Encouraging Lateral Thinking

I cannot find positive proof of the parentage of my 3xgreat grandmother Sarah HOLYFIELD who has led me a merry dance over the years, but I can through other information make a very educated guess as to her origins. 

The first clue was that when John and Sarah married by Banns at Appleton in Berkshire on 4 February 1822, they both had the same surname of HOLYFIELD, both were single and of that parish. Neither of the witnesses had any direct bearing on the family as far as I have been able to ascertain.

John was easy to fit into my family. I had traced my great grandfather Herbert HOLIFIELD through the census to Faringdon in Berkshire, where he was born on 25 July 1858, but his parents had not decided at registration on a name for him, so he comes as "male" at the end of the HOLIFIELD listing. His name was discovered from the Faringdon Baptism Register. His parents were John, a plumber, and his wife Millicent. I found the family at Block Green in the 1861 census for Faringdon, together with six children, their aged ranging pretty evenly between 1 and 12. I therefore searched for John's marriage before 1849, and quickly found an entry in the GRO indexes for the June quarter of 1848. So far so good. I didn't give a cross reference to Millicent as his wife, which was just as well as when the certificate came, I found it referred to a completely different woman, Eliza GREEN, whom John had married at St Ebbe's Oxford on 7 May 1848! Oh dear! A bit of rethinking was needed, and a search for the death of Eliza and a later marriage to Millicent proved successful. Eliza had borne the four eldest children named in the 1861 census, and Millicent the two youngest, later to add another two. Eliza died from the effects of childbirth a few days after the birth of their son Robert in August 1853, and on 7 February 1856 John married Millicent BATES, again at St Ebbe's in Oxford. I do not know where the children were in the meantime, but I suspect with John's father in Appleton. From the census I discovered that John was born in Appleton in Berkshire, a parish that runs beside the south bank of the Thames to the west of Abingdon. His baptism was duly found there on 31 July 1825, the son of John, a labourer, and Sarah, the couple whose marriage was recorded there in 1822. I had by this time a lot of information on members of the HOLYFIELDs (under various spellings) in the Berkshire/Oxfordshire area. I knew that the elder John of Appleton, baptised in 1798, was the penultimate child and eldest surviving son of Richard HOLYFIELD and Nanny TREADWELL, who were married at Appleton in 1783. Richard had been born in Northleigh in Oxfordshire in 1756, one of the children of William HOLYFIELD and Hannah HAINES. Richard seems to have been rather poor at first, as he was the recipient of occasional help from an Appleton charity, but by the time he died in 1826, he described himself as a yeoman, and owned a property in Burford, Oxfordshire, which he left to his son John. But where does Sarah HOLYFIELD fit in? I found out that she died in 1834, and her tombstone in Appleton churchyard gives her age as only 31, thus making the year of her birth 1802-3. She died leaving John with four young children aged between 11 and 3, William, John, Charlotte and Richard, so it is not surprising to find in the 1841 census for Appleton that John had a housekeeper in residence. She was Caroline HOLYFIELD, and the 1851 census gives the additional information that she was then aged 38, unmarried, and born in Burford. Tantalisingly Caroline's relationship to John is given as "housekeeper", so I was little wiser about her connection with John or Sarah. There seemed a possibility that the two women were sisters, as who but such a close relative would step into the breach and bring up another woman's family without the security of marriage? Of course if she were Sarah's sister, John would be unable to marry her anyway under the Church laws of consanguinity then in force. Even John himself in his will proved after his death in 1855 refers to Caroline only as his housekeeper, leaving her the very useful sum of £100. Although no trace has been found in the Burford parish registers of a baptism for either Sarah or Caroline, there was one HOLYFIELD family living there from 1802 when William, a cooper, was married in the parish church to Elizabeth SMITH, whose father was a plumber and glazier in the town. William was the nephew of Richard of Appleton, being the eldest son of his brother John HOLYFIELD of Milton under Wychwood. It seems that the Burford and Appleton HOLYFIELDs kept in close touch over the years as both Richard and his son John (Sarah's husband) refer in their wills to a house they owned in Burford High Street, Richard stating in 1826 that it was occupied by Elizabeth HOLYFIELD, presumably the spouse of William the cooper. In 1832 ownership of the property, which was left to him by his father, entitled John to vote. Maybe it was bought by Richard when William the cooper died in 1819, not long after the birth of his youngest child, William Smith HOLYFIELD. William and Elizabeth had a number of children whose baptisms are recorded in the Burford registers. The first is Charlotte (1804), then Charlotte Smith (1806), John (1808), Elizabeth (1810), Keziah (1815) and finally William Smith in 1818. Of these the first three were buried at Burford as children or young unmarried adults. There are certainly convincing gaps between these dates into which Sarah and Caroline would fit, their presumed years of birth being 1803 and 1813. In other links with Appleton, we find John and Sarah's son John serving his apprenticeship in Burford with William SMITH, Elizabeth's brother, in the 1851 census. Elizabeth HOLYFIELD, a sojourner, married Stephen GARDNER at Appleton in April 1834. He was a shoemaker, and the grandson of a witness to the marriage of Nanny and Richard. Was she the Elizabeth baptised at Burford in 1810? It seems highly likely, and no other candidate has come to light. She sadly fared no better than Sarah, as she died at Milton in Berkshire in 1847 aged 37, leaving three young children. Another Elizabeth HOLYFIELD, a widow, married John STONE, a widower who lived at Appleton, at St Ebbe's, Oxford, in 1835, "with consent of friends". One of the witnesses was Jane TREADWELL, a member of Nanny's family. Both parties were buried at Appleton a few years later. This Elizabeth may well have been William of Burford's widow, she is not remembered on William's tombstone in Burford churchyard. In a final link between the two places, William Smith HOLYFIELD, the youngest child of William and Elizabeth, moved to Appleton before 1841, where he appears in the census aged 20 living on his own. He settled there for the rest of his life, working as a glazier, marrying and producing a large family with many descendants. He died in March 1875. When John HOLYFIELD died at Appleton in 1855, he left his house to his daughter Charlotte (named after her mother's dead sisters?), and in the 1861 census we find her living there with Caroline. Now for the first time a relationship is mentioned, Charlotte being described as Caroline's niece. Shortly after this Charlotte married her cousin Stephen HOWSE, son of her father's sister Jane, but she died in 1866 and is buried at Appleton near her parents and grandparents. Caroline's whereabouts in 1871 are unknown, she was not in Appleton nor Eynsham, across the Thames from Appleton, where she died in 1880. Her youngest Appleton charge, Richard HOLYFIELD, had set up in business there as a plumber. Before this he had gone to London where in 1857 he married his first wife Ann JAGO, who died at Eynsham in 1869. Perhaps Caroline went to help the bereaved Richard with his young family as she had for his father. On her tombstone in Eynsham churchyard she is described as the "beloved aunt of Richard HOLYFIELD", a lasting tribute I feel to the love and devotion she must have given him throughout his life, acting as the mother he never knew. When Richard took out Letters of Administration for Caroline's small estate, her next of kin was stated to be Keziah JAGO, widow. Keziah HOLYFIELD, William of Burford's daughter, had married Thomas JAGO at Moorfields Roman Catholic Chapel in London in 1845. Perhaps Richard's wife Ann JAGO was a relative of Thomas, whom he may have met when he visited the family at their home in Pimlico? This is the only proof linking Caroline with William of Burford, and it somewhat ironic that it is found at the end of her life and not the beginning! As Caroline's relationship has been given as aunt to both Charlotte and Richard, and their father John had no younger sisters, she could only have been related thus through their mother Sarah HOLYFIELD. Despite the lack of evidence, I feel through the process of deduction and elimination that this is Sarah's place in my family, as the eldest daughter of William and Elizabeth HOLYFIELD of Burford, and thus the first cousin once removed of her husband John HOLYFIELD. This link between the Appleton and Burford HOLYFIELDs had a profound effect on the lives of both families which were inextricably linked through marriage, work, property ownership and finally by death, but throughout I am sure by love. 

Ann Luntley nee Holifield