Busting Through the Genealogical “Wall”

Jul 3

When you’re in the business of genealogy, you sometimes have those cases that really try your research skills. That was definitely the case with William Dickins Cockerill. For many years, William’s paternity was a mystery. He was born in England, but immigrated to England as a young man. All William knew of his family was that his father was “Mr. Dickins” and his mother was “Mary Cockerill.”

With only that small seed of information to feed our search, we were able to locate William’s christening records in Kislingbury, Northamptonshire. According to record, William was christened on April 28 or 1823. Christening records during this time period reflect illegitimacy differently, and the father of the child is only sometimes identified. In the case of William, who was born out of wedlock, only his mother, Mary Cockerill is listened in the records.

Disappointed in the lack of information the christening records presented, we started digging deeper. We combed through documents from the Northamptonshire Country Record Office. These included the Quarter Sessions Record Books, Quarter Sessions Rolls and Kislinbury Charity Account. The charity accounts detailed payments to the poor within the parrish, but unfortunately, there was no mention of a Mary Cockerill or her child. However, we knew that Northampton, less than five miles from Kislingbury, held its own court of Quarter Sessions, and we wondered if perhaps Kislingbury might have fallen under the jurisdiction of Northampton Town Quarter Sessions, although we already knew that fewer records had survived this court than many others.

Figuring it was worth a shot, we opened a Northampton records box marked “1823” and inside found a sheet of parchment dated “April 1823.” The document contained the recognizance:

25 March 1823 William Dickens the younger of the town of Northampton, Tailor, and William Dickens the elder of the same town, builder, personally came before me….one of the Justices of our said Lord the King and acknowledged themselves to owe the sum of 40 pounds each of good and lawful money of Great Britain to be made and levied of our goods and chattels, lands and tenements respectively to the use of our said Lord the kind his heirs and successors if default shall be made in the condition hereupon endorsed. Whereas Mary Cockerill of the parish of All Saints in the said town, single woman, hath in and by her voluntary examination taken in writing….declared that she is with child and that the said child is likely to be born a bastard and to be chargeable to the said parish of all Saints and that the within bounden William Dickens the younger is the father of the said child.

We were thrilled to finally locate proof of lineage for William! We now know that William Dickins the younger (tailor) was the father of William Dickins Cockerill and it is likely that the child's grandfather was William Dickens the elder (builder).

It is moments like these that make all the hard work involved in the business of family history worth our efforts. The Dickins/Cockerill family line is now another step closer to complete.