Every family historian has at least one elusive ancestor. I have several, but I find this chap particularly interesting - and elusive! One reason why he is a source of fascination for me is that the family stories I am aware of describe the Hughes family as quite strict Methodists. I have managed to find out something about John William's later life, but nothing about where he was born - he himself did not know, he says he is born in NK (not known) in the 1901 census. This means that I did not know very much about his early life. I do know, however, that his father is called Zachariah, as this was the name given on John William's marriage certificate - though he had died by this time - 1893. Therefore I have set out to find this Zachariah...
Where to go looking for Zachariah Hughes?
Knowing that Zachariah Hughes existed, I had to think of which records to find him in. I presumed that he lived in the North East of England, either in Northumberland or Durham, as his son, John William Hughes, got married and worked in this area - Whickham to be precise.
1) Church Records:
Perhaps I could find a baptism, marriage or death record for ZH? I have not had time or access to look at every single parish register in this area. It would be wise to start at Whickham and move outwards, probably concentrating on non-conformist registers as family tradition has that they were Methodists. Nevertheless, I looked at two incomplete indexes - the IGI and Durham Records online - to look for a Zac* or Zec* Hughes. As you may imagine, Zachariah is a name that lends itself to many variants. However, I could not find ZH in the Northeast region. The IGI gives 19 matches in England - mainly in Stafford and Worcester. There is also a Zachariah North Hughes from Clapham, Surrey - he began to pop up in a lot of places in my searches.
2) Vital registration records:
Perhaps I would be able to find ZH in the vital registraion records. I have searched the freeBMD index and done a search throug the original records on ancestry. The birth and death indexes drew a blank, however, the marriage index did have one possibility:
Marriage: Zachariah Hughes Dec1873 Darlington Durham Vol 10a, p38. There are two females on the same page - Hannah Spence & Catharine Close - one of these could be his wife. See here for an update.
3) Census records:For a long time I thought that there were no possibilities of any census entry for Zachariah. That was before I learnt to search for Zecariah & Zechariah as an alternative spelling! I have found who I believe to be my ZH in two censuses in 1861 and 1871. He is the only ZH living in NBD or DUR in these two censuses, and significantly disappears in the 1881 and 1891 censuses. An early death of ZH and his wife might explain why John William Hughes did not know his own birthplace.
These census records show that a ZH was living at 41 Consett Terrace in 1861, in Conside & Knitley, a part of Consett, County Durham. He was born in approximately 1854 in Walker, Northumberland. His parents were Josiah (b. 1812, Carmarthenshire) and Eleanor (b. 1817, Gloynoe?, Carmarthenshire) Hughes - Josiah was a 'Rail Mill Furnace Man'. In 1861, ZH was also living with other siblings - Adah, Isaiah, Gomer, Rachel, and Miriam. This appears to be a very religous family, just like the family tradition had.
In 1871, Josiah is now a widower and he and ZH are living with an Ann James, born in Carmarthenshire, who is a house servant. They are living at 363 Consett Terrace, Conside & Knitsley. A large proportion of this community appear to be from South Wales. It seems as if a large community of traveling labourers moved from South Wales to the Northeast. In this census, Josiah says he was born in Pembrokeshire, South Wales. After this census, both Josiah and Zechariah Hughes do not appear anywhere that I can find in future censuses. I need to find further information on this Hughes family and what might have happened to them.
When did Josiah and Eleanor Hughes come to the Northeast?
Assuming that this is the right family - and more evidence is needed to confirm this - it is interesting to find out when Josiah and Eleanor came to the Northeast. Looking at the births of their children from the censuses, it seems as if they lived in Dowlais, Glamorgan (now Merthyr Tydfil) up to 1844, before coming to Consett, County Durham between 1844 and 1847. Between 1847 and 1849 they moved to Walker, Northumberland, before moving back to County Durham by 1861. It has also been possible to find the family earlier in the 1851 census living at 155 Cambrian Row, Longbenton, Walker. Josiah is a 'heater in iron factory' - both Consett and Walker were centres of Iron mining and production in the mid 19th century.
This census also appears to give detailed birthplaces for Josiah and Eleanor - however, I have found them quite difficult to read - so I have magnified them here and if anyone can read them I'd be delighted to hear from you.
I think the top one is "Clydey" - Pembrokeshire, but I'm not sure what the script above the 'pemb' is. This is the birthplace of Josiah Hughes. The bottom one is place in Carmarthenshire and is the birthplace of Eleanor! I haven't yet identified this family in the 1841 Wales census!
As with many lines, I need to uncover extra records to confirm or refute these relationships, but I think that this evidence is encouraging.