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Whose Uncle John?

Author Margaret O'Hanlon. Edited and Published 2003 Copyright © Hubmaker
No part of this publication may be reproduced by any means without the prior consent of the publisher.

Holden / Woods

I arranged to be at Mum’s when Margaret visited again to get some information on her side of the family. She told me that she was born in Hoole on the 3rd of April 1917, the daughter of Thomas and Alice Holden. She told me where to find her parent’s grave in Hoole churchyard, and that she had not long ago discovered that her mother (Alice Woods) was illegitimate. She had never known her grandmother as she had died when she was quite young, and had presumed that, as her mother had a brother, William Woods, and no grandfather was about that he had also died. Margaret knew that her mother’s family came from Barton, Nr. Preston, and she believed that the absent father was a miller.

Alice Holden, Thomas Holden, and Richard Holden

So back to the Records office to search the census returns for Barton. I found, in 1881, a Richard Woods (corn miller) with wife Alice and children, Mary Ann aged 16 and Margaret Alice aged 3, plus two male servants (both corn millers). By 1891 Margaret Alice was living with an uncle and there was no trace of the rest of the family. I wondered when the family moved to Hoole so I looked again at the 1891 and 1901 returns for that area. There was no sign of them in 1891 but in 1901 I found a Mary Ann Woods, Margaret Alice Woods, William Woods and Alice Woods, but the age of Mary Ann was 26, yet she was listed as the mother of William 18, and Alice 15, and sister to Margaret Alice, who was 24. Was this a mistake on the form or was it a different Mary? I looked at the Parish registers for Barton and found baptism entries for Mary Ann, Margaret Alice and Richard, all children of Richard and Alice Woods. Also there were entries for William and Annie, both illegitimate children of Mary Ann Woods, but I could find no record of Alice’s birth. Was Alice really christened Annie, but the dates didn’t look right. I then looked through the burials at Barton but could find nothing.

Elizabeth Sutton (nee Holden) 1853 - 1927
Elizabeth Sutton (nee Holden) 1853 - 1927

As the census showed Richard to have been born in Chipping, I looked at the burials there. These showed Annie (Mary Ann’s daughter) aged 23 months died in Preston, and Alice and Richard (parents) died in Hoole and Longton respectively (both in their 50’s). Hoole records showed Mary Ann (Margaret’s grandmother) died at 38 and her brother Richard at 49. Not a very long-lived family!

Richard Woods, Margaret Woods and Marthe Jane Heyworth

As there were no baptism records for Alice, the only thing to link her with Mary Ann is the census record, and in view of the mix up in ages, I do not find this very reliable. Perhaps I had got the wrong family for Alice and still no connections to the Suttons!
I already had a copy of my Grandmother Alice Snaylam’s marriage and death certificates but no birth certificate, so I decided to send for it, and here was my first breakthrough - Grandma’s mother was a Holden before her marriage. Margaret’s father was a Holden. Were they brother and sister? More consultations of the St. Catherine’s index produced the information which enabled me to acquire the following:-

      1. Elizabeth and Henry Sutton’s marriage certificate (showing Elizabeth’s father, John Holden).
      2. Elizabeth’s birth certificate showing mother Cicely Johnson.
      3. Cicely Holden’s (nee Johnson) death certificate.
      4. John Holden’s death certificate.

Both Cicely and John died in their early 60s, one dying of “senile dementure” and the other drinking himself to death – what a fun household that must have been!
I found Cicely’s baptism at Hoole church, but can find no sign of her marriage. As she was born and brought up in Hoole, I find this strange as girls usually marry in their own church. According to the census, John was born in Burscough, but the Burscough church is not old enough for him to have been baptised there and I cannot find any sign of him in the surrounding churches.

At this point I really needed Margaret’s help again. Did she remember anything else – had she any certificates? I really needed to prove some of these relationships were the right ones. When I phoned her she was not feeling well, so I had to leave my questions unanswered for the time being. A couple of weeks later she went into a nursing home, and unfortunately she died a few days later.

I decided to carry on with my search as a tribute to Margaret and her family.

After the Margaret’s funeral, one of her daughters gave me the cutting of Mrs. William Holden’s funeral – Margaret’s grandmother! Although there are no dates on the article, the fact that she was ‘able to join in the coronation festivities’ points to it being 1937, and indeed a further look through the Church register at Hoole reveals Margaret Holden of Black Horse Cottage being buried on 1/6/1937.

Another look at the census returns, this time for the Holdens. Margaret’s father was Thomas and in 1901 I find him living with parents William and Margaret Holden. The 1881 and 1871 shows John and Cicely Holden with children, one of whom is Elizabeth – the right age for Mum’s grandma, but I cannot connect the two families.
There are no signs of any Holdens in Hoole in 1861 but as many of the children were born in Hesketh bank, I try there. Sure enough 1861 shows John and Cicely Holden with daughter Elizabeth and son William and the ages fit, although the entry for William looks odd as it is added at the end after children younger than himself and after the visitors! Perhaps he was supposed to be staying somewhere else and came home unexpectedly.

I would be happier if I could find more proof that William was John’s son, so I decide to look through the baptisms for Hesketh Bank. I find five children christened there but no Elizabeth or William.

I know from the census that Elizabeth was born in Longton, so I look for the baptismal records at the church and find her christening (nothing for William though). This shows John’s occupation as a Joiner (but all the censuses show him as a wheelwright) and also his name was spelt Houlden. Perhaps this is why I cannot find a marriage or a birth – maybe I am spelling it wrongly.

I decide to try the St. Catherine’s again but this time I will look for Cicely Johnson and if I find her I will try to cross reference with John Holden. I can’t believe it – I have found a lady of the right name at the right time in the right place but I can’t find John at the same time. I decide to send for a certificate anyway, even though it may be the wrong one. Perhaps she married someone else first, or maybe she and John were never married. I wait with anticipation, but what a disappointment – a letter arrives saying that the church documents for this period were damaged and I must apply to Southport.

What about William? All the censuses show that he was born in Hesketh Bank. I look for a reference for his birth in the St. Catherine’s but I don’t know what registration district Hesketh Bank came under in 1856. The staff at the Southport Library say it could be Liverpool, Preston or Chorley. Preston doesn’t think it was there and I can’t believe it was Liverpool – much too far away. I ring Chorley and they think it could be Ormskirk so I try there. A very helpful lady looks through at least 10 yrs entries for Hesketh Bank but he isn’t there.

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