Sunday, 6 March 2011

Research plan for John Heighington

Objective:   Find birth/baptism record for John Heighington, father of Wilson Mossom, and thereby identify his parents.

Known facts:
1.            John Heighington was listed as the father of several children of Ellen Mossom, in the baptism records of St Cuthbert’s Church, Darlington, Co Durham:
a)            Eleanor Mossom, baptised 13 August 1826, daughter of John Heighington and Eleanor Mossom.
b)            John Heighington, baptised 20 September 1829, son of John and Eleanor Heighington.
c)            Wilson Mossom, baptised 10 June 1832, son of John Heighington and Eleanor Mossom, an unmarried woman.
d)            George Mossom, baptised 30 June 1837, illegitimate son of Eleanor Mossom, widow.
2.            The 1841 census shows John Heighington living in a household on Church Row, Darlington with “Ellen Heighington”, two of Ellen’s children from her marriage to Thomas Mossom, and the four children listed above, all listed with surname Heighington. John’s age was stated to be 50, which suggests a year of birth in the range 1786-1791 (ages on the 1841 census were rounded down to the nearest 5 years).
3.            In 1851, Ellen Mossom is head of her household in Church Row, with several of her children living with her. She has reverted to her original married name, and is listed as a widow. Her sons John and Wilson are now listed as Mossom rather than Heighington.
4.            There is a death registered, for a John Heighington of Church Row, but his age is listed as 83, and the cause of death is given as old age. This age is repeated on the burial record. This suggests a birth around 1765.

The death record contradicts the census– it seems unlikely that the same man could be described as 50 in 1841, then 83 in 1849.

Issues to resolve:
1.            Does the death certificate relate to the man shown on the census?
2.            If so, which age is closer to his actual age?
3.            Exactly when and where was he born?

Further questions:
1.            Why didn’t he marry Eleanor Mossom – she was free to marry, so was it that he was already married? If so, to whom.

Research strategy:
I need to answer the first question before I can do any further work, but I think the only way is to do a detailed study on any (John) Heighingtons I can find in census or parish records in the area. Heighington isn’t a common name, even in the Darlington area. For now, the search should be limited to people born in Co Durham, as the census stated that John was born in Co Durham – it correctly stated that Ellen and her first daughter weren’t, so it should be safe to assume, as a starting point at least, that John was born in Durham.

I’ve already done some preliminary work on this, using indexes at Durham Record Office, so I need to pull together my notes on this, and map the areas which have been investigated. Once I've done this I can determine some more exact steps to take - does anyone have any ideas for other places I could look?

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