Try­ing to fill a south­ern gap

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QI am try­ing to fill a gap in my great-grand­fa­ther’s his­tory. His name was Jabez Wood, and he was born in Fine­don, Northamp­ton­shire, in 1839. He ap­pears on the cen­sus for 1841 and 1851 as liv­ing in Fine­don with his par­ents Thomas and Mary. I can then find no record of him un­til he mar­ries my great-grand­mother in 1878, when the mar­riage cer­tifi­cate shows him to be a wid­ower. His sis­ter Han­nah’s bap­tism is recorded on the Non­con­formist reg­is­ter, so it may be that the fam­ily was Methodist, and there­fore Jabez’s first mar­riage may not have been in a church (his sec­ond was in the reg­is­ter of­fice in Chich­ester, West Sus­sex). We had thought he went to Kent, but we can­not find any records to sup­port that piece of fam­ily folk­lore. Any help in piec­ing to­gether the miss­ing 30 years would be ap­pre­ci­ated. KATHRYN MANOUCH, VIA EMAIL

AWhen en­coun­ter­ing a gap in a male an­ces­tor’s life, my ini­tial thought is to check for a pe­riod of ser­vice in the army. The first place to look for this is in the Dis­charge to Pen­sion records of the Royal Hos­pi­tal Chelsea held at The Na­tional Ar­chives. These have been digi­tised and are on­line at­ces­ and (An­ces­try has only the in­dexes not the actual im­ages, these hav­ing been trans­ferred to its sis­ter site – for which you will need a sep­a­rate sub­scrip­tion.) The Na­tional Ar­chives Re­search Guide Bri­tish Army sol­diers up to 1913 (­tion­­search/re­searchguides/bri­tish-army-sol­diers-up-to-1913/) is help­ful in show­ing other places to search and takes you di­rect to Findmypast’s Bri­tish Army ser­vice records search page.

As al­ways when search­ing on­line data­bases, it is best to start with as lit­tle in­for­ma­tion in the search boxes as pos­si­ble, and so in this case, I en­tered only ‘Jabez Wood’. Scan­ning through the search re­sults, I found one for a Northamp­ton­shire-born Jabez Wood, whose year of birth was given as 1859! De­spite this, I checked it out and looked at the im­ages of the whole file – not at just the tran­script. Jabez Wood, born in Fine­don par­ish, signed up for the 24th Reg­i­ment of Foot on 3 De­cem­ber 1856, giv­ing his age as 22 years and his oc­cu­pa­tion as a tai­lor. This would make his year of birth around 1834 which con­flicts with the age given at dis­charge on 8 Jan­uary 1878 of 39 years and six months (mak­ing his year of birth 1838). It seems likely that the Jabez Wood who signed up for the army in 1856 was in fact un­der the age of 18 at the time. If he sub­se­quently owned up, per­haps he fudged his birth year a lit­tle ear­lier in order to re­tain ser­vice credit or pay at the full rate for the year(s) he was ac­tu­ally un­der age?

There is a GRO birth in­dex en­try for a Jabes [sic] Wood in the De­cem­ber quar­ter of 1839 (vol­ume 15 page 424) in the Welling­bor­ough reg­is­tra­tion district, which in­cludes the par­ish of Fine­don. The new GRO in­dex search pages at give the mother’s name as Law. Is it his? Does it cor­re­late with the 1878 mar­riage in Chich­ester in terms of the name and oc­cu­pa­tion of his fa­ther? Fur­ther­more, what age does he give at his mar­riage in 1878? Does this tie in with the age at dis­charge from the Army or with a birth year of 1839? If he was born in the De­cem­ber quar­ter of 1839, he would have been aged 17 at en­list­ment in 1856.

Lance Sergeant Wood may not, of course, be your an­ces­tor. The fact that he was dis­charged at Chich­ester and your an­ces­tor mar­ried there later that year is very sug­ges­tive, but you will need to in­ves­ti­gate and elim­i­nate other Jabez Wood bap­tisms/births in Fine­don to be ab­so­lutely sure. The Fine­don par­ish reg­is­ters are still held by the par­ish church, al­though pho­to­copies ex­ist at the Northamp­ton Record Of­fice (see http:// nro.adlib­host­­tails/archive/110000509). Bish­ops’ Tran­scripts ex­ist from 1706-1890 and can be ac­cessed there (where there is also a pa­per tran­script for 1813-1858), or digitally at­ces­, or at a LDS Fam­ily His­tory Cen­tre ( https:// fam­i­­tro­duc­tion_­to_LDS_Fam­i­ly_His­to­ry_Cen­ters). Another op­tion is to use the Northamp­ton­shire Fam­ily His­tory So­ci­ety’s Search Ser­vices – you can check their Per­sonal Names Data­base for a small fee ( You may, of course, have al­ready con­sulted the Non­con­formist reg­is­ter for him with no suc­cess, but you may also need to check lo­cal­ly­held Non­con­formist reg­is­ters for 1837 on­wards.

How­ever, the ser­vice record of Jabez Wood on Findmypast is an in­ter­est­ing one. Orig­i­nally signing up for the 24th Reg­i­ment of Foot in 1856, he sub­se­quently vol­un­teered for the 35th in 1861 and was rapidly pro­moted to Sergeant. There are, though, two Courts Mar­tial in his record, and he was re­duced to Pri­vate twice, only to work his way up again to Lance Sergeant by 1878.

The first part of his ser­vice (10 years and 8 months) was in In­dia, so it may be that his first mar­riage took place there. In this case, you need to look for a mar­riage and the bap­tisms and burials of any chil­dren or the burial of his wife in the Bri­tish In­dia Ec­cle­si­as­ti­cal Re­turns on Findmypast ( http://search.findmypast. bri­tish-in­dia-of­fice-mar­riages) and also in the Gen­eral Reg­is­ter Of­fice Overseas reg­is­ters ( http://search.findmypast. his­tor­i­cal-records?SearchedRecord­setName=overseas&Re­gion=World).

He seems to have re­turned to Eng­land around 1868 – first to Portsmouth, then Alder­shot, and fi­nally Chich­ester from 1872 - so it may be that you will find an en­try for the death of his first wife in the rel­e­vant death in­dexes for these ar­eas. I ap­pre­ci­ate that with the sur­name Wood this could raise a large num­ber of pos­si­ble en­tries, so I would rec­om­mend try­ing the In­dia records first.

Sol­diers of the 24th Reg­i­ment of Foot in the 19th cen­tury

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