An Unexpected Outcome
How Chris’ search for her family solved the mystery of a long lost father.
My Great-great-grandfather Henry Thomas Hickton was born in Warwick in 1826 and killed in the Crimean War in 1855. He had one brother Samuel Hickton born Stratford-Upon-Avon in 1828. Their parents were Thomas Hickton, a soldier, and Caroline Bunn. I had discovered what had become of Henry and was interested in finding out more about his only brother, but for many years the trail has been cold.
Then I received some information from a fellow researcher in the UK who had spotted a Georgina Hicton on the 1901 census, living in Kensington with her two children Caroline, aged 15 and her younger brother Frederick, aged 9, both born in Chelsea. Georgina’s husband was noted to be away from home at the time of the census, but my friend had also found the marriage of a Samuel Hicton and Georgina Gaskins in Chelsea in 1883.
The name Samuel is very common in Hickton families but Caroline was an almost unknown Hickton name, and had only appeared in my family after Caroline Bunn. Was this perhaps the family of the son of my Samuel? I investigated further.
The 1891 census showed the family living together in Fulham London. They were:
Samuel Hicton, head, aged 27, born Colchester, Essex, occupation: Turncock water
Georgina Hicton, wife, aged 27, born Cheltenham, Gloucestershire
Georgina Hicton, aged 6, daughter, born Chelsea
Caroline Hicton, aged 5, daughter, born Chelsea
May Hicton, aged 11 months, daughter, born Fulham
Now that I had Samuel with his family, I also had a place of birth for him and could follow his trail backwards through the census returns.
There was no trace of him in 1881, but he appeared with his parents on the 1871 census:
Samuel Hicton, head, aged 45, born Wirksworth, Derbyshire, occupation: labourer
Caroline Hicton, wife, aged 39, born Hockley, Essex
Samuel Hicton, son, aged 7, born Colchester, Essex
They were living at the Chelsea Barracks for the 2nd Scots Fusilier Guards.
To my surprise I received a message back letting me know thatI had solved a long-standing mystery in another branch of the Hickton/Higton family.
So Samuel’s father was also Samuel, and although Samuel the father, born about 1826, was a similar age to the Samuel I was looking for, was not him, and the name Caroline in this family was from her grandmother.
I contacted my friend to let him know that this was yet another dead-end in my search. This would normally be the end of the story but to my surprise I received a message back letting me know that I had solved a long-standing mystery in another branch of the Hickton/Higton family.
He enclosed a copy of a letter written in the mid 1970s by an elderly woman who died in 1978 at the age of 93. She was writing about her father and grandfather, and I quote parts of the letter here.
“My Fathers name was Samuel Higton. There was Charles a younger brother, and John the youngest; and a sister Elizabeth, she was the eldest. John the youngest they lost contact with at the time they were growing up. I will explain the reason. When my father, Charles, John and Elizabeth were quite small their mother died, her name was Harriet, and their father’s name was Samuel. Samuel took his family to live with a very kind person he knew and they seemed very happy. One day my father’s father took the three boys, Samuel, Charles and John for a walk to the Cardiff Docks, I think, and gave them each a penny and said he would see them soon and told them to go back home.”
“One day my father’s father took the three boys, Samuel, Charles and John for a walk to the Cardiff Docks, I think, and gave them each a penny and said he would see them soon and told them to go back home. He went on a big boat and that was the last they saw of him. My father said he got the kind person in trouble. The kind person continued to look after them as long as she could. My father got a job of making nails by hammering the tops of pieces of wire in a frame, he would not be more than ten at that time. Schools did not matter in those days. This is what I remember my father telling me when I was quite young, and Charles used to earn a few pence when he could. John was too young I expect. After my father gradually grew up they got separated to other places but used to keep in touch as long as they could. Father used to walk a long way to see John, who was then going to school and drawing on a slate and counting beads, and Charles was too. From what my father told me he had to learn what he could from others much older than himself. He lived in Wales most of his young years, then moved near Preston where he worked in the steel works.”
The woman’s grand-father Samuel, was from Wirksworth Derbyshire and was aged 20 in the 1841 census. After he left the family there was no further trace of him. It was assumed that he had either emigrated or died. The Samuel I had found is very likely the same man, so it appears that sometime after he left the family he joined the army and began a new life and a new family.
© KiwiChris 2007
The census is one of the most useful sets of records available.Placing an ancestor with their parents and siblings when they are young, or finding them in later life with a spouse and children are just a few of the things that can be discovered.
The census can be the most effective way of following an ancestor who moved across the country (perhaps due to work for example). The place of birth is recorded on census returns but is lacking on many other documents. Many mariners and soldiers would simply be impossible to find easily without census returns, due to the transient nature of their employment.
Searching the census may appear easy to do, but often an ancestor can be difficult to locate for several reasons. Mostly the problem is due to a mis-transcribed name, or errors which can occur in the original documents or when the index is compiled. It is best to view the image whenever possible to verify what has been recorded, as the index and image may have conflicting details.