Harriett Lane [Lane-15701, GCST-1TG] was my 4th great grandmother. The Census and other records show that she was born about 1805 in Wolverhampton, and was married to William Barnes [Barnes-21849, MDNY-72W] and, after his death in 1843, to Thomas Taylor.

From these facts, the only matching baptism record for her is transcribed as Harriett, daughter of Thomas and Mary Lane, 2nd January 1805 at St Peter's, Wolverhampton. A sequence of baptisms of the children of Thomas and Mary Lane at St Peter's runs from 1794 to 1808, and as we find a marriage of Thomas Lane and Mary Preston on 9 November 1793 in the same parish, it would seem reasonable to conclude that they are obviously Harriett's parents.

However, when taking a closer look at all of the available evidence, we can show that Harriett's parents were in fact Thomas Lane [Lane-15977, MZKD-PDS] and Margaret Whick [Whick-2, MZK6-THJ].

The Mother's Name on the Original Baptism Record

The first question is: why should we even consider that Harriett's mother was not called Mary, when that name is written on her baptism record. But when we look at the scan of the original record (available on FindMyPast at the above link) and zoom in closely on the name of Harriett's mother, we see a curved mark above the "y" of Mary that could well be the top half of the loop of a "g", making the mother's name Marg, which is a reasonable, if uncommon, abbreviation of Margaret.

Unfortunately the scan is of rather poor quality, and we don't have access to the original 19th-century document, which would make it easier to tell whether this was an intentional stroke of the pen or whether it is a smudge or even a scanning artefact, but having observed this mark and zooming out again, it's clear that it is exactly in the right place to be the upper loop of a "g" in this name.

I realise that this may seem like a bit of a leap at this stage, and certainly it didn't convince me at first, before I had seem the rest of the evidence – but we will come back to it later. It is of course far from sufficient evidence on its own to conclude that Harriett's mother's name was Margaret, but for now it is enough to open the question of whether Mary is truly correct, and we will look for further evidence that might prove it either way.

Other Baptisms for the Same Parents

There was indeed another couple, Thomas and Margaret Lane, also having children and baptising them in Wolverhampton around the same time as Thomas and Mary Lane. It will be useful to have a list of all of the children from each of these two families. As we are considering the possibility that Harriett could belong to either family, she is given in both lists, highlighted in red. For each baptism, I have also listed the approximate time that has passed since the previous baptism for that family, and highlighted any anomalies in bold.

St Peter's refers to the parish of St Peter, Wolverhampton. Wednesfield refers to the parish of St Thomas, Wednesfield.

First, Thomas and Mary:

Name Baptism Date Parish Time since Previous Baptism
Maria 6 April 1794 St Peter's -
Joseph 10 July 1797 St Peter's 3 years
John 16 February 1800 St Peter's 3 years
Mary Ann 2 January 1803 St Peter's 3 years
Harriett 2 January 1805 St Peter's 2 years
Samuel 13 October 1805 St Peter's 10 months
Elizabeth 17 July 1808 St Peter's 2 years

Second, Thomas and Margaret (including those where the mother's name is given as Peggy, a common nickname for Margaret):

Name Baptism Date Parish Time since Previous Baptism
Thomas 16 May 1802 (born 15 Jan 1801) St Peter's -
William 4 January 1803 St Peter's 8 months
Harriett 2 January 1805 St Peter's 2 years
Richard Devey 8 April 1806 St Peter's 1.5 years
Margaret 26 June 1808 Wednesfield 2 years
Edwin John 24 June 1810 Wednesfield 2 years
Matilda 4 October 1812 Wednesfield 2 years
Sarah 12 February 1815 Wednesfield 2 years
Mary Sophia 4 May 1817 Wednesfield 2 years
Martin 13 February 1820 Wednesfield 3 years
Henry 9 March 1823 Wednesfield 3 years
Mary Ann 8 January 1826 Wednesfield 3 years

The anomaly of William, son of Thomas and Margaret, being baptised only 8 months after his older brother Thomas is explained by the fact that Thomas's birth date is specified on the baptism register, and is well over a year previously. In this era, we would expect children to be baptised within a few weeks or even days of birth, and so we can use the separation between baptism dates as a reasonably accurate proxy for the separation between birth dates. The fact that the vicar of St Peter's recorded a birth date one year previously on William's baptism confirms that this is a reasonable assumption in these cases.

If Harriett is the daughter of Thomas and Mary, we therefore need to explain how she could be baptised (and, as there are no birth dates on the baptism register, presmably also born) only 10 months before her younger brother Samuel. A woman in that era would generally be breastfeeding, and would not be expected to fall pregnant again so soon after giving birth. We might attempt to explain this by proposing that she was actually born some time before her baptism – but if so, we can see that it was the vicar's practice to note this, and he hasn't done so. We also only have a fairly limited amount of time by which we can push Harriett's birth back before we have to start asking the same questions about the time between her and Mary Ann.

Certainly the objections to Harriett's birth fitting into this family are by no means insurmountable, but it is much easier to imagine that she belongs to the family of Thomas and Margaret, where she would fit much more neatly into a gap in their otherwise evenly-spaced children. Of course, even this is not particularly good evidence for preferring one conclusion over the other, but having a list of siblings is very useful for the next step in the analysis.

The Will of Thomas Lane, Victualler

We are very fortunate that Thomas Lane not only left a pre-1858 will, but also that it has survived and has been scanned and indexed by FindMyPast.

The document, which includes the grant of probate as well as the original text of Thomas's will, is quite difficult to read, being in old handwriting and scanned in fairly low contrast, but there are a few key passages of the will which are genealogically useful:

This is the last Will and Testament of me Thomas Lane of Wednesfield in the County of Stafford Victualler... (page 4)

I Give and Bequeath unto my wife Margaret Lane... (page 4)

I do hereby will order and direct that the same shall be divided between my Eight Children (namely Thomas Lane, Harriet Barnes the wife of William Barnes, Margaretta Lockley wife of John Lockley, the said Edwin John Lane, Matilda Lockley wife of George Lockley, the said Sarah Lane, Henry Lane and the said Mary Ann Lane) in equal shares and proportions... (page 7)

I Give and Bequeath unto my son Richard Devey Lane One shilling (page 9)

The nine children mentioned are all among the twelve in the list of the children of Thomas and Margaret Lane given above. Not only that, but the list of eight that stand to inherit a full share are given in birth order, and the husbands' names are given for the married daughters.

From this will we can therefore conclude that the Harriet(t) Lane who married William Barnes was the daughter of Thomas and Margaret Lane, not only from the evidence of the parents' names but also from the evidence of the list of siblings. In other words, we can be sure not just that her parents were a Thomas and Margaret Lane, but that they were the same Thomas and Margaret Lane whose children were baptised in Wolverhampton and Wednesfield given above.

There are two options of how this could be possible: one, that the 1805 baptism record does in fact list the mother as "Marg" and refere to Thomas and Margaret; or two, that the 1805 baptism record refers to a different Harriett Lane, who was born in the same year but was actually the daughter of Thomas and Mary but not the wife of William Barnes, and that the Harriett we are looking at was not in fact baptised.

Personally, I think the first conclusion is by far the most likely, but the second is by no means impossible.

Letters by John Whick

One possible problem with the above analysis is that the Thomas Lane who left the will was a Victualler (ie, a publican), and that the Thomas Lane who was married to Margaret is shown as a japanner on the baptism records of all of their children (at least, those after 1813, when the father's occupation began to be listed on baptism registers). We also don't know from the will what Margaret's maiden name was, or where and when they were married. Indeed, the only marriage of a Thomas Lane and a Margaret in the Wolverhampton area in this approximate era was in 1773, which was Thomas's parents Thomas Lane Sr [Lane-16036, GCQG-921] and [Baker-50069, GC98-MX3]. Fortunately, however, there are other sources that can help with this.

The letters of Royal Marine Musician John Whick are one of the most significant surviving first-hand accounts of life onboard HMS Victory after the Battle of Trafalgar. They are collected in a research file at the Royal Naval Museum, were transcribed in Letters of Seamen in the Wars with France, 1793-1815 by Helen Watt with Anne Hawkins, and were used as a main source in the post-Trafalgar section of Victory: From Fighting the Armada to Trafalgar and Beyond by Iain Ballantyne and Jonathan Eastland. And a significant number of them were addressed to Whick's sister and brother-in-law, "Thomas Lane, Japanner & Painter, The Old Bell, Wednesfield".

This one address connects Thomas Lane directly to a public house, and the fact that he continued to live there over a span of at least three years strongly suggests that he was the landlord, or at least part of the landlord's family, as opposed to a guest or customer. I would guess that his father (Thomas Lane Senior) was the landlord, based on the fact that some of the letters are addressed specifically to Thomas Lane Junior. This might suggest that Thomas Junior took over the business of the pub when his father passed away in 1824. Either way, he is definitely connected to a pub.

The letters also refer to some of Thomas and Margaret's children by name, as well as other relatives of both the Lane and Whick families, and also reveal that the Whick family was from Claverley in Shropshire. From this we can find Margaret's baptism and thus her parents (John Whick Sr [GCCH-M4V, Whick-3] and Lettice Taylor [Taylor-75528, MWGN-F12]), as well as other details about the family.

It appears that Thomas and Margaret were married on 24 February 1800 in Sedgley. At least, it is the only marriage of a Thomas Lane and a Margaret Which that I can find. It seems that Margaret's father John lived in that area, and was buried at Sedgley in 1818, so there is certainly a local connection in the family, even if there is none in any other sources I've been able to connect to Thomas and Margaret directly.


Going back to that poorly-scanned baptism register, it certainly seems much more convincing to me that the mother's name is in fact Marg(aret) in the light of all of this evidence. Either way, the evidence of the father's will and the uncle's letters show quite clearly that the Harriett Lane who married William Barnes must have been the daughter of Thomas Lane and Margaret Whick.


I can't claim that this research is original or unique to myself, and I am grateful to all of the distant cousins and other researchers on and FamilySearch who have contributed to it, and especially to Helen Watt for sharing the relevant sections of her book with me.

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