A well-beaten path
Early on in my research I found on FamilySearch a sequence of baptisms and marriages that someone had contributed. This provided a Dennis line all the way back to a Thomas Dennis born about 1660 at Measham. This seemed too good to be true, and to some degree it was.
The approximate year of birth for this Thomas was derived purely from burial at Measham on 15 Feb 1721, together with his wife Mary. There is a 10/12 (83%) chance that he was born in 1659, and this would prove important in trying to go further back.
There was a bigger obstacle. I had already found that my 3rd great grandfather (William I) was baptised in 1784 and his parents were William and Mary. He was buried at Moira in 1822 age 70. I found that William had, among other siblings, a brother named Henry and his baptism recorded mother’s maiden name as Mary Bonsor. From that I found that William (father, “William II”) had married Mary Bonsor in 1775 at Measham. But there was no baptism of a William Dennis or similar at about the right time and place to be William II. This was my first real roadblock. Without a baptism I could not find out William II’s parents and verify the FamilySearch tree.
But William was married and buried: he existed.
I hypothesised that the tree was right and that William I‘s paternal grandparents were Henry Dennis and Sarah Burn. They seemed to have had ten children, but no William. Given my understanding of the frequency of first names this seemed extraordinary; inconceivable, even.
I discovered Pallot’s Baptism Index for England. This showed “Dennis, —— / Hy Sarah 1754 / MEASHAM, DERBY[SHIRE]”. An unnamed child! There was no other Henry and Sarah, so this must have been another child of theirs; a twin to Thomas. But why no name?
I received from (initals) DR information from his cousin who he says carried out research in the late 1960s and early 1970s and could only have obtained her information from the parish records. This, he says, shows a William baptised on 4 August 1754 with parents Henry Dennis and Sarah Burn. Why would she invent this? Wishful thinking? Maybe. There was a Thomas baptised on the same day (also in England & Wales, Christening Index, 1530-1980). The records show a second Thomas baptised on 6 February 1757 (FS, Pallot’s), which implies the first Thomas died before that. It was quite normal for people to “recycle” names of deceased infants and children.
On the information available I can only conclude that the unnamed child in Pallot’s Index baptised at Measham on 4 August 1754 became William Dennis and was my 4th great grandfather.
The challenge now was to get back into the sixteenth century and the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.