Category Archives: Yorkshire

Stranger things have happened

As a keen family historian, I spend a lot of time researching off-shoots and branches of mine and my husband’s family trees. From time to time my eye is caught by a record which opens a whole new area for me to research.

Such a thing happened when I was following the record trail for Jane Bean (1817-1887) my first cousin five times removed. Jane was baptised on 23 January 1817 in Acklam in the East Riding of Yorkshire. She was the daughter of William, a nurseryman and his wife Ann. In the 1823 Baines directory the family were living in nearby Leavening.

Jane married George Grey, a tailor, in York, in 1840 and they had four children. By 1851 three of them were living with Jane’s parents in Leavening and no census records for either George or Jane could be found.

I wondered what had happened to George and Jane and was surprised to find her next in the 1861 census in Dorset, some considerable distance from Yorkshire. There she was described as the wife of James Cameron (1813-1882). The couple were recorded as living in Clifton Road, Grove, Isle of Portland, Dorset where James was an assistant warder in the prison service at the nearby Grove prison. Other warders from the prison were also living in Clifton Rd. Two of Jane’s daughters, Mary Ann (and her husband John) and Georgiana (1845-1914), were living with James and Jane. Mary Ann (1841-1931) had married John Carrick Rennie (1831-1914), a prison warder, on 17 May 1860. The witnesses to their marriage were her sister Georgiana and William Parkin. The certificate gives Mary Ann’s fathers name as George Grey, a tailor, but does not indicate if he was alive or dead. John and Mary had moved to Brixton by 1871, where John was a prison officer in Wormwood Scrubs. (The following OS map dated 1903 is Dorset LVIII.SE.)

How Jane and James met is not clear, nor is when her first husband George Grey died. What is interesting about James is that he was in receipt of an army pension. His military records suggest that he was born on 13 October 1813 in New South Wales, Australia. James had enlisted in the British Army in the East Indies on 20th October 1826 at the age of 13. He served in the 13th Light Dragoons and participated in the Crimean War (1854-1856). As a private he was a survivor of the Charge of the Light Brigade which took place during the battle of Balaclava on 25 October 1854. It is said to be one of the most “infamous blunders” in military history, according to the National Army Museum. (The following painting of the Charge of the Light Brigade dated 2 Jan 1855 is by Henry Brabazon Utmston.)

James was wounded in the battle and eventually ended up in Scutari hospital where he spent from 31 October 1854 to 27 March 1855 recovering, before being sent home. He was promoted to corporal on 1 September 1855 and then sent to the Royal Hospital Kilmainham where he was declared unfit for service due to his chronic rheumatism 15 December 1855. James was discharged from the army on 17 October 1856 with no trade and his declared destination as London. James’ pension records provide potential clues as to where he went next. When he first received his army pension, he was in the London North district; by July 1857 he had moved to the Salisbury district, according to his Royal Hospital Chelsea records.

By the 1871 census James and Jane had moved to Lancashire and by 1881 were living in Salford with Jane’s daughter Georgiana and her family. James died on 11 December 1882 and buried in the Weaste cemetery in Salford. His death notice in the Manchester Evening News edition of 15 December 1882 was headlined “Death of a Balaclava Hero”. Perhaps almost 30 years later views on the Charge of the Light Brigade had begun to change to acknowledge those who had survived that most infamous military blunder?

So, it was something of a surprise that I had a link, through my first cousin five times removed to a survivor of the Charge of the Light Brigade.

Note: the map used in this blog has been reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland under the following creative commons licence and sourced from the NLS maps site


Battle of Balaclava. : accessed December 2022.

Baines 1823 directory. : accessed December 2022.

British Army Service Records. Collection: Royal Hospital Chelsea: Admission Books, Registers and Papers 1702-1876. : accessed December 2022.

Census records. : accessed December 2022.

England & Wales Civil Registration Death Index, 1837-1915. : accessed December 2022.

Grove Prison Museum. : accessed December 2022.

Ireland, Royal Hospital Kilmainham Pensioner Discharge Documents, 1724-1924. : accessed December 2022.

Lives of the Light Brigade. : accessed December 2022.

Manchester Evening News. : accessed December 2022.

OS Maps. : December 2022.

UK and Ireland Find A Grave Index, 1300s to Current. : accessed December 2022.

UK and Ireland Obituary Index, 1800s to Current. : accessed December 2022.

UK, Royal Hospital Chelsea Pensioner Soldier Service Records, 1760-1920. : accessed December 2022.

Urmston, Henry Brabazon. (1855) The Charge of the Light Brigade. : accessed December 2022.

Yorkshire baptisms. : accessed December 2022.

Yorkshire marriages. : accessed December 2022.

Digweed – origin of the surname

Researching the Digweed side of my family has been much helped by Jenny who had already done so much before I even got started. She has also been a wonderful source of family photographs, something which adds so much to the stories of our ancestors.

What I hadn’t realised, until I started to look at my Digweed ancestors, is that the surname isn’t a Yorkshire surname. According to the Oxford Dictionary of Family Names, Digweed, and its variant Digwood, is a locative surname. Their presumption is that it comes from Thickwood in Colerne, Wiltshire. At some point -weed was substituted for -wood.

The dictionary also provides some information about early bearers of the surname, the earliest of which was Thomas de Thikwode, found in Colerne, Wiltshire in the 1332 Subsidy Rolls. So far, I have traced the Digweed line back to probably my 8th great grandfather William Digweed, possibly born about 1600 in Thatcham, Berkshire; a place about 43 miles from Thickwood. Interestingly the dictionary mentions a record for Guilelmi Digweed 1683 in Kingsclere, Hampshire and two records in Thatcham: Thomas Digweed 1691 and Ann Digwood 1764, which could be relevant to my research.

Unfortunately, the only available on-line parish records for Thatcham are transcriptions with the earliest baptism an unnamed Diggwid dated 16 March 1627, earliest marriage John Digweed/Digwood to Mary Norcutt on 30 November 1612 and earliest burial of John Diggwid on 16 August 1629. When I looked at a small selection of the Thatcham parish records, I found the following additional surname variants: Diggweed, Diggwidd and Dugwidd. A trip to consult the originals at the County Record Office is now on my list.

My Digweed ancestors continued to live near the parish of Thatcham, probably until the middle of the 18th century, when they next appear in the parish records for Hampstead Norris in Berkshire. William (1739-1823), my 4th great grandfather, married his wife Sarah Shackler (1739-1796) on 10 March 1765 in St Mary the Virgin, Hampstead Norris (see following photograph).

St Mary the Virgin, Hampstead Norris

William and Sarah’s 6th son, John (1791-1855), my 3rd great grandfather, was baptised on 29 May 1791 in St Mary’s Church, Hampstead Norris. He married Rachel Hilliear (1793-1851) on 26 August 1811 in St Michael and All Angels Church, Inkpen. They had at least eight children which included seven sons and one daughter. The family initially lived in Inkpen and had moved to Ham by 1817 when their second son was born. John was recorded as a farm labourer living in the village of Ham in both the 1841 and 1851 censuses. It was largely an agricultural area as described in Lewis’ 1848 topographical directory of England:

Lewis’ 1848 Topographical Directory of England – Ham

Rachel and John remained in Ham until their deaths in 1851 and 1855 respectively. The following OS map dated 1877 shows the relative locations of Ham and Inkpen and the arrow indicates that Hungerford was about 4 miles north of Ham.

Extract from OS Map Berkshire XLI dated 1877

John and Rachel’s youngest son was my 2nd great grandfather Thomas (1836-1910). He was baptised on 1 May 1836 in Ham parish church and, at the age of 14, was recorded as an agricultural labourer in the 1851 census in Ham.  Thomas married Mary Ann Tuttle (1837-1900) on 1 May 1959 in St Mary’s Church, Reading. The family were living in Sherfield upon Loddon, Hampshire by the time my great grandfather Francis (1873-1959) was born.

Francis was only recorded with his parents in the 1881 census. By 1891 he was a boarder in a household in Hayes, Middlesex, where he was described as a “groom domestic servant”. At some point he moved to Yorkshire where he married my great grandmother Violet Kate Richardson (1878-1971) on 16 October 1900 in St Helen’s Church, Stillingfleet. By 1901 they were living at West Marton near Skipton where Francis was working as a “coachman domestic servant”.

It is likely that the family had moved to Escrick, near York, by 1905. In 1911 Francis, Violet and six children where living at Escrick Park with Francis described as a “coachman domestic”. He continued to work for the Lawley/Forbes-Adam family and in 1939 was described as a “Chauffeur”. The following photograph shows him with the car he drove:

Great Grandfather Francis Digweed

Francis and Violet continued to live in Escrick Park until their deaths in 1959 and 1971, respectively. The following photograph is of Francis and Violet’s grave in St Helen’s Churchyard, Escrick.

St Helen’s Churchyard, Escrick – Francis and Violet Digweed’s gravestone

I am interested in knowing more about the origins of the Digweed family on the Berkshire/Wiltshire/Hampshire borders. Do contact me if you have any further information which you are willing to share with me.

Note: the map used in this blog has been reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland under the following creative commons licence and sourced from the NLS maps site


1939 Register.  : accessed December 2021.

Births, baptisms, marriages, deaths and burials.  and : accessed December 2021.

Census Records.  : accessed December 2021.

Ham. : accessed December 2021.

Hampstead Norris (Hamstead Norreys). : accessed December 2021.

Hanks, Patrick et al. (2016.) The Oxford Dictionary of Family Names in Britain and Ireland. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 

Inkpen. : accessed December 2021.

Lewis, Samuel ed. (1848) A Topological Directory of England. London: Lewis. : accessed June 2021.

OS Maps. : accessed December 2021.

Thatcham. : accessed December 2021.

Thomas Lazenby and Antonia Armstrong – my eight times great grandparents

According to Redmonds dictionary of Yorkshire surnames, Lazenby is an example of a geographical surname which was derived from three possible places, two in Yorkshire: Lazenby near Northallerton and Lazenby near Redcar plus Lazonby in Cumberland, which suggests a number of distinct origins for the surname.

By the early 14th century there were examples of the surname in the North Riding of Yorkshire, York and the West Riding of Yorkshire. A major expansion of the surname had taken place in York and nearby villages and it is possible that my ancestors are descended from this group, although my research is still a work in progress. Certainly, by the 17th century there was a concentration of Laysenby’s and Laysnby’s in York and the nearby village of Huntington who, used distinctive first names like Seth and Wilfray. This group were linked by Redmonds to some important York families, including the anti-clerical poet Wilfrid Holme and the Snawsells family.

By the 1881 census, Lazenby was reasonably numerous in Yorkshire with higher totals in Pocklington, Selby and York. Lazonby was a rarer variant of the surname and found mostly in Durham and Cumberland.

Thomas (b. about 1684) and Antonia (b. about 1684) – Thomas was born about 1684 and there is a possible baptism for him in York dated 28 September 1864 to father Thomas Lazenbie. There is another potential baptism in Holy Trinity Church, York in 1685 to parents John and Ann, however there is also a burial record for a young man called Thomas in 1699 who may be the same person as in this baptism.

Thomas married his wife Antonia Armstrong on 17 June 1704 in St Crux church, York. Their marriage license suggested they were to be married in St Denys Church, York which, at that time, was also linked to the parish of Acaster Malbis. On the license Thomas was described as a yeoman and he signed it together with Thomas Simpson. He gave his residence as “Gilridding” which was a property in Naburn, a village near York. Naburn was also part of the parish of Acaster Malbis and was where Antonia was baptised on 3 December 1684. Her father was Methamus (Matthew) Armstrong (1650-1690) and her mother was his second wife Isabella Gray. The following descendant chart shows what’s been found so far for Methamus and his family:

Descendant chart for Methamus Armstrong

Thomas and Antonia continued to live in Naburn and had at least five children, one son and four daughters. Their second daughter Rebecca (1716-1792) was my 7th great grandmother. She may have had a child called Francis before she married her husband Nicholas Simpson (1714-1800). Rebecca and Nicholas were married by license, dated 20 July 1744, in York Minster on 27 July 1744. Their license described Nicholas as a husbandman aged 27 from Saxton and Rebecca a spinster aged 26 from Stillingfleet. It was signed Nicklas Simpson, John Nicholson and Wm Morritt. Saxton is about 12 miles from York and 8 miles from Stillingfleet. Stillingfleet is 3 miles from Naburn and 7 miles from York. I do wonder how Nicholas and Rebecca met.

The following outline descendant report shows Thomas, Antonia, their children and grandchildren.

Descendant report for Thomas Lazenby

Towards the top of the chart, I have highlighted Francis Lazenby, as one hypothesis I have, is that he was Rebecca’s illegitimate son. He appears in the Saxton records in 1756 when an indenture was paid for his apprenticeship to William Stoker, wheelwright. Francis married Susannah Stubbs (1739-1810) in Saxton on 11 April 1770 by license. The license was witnessed by John Firth and Will Morritt. It is possible that Will was either the same person who witnessed Rebecca and Nicholas’ marriage license or someone related to him. It does seem that there were some connections between the Morritt and Nicholson families, as there is a record of a William Morritt marrying Ann Nicolson on 3 December 1736 in Saxton church.

Francis and Susannah had at least six children; two of their son’s baptisms described his mother as Rebecca, daughter of Thomas Lazenby of Stockton, and his father as John Lazenby also of Stockton. It is likely that Stockton was a property about 10 miles North West of Saxton. However, no baptism has been found for Francis. 

Descendants of Rebecca and Nicholas Simpson continued to live in Saxton into the 19th century and can be found in census records. For example, William Simpson (1787-1861), my first cousin 7 times removed, was recorded in the 1851 census in Saxton village and was described as a farmer of 35 acres employing one labourer.

Lewis’ 1848 topographical dictionary of England described Saxton as follows:

Saxton, Yorkshire from Lewis’ Topographical Dictionary of England

Members of the Lazenby and Simpson families were found as tenants of both the Gascoigne family and Lord Hawke in the West Yorkshire land tax records held on Ancestry.

Lastly – I would like to know more about all the people mentioned in this blog post. So far, I’ve been unable to find burial burials for Thomas Lazenby and Antonia. He may have moved to a property called Stockton 10miles North West of Saxton, but a search of the burials records for the surrounding parishes has so far failed to find them. They weren’t found in the records of the parishes of Naburn or Stillingfleet either. Do contact me if you have any further information which you are willing to share with me.


Births, marriages and deaths. : accessed September 2021.

Census. : accessed September 2021.

Lewis, Samuel ed. (1848) A Topological Directory of England. London: Lewis. : accessed September 2021.

Naburn (in parish of Acaster Malbis). : accessed September 2021.

Redmonds, George. ((2015) A Dictionary of Yorkshire Surnames. Donington: Shaum Tyas.  

Saxton. : accessed September 2021.

Stillingfleet. : accessed September 2021.

UK, Duties Paid for Apprentices’ Indentures, 1710-1811. : accessed September 2021.

West Yorkshire, England, Select Land Tax Records, 1704-1932. : accessed September 2021.

York Minster Marriage Register. : accessed September 2021.

Yorkshire baptisms, marriages and burials. : accessed September 2021.