William Hays – This Is Your Life….

I’ve decided to look further into the life of William Hays (1841-1911) my first cousin five times removed and the father of Anthony Hays (1869-1945) who owned my late father-in-law’s farm in Pilsley, Derbyshire from 1909 to 1939 .

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

In my previous post I found out about his misdemeanours & brush with the law. Following his stay in Derby gaol in 1861 by the 1871 census he is married & living in Pilsley with his wife Mary Ann and three children; John T, James Ri(e)ley and Anthony. They are all listed as William’s sons the differences being that John had been born in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, James in Lea, Derbyshire, with a different surname and Anthony in Pilsley.

In the next census there are new additions to the family; Herbert, Robert, Edith E, Noah, Emily and William all born in Pilsley. In this return, James Riley is noted as ‘wife’s son’ which would explain the different surname. But I’m puzzled as to why his wife’s son with a different surname is younger than their eldest son, John T. The penny eventually dropped – both William and Mary Ann have been married before. So I try to find their previous marriages.

I search for a birth for John T Hays in the GRO indexes rather than on FreeBMD as it (where available) gives the mother’s maiden name. I find his birth registered in Mansfield in the June quarter of 1864 – his mother’s maiden name is Turner.

Next I look for a marriage between William Hays & ? Turner between 1861 -1864 and find one also in Mansfield in the December quarter of 1862 which gives me the name Elizabeth Turner. A search for the death of an Elizabeth Hays finds one registered in Mansfield in September 1864, sadly not long after the birth of her son John.

I’m fairly confident I have the right details for William Hays, his first wife Elizabeth Turner and their son John. So I begin to look at Mary Ann, William’s second wife. I find two possible marriages for William to Mary Ann – one to Mary Ann Lee in December 1870, another to Mary Ann Hayes in 1872. To try and differentiate between them I look at the GRO indexes again for Anthony’s birth which gives his mother’s maiden name as Lee and the same for their next child Robert. So my William must have married Mary Ann Lee.

But just to be sure I look for Mary Ann Hays who married William Hays in 1872 and find the marriage entry online at Ancestry; Mary’s father is Samuel and the bride and groom both live in Chesterfield. I find her family on the census, Mary and William are living together in Tupton in 1871 and she gives her birthplace as Farnsfield in Nottinghamshire. They are definitely two separate families of the same name. Mary Ann Lee’s birthplace in the census is Lea in Derbyshire.

Lea, Derbyshire © Copyright Andrew Hill and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Confusingly there is also another William & Mary Ann Hays both born in Lea, Derbyshire but living in Leek Staffordshire!

I’m happy that I have the correct couple so I start to search for Mary Ann’s first marriage to a Riley. Typically for this family there are two possibilities – Richard Riley in 1862 and George Riley in 1865 both in the Mansfield registration district. I can’t narrow it down from this so I order James Riley’s birth certificate to find his father’s name. While I’m on the GRO website I also order William and Mary’s marriage certificate to check their father’s names.

James Riley’s birth certificate

The birth certificate arrives first and reveals James’ father to be George, so I now know which of the two marriages in the right one. James was born in Lea, Derbyshire. I also manage to find the death of George Riley aged only 19 in 1866.

The marriage certificate arrives next. William gives his father’s name as John which fits nicely, but Mary gives her first husband’s name in place of her father’s!

The marriage certificate for William Hays and Mary Ann Lee

So now that’s untangled I look for the family in the 1891 census and find them still in Pilsley; William and Mary Ann with their children, Anthony, Herbert, Noah, Emily, Mary and Edward. Also in the household are Anthony’s new wife, Rachel (nee Flint) and their daughter Hannah (or Anna) aged three months and Alfred Riley aged 3, who may be James Riley’s son.

In 1901 I find the family living on Elm Walk, Pilsley; just William, Mary Ann, Noah and the recently widowed Anthony with his three children, Hannah, Sarah and William.

Elm Walk, Pilsley, Derbyshire

Following on from this census, I find William’s death in January 1911:

The newspaper logo

On Wednesday Mr William Hays, aged 69 years, died under somewhat tragic circumstances at his home in Elm Row, Pilsley. About 1.30p.m. he was out in the backyard attending to some of his poultry when he fell to the ground. Some of his relatives ran to his assistance immediately, but the poor fellow was unconscious. He was carried by gentle hands on to the sofa, and expired there within about five minutes of the seizure. He had been unable to work for about two years, and on the Wednesday morning complained of feeling a little worse than usual, but his condition was not such as to cause alarm. One pathetic piece(?) of the tragedy is the fact that he had applied for his old age pension. The interment will take place today (Saturday), at the Parish Church.

Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald 25 January 1911

Following the death of William, Mary appears in the 1911 census living with her daughter Edith and son-in-law George Knott in Elm Walk, Pilsley, along with their four children; William, Arthur, Lydia and Eva.

Just over a year after the death of her husband, Mary Ann also died following a fall at her home.

The newspaper logo

On Thursday, of last week, Mrs Mary Ann Hays, widow of the late Mr William Hays, of Pilsley, fell downstairs and sustained serious injuries, being badly bruised about the body and her head cut open. She died last Saturday, aged 67. The interment took place at Pilsley Churchyard on Tuesday, the Rev. A.P. Birch (vicar) officiating. The chief mourners were Mr and Mrs John Hays, Whitwell (son and daughter-in-law), Mr and Mrs A Hays (son and daughter-in-law), Mr and Mrs Hbt. Hays Kirkby (son and daughter-in-law), Mr and Mrs Noah Hays, Kirkby (son and daughter-in-law), Mr and Mrs Geo. Knott (daughter and son-in-law), Mr and Mrs H Clarke (daughter and son-in-law), Mr and Mrs T Phillips (daughter and son-in-law), Mr and Mrs Edmund Hays (son and daughter-in-law), Mr and Mrs A Riley, Mr William Hays Whitwell, Misses. Ellen, Hannah, Annie and May Hays, Mr William Hays, Messrs. Charles, Thomas and Noah Hays, William Knott, Arthur Knott, William Phillips (grandchildren); Mr Andrew Lee (Lea, near Matlock), Mr Robert Lee, Mr and Mrs Geo. Lee (Clay Cross), Mr Charles Hays, Mr Edmund Hays, Mrs J Rickus, Mrs H Johnson, and Mrs Robert Hays. The following acted as bearers: – Messrs. W King, Geo Chandler, H Johnson, R Warner, R Hays, G Purrington and W Vardy

Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald 17 April 1912 pg6

William and Mary are buried together in St Mary’s churchyard, Pilsley, Derbyshire.

The grave of William and Mary Hays
My own photo

Census information from Ancestry and Find My Past
Newspaper articles from Find My Past
Newspaper Heading image from https://logos.fandom.com/wiki/Derbyshire_Times Added by AxG
GRO Index references from FreeBMD and GRO
Photos from http://www.geograph.org.uk

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

6 thoughts on “William Hays – This Is Your Life….

  1. Hi , my grandad was the son of Edith Ellen Hayes and George knott, although only 4 children are mentioned on her jack knott must have been thier 5th child being born in 1917 or there abouts. Ironically years later number 8 elm walk was the first house I bought.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Hayley, thanks for your comment, lovely to hear from you. It’s quite a coincidence ending up on the same street as your ancestors, must be a Pilsley thing! I had no idea I was related to the Hays that owned my in-law’s farm when we met.
      I’ll have a look for Jack Knott, I hadn’t looked for any more children after the 1911 census.
      If you’re interested we have a Facebook group for the Hays family – The Hay(e)s Family of Pilsley Derbyshire – if you’d like to join?


      1. There are quite a few living relatives living in pilsley, many of them have lived in pilsley all of thier lives, as I have. My grandad( Jack knott ) also owned a small holding farm on sitwell Grange Lane (Doris may farm which isn’t there anymore it is now called brookfield) and if I remember correctly Edith Ellen had the next door property Marlow cottage.

        Liked by 1 person

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