The birth certificate for Henry SHAWNDEN (probably Henry SHORNDEN later WRIGHT) arrived today. Another pretty quick turn around from the GRO considering there have been two 24 hour postal strikes this week.
As usual the certificate brings with it as many questions as answers. Henry was the son of Henry and Sarah (possibly Sarah Ann) SHORNDEN (my 3x great grandparents) and he is the eldest child I have been able to trace a birth registration and baptism for.
Henry was born on the 10th January 1842 in Alton, Hampshire and his birth was registered on the 25th January 1842. He was baptised in Alton on the 6th February 1842. When his birth was registered the surname was spelt SHAWNDEN and when he was baptised it was spelt SHORDEN.
Within a couple of years the surname WRIGHT was being used for Henry’s brothers and sisters. Initially in combination with the surname SHORNDEN (or variants thereof) and then on its own. In the 1851 census the family are listed as WRIGHT. I have not yet traced many of the children in later years to find out what surnames they used when they got older.
The name of Henry’s mother is given as Sarah SHAWNDEN formerly LAY, and that is probably the key piece of information to take away from this certificate. This not only tells me that Sarah’s maiden name was LAY, but it also implies that Henry and Sarah were married after all.
This gives me another name to use to search for a marriage, baptisms of their two older children (including my 2x great grandmother), their whereabouts in the 1841 census, birth registrations and a marriage entry in the GRO Indexes.
Only slightly worrying thing is that Henry’s father’s occupation is given as bricklayers laborer which is not what I was expecting. Henry’s baptism entry has his father recorded as a cutler, this puts the seed of doubt in my mind, whether I have the right people, but I am pretty certain that this is the correct family, because of the overlap or combination of surnames for later baptisms.
I suspect that Henry’s father did whatever he could to earn a living. In the 1844 edition of Pigot’s Hampshire Directory he is listed as a cutler and grinder, but in later years he is a chimney sweep and a lodging house keeper. I suspect one job wasn’t enough for Henry’s father to support the family, so he did whatever he could to bring in some money.
The birth itself was registered by Henry’s mother Sarah, she couldn’t sign her name so just made her mark. This is probably the reason why the spelling of the name changed so much, she probably had no idea how to spell it. At least the surname LAY shouldn’t give me too many variations.
So what now? The next step is to search for any marriages for Sarah LAY and Henry SHORNDEN before 1842, also search for baptisms and birth registrations for the two children possibly under the surname LAY instead of SHORNDEN or WRIGHT. I am not sure what to look for in the 1841 census or where. I think it is safe to assume somewhere in the south of England, but possibly not necessarily confined to Kent or Hampshire.
At least I feel as if I am making some progress now, another piece of the puzzle slots into place. I would be interested to see what the other birth certificates say, whether the spellings and details changed depending on who was actually registering the birth, but with another seven children registered after Henry that is not the sort of thing I can really afford to do, just to satisfy my curiosity.