To recap: I had found Henry’s baptism in early 1815, no mother’s maiden name and up to twenty seven potential siblings.
Family tree-building is not a straightforward linear process. Sure enough, using modern records makes life easy in most cases, but once you get beyond Queen Victoria a certain amount of lateral thinking is the only way forward (or should that be backwards?).
The first of the potential siblings was Mary, baptised at Measham Parish Church, St Laurence, on 10 August 1797. The last was Jane born about 1860 at Donisthorpe, according to census, but no father was recorded. Surely, Mary and Jane could not have been full sisters!
There was a second Mary baptised at Measham on 31 Jan 1808. If the first Mary had died this second Mary could have been a younger sibling. However, there was also a Ruth baptised on 8 June 1808. Would the same family have two different children baptised only five months or so apart? This seemed unlikely and I inferred that there were at least two couples named William Dennies and Elizabeth.
The first clue as to a maiden name was the baptism of Abraham at Measham Wesleyan on 22 Jan 1823. This was the something that turned up and it fitted with my family’s strong links to the Wesleyan Church. I chose Abraham because it is a less frequent name and I thought he would be easy to trace and find with parents in 1841 and 1851, but I searched in vain. Fortunately, there is an image of the original baptismal record available online (National Archives via Ancestry) with mother’s maiden name Bonsor. Two other children, Rachel 1820 and Patience 1832, were daughters of Elizabeth “Bonner” and “Boncer” respectively, which I have taken to be variant spellings of Bonsor. This still did not establish that Elizabeth Bonsor was Henry’s mother or that Abraham was his brother.
As a bonus the baptism record included Elizabeth’s parents, William and Mary, and William Dennis’ occupation as collier.
At least the marriage of William Dennies and Elizabeth Bonsor could be found: 26 December 1804, Coleorton, Leicestershire, by banns, William of Measham and Elizabeth “otp” (of this parish). An Elizabeth Bonsor was baptised at Coleorton on 15 Feb 1783, parents William Boncer and Mary Toon. Several spellings are used in different records: Bonsor, Bonser, Boncer, but these are sure to be variant spelling preferences among registrars.
A third Elizabeth
To find further confirmation I checked the 1851 census for Elizabeth Dennies and found one, at Moira Village, widow, age 66 (implying birth about 1775), char woman, born Coleorton, Leicestershire.
Other members of the household included Elizabeth, daughter, 32, lace runner, born Moira (this is significant). She tied in with baptism 31 May 1818, Measham. Also present were Selina (12), whose baptism also fitted, Mary (4), and William (1). These were all born at Moira, the grandchildren of Elizabeth Bonsor and children of the younger Elizabeth Dennies (1818), who would never marry.
The first child born after compulsory registration was introduced in 1837, by the Act of 1836, was the curiously named Selina Hough Dennis, baptised 6 Oct 1839, Donisthorpe, St John, mother Elizabeth Dennies, no father named. The details on the Entry of Birth tell that Selina was born on the 18 March 1839, 6 am, at Moira in the parish of Ashby de la Zouch, Selina Hough, Girl, no father’s name, mother Elizabeth Dennis of Moira, who recorded her mark (X) on the 30 March 1839.
Hough is a peculiar middle name. As I understand it this was sometimes used as a way of indicating who the father was. The Rawdon Arms at Moira was previously run by a family named Hough. The 1851 Census has William Hough (62), who was a brickmaker, publican and farmer of 235 acres employing 16 labourers. Was he the father of Selina?
Taking these things together it is clear that the later children belonged to Elizabeth 1818, including Elizabeth 1857 and Jane 1860.