Saturday, 8 March 2014

Seeking Sarah - A Tale of Research

Early death of a mother, an orphaned child, bankruptcy,  suicide, plus a black sheep of the family,  mark the tale of Sarah Haydon Lounds.

Searching for Sarah was the challenge, when a cousin asked me to help trace information on  his maternal grandmother Sarah Haydon Lounds who married my great uncle John Danson (left) of Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire

I used the standard online resources, to view original records, but found particularly valuable,   in giving a    rounded picture of an ancestor, press reports in The London Gazette and British Newspapers Online. 

  • Sarah's family were known to have links with Lincolnshire  in East Anglia and there was some  kind of scandal with  a "black sheep" of the family who had been a servant in a large house.
    Annie Danson, c.1909
  • Sarah and John's  daughter Annie Maria was born 14th January 1905, but  sadly a year later  Sarah died of TB on 12th February 1906, aged just 21, buried in Moorland Road Cemetery, Poulton - so born c.1884.
  • John and Annie (right)  went to live with his  widowed mother, his  brothers and only sister Jennie who was only eight years older than Annie.  John, a gunner in the Royal Field Artillery  died in army camp at Tidworth, Hampshire  17th May 1917. 
  • Annie went onto marry and have two children, who knew little about their maternal grandmother's background.
  1. What was Sarah's family background?
  2. What was the origin of her unusual middle name "Haydon"?
  3. How had  a young girl from Lincolnshire come to marry a Lancashire man?
A search online quickly revealed  that the surname Lounds was very popular in Derbyshire, Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire. I traced an entry for a Sarah Haydon Lounds born Jan-March 1884 at Worksop, Nottinghamshire.   She was baptised at St. John's Church, Worksop, daughter of  George Haydon Lounds and Charlotte Ann Short, who had married in 1873. 

George Haydon Lounds, the eldest son of Haydon Lounds and Jane Beaver, was born December 1853 at Bourne, Lincolnshire. He was consistently described in census returns as a coach painter.  He married in 1873 Charlotte Ann Short, with children Haydon (1873),  Jane (1875),  Emma (1877),  Willie (1879), Sarah (1884)  and Harold (1889).
On census night 1891,  7 year old  Sarah was at Spitallgate, Lincolnshire  with her grandparents Haydon (a coach builder)  and Jane Lounds.  Also in the household were uncles, aunt and another granddaughter Julia E. aged 3. Julia was later found to be a cousin.

A brick wall arose in trying to find 17 year old Sarah  in the 1901 census on  Ancestry and almost  as a last resort  I tried googling "Haydon Lounds" to find the  reference below  which answered my  key question: 

For Lancashire OnLine Parish Clerk Project featured the following entry  for 1898:

13 Aug 1898 St Paul, Marton, Lancashire, England
Edward Jolly - 23 Joiner Bachelor of Bank Street, Poulton-le-Fylde
Jane Lounds - 22 Spinster of Blenheim Lodge, Whitegate Lane, Blackpool
Groom's Father: John Jolly, Joiner
Bride's Father: George Haydon Lounds, Coach-painter
Witness: John Rivers Jolly; Annie Jolly
Married by Licence by: J. Edwards, Offic. Min.
Register: Marriages 1897 - 1900, Page 17, Entry 33

This was intriguing, for the groom was a joiner from Poulton, as was  my great uncle John Danson and his father, and there were photographs in the Danson family collection of an Annie Jolly. Moreover  the bride, Jane, was Sarah's sister.  Did Sarah meet her future husband at this wedding?    


I turned to the 1901 census to look for Edward and Jane Jolly  and found them at Queen Square, Poulton  - and there was Sarah, sister-in-law and a domestic servant.  On Ancestry her name had been wrongly transcribed as "Sounds"  not "Lounds" which was why I could not find it in my initial search.  


So I now knew Sarah's parents and grandparents, that her middle name came from her grandfather and how she came to be in Poulton to meet John Danson.   Though the question still remains -  what had prompted  sister Jane to move  160 miles north from her Lincolnshire home to Lancashire? 



 i was still keen to find out the background to the  unusual Christian name of Haydon.  My first thought was that it  probably stemmed from a mother's maiden name - but we all know as family historians, not to make assumptions. 


I had Sarah's grandfather's likely birth year as c.1832 so looked up the 1841 census to trace a young Haydon Lounds aged around 9.   He was found with his family at Bourne, Lincolnshire with parents Thomas, a cottager, born, c 1791,  mother Sarah,  and 4 sisters,  Esther, Sarah, Eliza and Julia, and brother Thomas.  Father Thomas obviously prospered over the years, as in 1851 he was a farmer of 29 acres, and ten years later of 40 acres. 

A search for the marriage of Thomas and his wife Sarah was the next stage of research - and there was my answer -  on 24th October 1814 the marriage of Thomas Lounds and Sarah Haydon with the banns read at Corby, Lincolnshire and   Holywell, Lincolnshire.

Around the same time as Thomas and Sarah above married, there was also a marriage in Lincolnshire of a Thomas Lounds and a Mary Lamb and many people cite them as Haydon's parents on the online trees in Ancestry.  However I have discounted this as the right record,  as none of the  female descendants were called Mary, and the Sarah Haydon link is so powerful, given the way her maiden name and the Christian names of her children were continued down the generations and branches of the family.


Given that Haydon was a local tradesman, I sought to find more about his own life and work and searched The London Gazette and   British Newspapers Online   to trace a number of entries on Haydon.  It proved to be a tragic tale.  

The London Gazette:  22nd February 1855
"A petition for bankruptcy - hearing date 14th February 1855 has been filed against Haydon Lounds of Bourne in the county of Lincoln, coach builder and wheelwright......"  

Haydon could only have been about 23 years old at the  time of this bankruptcy and had married only two years previously,with  eldest son George Haydon (Sarah's father) born the same year.    However Haydon continued working in his trade, as indicated in the census returns 1861-1891 where he was described as "employed". Three daughters and six sons were born over  the next twenty years. Newspaper reports gave an insight into  Haydon as a respected member of the community, with  frequent reference to Haydon being among a company of bell ringers, who performed in church and at various social occasions, plus an award made to him by a Friendly Society. 

The Stamford Mercury:  12th July 1870"
"The Managers of the Hearts of Oak  Friendly Society, of London, have this week presented a handsome silver medal, bearing a suitable inscription, to Mr. Haydon Lounds, workman in the employ of Mr. Anderson, coachbuilder, of this town, for valuable assistance he has rendered for some time in inducing persons to become members of that institution".  

The Friendly Society was set up in 1842 with the aim of giving its members protection against distress through sickness.   It grew rapidly and a major collection of its records is now held at the National Archives

 The Stamford Mercury:  9th December 1870
  "A company of hand-bell ringers, under the direction of Mr. Haydon, Lounds, gave very pleasing diversion"

The Grantham Journal:  27th November 1875
An effusive  report  on a Saturday evening concert at the Temperance Hall noted among the entertainers were 
"Mr. Haydon Lounds and his sons who gave immense satisfaction by their excellent manipulation at the hand bells; the various pieces played by them being received with enthusiastic manifestations of delight". 

However tragedy befell the family as reported below.  

Lincolnshire Chronicle Friday 27 March 1896
GRANTHAM - SUICIDE.  Mr Aubrey H. Malin, coroner, held an inquest into  the death of Haydon Lounds aged 65, a coach-body maker, who died on the previous day.Arthur..... Lounds, son of the deceased, identified the body. Deceased had been suffering from white-lead colic for six weeks but had not stayed off work until the previous Wednesday.  Deceased of late had appeared in a rather depressed state.  He seemed to trouble about the idea of having to live upon his children.   William Deed, engine driver,  said he had known the deceased for about 20 years.  On Saturday at lunchtime, the witness was called to the deceased house.  In his bedroom, he found the deceased lying on his side, with his throat cut and a razor in his hand.  He had noticed that the deceased had been rather absent minded.  Dr. Paterson, attributed death to shock and exhaustion, due to loss of blood.  Verdict - Suicide whilst in a state of unsound mind.  

So work for over 40 years as a coach-body builder, resulted in Haydon suffering from lead poisoning and ended the lfie of this family man and supportive member of his community He was buried at Grantham Parish Church, Lincolnshire.

This is a classic Downton Abbey" story  with a secret marriage and false census information. For it came to light that butler Haydon Lounds (Sarah's brother)  had secretly married heiress Miss Maud Ward Fox - the daughter of his employer, a wealthy widow.  

On her death in 1911 Mrs Eleanor Ward-Fox  left in her  will £13,000 to her daughter, Maud,  with a legacy of £200 to "my butler Lounds in my service at my death".

However  not known at the time of Mrs Ward-Fox's death was the fact that butler Haydon Lounds, a good looking  and well educated man, according to a newspaper report, had been for three years the husband of Maud, following a secret marriage ceremony in Devon in 1909.   The online Index to marriages confirms this event.

But in the 1911 census Haydon was still describing   himself as single  - a 38 year old  bachelor,  still working as a butler for the Ward-Fox family - Mrs Eleanor Ward-Fox, her  older daughter Gertrude and Maud, 30, (also cited in the census as single) all living at Bramhope, Torquay in a household that included a footman, groom, cook, kitchen maid and two housemaids.  Mrs Ward Fox died later that year at the main family home in Bakewell, Derbyshire.

The wedding was kept a secret for three years and was first reported in the then "Morning Post" Feb 9th 1912 when Haydon changed his surname by deed poll to Haydon Stephen-Fox.  No children were born to the marriage, with Maud dying 1945 and Haydon two years later.  


Annie married Harry Ditchfield on 4 October 1928 and the local press report provided a fascinating picture of the fashion of the day.    Do take time to read it as it gives such a colourful and evocative description of the dresses.

“A member of an old Poulton family Miss Annie M Danson, daughter of the late Mr and Mrs J Danson was married in the Parish Church, Poulton. 

The bride, who was given away by her uncle Mr R. Danson, was gowned in delphinium blue georgette, the sleeveless bodice being plain, while the circular skirt was side slashed and bordered all round with deep silver lace.  Her hat was ruched georgette to tone and she wore silver shoes and hose to tone.  Her bouquet was of pale pink chrysanthemums. 

The bridesmaids were Miss Jennie Danson (aunt) and Miss J Ditchfield (sister of the bridegroom).  Miss Danson wore pale shell pink georgette over silk, the picot edged skirt having shaded crystal motifs at intervals.  Her hat was of fine black felt with alternate shades of pink chiffon velvet on the drooping brim to tone with the gown.

Miss J. Ditchfield was in mauve taffeta, veiled with fine Brussels lace, with a hat of fine grey felt.  Both bridesmaids carried bouquets of russet chrysanthemums.

The reception was held at the home of the bride’s uncle, after which Mr and Mrs Ditchfield went to New Brighton for the honeymoon, the bride travelling in a dress of rose-rust silk, with ecru lace en relief, over which she wore a cost of dove grey, with fox fur trimming and hat of grey felt”.   

Postscript:  "Searching for Sarah" was a  fascinating piece of research to work on and illustrates why family history is so compulsive a hobby. It  is just one example of  the stories that can be found in every family, both in happy and sad periods of their lives  and can lead us in so many diverse directions.

Copyright © 2014 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved


  1. This is a wonderful tale of research. The story of the people is a real inspiration. I would like to be able to bridge the gap between census reports and vital records to bring ancestors "to life" the way you have done here.

    1. Thank you, so much for your kind comments. I spent a long time working with the arrangement of the post to come up with a flow that I think worked and I am pleased that the story came "alive" for you.

  2. I enjoyed that, Sue. As you say, a fascinating story, with a pinch of scandal and spice. I think it's the mysteries that make genealogy and family history so compulsive. And frustrating! You've uncovered some treasures in your search for Sarah.

  3. Many thanks, Owen, for you comment. I was a bit concerned that it was rather a long post, but I had not put the full story of Sarah in a narrative before, so was keen to tell it and here seemed an appropriate place. . I am pleased you enjoyed reading it.

  4. Sue, this grabbed my attention and held as well as any novel. Great post and research. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Fran - your comment,delighted me, as it is exactly a reaction I hoped for. Our own family history can be so fascinating to ourselves, but the challenge is to make it interesting to others . Thank you so much.

  6. Wow! You really brought the story to life. I agree with Fran, it's like reading a novel.

  7. Many thanks, Schalene - I appreciate your comment,.

  8. I wonder if the Haydon was at some point Haydor a place in Lincolnshire.
    I have done a lot of Lincolnshire research and we have close family who live in Bourne. It is even possible that one of my husband's relatives new the family in Holywell or Corby.
    What a small world we live in.

    1. Isn't family history full of such fascinating coincidences! I must admit Lincolnshire is a county I know little about, so it has been interesting to find out more through this research.


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