Friday, February 23, 2018

The Tale of Two Williams and The Importance of Genealogical Evidence.


I have written this blog post as a reminder of the importance of validating information and finding genealogical evidence when researching family history. When I was an inexperienced researcher of family history, I was given information about my 4th great grandparents. Without verifying the details I was given, I added two people to my family tree and researched backwards another six generations. This mistake was a remarkable learning tool for me. I have outlined the story below and  it is my hope that others will learn from my error and from the research which I conducted over some years to reconstruct a branch of my family tree.

William Hoyes, Weaver, Scales Row, Newark, 1841 Census. Image [1]


William HOYES, a weaver from Newark and Hawton, Nottinghamshire, England, was my maternal third great grandfather. The line from myself to William was as thus - my mother Alwynne Jean Reece-Hoyes, my grandfather, Ian Cuthbert Reece-Hoyes (b.1910 Queensland, Australia), my great grandfather, father Leonard Cuthbert Hoyes (b. 1875 New Zealand), my great-great grandfather ,James Berry Hoyes (b.1832 Newark, Nottinghamshire) to my three times great-grandfather, William Hoyes, of Nottinghamshire, England. This much I had researched myself.

The Tower of All Saints, Hawton, Nottinghamshire,, Image  used under Creative Commons Licence


I began researching my HOYES family history many years ago, when few, if any records were available online. I worked backwards from my maternal grandfather, Ian Cuthbert Reece-Hoyes (how the 'Reece' got there is a WHOLE other fascinating story but one for another blog post). Not far into my genealogical journey, I met someone researching the same Hoyes family who shared the following information with me  about my third great-grandfather, William Hoyes  - he was born in Claypole, Lincolnshire in 1809, to parents Thomas HOYES [1768-1863] and Ann MACHIN [1766-1841]. Being new to family history research, unaware of the importance of genealogical evidence, I accepted this 'fact', and added Claypole, Lincolnshire as William's birthplace and Thomas Hoyes and Ann Machin as his parents.

Always validate information! Image available under Creative Commons Licence.

With so many online family trees being copied from others, I believe this message is even more relevant now when I made this mistake many years ago, and it is my hope that others might avoid the same error.

TIP: Citing sources is vital when you research family history so that others can see where you found your information and how you substantiated your evidence.


Working back from my great great-grandfather, James Berry Hoyes, born in Newark in August 1832, I had found his parents William and Deborah Hoyes easily, since he was living with them in Newark Upon Trent in the 1841 census. William HOYES, a weaver by trade had married Deborah BERRY, at St Mary Magdalene's in Newark Upon Trent, Nottinghamshire, on January 30, 1832. The couple had nine children of whom my great great grandfather James Berry Hoyes who was the eldest. He was followed by William, John, Mary, George, Thomas, Samuel, Alfred and Charlotte.

1861 Census, William and Deborah Hoyes at 13 Scales Row, Newark, [2]

When I began researching my Hoyes family, I had to obtain copies of documents from England. Validating Thomas Hoyes and Ann Machin as William's parents was difficult, since no parents were named on the marriage record of William and Deborah. It was common however, to have no parents named on marriage records prior to the introduction of Civil Registration in England in July 1837.

St Mary Magdalene, Newark, Nottinghamshire where William Hoyes married. Image Wikipedia under Creative Commons


You can read about the kind of information likely to be included on English marriage records prior to Civil Registration here

Marriage of William Hoyes and Deborah Berry. Image The Genealogist [3]


Parish records, can be found on many Genealogy websites. Here are just a few - FindmypastThe GenealogistAncestry.comMy Heritage . Google searches for 'English Parish Records' can be useful in directing you to parish information on sites such as Familysearch, Forebears,  Parish Registers Online, and Genuki. These websites and others offer excellent historical and geographical information, genealogy resources and parish histories in English counties, such as Newark, Nottinghamshire. If you happen to be researching Nottinghamshire and are looking for marriage records from St Mary Magdalene, in Newark Upon Trent, Nottinghamshire from 1566 to 1760 you can find them here  [4] in an online pdf.


Being new new to family history when I was handed the names of William Hoyes' parents, I made the mistake of assuming the information was correct. As UK records became available online, I traced generations of Hoyes of Nottinghamshire, from Thomas Hoyes and Ann Machin - right back to the 1600's.

Claypole, Lincolnshire, Image Jonathan Thacker. Licensed for reuse under Creative Commons.

  • William Hoyes, born in Claypole, Lincolnshire was the right age to be my three times great grandfather (according to census records).  
  • William's father Thomas Hoyes was born in  Girton, Nottinghamshire. He had moved to Lincolnshire when he married Ann Machin in her home parish of Claypole. William's extended family on his father's side therefore, was from Nottinghamshire, so a birth in Lincolnshire and a move to Nottinghamshire for my William Hoyes appeared feasible.
  • Although Thomas Hoyes lived his married life in Claypole, Lincolnshire, employed as an agricultural labourer until his death in 1863, this did not exclude William from moving to Newark in Nottinghamshire. English parish registers show that many people moved away from their own parishes and counties after marriage, to work, or to live in the place their partner came from. William's own son, James Berry Hoyes moved from Nottinghamshire to Lincolnshire in the 1850's to work as a miller, presumably because industrialisation had made his family's occupation as hand loom weavers less required.
My original Hoyes Tree with Thomas and Ann as William's parents. Findmypast [5]


As time went on and records became accessible online, and I became a more thorough researcher, I began to suspect that Thomas Hoyes and Ann Machin were not my William's parents. The first inconsistency was that William Hoyes' birthplace of Claypole, Lincolnshire did not match the birthplace that was given for him on every census record. Consistently he gave his place of birth as Newark, Nottinghamshire.


A birthplace of Claypole rather than Newark on census records could be regarded as a clue, but far from evidence that I had the wrong birth for William. There were factors which could explain this discrepancy.
  •  In a Census, people sometimes substituted their place of birth for the place in which they lived. There could be a variety of reasons for this, including eligibility to receive parish relief. 
  • I had to consider that census Enumerators made mistakes.
  • Claypole in Lincolnshire is only 5 miles from Newark, Nottinghamshire and from 1837 ( the introduction of Civil Registration), Claypole although in Lincolnshire came under the Registration District of Newark, Nottinghamshire. William may have stated Newark as his birthplace from 1841, simply because Newark was the Registration District for Claypole, Lincolnshire. 

Claypole, Lincolnshire is not far from Newark-on-Trent Image Google Maps 2018. 

The 1841 census below, shows my William Hoyes living at Scales Row, Newark Upon Trent, and states that my three times great-grandfather had been born in the county of Nottingham (Notts).

William Hoyes, Weaver, Hawton, Deanery of Newark, Nottinghamshire, 1851 Census. Image  [6]

Another indication that William Hoyes born in Lincolnshire was not my third great grandfather, was the slight age difference given for him on census records. Again there was a practical explanation to explain this discrepancy.
  • The difference in age was merely a year or two and people were known to give incorrect ages at census time. Ages were rounded up or down, especially in the 1841 and 1851 census. 
On census records from 1841 through to 1881, my three times great-grandfather's age consistently put his birth at 1810 or 1811, one or two years older than it would have been if he had been born in Claypole, Lincolnshire in 1809. Significantly however, it occurred to me that people usually lowered their age (to remain employed) - here William would have been raising his age. This was a small inconsistency, however, and far from confirmation that I had the wrong birth for William.

By this time, I had expanded my tree, adding the siblings of William Hoyes, born in Claypole, Lincolnshire to Thomas and Ann - Elizabeth, Mary, Jane, Samuel (1802-3), Sarah and Samuel. I found marriages for them and added the births of their children. I spent a great deal of time researching the ancestors of Thomas Hoyes and Ann Machin of Claypole, Lincolnshire.


When records became available online it became much easier to search for births and baptisms of ancestors. An online search of Findmypast's UK parish records, for 'William Hoyes' in both Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire found three baptisms between 1800 and 1811.
  • William Hoyes born Newark, Nottinghamshire in 1803 to John and Mary Hoyes.
  • William Hoyes born in Newark, Nottinghamshire in 1810 to John and Mary Hoyes. 
  • William Hoyes born in Claypole, Lincolnshire in 1809 to Thomas and Ann Hoyes.
The first William, born in 1803 died in 1805, eliminating him from my search.


Suddenly I had another possibility for the parents of my thrice great-grandfather. I had two Williams born a year apart and two sets of parents - Thomas and Ann Hoyes of Claypole, Lincolnshire and John and Mary Hoyes of Newark, Nottinghamshire. It looked convincing that John and Mary were more  likely to be William's parents, since he on census records he claimed to have been born in Nottinghamshire. I have found that things genealogical are not always logical so I could not just assume I had found the correct parents for my William - I needed evidence!

 Claypole, Lincolnshire, Baptism of William Hoyes 1809, Image England Births & Baptisms 1538-1975[7]
Newark, Nottinghamshire Baptism of William Hoyes 1810, Image Findmypast.[8]

By this time, I was dreading that my hunch about Thomas and Ann (Machin) Hoyes was correct - if I had the wrong parents for William on my tree, I would have to DELETE SIX GENERATIONS of ancestors. A sobering thought! But just because I had found another William Hoyes born in the right place at the right time, suggesting he in fact, was my third great grandfather, was not proof that he was.


William Hoyes had married Deborah Berry in 1832, and was living with his wife and children in the 1841 census, so I had no way to place him with parents. I needed to find a way to determine whether he was the son of John and Mary Hoyes, of Newark, Nottinghamshire, and not Thomas and Ann Hoyes of Claypole, Lincolnshire. Others researching this family disagreed with my thoughts, but I continued my search.

Who was right? Image Pixa-Bay under Creative Commons Licence ©©


Given that I had not done the original research which determined that Thomas Hoyes and Ann Machin were William's parents, I decided to take a fresh look at Thomas Hoyes, beginning with a look at all the records that I myself, had gathered about him. I knew he was born in 1768 in Girton, Nottinghamshire, the fourth child of William Hoyes and Mary (maiden surname unconfirmed) and that his siblings were William 1762,  James 1764,  John 1766,  Ann 1775 and Olivia 1777.

When I re-examined the 1841 census for Thomas Hoyes that I discovered a vital clue that I had previously overlooked. Thomas Hoyes an Agricultural Labourer (Ag Lab), was living in Claypole, Lincolnshire in 1841 with his daughter Jane aged 40, grand daughter Ann Knowles aged 19 and son William aged 30.  Looking at this record again - I COULD NOT BELIEVE I HAD OVERLOOKED SUCH A CRITICAL DETAIL!

1841 Census, Thomas Hoyes 70, Claypole, Lincolnshire, Image [9]


In 1841, my third great grandfather William Hoyes,  aged 30, was married and living in Scales Row, Newark with his wife Deborah Berry and six of their nine children - James, William, John, Mary and George. Yet here William Hoyes was, recorded on the census in Lincolnshire with his father Thomas in Claypole. Was he recorded twice in the same census? Or were there two Williams?

1841 Census, William Hoyes, Newark Upon Trent, Image [1]


People sometimes were recorded in two places on a census; if they were away from home on census night, or at a place of employment. I still had no evidence that it was not my William, recorded in two locations. I knew that being recorded in two places happened, since my great-grandmother Lillie Herminnie WESTON was recorded at two different addresses a census in the 1930's in Brisbane, Queensland.

To add to the confusion, a search of the 1841 census for William Hoyes in Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire on The Genealogist website, produced THREE men named William Hoyes all the exact same age of 30 years (*often ages were rounded up or down, particularly in the 1841 and 1851 censuses). I quickly eliminated the South Kyme, Lincolnshire William, finding that his birth had been incorrect on the census and that he was living with his wife Rhoda in South Kyme in 1861. His age was incorrect in the 1841 census, having been rounded down from 35 to 30.

1841 Census, William Hoyes, The Genealogist [10]


Looking more closely at the family of Thomas Hoyes of Claypole, Lincolnshire, in the 1841 census, I noticed that his son William was not recorded as being a weaver. I was careful not to jump to a conclusion though. Since nothing was recorded in the space for occupation, (not even the usual 'Ditto" to signify the same occupation as above), the lack of occupation was not proof that this was a different William.  He could have been visiting his father on census night.

No occupation for William Hoyes, Claypole, Lincolnshire, 1841 Census, [9]


Finally, unable to find confirmation of which set of parents belonged to my William Hoyes, I decided to delete this entire branch of family, back from William and begin a completely new search. This action was the undoing of years worth of research and removed SIX GENERATIONS of ancestors from my family tree! It was not something I did without hesitation - and just in case my hunch was wrong, I kept log of my research. I was later thankful for my paper trail, since I discovered a most unexpected and exciting twist to this story's ending!

When I started researching the Hoyes family again, there were at least 18 family trees on Ancestry which had Thomas Hoyes and Ann Machin named as William's parents. Although I had contacted a few people with my theory, no one agreed with me, so I was definitely swimming against a genealogical current of thought....

Image in the Public Domain under Creative Commons Licence


I was pursuing the theory that there were two William Hoyes, of the same age - one born in Nottinghamshire and the other in Claypole, Lincolnshire - one born to parents John and Mary Hoyes and the other to parents, Thomas and Ann Hoyes - and that I had the wrong parents and ancestors on my tree. The next move was to trace the lives of both Williams by finding them in later census records. This was the only was way to prove my theory that Thomas and Ann were not my 4th great grandparents.

A check of the 1851 census on Findmypast for the county of Nottinghamshire, found two men by the name of William Hoyes.
  •  William Hoyes, aged 40, lived in Hawton, Newark, with his wife Deborah and children John 14, Mary 12, George 10, Thomas 8, Samuel 6, Alfred 6 months and mother in law Mary Berry. This William was a Hand Loom Weaver, born in Newark, Nottingham. There was no doubt that this was my ancestor.
  • William Hoyes , aged 41, lived in South Collingham, with his wife Mary and children Samuel 4, and Thomas 3. This William was an Ag Lab... And suddenly I saw it- MY EVIDENCE - HE WAS BORN IN CLAYPOLE, LINCOLNSHIRE! This William was the son of Thomas Hoyes and Ann Machin. The same William who had been living with his father Thomas in Claypole in 1841.

1851 Census, William Hoyes, born in Claypole, Lincolnshire, [12]


You can imagine my excitement when I checked the 1861 and 1871 censuses and discovered William Hoyes from Claypole, Lincolnshire,  living and working as an Ag Lab in South Collingham, Nottinghamshire, while my ancestor William Hoyes was in Hawton, Nottinghamshire employed as a weaver. I finally had EVIDENCE that there were two men named William Hoyes and the William born in Claypole, Lincolnshire was NOT my ancestor.

  • I had evidence of the baptisms of two William Hoyes, one in 1809 in Claypole, Lincolnshire and the other in 1810 in Newark Nottinghamshire
  • I had evidence that there were two Williams in the 1841, 1851, 1861 and 1871 censuses, one born in Claypole, Lincolnshire and one in Newark, Nottinghamshire. 
  • I had evidence from the 1841 census that William Hoyes born in Claypole (still living with his father in 1841) was the son of Thomas Hoyes.  
  • I had negative evidence that there was no other birth or baptism which fitted my William Hoyes than the Newark, Nottinghamshire baptism in 1810, parents John and Mary Hoyes. Significantly, this matched the birthplace my William Hoyes gave on every census.
I had a lot of work ahead of me once I established that Thomas Hoyes and Ann Machin were not my ancestors. I had my real fourth great grandparents to find - John and Mary Hoyes who were named on the 1810 Newark baptism record of my William and I had to research my Hoyes family tree all over again!
The two Williams lived not far from each other in Nottinghamshire. Image Google Maps.


In the hope that one or both of William's parents John and Mary Hoyes were still alive at the time of the 1841 census, I conducted a search which yielded one result. There was a John Hoyes aged 80 years, living in Spittal Row, Newark. John Hoyes was living with with Robert BEECHAM 45, a weaver, his wife Sarah 45, son Robert 13, daughters Charlotte 20, and Elizabeth 15 and a 3 year old boy named William STONES.

1841 Census, John Hoyes, The Genealogist [13]

Looking at neighbours of the Beecham's in Spittal Row, Newark, Nottinghamshire, I noticed that that the area was made up of people who were weavers or worked in the weaving and lace making industry. In 1841, my three time great grandfather, William was living in Scales Row, an area which housed weavers employed at the Scales linen Mill. The weaving connection could be a clue that this John Hoyes could be William's father, but I needed evidence to connect them.

St Mary Magdalene, Newark, Nottinghamshire, Image Chris Morgan, Wikipedia, Creative Commons Licence.

Searching for a marriage between a John Hoyes and a bride named Mary in Nottinghamshire, I found only one result. John Hoyes married Mary DORRENCE on February 11, 1794 at St Mary Magdalene Church, Newark, Nottinghamshire. More research was needed to confirm that this was the correct couple however,  the church was the same one as William Hoyes and Deborah Berry had been married in, and the one William was baptised in. St Mary Magdalene was becoming a common thread weaving throughout Willam's story.
Marriage John Hoyes and Mary Dorrence 1794, St Mary Magdalene, Image Findmypast [14]
Marriage of John Hoyes and Mary Dorrence, 1794, Image [15]


My research had established that there was no other birth or baptism of a male named William Hoyes in Nottinghamshire that matched my three time great grandfather. I had eliminated the possibility that William Hoyes born in Claypole, Linconshire, was my ancestor and I was now confident to say that William who was baptised at St Mary Magdalene Church, Newark, Nottinghamshire, August 4, 1810, was son of John and Mary Hoyes, and my third great grandfather.

Image Wikipedia under Creative Commons Licence.


I searched for births of children of the above John and Mary Hoyes between 1794, the year of their marriage and 1820. On Findmypast and Familysearch, I discovered that John and Mary Hoyes had the following children baptised at St Mary Magdalene Church - Sarah 1794,  John 1797, William 1803-1805) and my three times great grandfather, William on August 4, 1810. More on whether or not this was the right couple in my next blog post.


While I was feeling elated that I had confirmed that John and Mary Hoyes were the parents of my third great grandfather, William Hoyes, I had the huge task ahead of me of researching the Hoyes family tree all over again. I had yet to confirm if the John Hoyes in the 1841 census was the right John Hoyes, and I had lost six generations of ancestors while following the wrong path in the early days of  my family history. If I had validated information given to me as an inexperienced family history researcher, William's story would have been different - but in the end this mistake was a great learning tool for me.

Image Wikipedia Creative Commons Licence

The tale of my two Williams has an incredible twist in its ending and one which I will tell in my next blog post. The moral of The Tale of Two Williams is that I learned a most valuable lesson and one which stands me in good stead in my research every day - the importance of gathering genealogical evidence and of validating information.


Image R M Media Ltd Reproduced Under Creative Commons Licence.


1. 1841Census, William Hoyes, Class HO107, Piece 868, Book 7, Civil Parish, Newark Upon Trent, County Nottinghamshire, Enumeration District 14, Folio 29, P. 9, Line 18, GSU roll 47569,,, accessed most recently 1 February 2018.

2. 1861 Census, William and Deborah Hoyes,,, accessed most recently 11 February 2018.

3. Marriage, Willam Hoyes and Deborah Berry, 1832, The Genealogist,, accessed most recently 1 February 2018.

4. Nottingham Parish Registers: St Mary's Church, Vol. 1, 1566-1763,
accessed 4 February 2018.

5. Hoyes Family Tree, Findmypast,


6. 1851 Census, William Hoyes,, Census Returns of England and Wales, 1851, The National Archives of UK, Kew, England,, accessed most recently 30 January 2018.

7. Birth, William Hoyes, Claypole, Lincolnshire, 1809, England Births and Baptisms 1538-1975, Findmypast, , accessed most recently 1 February 2018.

8. Birth, William Hoyes, Newark, Nottinghamshire, 1810, Nottinghamshire Baptisms Index 1538-1917, Findmypast, , accessed most recently 9 February 2018.

9. 1841 Census, Thomas Hoyes, Claypole, Lincolnshire,,, accessed most recently 12 February 2018.

10. 1841 Census, William Hoyes, The Genealogist, , accessed most recently 1 February 2018.

11. 1851 Census, William Hoyes, Hawton, Nottinghamshire, The Genealogist,, accessed 14 February 2018.

12. 1851 Census, William Hoyes, South Collingham, Lincolnshire,,

13. 1841 Census, John Hoyes, Newark, Nottinghamshire, The Genealogist,, accessed 10 February 2018.

14. Marriage, John Hoyes and Mary Dorrence, 1794, Findmypast,, accessed 1 February 2018.

15. Marriage, Hohn Hoyes and Mary Dorrence, 1794,,

16. Baptism, Sarah Hoyes, 1794, Findmypast,, accessed 15 February 2018.

17. Marriage, Sarah Hoyes and Robert Beecham, 1830, Findmypast,, accessed February 2018.

18. Baptism, John Hoyes, 1766, Girton, Nottinghamshire, Findmypast, , accessed most recently February 2018.

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The, ttps://

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