Anecdotally the life of one of my great grandfathers was a rags to riches story. Charles Henry Haywood died in 1934, aged 84 years, as a reasonably wealthy publican of 44 years standing. He had been the benefactor who kept 14 of his grandchildren clothed and fed.

Checking this story out proved more difficult than expected. All I had to go on were the 1881 and 1891 censuses and his 1873 marriage certificate. From these I knew he was born in Matlock about 1852 and that his deceased father was a farmer named Charles Haywood.

However I could find no record of his birth nor of his father's death. The nearest match was of a Charles Henry born illegitimately to Mary Ann Hayward in the Bakewell Union workhouse in September 1852. To add to the mystery I could find no mentions of Charles Haywood or of Mary Ann Hayward in the 1851 census.

This story took place many years ago before today's numerous family history websites existed. Family history research often meant lengthy journeys to archives and local studies libraries, where you spent hours thumbing through heavy volumes or poring over microfilm and microfiche readers. The only census that had been fully indexed nationally was the 1881 one.

Things changed with the advent of the family history websites and it was the indexing of the 1861 census that provided the first clues to Charles Henry's early years:

Thomas Cheetham 65 Cordwainer
Mary Ann Cheetham 50  
George Dickens (lodger) 88 Tailor
Sarah Ann Hayward 19 Factory Hand
Charles Hayward (Son in Law) 8 Scholar
George Cheetham 8 months  

It can be seen straight away that the family relationships were complicated. Sorting them out was not easy because of three classic family history stumbling blocks.

Before we look at these stumbling blocks it is first helpful to build up a chronology of Charles Henry's early life.

4th May 1815 Charles Henry's mother, Mary Ann, was born to George and Jane Dickens
2nd November 1840 Mary Ann married Charles Howard (sic)
12th November 1841 Sarah Ann Howard (sic) was born
12th November 1847 Charles Howard died of consumption
12th September 1852 Charles Henry Hayward born illegitimately in Bakewell Union Workhouse
6th July 1860 Mary Ann Hayward married Thomas Cheetham
4th quarter 1860 George Henry Cheetham was born
22nd October 1864 Mary Ann Cheetham died of Typhus

Once again we see complicated family relationships and numerous surname variants, which leads to our first stumbling block.

1: Surname variants are more than just a question of spelling.

In his adult life Charles Henry's surname was "Haywood", but the first use of this surname variant was in the 1871 census when he was 19 years old.

When researching his early background I looked at the surname variants of Haywood, Heywood, Hayward and Heyward, but I had not thought of the variant Howard. In practice many of the people involved in this story were illiterate and some came from a remote part of the Peak District and probably spoke with a heavy accent. They could not spell their surname to a minister of religion, a registrar or a census enumerator and different officials probably recorded the surname differently.

Say "Haywood" and "Howard" out loud and they sound much the same. The lesson is that when we are looking at surname variants, we must think phonetically as well as looking at the spelling.

In the 1841 census in Taddington the surname was spelt Heywood. In the 1851 and 1861 censuses it was also spelt Hayward. The 1840 marriage certificate and the 1841 birth certificate use the variant Howard, but the 1847 death certificate Hayward.

Astute readers many have noticed some inaccuracies in the 1861 census return, which brings us to our second stumbling block.

2: Official documents can mislead.

(i) In the 1861 census, Charles Hayward, an 8 year old boy is described as a son in law. This is not an error, but a change in nomenclature. What we now call a stepson was sometimes called a son in law in earlier times.

(ii) The census information gives His mother Mary Ann's age as 50, but she has a child of 8 months. This could be possible, but is highly unlikely. Her date of birth would suggest that she was in fact 45 years old. Was this a census error?

This is unlikely as her 1860 marriage certificate also gives her age as 50. Was the age discrepancy is a deliberate deception? If so, we can only speculate on the reason.

(iii) There are also discrepancies on the occupation of Charles Hayward, her husband. In the 1941 census he was a labourer; on his marriage certificate a farmer; on Sarah Ann's birth certificate a farmer; on his death certificate a labourer; and on Charles Henry Haywood's marriage certificate a deceased farmer.

(iv) More mysterious was the failure to find Mary Ann in the 1851 census. Her daughter, Sarah Ann, could be found. She was living with her paternal grandmother in Taddington, but there was no trace of Mary Ann.

I decided to try a backdoor approach by discovering what I could find about her parents. Much to my surprise I found that Mary Ann was living with them using her maiden name of Dickens and describing herself as being unmarried.

Was this a misunderstanding by the enumerator? Did the family believe that she should use her maiden name after the death of her husband? Was there a deliberate deception? It is interesting to note the surname Dickens was also on her marriage certificate in 1860.

It also raises the question about why Sarah Ann was not living with her mother in 1851, but was in 1861 and was a witness to her mother's wedding in 1860. What does this tell us about their relationship?

There are many questions that are likely to remain unanswered.

Charles Henry Haywood was born in Bakewell, but all other documents refer to Matlaock and Taddington, which brings us to our third stumbling block, and I should have known better than to fall over it.

3: Geography is not static.

Today Matlock is an important Derbyshire town and the administrative centre for the county. It is far more important that Bakewell. That was not necessarily the situation in the mid 19th century.

The change in the relative status of the two towns could well have been due to the railway, which came to Matlock in 1849, but only extended to Bakewell in 1863.

With most of the official documents pointing to Matlock I was thinking in terms of today's geography and ruled out the possibility of Charles Henry Haywood being the child born in the Bakewell Union Workhouse.

To compound my error I had downloaded the information on the workhouse from a well known website ( and this told me that Matlock was in the catchment area of the Bakewell workhouse.

I have finally established that Charles Henry Haywood was born illegitimately in the Bakewell Union Warehouse, but other mysteries remain. How did a boy born in such lowly circumstances eventually rise to becoming a well respected and successful publican.

Family histories are full of mysteries.