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  • Writer's pictureWendy Percival

The Elusive James Hick

For a few heady moments this week, I thought I’d cracked the mystery of James Hick’s elusive past and uncovered his guilty secret.

If you read my blog posts recently, you’ll know I’ve been finding it hard to track down James Hick/Hicks, my (possible) 2x great-grandfather, prior to 1861 when James was the lodger in the family home of my 2x great-grandmother, Eleanor Williams.

Documents needed!

I’d decided to send for the couple’s marriage certificate for more information, primarily to learn the name of James’s father. The certificate duly arrived and, assuming James wasn’t deliberately trying to mislead, his father was John Hick, a labourer.

The wedding took place on May 5th 1861 in the chapel at Little Witley, Worcestershire. Witnesses at the ceremony were George Williams, Eleanor’s younger brother, and his wife Mary.

It seems a reasonable assumption, given John Hick wasn’t a witness to his son's wedding, that he didn’t attend. Why might that be, I wondered?

Herefordshire connection

As James had always indicated in census returns that he’d been born in Herefordshire, I logged into Ancestry and entered the name John Hick, giving an estimate of his birth date and choosing Herefordshire as a place he may have lived. What popped up were 4 criminal records.

The first was the acquittal of a John Hicks, at Herefordshire County Sessions in 1841 for receiving stolen goods. Another acquittal for an unspecified felony followed in 1842, both recorded as No Bills, which I’m reliably informed means the case was dismissed due to lack of evidence. A third record in 1845, was a not guilty verdict for larceny.

However, in the final record, John Hicks was found guilty of sheep stealing and given a 12 months custodial sentence. The date of the proceedings was 1859, two years before James & Eleanor’s wedding. If this is James’s father, it would certainly explain his absence at the wedding!

However, just as I was congratulating myself on exposing James’s family secret, I noticed that the record notes gave John Hicks’s birth date as 1820, making him far too young to be James’s father.

So... back to the drawing board. As always, I’ll let you know how I get on!


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Carolyn Retallick
Carolyn Retallick
Jun 18, 2021

All that work, Wendy! Perhaps the date is wrong? However, John Hicks is not an unusual name. Good luck sorting it out. 😊

Wendy Percival
Wendy Percival
Jun 18, 2021
Replying to

Thanks, Carolyn. Yes, there seems to be quite a cluster of Hicks in Herefordshire so it will be quite a puzzle to unravel them all!

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