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”.
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.
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
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.
Filed under: family history, genealogical research, genealogy, Hayes family | Tagged: affines, affinity, Allen family, brother-in-law, daughter-in-law, family relationships, Giles Williams, Hayes family, in-laws, mother-in-law, Simon Hayes, Somerset families, son-in-law, Winscombe | 3 Comments »