Patience is a virtue

Frequently as family historians we come to a brick wall. How can you find that missing next generation or prove that link between two different families? Sometimes the only way is to shout loudly and wait for a reply – in other words, publicise your problem and hope someone, somewhere has the answer.

After several years of researching the HANCOCK family, I had reached this brick wall. I had got back to Jacob Hancock who married Sarah REYNOLDS in 1795 in Walton near Lutterworth in Leicestershire. They had several children most of whom became Framework Knitters (FWK in the census) in Walton/Kimcote/Knaptoft and many descendants who spread out from there. Jacob died in 1834 at the age of 61, which gave an approximate date of birth of 1773.

There were no Hancocks in Walton before Jacob arrived there so I started looking in the rest of Leicestershire. No other Hancocks nearby and no Jacobs baptised at the right time. The search was expanded in area and date. Nowadays, using the Familysearch website this is an easy job, but at the time it meant searching the IGI on microfiche, county by county. Eventually I found a Jacob Hancock baptised in West Haddon in 1769, the son of another Jacob and Rebecca. Was this the right one?

The first job was to search the Parish Registers of West Haddon, held at Northampton Record Office, to see whether this Jacob had stayed in West Haddon or left. It looked good. There were a lot of Hancocks in West Haddon (some are still there today!) all descended from Jacob senior and Rebecca, but all through their elder son William. Apart from his baptism there was no further mention of Jacob junior, he didn’t marry or die in West Haddon. How to prove that “my” Jacob was the same person?

No problem with the discrepancy in age. There are probably a lot of people who would knock four years off their age, if they could get away with it! My Jacob’s only daughter was named Rebecca, the same as West Haddon Jacob’s mother. If it had been Mary or Elizabeth it would not be significant, but Rebecca was a comparatively unusual name. No-one seemed to have left a will naming relatives elsewhere, so I started thinking “Why would Jacob move?”

Jacob senior died a year after the birth of Jacob junior, leaving Rebecca a widow with young children. William was aged just ten, just old enough to start working, but Rebecca would have had to apply for poor relief. In Northampton RO, there are some Poor Law Accounts for West Haddon (Ref: 147P/152 & 153). The first contains an entry on 2nd June 1770 of an “Inventory of the Goods of Rebecah Hancock”. Jacob senior was buried on 26th June so she was obviously having problems before he died. This listed everything she owned:

In the House
Seven Chairs, two little tables, one wheel &
Jersey reel, a little Iron pot & pot hooks,
a warming pan, a grate fire tongues & shovel,
a Coal peek(?) & stool, a cradle, a small looking glass
a pair of bellows, 2 old candlesticks & lazyback(?)
In the Chamber
 One bed & bedding, 2 chairs & coffer,
2 boxes, and one Chest, 
In Pantry
 A bucket, a barrel, a Cupboard & cratch & some glass
bottles, a frying pan & skillet, & a stool & foarm

If she had had any possessions that could be sold to pay for her keep they would have been and then the parish would have to pay.

Unfortunately the first account book finishes shortly after this entry and the next doesn’t start until 1796, so no mention of Jacob and if he had been sent to Leicestershire as a parish apprentice – the most likely reason for the move.

The second account book does show that Rebecca - now named as “Widow Hancock” and William, along with about 70 other inhabitants of West Haddon were receiving weekly relief. Total payments were over £300 a year. The Poor Law Accounts are a fascinating and under-used resource, which can shed light on the life of your ancestors. In this case it shows exactly when Rebecca was ill (extra money was paid for nursing) or William was paid for work (usually thatching). Then on 17th December 1798 it details 2 shillings for “laying out Widow Hancock” and another 2s paid to the bearers of Widow Hancock. The Parish Register records that Rebecca Hancock widow was buried on 19th December. The final reference to Rebecca in the accounts is on 24th December when 1s was paid for “Washing Widow Hancock’s things”. I expect her clothes were needed for some other pauper.

This second account book finished in February 1800 with William still receiving regular payments. He was now a married man with a large family. This gave me another problem; later in the 19th century the Hancock family appear to be comparatively rich – owning property in West Haddon.

So that was the point I was stuck at. I was pretty sure that the two Hancock families were connected but still had no proof. I put the name in our list of Members Interests and found a relative of the West Haddon branch and other relatives via the Internet, but no proof. A couple of years ago West Haddon held a Family History Day, which I attended and donated a copy of my tree. Chatting to the organizers I mentioned I was looking for the origins of Jacob Hancock senior and they made a note, although by this point I wasn’t expecting much.

Then a few weeks ago I received a letter from Wendy Raybould of West Haddon. She apologized that she hadn’t found Jacob, but thought I might be interested in a will she had just transcribed. This was the will of Mary BAUCUTT of West Haddon, dated 28th June 1800. She was a widow and her maiden name was Garnett – she was Rebecca’s sister! She had obviously had a more successful marriage and her husband had left her a “dwelling house in West Haddon … with the outhouses, buildings, barns, stables, yards, orchards etc”. She also seems not to have had any children, because she leaves all this, together with most of her personal possessions, to her nephew William Hancock. This was the reason for William’s rise in prosperity.

However, this was not all. One small paragraph of the will states:

All my silver spoons, tea tongs and china, a pillar and claw table, my best worked muslin apron to Agnes Bosworth and in case she dies before me, then these to William Hancock and Jacob Hancock of Kimcote, Leics, the two sons of my sister Rebecca Hancock…

At last I had got the proof. Jacob Hancock, “my” Jacob, of Kimcote, was the son of Jacob & Rebecca of West Haddon. At last I could join up the two separate trees. It felt like winning the lottery.

It just goes to prove that if you wait long enough and publicise your problem, eventually you get the answer.

Now if only I could find out where Jacob Hancock senior came from…?

Parish Registers of Kimcote (Leics RO)
Parish Registers & Poor Law Accounts of West Haddon (Northants RO)
Will of Mary Baucutt (private transcription)