How Claire Brown re­solved a tricky sur­name prob­lem in her fam­ily tree

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - CONTENTS -

How long have you been do­ing your fam­ily his­tory?

I have been re­search­ing my fam­ily his­tory for more than 15 years. Re­cently, I’ve con­cen­trated on the more un­usual sur­names on my tree, such as Wines and Crad­dock, both of which have re­vealed some fas­ci­nat­ing his­to­ries and the oc­ca­sional tragic story. The Brown name, al­though fairly com­mon, pre­sented me with one of the big­gest brick walls that I had to break down.

What had you un­cov­ered be­fore you hit your brick wall?

I’d traced my great great grand­fa­ther, Ed­ley Brown, born in 1853 in Bilsby, Lin­colnshire. His father was Wil­liam Brown, and his mother was Sarah née Bax­ter. I sent off for their mar­riage cer­tifi­cate, and this is where the mys­tery be­gan. On it, my 3x great grand­fa­ther gave his name as Wil­liam Brown Dun­ham, and his father’s name as John Dun­ham. Where did Dun­ham come from?

What was stop­ping you from pro­gress­ing your re­search?

Find­ing a record of Wil­liam’s birth was dif­fi­cult. Look­ing for John Dun­ham in the census didn’t help, as al­though I could find John Dun­ham in Lin­colnshire, there was no list­ing there for any child named Wil­liam Dun­ham. Was John Dun­ham his father af­ter all? I did some re­search and came across a bap­tism for Wil­liam Brown in 1826 in Swarby, Lin­colnshire – his par­ents were John and El­iz­a­beth Brown. How­ever, I couldn’t prove that this was the right bap­tism.

How had you tried to solve it pre­vi­ously?

I used many on­line sources with­out any luck. I had al­ready reg­is­tered with the WDYTYA? Mag­a­zine fo­rum, and af­ter see­ing the help­ful re­sponses peo­ple had re­ceived, I de­cided to try it for my­self. I posted some in­for­ma­tion on Wil­liam and within a short space of time had a re­ply sug­gest­ing that the Swarby bap­tism was ir­rel­e­vant, and that it was worth look­ing at an­other bap­tism, for which a link to a web­site was given. I clicked on that link and found a bap­tism en­try for Wil­liam Dun­ham, son of El­iz­a­beth Brown, sin­gle woman, on 13 Oc­to­ber 1826, Bilsby, Lin­colnshire. I was pretty sure this was my 3x great grand­fa­ther, born to a woman who was clearly telling the world who the father of her baby was by record­ing his sur­name in the bap­tism reg­is­ter.

What’s your ‘eureka mo­ment’?

I wanted to iden­tify if El­iz­a­beth even­tu­ally mar­ried the father of her baby. This in­deed proved to the case. In 1828, two years af­ter Wil­liam’s birth, El­iz­a­beth Brown mar­ried John Dun­ham in Bilsby. There­fore I had iden­ti­fied my 4x great grand­par­ents, and the mys­tery of the name Dun­ham on Wil­liam’s mar­riage cer­tifi­cate was solved.

How did it solve the prob­lem?

It proved that when Wil­liam got mar­ried in 1846, his father named on the mar­riage cer­tifi­cate was in fact his bi­o­log­i­cal father, and that Wil­liam was us­ing the Dun­ham Brown name in ev­ery­day life. In later census records, he is recorded as Wil­liam D Brown, the D be­ing for Dun­ham.

What did you feel when you dis­cov­ered the so­lu­tion?

It was won­der­ful to fi­nally find that miss­ing piece of the jig­saw – to dis­cover that Wil­liam,

al­though born out of wed­lock, had par­ents who did even­tu­ally marry, and this meant I’d gone back an­other gen­er­a­tion, and con­firmed who my 4x great grand­par­ents were.

Did you dis­cover any­thing else in­ter­est­ing along the way?

Find­ing Wil­liam’s par­ents was just the start. Hav­ing con­firmed who his par­ents were, I went back to census records and dis­cov­ered that El­iz­a­beth and John sub­se­quently had 12 more chil­dren! I was also sent some news­pa­per re­ports via the WDYTYA? Mag­a­zine fo­rum about Wil­liam Dun­ham Brown, and this re­vealed more than I could have hoped for.

In 1846, Wil­liam mar­ried Sarah Bax­ter. Their first two chil­dren were Fanny (b1847) and Betsy (b1848). Both were bap­tised in Gay­ton le Marsh and given the sur­name Dun­ham.

On the bap­tism en­try for each, it states that they were the ‘daugh­ter of Wil­liam and Sarah Dun­ham’. But all their sub­se­quent chil­dren were bap­tised with the sur­name Brown, in­clud­ing my great great grand­fa­ther Ed­ley Brown. It was a news­pa­per re­port that was sent to me via the WDYTYA? Mag­a­zine fo­rum that would an­swer the ques­tion ‘why is my sur­name Brown not Brown Dun­ham?’.

In the Lin­colnshire Chron­i­cle on Fri­day 19 Jan­uary 1849 there is a re­port from the Louth Petty Ses­sions that stated “an or­der was ob­tained for the re­moval of Wil­liam Dun­ham Brown from the parish of Gay­ton le Marsh to the parish of Bilsby”. Wil­liam was be­ing thrown out of his vil­lage! What had he done to de­serve this treat­ment? Fur­ther news­pa­per searches re­vealed Wil­liam had a few brushes with the law. A news­pa­per re­port in 1845 reads: “Wil­liam Dun­ham of Gay­ton le Marsh was sum­moned for the of­fence of rid­ing on the shafts of his wagon in the parish of Tothil and dis­charged upon promis­ing to pay the ex­penses in a month.” He was also charged with com­mit­ting a bur­glary, though this was later dropped due to lack of ev­i­dence.

Af­ter leav­ing their home in Gay­ton le Marsh, the fam­ily set­tled in Bilsby. In 1852, Wil­liam and Sarah had a son, Ed­ley, my great great grand­fa­ther. They bap­tised him Ed­ley Brown, how­ever the cu­rate wasn’t fooled and made a note in the reg­is­ter – “sur­name reads Brown com­monly called Dun­ham.”

In 1854, Wil­liam was in trou­ble again. Records show on 6 Jan­uary, he was given a 12-month prison sen­tence for be­ing “an in­cor­ri­gi­ble rogue”.

It would ap­pear that run­ning into trou­ble with the law wasn’t just con­fined to Wil­liam – his brothers had their fair share of break­ing the rules. News­pa­per re­ports show that Levi Dun­ham ab­sconded from the ser­vice of his em­ployer; Austin Dun­ham was con­victed for rid­ing upon the shafts of his wagon whilst in a state of in­tox­i­ca­tion; Austin and two other men were found guilty of caus­ing a dis­tur­bance; and John Dun­ham was com­mit­ted to trial for at­tempt­ing to break into the house of the lo­cal schoolmistress – he was later ac­quit­ted of this.

What’s your ad­vice to other fam­ily his­to­ri­ans who hit an ob­sta­cle on their fam­ily tree?

Never give up! Use the

WDYTYA? Mag­a­zine fo­rum. I had so much help with Wil­liam Dun­ham Brown, and since then I have had help with other ques­tions. It is a bril­liant tool and very easy to use. I would rec­om­mend any­one hit­ting a brick wall to leave a post. You never know what you’ll see af­ter break­ing down your brick wall.

My ad­vice? Never give up! Use the WDYTYA? fo­rum!

Two years af­ter Wil­liam’s birth, John Dun­ham mar­ried El­iz­a­beth Brown in Bilsby, Lincs, in 1828

ClareCl h has b been re­search­inghi her fam­ily for the past 15 years

A news­pa­per re­port from 1845 when Wil­liam Dun­ham was charged with bur­glary

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