The Western Parentage Mystery and Why Viewing Actual Parish Registers is Essential

I was recently contacted by Shirley Hogue who was researching a branch of the Wardell family that is distantly connected to my line. Shirley and I have my 5xGreat Grandfather, Thomas Wardell, b. 1715 in common. Thomas had two wives.. Ann was his first wife, Alice Harrison was his second. Shirley descends from Thomas and Ann, I descend from Thomas and Alice. Shirley’s question revolved around the parentage of her ancestor, William Western. William was born in Theddlethorpe All Saints, Lincolnshire in 1812. His mother was Faith Wardell, daughter of Matthew Wardell and Dinah Portas. Matthew was the son of Thomas Wardell and first wife Ann.

theddlethorpe all saints

Now to the puzzle.. William’s baptism only lists one parent, his mother Faith. It was assumed that William’s father was George Western, Faith’s deceased husband. Shirley found a later document where William listed his father as “Thomas”. Shirley assumed that Faith had married a brother of George’s after George’s death since William’s name was Western and Faith always went by the Western surname. She was looking for some proof of this marriage and therefore William’s parentage.

This is where the value of checking either the actual parish registers or at least films of the parish registers rather than relying on indexed listings such as those on familysearch.org. Not to knock the database compiled by the Church of the Latter Day Saints. It is a wonderful source and a great place to find clues as to where to start your “real” research. I fear that too many researchers only check indexed listings and therefore do not get the complete picture nor all of the facts. First of all, almost all of the surnames that I have researched over the years have multiple spellings that different branches of the family used and/or are misspelled in different records. In this case “Western” is often listed as “Weston” in church and census records. If you only rely on searching indexes .. you may miss other members of the family who are listed under different spellings. Secondly, as is the case with this puzzle.. the indexed listing of William’s (and his sister, Matilda’s) baptism record leaves out vital information.

When I first found William’s baptism record on a transcribed listing for Theddlethorpe All Saints, and saw that only his mother was listed as a parent, I incorrectly assumed that it only meant that Faith’s husband was deceased by the time of William’s birth. I had also found a record for Matilda’s baptism in Theddlethorpe in 1809 that lists both parents, Faith and George Western. So I assumed that George must have died sometime within 9 mos or so of William’s birth.

After hearing from Shirley I decided that if George was deceased and Faith remarried, the marriage would most likely be listed in the Theddlethorpe All Saints parish registers so I ordered the filmed version from the LDS FHC. I had hoped that perhaps George’s burial would also be listed. What I did find ..was neither of those items, but instead two new bits of information that clear up some of the questions, and is often the case with genealogy research, make way for an entire new set of questions.

While waiting for the film to come in I started doing some online searching for anything I could find on this family. The first thing I found was quite the surprise.. it was a “bastardy bond” filed by Faith Wardell. It states: “BASTARDY RECOGNIZANCE dated 12 Feb 1812. Mother: Faith WESTERN widow of Theddlethorpe. Putative father: Thomas CROFT of Theddlethorpe Labourer.” I immediately contacted Shirley and we decided that this would indicate that William’s father “Thomas” was in fact “Thomas Croft” not “Thomas Western” as she had first thought.

When I finally got to look at the parish registers on film I found two interesting facts that were totally left out of the transcribed versions on familysearch.org. The first was that William is listed as “baseborn”. This means that Faith’s deceased husband was NOT William’s father. This is a huge item to leave out when transcribing a record.

The second surprise was a special comment added in to Matilda Western’s baptism record. While George is listed as her father, the clerk or minister wrote in above a “carrot” in front of the George’s name the following “as we may suppose but we have never seen him in this parish for upwards of a year”. Wow! So they are making the insinuation that George may not be Matilda’s father either!

William Western

Wm Western Baptism - Click to Enlarge

Matilda Western

Matilda Western Baptism- Click to Enlarge

The family had lived in Fulstow, Lincolnshire prior to Matilda’s birth and so I had hoped to find a burial record for George there, but the parish register films for Fulstow are missing the years when George is most apt to have died. I’ll have to keep trying to see if I can find a death date for him. In the meantime it looks as if upon the death of George Western, Faith moved to Theddlethorpe where she did have other family members living there. It looks as if she fathered both Matilda and William out of wedlock, possibly both with Thomas Croft.

According to William’s obituary ” about 1828 his mother & 2 of his Brothers & 1 sister emigrated to this country (US) settling in Cincinnati (Ohio) and in 1833 he & 1 sister came & also settled in or near Cincinnati ..” . In 1841, Thomas Croft was age 70 and living on his own in Theddlethorpe. This is quite probably William’s, and possibly Matilda’s, father.

Posted in Lincolnshire, Research Tips, Wardell and tagged , , .

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