My brick wall: Simon Hayes of Winscombe

Genealogists often speak of a “brick wall” when they get stuck in their research and can get back no further than a certain ancestor. I’ve seen some complaining that they have been doing genealogy for a month, and have hit a brick wall. If that is a brick wall, then ours must be a concrete wall with razor wire on top, comparable with the Berlin Wall or the Israel Palestine one, because ours has been there for 35 years.
When we started investigating our family history in 1974 we got back fairly quickly on the Hayes side to my great great great grandfather Simon Hayes. He appeared as the father on his children’s marriage certificates, and census records showed that he was born in North Curry, Somerset some time between 1782 and 1786. And there we got stuck.
He doesn’t appear in the parish registers for North Curry, nor for those of nearby parishes like Stoke St Gregory or Durston. At some point he moved to Winscombe, where he married Rachel Allen in 1814. Her sister Hannah married Giles Williams in Meare, Somerset, in 1817, and Simon Hayes was staying with Giles Williams in the 1851 census. Occasionally we have found references to cousins or nephews and nieces, and thought they might give a clue, but they always turn out to be related on the Allen side, and not the Hayes side. In North Curry parish there is a record of a William Hayes who married a Charlotte Nott in 1796. He might possibly have been a brother or cousin of Simon Hayes, but until we can find some record of their parents it will be impossible to know. Any useful suggestions on how to break down this concrete wall will be welcome.

HayesSi1.pdf Download this file

Tombstone Tuesday: Hayes in North Curry

For over thirty years now I’ve been up against the proverbial brick wall in my Hayes family from Somerset.

My great great great grandfather Simon Hayes (or Hays) was born in North Curry, Somerset, England, about 1785, according to the 1851 and 1861 censuses. But I’ve not been able to find any record of who his parents or siblings (if any) were.

There are people with the Hayes surname buried in North Curry, like the following couple, may may be related to me, but there is no way of telling until we can get more information about the earlier generations. Until then, they are “maybe cousins”.

Hayes grave in North Curry churchyard

Hayes grave in North Curry churchyard

We visited the church about four years ago, and took the photo then. Our Simon Hayes moved to Winscombe, where he was an agricultural labourer,  and there he married Rachel Allen and had four sons: William Allen, John, Sander, and James Andrews. William Allen died young, and the others moved to Bristol where they married and had families. Sander was a vendor of milk and coal, while the other two were carpenters and builders.

I wonder if any of them knew James and Ellen, and if they regarded them as family or not.

In-laws

There was recently a discussion on the term “in-law” as in “father-in-law”, “mother-in-law”, “brother-in-law”, “son-in-law” etc.

In looking up something else I came across this entry in Fowler’s Modern English usage, which provides a good summary.

-in-law, describing relationship, was formerly also used in the sense of step- . To Sam Weller [whoever he may be] his father”s second wife was always his mother-in-law; we are not told what he called his own wife’s mother after he married. Today -in-law is never so used; my mother-in-law becomes so by my marriage, my stepmother by hers. The expression in-law derives from the Canon Law prescribing the degrees of affinity within which marriage is prohibited.

The lesson to genealogists is obvious. When you see -in-law, don’t assume what kind of relationship it refers to — always check to make sure.

This happened in our family.

In the 1861 census my ggg grandfather, Simon Hayes, was shown staying in Winscombe, Somerset, with the family of Giles Williams, whose wife was Sidonia.

Simon’s relationship to the head of the household was described as
“brother-in-law”

My first thought (and that of several other researchers into this family) was that Sidonia was Simon’s sister, and that her maiden name was Hayes.

And that was wrong.

After more research I discovered that Sidonia’s maiden name was Sweet.

Simon’s wife was Rachel Allen, and her sister Hester Allen had been Giles
Williams’s first wife, but she died before the 1861 census.

This is not a “step-” relationship, but it is a caution against jumping to
conclusions about the meaning of -in-law.

Don’t assume, always check.

Simon’s birthday

It is our son Simon’s 30th birthday today, and to celebrate he didn’t go to work.

Here he is with our puppy Fluffy Lumpkin, three and a half months old.

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