Who is William Boyes, Executor of John Firmin?

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June 12, 2013 by auntkatefirmin

I’m still plugging away on the transcription of the will of John Firmin.  In the meantime, I believe I have found the “correct” William Boyes, but I thought I’d lay out my strategy.

Eastern Counties Railway Train about 1851.

Eastern Counties Railway train from 1851
via Eastern Counties Railway Illustrated Guide
digitized by google.

Known from the will of John Firmin:

*William is a  “cousin” of Emily Hall.
*In 1850, William is a clerk for the Eastern Counties Railway Company (ECR), and “of” Peterborough.

Other Clues:

*Emily Hall’s family comes from Barby, Northamptonshire.  If William is a “true cousin,” and they share grandparents, the Boyes family is likely to be in or near Barby in the period around 1750-1790.
*Emily’s sister, Dorothy Sylvester Hall, had a son Thomas Boyes Smith.
*The ECR opened in 1839.  By 1845 it operated a line that ran to Norwich via Cambridge.  This makes a location of an office in Peterborough in 1850 reasonable, but William and his family might be living anywhere from London to Ipswich to Norwich at an earlier or later date.  In 1862 it was amalgamated into the Great Eastern Railway.
*William should be at least 21 in 1850 (born 1829) and is very probably born earlier.

I started by comparing all the individuals named William Boyes/Boys in the 1841, 1851 and 1861 censuses.  I limited for those born in Northamptonshire who would be in the age range 21 to 60 in 1850.

To keep the story short, Peterborough turned out to be a red herring although various individuals named Boyes lived there. There were only handful of people to start with and one obvious choice emerged from the 1851 census: William Boyes, E. C. Railway Clerk, age 27, born “Blamstone,” and lodging in Thorpe, Norfolk with another E. C. Railway employee, John Allen.

Following the traces of this William, born about 1824, we find that he settled in Tottenham and continued to work for the railway.  He married twice and was the father of at least seven children.  He died at the relatively young age of 53, when his children were still quite small (ages 22 to 3), leaving his estate to the oldest boy, Thomas.  At the time of his death he was the railway station master in Tottenham so it would seem that he was a capable and competent individual.  John Firmin must have recognized this capability when William was still a young man to have preferred him as an executor.

How is William connected to Emily Hall?  While I think I’ve built a reasonable case, there’s a certain amount of reliance on names alone.  William the station-master was born in Braunston, Northamptonshire about 1824 (before civil registration).  Braunston is less than three miles from Barby where Thomas Hall, the father of his cousin Emily Hall, was born about 1790. The two villages are between the larger towns of Rugby and Daventry.

To date I’ve not found a baptismal record for William.  However we know from his marriage documents that his father was John Boyes, farmer.  Based on transcriptions from the Northamptonshire Family History Society, a John Boyes married an Elizabeth Hall in Braunston, by license, on 30 May 1811.  I have found several documents related to a John Boyes, tailor, living in Braunston so it’s quite possible there were at least two men in the area named John Boyes.  Certainly John is a very common name and the surname Boyes can be traced back to 1306 in nearby Ashby St Ledgers – in other words Boyes might be a common name in the local area.

Braunston Church

Modern (rebuilt after 1848) Braunston Church.
Copyright Andy F on geograph,
Creative Commons License.

For the moment, I will assume that the John who married Elizabeth Hall was the father of William Boyes although the only evidence, so far, is the will of John Firmin.  I leap to this conclusion because I believe that this Elizabeth Hall is the older sister of Emily Hall’s father Thomas.  Under this assumption, Wiliam Boyes is the first cousin of Emily Hall and their shared grandparents are John Hall and his wife Ann of Barby.  I’d like to think that Ann is Ann Ives and that she and John were married in Northampton in March of 1785 but I’m calling that a guess at this point as there are other possibilities.

While my conclusions are based on on transcripts, I am happy with the assumption that John & Ann Hall of Barby had a family of at least four children.  I’ll post more details separately and for now I’ll  simply list the children I have found for John and Ann Hall of Barby:

*Elizabeth (1788-?) who married John Boyes and is the mother of William Boyes
*Thomas (1790-1866) the father of Emily Hall who married George Firmin, the son of John
*Hannah (1792-?)
*John (1793-?)

While William Boyes did not die until 1877, when the grandchildren John Firmin mentions in his will would have been adults, it would seem that in the next generation the Firmin and Boyes children did not stay in contact, even assuming the families were close prior to his death.  This is very understandable as after the death of Emily (Hall) Firmin in 1871 the nine living children of George and Emily scattered and did not stay in close touch with each other, let alone second cousins.

By the time of Aunt Kate, any knowledge of the Hall cousins, let alone any Boyes cousins, was lost.  Happily, John Firmin’s will has strengthened assumptions about the Hall family of Northamptonshire and opened up a whole new branch of the family tree.

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