Three Williams


May 12, 2017 by auntkatefirmin

While Blackford is not a common name, the tendency of families to use a limited set of given names means that if I want to sort out all the cousins of my direct ancestor, Harriet Blackford, I need to at least attempt to distinguish between people with the same name, often in the same place and very close to each other in age. Some days that works better than others!


Since the time of William I (William the Conquerer) William has been a popular name in England. (British Library, MS Royal 14 C VII f.8v)

There were at least two William Blackfords born in Wiltshire about 1753-1755 and possibly more, plus the “third” William of the next older generation (and not counting any children named William of the younger generation).

Harriet’s grandfather William Blackford (1721-1783), a yeoman, and his wife Dorothy nee Seymour (1725-1783) had a son William baptised in 1755 in Lydiard Millicent. In other words, Harriet had an uncle William Blackford.

Henry Blackford (1720-1792) the wheelwright and his wife Dinah nee Harbut (1720-1796) had a son William baptised in 1753 in Lydiard Millicent. If my guesses are correct, this William was a first cousin of Harriet’s father.

A William Blackford married Mary Bond in 1780 in Lydiard Millicent – which William was he and what became of the other William? Are they closely related to the William Blackford who married Mary Church in Marlborough in 1790?


1745 Henry “Harry” Blackford marries Dinah Harbut
1748 William Blackford marries Dorothy Seymour
1753 baptism of William son of Henry and Dinah Blackford
1755 baptism of William son of William and Dorothy Blackford
1761 William (spouse of Dorothy) in Fisherton gaol. He was described as a seller of pigs, formerly of Overton (part of Wroughton) and lately of Shaw (part of Lydiard Millicent)
1770 William Blackford of Lydiard Millicent and his wife Lucy* have a child Jane
1771 two William Blackfords of Lydiard Millicent are eligible to sit as jurors (age 14-70), as is Henry Blackford. The three Williams are 50, 18, and 16 – which one is missing?
1772 only Henry listed as freeholder in Lydiard Millicent
1774 William (son of Henry and Dinah) turns 21
1776 William (son of William and Dorothy) turns 21
1780 marriage of William Blackford and Mary Bond in Lydiard Millicent
1781 William and Mary begin to have children:  Ann, Elizabeth, Mary, Eliza, and Lucy
1783, 29 May, burial of William Blackford in Lydiard Millicent – assumed to be the senior
William (husband of Dorothy) at age 62
1783, 15 July, burial of Dorothy (Seymour) Blackford at age 58
(1789, William Blackford, son of Robert and Rebecca nee Wayt baptised in Swindon)
1790 marriage of William Blackford and Mary Church in Marlborough
1791, 15 Jan, burial of William Blackford in Lydiard Millicent (husband of Mary Bond?)
1802 by this time there’s yet another William, father of a William, in Somerford Keynes
(1823 death of a William Blackford, age 30, Marlborough – the one born in 1789?)
1837 death of a William Blackford, age 86, in Marlborough – the spouse of Mary Church?


Wroughton is not marked on this map of 1720, however the included hamlet of Overton is visible just south of Swindon. Lyddiard Millicent would be just below Bradon Forest between Wootton Bassett and Swindon. Excerpt of map from the David Rumsey collection.


Leaving aside (for the moment) all the other Williams, was William (1753-?) or William (1755-?) more likely to marry first, and which was more likely to marry outside Lydiard Millicent? For this discussion I will assume that Henry and William (1721-1783) were brothers, the children of Robert and Jane (Wayt) Blackford, as while not fully proved neither is this idea disproved; this would make the younger Williams first cousins. Both William and Henry had financial difficulties at different times: William was imprisoned for debt in 1761 and as Henry had a mortgage refinanced in 1771 and 1778 but was in the workhouse by 1787.  I assume that Henry’s income did not prove sufficient for his ambitions. Neither William nor Henry are known to have been in a particularly difficult financial position at the time of the marriages.

Henry was a wheelwright and married Dinah Harbut or Herbert of Purton, the daughter of his master; by 1771 Henry had a freehold property in Lydiard Millicent and the mortgage holders were the Seymour family of Wroughton. Thus Henry had connections in Purton, Wroughton, and no doubt other places nearby, as well as hopes of a substantial income as a wheelwright.

William called himself a yeoman of Lydiard Millicent at the time of his marriage, probably based on income from either farming or livestock breeding. His wife was Dorothy Seymour who at the time of the marriage was orphaned and living with her well-to-do relatives in Wroughton, although she was born in Chiseldon.

Mary Bond provides little in the way of clues as no evidence has turned up about any Bond family in Lydiard Millicent prior to Mary’s marriage to William Blackford. So far nothing is known about her family’s status, property, or trade. The names of William and Mary’s children, with the possible exception of Lucy, are so common as to provide little assistance in identifying her parents.

With no reason to weigh any particular bit of evidence more heavily, I am left with the age of the young men at marriage and the locations of their siblings. Since the younger William (son of William and Dorothy) had a brother Robert who married in Swindon in 1777, my current theory is that William also moved away from Lydiard. His sister Mary remained in Lydiard Millicent where she married William Price in 1780, while the marriages of the other siblings are less certain. If this William eventually moved to Marlborough and married there in 1790 at age 35, then it could explain how William Blackford born in 1789 (the son of Robert and Rebecca) came to be in Marlborough in 1817.

That leaves the older cousin (son of Henry and Dinah) staying in Lydiard Millicent with his wife Mary Bond and setting up a household there in 1780. He was the only known son in the family and his father may have provided him with capital to set up a household and he may have worked as his father’s assistant. If that is the case it seems likely that he is the William Blackford buried in Lydiard Millicent in 1791 at age 86. No marriages have yet been found for his sisters.

So my guess is based largely on the notion that the older William, an only son, stayed closer to home, while the younger cousin ventured farther afield – to seek his fortune, as it were.

While there is at least one other Blackford family in Marlborough, headed by Thomas Blackford, it’s possible that William (son of William and Dorothy) is the person who married Mary Church in Marlborough in 1790; while he would have been 35 it may have taken him that long to establish himself. Marlborough was close enough that Robert Blackford (son of William and Dorothy) traveled there from Swindon to sell meat outside the market and if Robert’s brother William lived in Marlborough that would have made the logistics of the journey much simpler.

So far, all these conclusions are heavily reliant on guessing. They do account for the events that include a William Blackford, and they do minimize the number of individuals named William. I feel a bit like I just listened to Abbott and Costello in Who’s on First.

*I have chosen to assume that “Lucy” is really Dorothy and the record is either an error or for some strange reason Dorothy was sometimes called Lucy. This seems more reasonable than thinking there was yet another William who left no other traces. or that one of the younger Williams married as a teenager.






One thought on “Three Williams

  1. *The parish records confirm that the transcription related to William’s daughter Jane, baptized in 1770, should read Dorothy (not Lucy). Thanks Liz!

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