I like to know about the places my ancestors lived and worked, and if possible go and visit those places and explore the area, but until the other day I don’t think I had ever come across a situation in my research where an address has potentially solved a mystery for me.
I was looking the problem of Thomas NICHOLLS (my 4x great-grandfather) of Kent, hoping to be able to find his parents. I know his father’s name and a rough period for his year of birth. Whilst searching the IGI I came up with a possible baptism in Leigh, Kent. Thomas’ wife ended up living in Leigh when she re-married after his death and it is next door to Chiddingstone where Thomas and Martha had a couple of children. The connections with Leigh were strong enough to investigate this baptism record further.
The parents of this Thomas were James and Grace NICHOLLS and I hoped that they might still be alive in 1841 so that I could find them in the census. There were no obvious hits for them in Kent, either as a couple or as individuals, so I decided to change my approach. I decided to switch to the old-fashioned way of doing things, searching the census page by page, line by line, looking for any clues to their whereabouts. Leigh was a fairly small place in 1841 and it didn’t take long to find a pair of NICKELS children living with Joseph and Grace STONE in one of several properties in Leigh called Compasses.
Of course no relationship is shown in the 1841 census, but the age difference between Joseph and Grace led me to believe that this was Grace NICHOLLS, but having lost her husband she had re-married and the two children were from her first marriage. The IGI shows a marriage for Joseph STONE and Grace NICHOLLS in 1833 in nearby Sundridge, Kent (where Thomas NICHOLLS and Martha DRAPPER were married) but it doesn’t tell me if she was a widow or not.
So it looks to me like James and Grace NICHOLLS were married and had at least three children (including a Thomas, but not necessarily my Thomas). James then died and Grace re-married. Her two young children came with her when she married. The problem is the “not necessarily my Thomas” bit, as far as I can see there is only one piece of evidence to link my Thomas to James and Grace.
Joseph and Grace STONE were living at Compasses, Leigh which is the same group of properties where Thomas’ wife ended up living. It could just be a coincidence because there are several properties of the same name, but it gives the strongest evidence so far of a connection. Without more evidence I can’t be absolutely positive, but it is certainly worth investigating further.
It is almost certainly worth investigating the place as well as the people, if rate books are available for the parish I might be able to fill in the gaps between the census and see if there was a period of continuous habitation by the NICHOLLS family. They almost certainly wouldn’t have owned the property, instead it was probably tied to a job at the local farm.
I will also “adopt” this new family and try to find out some more about them. Trying to find a link from that family to mine whilst continuing to work the other way from my known ancestors. I can’t believe just how complex this little branch of my family tree is becoming, things seem to be slotting together far too neatly for my liking.