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James Williams of Church Aston

  • 18 May 2014

I’ve blogged before about my brick wall regarding my 3x great-grandfather, James Williams, born in Aston, Shropshire. It now seems that I’ve made a breakthrough, thanks to the Shropshire Parish Registers, which have recently been added to Find My Past.

There are only 7 baptisms of a James Williams in Shropshire 1802-1806 and, again I was drawn to the one in 1803 in Church Aston (the others were in Oswestry, Shrewsbury, Dawley Magna, Wombridge and St Martin’s). My next step was to prove whether people baptised at Church Aston gave their birthplace as ‘Aston’, as my 3x great-grandfather consistently did.

So, I turned to the 1851 census and searched for all the people living in Staffordshire (the first place James was known to live) with a birth place of Aston, Shropshire. I then tried to match these people with their baptisms in the Shropshire parish registers. Of those I could identify with certainty, 75% were born in Church Aston.

This gives me enough confidence to claim the James Williams baptised in Church Aston as mine. Additional weight to add to this is that James’s first child was christened William Stephen. It now seems that William was the name of James’s father, and Stephen was the name of James’s wife’s father.

Unfortunately, the baptism of James by parents William and Mary seems to be the only baptism of a child of the couple in the parish. I’ve been unable to trace William and Mary’s marriage and, with such a common name, no information on Mary’s maiden name, and the proximity of Church Aston to Staffordshire, it’s difficult to know where to look.

I seem to have exchanged one brick wall for another but, maybe the Staffordshire parish registers will shed some light on this when they are released on Find My Past in due course.

Also, I’m assuming that it’s most likely William worked in the limestone mines in Lilleshall and Church Aston (other Williamses I’ve found on the census worked there, and it fits with the employment of family members in mining and iron works). The works were owned by the Leveson-Gower family (later Earls of Sutherland) and I suspect that the papers at Staffordshire Record Office may be of interest in understanding some context of the area. It does seem that all the quarries and mines around Lilleshall were finished by the 1830s (according to this fascinating history of the area), so this may fit well with the Williams family’s apparent move around this time to the Bilston/Tipton/Wednesbury area (less than 30 miles away) to work in the iron trade. It may be worth looking at migration from Church Aston/Lilleshall to the Black Country, to see if any patterns emerge.

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