspaper logo

William Hayes, aged 19, collier, was found Guilty of a burglary at North Wingfield, on the 6th March, at the house of Mr. Sears, and was sentenced to three months’ imprisonment

Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald 23 March 1861
The gaol gate as it is today
Derby Gaol. From

So, I’ve found William Hays (1841-1911) in the 1861 census, now I can move on with him and try to sort out his marriages, which are also proving a bit of a headache!

Census Info from Ancestry and Find My Past
Criminal Register Info from Ancestry
Newspaper reports from Find My Past
Alfreton Town hall photo from Google StreetView
Derbyshire Times Logo from Added by AxG
Derby Gaol photo from Photo © Stephen Richards (cc-by-sa/2.0)

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

5 thoughts on “Another Black Sheep – William Hays (1841-1911)

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