Keeping it in the Family?

When I first examined the microfilm copy of Clent parish registers back in 1998, I wondered if this couple was connected to the Wilson family of Walton, Clent, from whom I am descended.

Bride: Catherine Hanbury
Groom: William Wilson
Date: 12 June 1789
Location: St Leonard’s, Clent, Worcestershire
Witnesses: Edward Price, Jane Price

The Will

The Will of William Wilson of Walton, made on 15 May 1788 and proved on 7 February 1789, identifies his nephew, also William and a grand-niece Catherine Hanbury as beneficiaries:

And I give to my Nephew Matthew Hanbury (Son of my late Sister Mary) and my Grand Niece Catherine Hanbury (daughter of my late Nephew John Hanbury) the sum of twenty pounds each


I give devise and bequeath all my messuages lands Tenements and Heredittaments and all other my real and personal Estate whatsoever and wheresover with all and every appurtenances unto my Nephew William Wilson of Walton aforesaid who now lives with me (another of the Sons of my late Brother Richard Wilson deceased) and to his Heirs Executors Administrators and Assigns to his and their own use and behoof forever, and I do herby appoint the said last mentioned William Wilson sole Executor of this my Will

The relationships between the beneficiaries mentioned above are:


The Wilson-Hanbury connection. William Wilson of Walton – red. William Wilson, nephew – yellow. Catherine Hanbury, grand-niece – green

So, did William Wilson, the nephew and main beneficiary, marry his first cousin once removed, Catherine Hanbury?

The Gravestone

Sadly, parish registers of this period do not generally record ages of the nuptial couple.  However, William of Walton shares a gravestone at Clent with a couple named William and Catharine.

Wilson gravestone at Clent

Wilson gravestone at Clent

In memory of
who departed this life
the 28th day of January 1789
aged 81 years.
Also WILLIAM WILSON late of Bournheath
He departed this life October the 30th
1821 aged 82 years
and two of his daughters who died
in their infancy.
Also of CATHARINE, wife of the said
WILLIAM WILSON of Bournheath.
she departed this life Septr 2nd 1830.
Aged [8 or 6?]6 Years

The inscribed age of Catharine is worn, so I am not sure if it is 66 or 86.  The former suggests a birth year of 1764, making Catherine 25 years younger than her husband (born ca. 1739).  The age difference is consistent with the relationship suggested by the will.

The FamilySearch baptism index confirms that a Catharine Hanbury, daughter of John and Grace Hanbury was baptised at Halesowen, Worcestershire on 17 October 1764.  The pieces are fitting together quite nicely, but I have not yet made a connection between the gravestone couple and the Hanbury family.

Bournheath, the place named as the gravestone couple’s residence, lies in Bromsgrove parish, near the boundaries with Catshill and Belbroughton.  Clent lies on the other side of Belbroughton from Bromsgrove.  A search of the FamilySearch index of baptisms for the children of William Wilson and Catharine revealed this family in Bromsgrove:

Name Date
William Wilson 4 June 1790
Jane Wilson 6 January 1792
Eleanor Wilson 5 June 1793
John Wilson 20 February 1795
Hanbury Wilson 25 January 1797
Thomas Wilson 19 April 1799

Note the name of the third son, Hanbury, which suggests a connection with the Hanbury family.

So, it is looking very likely that William Wilson did marry his 1st cousin once removed, Catharine Hanbury.  Next steps include investigating property records, electoral rolls and possible connections with the marriage witnesses, the Price family.

© Sue Adams 2013

Of this parish – Residence requirements for marriage

Back in 2001 a relative and fellow researcher sent me a copy of an entry in a parish register in response to my questions about the marriage of James Simms, a music teacher and organist at Bromsgrove, Worcestershire to Phoebe or Hebe.

Marriage of James Simms and Hebe Shaw.

Marriage of James Simms and Hebe Shaw. St Martin, Birmingham parish (Warwickshire, England). Parish registers, Marriages, 1808-1817. Family History Library microfilm 919781. Original register DRO 34/37, Birmingham Central Library.

Bride: Hebe Shaw
Groom: James Simms
Date: 5 November 1813
Location: St Martin, Birmingham

Both bride and groom claimed to be ‘of this parish’.  However, neither seems to have any connection to the parish as they were born in neighbouring counties and lived in Bromsgrove.  James’ birthplace recorded on the 1851 census appears to be Swinston, Staffs.  However there is no place of that name, but small village in Staffordshire named Swindon is likely to be the correct place.  Hebe’s birthplace recorded on the 1851 census is Wolverley, Worcestershire.  All the locations are within about 10 miles of St Martin’s church in the centre of Birmingham city.

Although the 1753 Marriage Act (also known as Hardwick’s Act) directed that marriages should take place in the parish of residence of one of the parties, this requirement was not mandatory as the validity of a marriage could not be challenged on the grounds of non-residence[1].  Evidence suggests the couple were not resident in the parish.  The Bromsgrove burial register notes that James had been the organist at Bromsgrove for 43 years on his death in 1854, placing him in Bromsgrove from about 1811, two years prior to the marriage.  The reasons why the couple chose St Martin’s may become apparent with further research.  As a prominent church in a growing city, St Martin’s could have been a popular marriage location, and there may be as yet undiscovered family connections.

So, is this the right couple?  At present they think they probably are.  I should check there are no other possible marriages in the parish registers for Wolverley and Swindon and surrounding areas.  An important thing to note is that FamilySearch does not cover all parishes.  Wolverley is included, but Swindon is not.  Although checking the index on FamilySearch yields just this marriage in a search for James Simms and Hebe between 1790 and 1841, changing the bride’s forename to Phoebe yields another three possibilities.  As they are from Wiltshire, London and Derbyshire, they are not more likely.

Now that we have reached the 10th in the 50 Marriage Mondays series, I have noticed that the need for further research keeps recurring!

[1] Probert, Rebecca (2012) Marriage Laws for Genealogists. Takeaway: Kenilworth. p. 145.