Kift / Kiff Corrections: A Tale of Two Williams and Why NOT to Make Assumptions

As many of you know, I’m deep in to double checking all of my Kieft ( Kift, Kiff, Kiffte et al ) research before putting together a family history book. During this process I’m finding some new info and resources that were not available the first time I did the bulk of my research on this family. This has lead to a few corrections. With so many Kiefts ..with the same first names, living in the same areas, it has been very confusing.

One of these corrections concerns two Williams and their wives. The key to figuring out my error involves the fact that one was born in Lynton and the other in Marwood/East Down. It also serves a good lesson in NOT making “assumptions” when doing genealogy research. I’m usually very careful about looking for facts to back up assumptions..and I failed in this one.

I originally had the wife for William Kiff b. Marwood, East Down .. as Mary Rottenbury (Rattenbury?). I realize now that one of the reasons that I assumed that the Marwood/East Down William was the husband of Mary Rottenbury was because in 1891 William and Mary Rottenbury lived in Arlington next door to Jeremiah Kiff, who is brother to the William born in Marwood/East Down.. both sons of William and Grace Coats Kiff.

Westacott Kiff

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The key to unlocking the mix up was with the birthplaces and birth years. The William born in Marwood was born c. 1858 and the William born in Lynton was born c. 1860. The William living in Arlington in 1891 had birth date of 1860 and birthplace of Lynton. Even though Jerimiah had the correct birthplace of Marwood.. I assumed that the census taker, or the person giving the info had made an error and this was in fact the William born in Marwood.

Looking back on everything, I realize that it is a coincidence that they lived next door to each other..they are not brothers. Jeremiah’s brother was living in Pilton that year.

I originally didn’t have a wife for William b. Lynton..because the marriage for a William Kiff and Mary Jane Westacott in 1880 was too early.. William was in Lynton with his parents in 1881. Now, with a switch of wives, the wedding dates make more sense.

I took all of the data on the two Williams that I found.. and compared birthplaces and birth years and have decided that the new info is correct. The William that was born in Marwood/East Down was born in 1858 ..and all of the records for him match that birth year. The other William, born in Lynton.. was born in 1861 and his records match that birth year. Also.. the Lynton William had children baptized in Lynton ..and in one of the records William and Mary’s residence is listed as Ilcherton (sp?) ..which is where William from Lynton’s parents lived.

Here is the updated data ( although I’ve found a bit more on the children since I ran these reports) .. with the correct wives with each William.

An interesting side note concerns William and Mary Jane Westacott. I found newspaper articles that made it clear that this couple had some major problems and at one point, in late 1880s, William announced that he was no longer responsible for debts incurred by Mary Jane. That coupled with the fact that he and his wife were not living together in 1891 indicates that they had separated. Other data points to the fact that they each took up with other partners..but I do not think they ever re-married. I think they just acted like married couples with the second partners. I have found no marriages for either William and his second “common law” wife, Bessie, nor can I find a record for a marriage between Mary Jane and a “Mr. Andrews”.

Below is the newly updated info for the “two Williams”. You will notice that one seemed to use the “Kiff” spelling and the other used the “Kift” spelling.

William of Marwood
Generation One

1. William (Kiff)1 Kieft, b. c. 1858 in Marwood, Devon, England,,,,, (son of William (Kiff) Kieft [1827 – 1913] and Grace Coats [1827 – 1909]), resided in Pilton, Devon, England, occupation Miller’s Assistant; carman d. Dec 1927 in Barnstaple, Devon, England. At time of marriage his residence was listed as “Bradiford Pilton”.
Pilton Devon In 1881 William and Mary Jane lived in Pilton. William was “Miller’s assistant”. The Miller lived next door.
In 1891 William is living in Pilton, working as Miller’s assistant. Listed as “married” however, Mary Jane is not with him. I can’t find Mary Jane anywhere in 1891.
In 1901 William and second wife, Bessie were living in Ilfracombe. Mary Jane is living in Parkstone, Dorset under surname Andrews. She is listed as “widow”. I cannot find second marriage records for either Mary Jane or William. It is possible that they separated, lived with other partners, but never actually married again.

In 1901 and 1911 William’s birthplace is listed as East Down. The switch from a Marwood birthplace to East Down is not too implausible since William’s family moved from Marwood to East Down shortly after his birth. It’s possible that the person giving the info considered him to be “from East Down” based on where they knew his family to be living.
In 1911 William was working as carman for the railway.

Death record lists birth year as c. 1857.

William was married on 12 Sep 1880 in Tiverton, Devon, England, to (1) Mary Jane Westacott, b. c. 1862 in Tawstock, Devon, England.,

Notes for Mary Jane: At time of marriage Mary Jane’s residence was same as place of wedding, the parish of Hockworthy, SS Simon & Jude
In 1871, Mary Jane, age 8, lived with her grandparents , George and Rebecca Beer in Tawstock. Her widowed mother, Mary Ann Beer Westacott, was living in Bishops Tawton with Mary Jane’s sisters, Ellen, Eliza and Emma . Mary Jane’s father, Charles, had died in 1868.
In 1881 Mary Jane and husband William were living in Pilton. Mary Jane’s mother was living with her second husband, John Luxton, and her other three daughters in Pilton as well.
In 1891 William is still in Pilton, listed as married, but Mary Jane is not with him.
I can’t find Mary Jane in 1891. Her mother was living with her parents in Tawstock along with a “grandson” Charly Westacott, age 3. He must be the son of one of Mary Jane’s sisters.
In 1901 I find William with a second wife, Bessie, living in Ilfracombe. Mary Jane is listed with surname “Andrews” and she is listed as widow living in Parkstone, Dorset. Her mother, Mary A Luxton (she remarried), 58, was living with her. I can’t find Mary Jane in 1911. Her mother is boarding in Poole, Dorset.
I can’t find a marriage for Mary Jane and a Mr. Andrews.

William was presumably married or started living with (2) Bessie (maiden name unknown) (Kiff) Kieft, c. 1899 in Ilfracombe, Devon, England. Bessie was born c. 1871 in Ilfracombe, Devon, England, occupation Laundress. In 1911 Bessie is listed as having given birth to 5 children with 3 living.

2. i. William Edward (Kiff) Kieft b. 1901.
3. ii. Daisy Winifred (Kiff) Kieft b. 1902.
4. iii. Ivy Mary (Kiff) Kieft b. c. 1903.

Generation Two

2. William Edward (Kiff) Kieft (William1), b. 1901 in Ilfracombe, Devon, England.

3. Daisy Winifred (Kiff) Kieft (William1), b. 1902 in Ilfracombe, Devon, England.

She was married in 1936 in Totnes, Devon, England, to William G. Mould.

4. Ivy Mary (Kiff) Kieft (William1), b. c. 1903 in Ilfracombe, Devon, England.

William of Lynton

Generation One

1. William (Kift)1 Kieft, b. 1861 in Lynton, Devon, England,, (son of Thomas (Kift) Kieft [1814 – 1889] and Maria Crocombe [1822 – 1897]), baptized 1 Sep 1861 in Lynton, Devon, England.

In 1881 William was 21, farm servant, living with his parents in Lynton. That same census year there is another William Kiff, b. 1861, Lynton working as agricultural laborer in Countisbury. I wonder if this is the same William, counted twice in the same census.
He and Mary were married in 1882
Daughter, Anna Maria Kift’s, bp 15 Apr 1888 in Lynton lists parents as William and Mary of “B. Mill”, Lynton
In 1901 the family lived in Goodleigh, Devon.
In 1911, William, Mary and three youngest children lived in Bratton Fleming.

There are two possible death records for William: both born c. 1860 d. 1928 or d. 1950 in Barnstaple.

William was married in 1882 in Barnstaple, Devon, England, to Mary Rottenbury, b. c. 1863 in Martinhoe, Devon, England.
In 1911 Mary is listed as having given birth to 9 children with 7 living. William’s brother James married a Mary Jane Rottenbury, however, they are not sisters. Both born Martinhoe, so perhaps, cousins.

2. i. Emily Mary2 Kieft b. c. 1883.
3. ii. Martha Kieft b. c. 1885.
4. iii. Annie Maria Kieft b. 1888.
5. iv. Elizabeth Ann Kieft b. c. 1890.
6. v. Eva Kiff b. c. 1896.
7. vi. Nellie (Kiff) Kieft b. c. 1903.
8. vii. John (Kiff) Kieft b. c. 1905.

Generation Two

2. Emily Mary2 Kieft (William1), b. c. 1883 in Lynton, Devon, England, d. c. 1904 in Barnstaple, Devon, England.

3. Martha2 Kieft (William1), b. c. 1885 in Lynton, Devon, England.

4. Annie Maria2 Kieft (William1), b. 1888 in Lynton, Devon, England, baptized 15 Apr 1888 in Lynton, Devon, England.

5. Elizabeth Ann2 Kieft (William1), b. c. 1890 in East Down, Devon, England.

6. Eva2 Kiff (William1), b. c. 1896 in Bratton, Devon, England. In 1901 Census, her name looks like “Na”.

7. Nellie (Kiff)2 Kieft (William1), b. c. 1903 in Weave Gifford, Bideford, Devon, England.

8. John (Kiff)2 Kieft (William1), b. c. 1905 in Weave Gifford, Bideford, Devon, England.