Blind Expectations

Well, what a week this is proving to be what with one thing and another! It seems my Allen ancestors still have much to say about our family history, and now, thanks to the wills I had copied last week from Hereford Records Office, I have managed to make out new branches of the family I had not yet discovered.

A few days ago I received a copy of the will written by my great-great-great-great-grandfather Thomas Allen in 1842, only a few weeks before he passed away at the grand old age of 82. Thomas’s marriage to Sarah Jones had produced ten children, and although I had found the baptism entry for each and one of them, I had presumed their own story would be easy to tell – or at least, that I could track them down on the census. Wrong! Although this was indeed the case, son William is turning out to be a bit of a mystery. He isn’t mentioned in his father’s will in 1842, but he is recorded in the 1841 census – did he die during that narrow space of time, or was he disinherited? The former seems to be easier to prove than the latter, but as there is no shortage of William Allens who died in the right place during that period, it seems I will have to put off my “William Allen research” till another time.

The next mystery I had stumbled across was daughter Mary Ann, whose total absence from the censuses of 1841 and onward (at least under the surname of Allen) made me believe she may have died young. You will therefore understand my excitement when I discovered that she is listed on her father’s will, and not just that, but it also gives me the name of her husband: “my daughter Mary Ann, the wife of Richard Alford”.


Reference on Thomas Allen’s 1842 will confirming his daughter Mary Ann was “the wife of Richard Alford (sic)”

A quick glance at the census typing in Mary Ann’s name, estimated year of birth and place of birth, together with her newly found husband’s surname, and voilà, I easily locate her in 1851 living with husband Richard and – surprise!- two children, Sarah Alford, who is a 9 year-old at the time, and a son called Charles Hide. Hang on… Hide? Surely he can’t be their son if his surname isn’t Alford or Allen, can he? Well, a quick search for a birth of a Charles Hide (or Hyde, which is a more conventional spelling) brings up few results, but as he would have been born around 1830 (in other words, before the introduction of civil registration) the relevant baptism record may not be available online.


The 1827 marriage in Worcester between Mary Ann Allen and her first husband, William Hyde. The marriage is likely to have lasted about ten years or so.

I then decide to go down another route: as daughter Sarah appears as being just under ten years of age, chances are Richard and Mary Ann married about ten years before the 1851 census was taken. I find no immediately obvious results on FamilySearch for a marriage between an Alford and an Allen, but by doing a wildcard search I stumble across an interesting marriage entry: not only do I find a marriage dated 1840 between a Richard Halford and a Mary Ann Hyde, but the marriage transcript also mentions her father as Thomas Allen! If I was ever in any doubt that I was on the right track, this certainly confirmed that I was!


Entry of marriage between Mary Ann Hyde (née Allen) and her second husband, Richard Halford. The marriage lasted 15 years.

It therefore seemed increasingly likely that Mary Ann was married not once, but twice, and that she had a son by her first marriage, and a daughter by her second. It did not take me long to locate a marriage between a Mr Hyde and Mary Ann Allen – only one possible result showing a wedding that took place in 1827, when Mary Ann would have been just 19. I have yet to locate the death of her husband, whose name was William Hyde, but for now I have decided to focus on Mary Ann.

Following her marriage to Richard Halford/Alford, Mary Ann seems to have lived for a period in Little Cowarne, in Herefordshire, where she and her husband welcomed their daughter Sarah. By 1851 they were already living in Cradley, but a burial record for a Richard Halford in Colwall in 1855 suggests the marriage was short-lived, as indeed proven by the 1861 census, when Mary Ann is listed on the census as a widow. By then Mary Ann was forced to work as a housekeeper in order to survive, but I was relieved to find her living with her children (son Charles was a farm labourer, daughter Sarah a laundress). The family had by then made Colwall their permanent residence, and it was there that Mary Ann is likely to have died, as there is a death record for a Mary Ann Halford listed in 1884, showing the right age, in Ledbury registration district.

Sarah’s own story goes cold thereafter – I need to devote an hour or two to find out what happened to her after 1861- but Charles seems to have stayed close to his mother, and in 1868 he was married in Colwall to a woman called Martha Williams. The couple seems to have started a family early on, as confirmed by the baptism records available online: William (born 1869), twins Rosanna and Marianne (1872), Charles (1874), another Charles (1876), John (1878) and Herbert (who died in his first year of life in 1883).

The family is fairly easy to track down on the 1881 census, only this time I learn something new  about Charles himself: instead of having a profession, he is listed as “unable to work” – the first time I have ever come across such a note in my family’s research. The answer to the puzzle can be found a few columns over on the census record, as he is listed as “blind”. I quickly check previous census entries to see if I had overlooked such a heart-breaking fact, but there is no indication that before the 1880’s Charles had any eye problems.

The 1891 census offers no further clues – Charles is listed as “nearly blind” and continues to be without a profession, a situation which forced his wife as a “church caretaker and cleaner” – so Martha likely cleaned the church of Saint James, where all of my Allen ancestors were baptised for the last 300 years!

Ten years on the family is listed in the census complete for the last time, as Martha appears to have died in 1902, followed by Charles in 1906. I am however quite happy to see that living in the same household is a Alice Jane Sweatman, who shortly after married their son Charles – a nice revelation to end what had by then become a somewhat melancholy story of a very resilient and close-knit family!


The 1901 census, showing Charles Hyde as being “blind” (last column on the right) with his family and daughter-in-law-to-be.

This entry was posted in 1841 Census, 1851 Census, 1861 Census, 1871 Census, 1881 Census, 1891 Census, 1901 Census,, Birth, Colwall, England, Family Search, Genealogy, Herefordshire, Marriage. Bookmark the permalink.

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