Posts Tagged ‘Darton’

People who are as ancient as me will remember the Andrews Sisters singing “Is you is or is you aint my baby?” It jumped into my mind from the darkest depths of childhood memory, just now, as I mouthed curses at my brickwall Danforth ancestor or rather the baby born in 1684/5 who SHOULD be him.

Every family researcher will recognise the agony. A brickwall that’s stood for a decade or more and when you find what you think is the right baptism…. there’s an inkblot in just the wrong place, the second crucial line has been eaten away by mice, or the vicar forgot to write the year or the father’s name… you can guarantee there’ll be something. And so it is for me.

The brickwall in my paternal Danforth line for nearly 15 years has been my 6xgreat-grandfather John Danforth, currier, of Kexbrough in Darton parish, West Riding of Yorkshire (nowadays in South Yorkshire) who married Mary Hinch in Rotherham on 30 December 1712. He even got himself a licence to seal the deal which, for a modestly placed person like him, was unusual at such an early date. That licence raises eyebrows just on its own.

When John obtained the licence, he gave his abode as Darton, but when he married Mary, the Rotherham register entry recorded his abode as nearby Thornhill. That makes sense because John was the first Danforth ever to appear in Darton while Thornhill was fit to bursting with Danforths (actually Dunforths to begin with) from the start of the PRs in Tudor times onwards. So there we have a nice neat link between Darton and Thornhill which, surely, should solve all the issues.

But of course, there is no suitable baptism for John in Thornhill. Well, a John Danforth was baptised there at the right time period but he seems to have stayed put, married and died in Thornhill, so can’t be the one who wandered to Darton.

I was overjoyed a few years ago to find on Ancestry a baptism on 1 February 1684/5 at Darton for John Danforth, son of John… until I checked the original. Reader, this is the classic example of the ACTO rule, the number one rule of Genealogy: Always Check The Original!

In an image of the page in the register which shows baptisms of February 1684/5, I found this:

It reads: “John Danforth son of John ^Danforth (ie. inserted above the line, followed up by a squiggle) Sladen. Bapt: Feb: first (1684/5)

Seldom in the history of genealogy has a squiggle been so crucial.

After huge amounts of lip-chewing and comparison between this and the vicar’s signature (who always signed ‘Ric. Smethurst, vic.’), I’ve concluded the squiggle says ‘vic’ and is an indication that the vicar made the change, signing to show it’s legit. This was vital in the days when a parish register entry was usually the only way to prove identity. The only other word I can read into the squiggle is ‘viz’ (or where we would nowadays put ‘ie.’)

So the logical reading of the entry is: John Danforth (surname Sladen) son of John Danforth Sladen.

But… in the 15 years before that entry in the parish register (which I have today gone through inch by inch), there is absolutely no other entry where a middle name or a double-barrelled surname appears. It just didn’t happen in those days, not even among the rich. What used to appear instead were ‘aliases’, and there are a number of those in Darton’s register, eg. Baptism 8 November 1682 for the son of Joshua LEE alias HAIGE.

We tend to assume in our modern world that when an alias appears, it’s associated with crime or deception but that didn’t apply in 1685. It might indicate an out-of-wedlock birth, with the alleged father’s surname thrown in beside the mother’s, but most often it was to do with inheritance. Many early deaths in those days, and many remarriages… it could be crucial to be known legally by both or all heritable surnames.

Considering that possibility I tried every squint and magnification in my power to turn that crucial squiggle in the baptism entry into ‘als’ for ‘alias’ but no can do.

So now what I’m left with is the most mysterious entry in the Darton parish register (so far at least), about half a dozen different possible interpretations of it and a perfectly solid Danforth brickwall still standing.

Any help or suggestions gratefully received.


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