The Origins of Elizabeth Johnson, formerly Hawksley

Hawksley Family Chart

Johnson Family Chart

On 16 May 1853 Elizabeth Hawksley married Edward Johnson at Pentrich Parish Church. In the certificate she is stated to be a widow, aged 35, of Butterley and her father is given as Charles Hawksley, framework knitter. She signed her own name.

An immediate difficulty is that she appeared not to have given her married name, unless she was previously married to a Hawksley.

The origins of Elizabeth Johnson, formerly Hawksley, have proved difficult to identify with certainty. After much effort it is certain that she is the same person as the Elizabeth Hawksley who was baptised at South Wingfield, 22 September 1819, a daughter of George and Sarah Hawksley.  

The evidence may be summarised as follows:

  1. No trace of any Charles or family of Charles has been found near or in South Wingfield. IGI coverage is fairly thorough for the area and extensive reading of the 1841 and 1851 census has been done.
  2. Elizabeth Johnson and Elizabeth Hawksley were both literate. Comparison of signatures in the birth entries of Elizabeth Johnson's children, where she was the informant, and in her marriage, with those of Elizabeth Hawksley in the marriages of James Hawksley, her brother, and Kezia Hawksley, her sister, and in the death entry of George Hawksley, her father, suggests that they are all of the same person.
  3. The occupations of Charles and George are both stated to be 'framework knitter'.
  4. Elizabeth Hawksley made a spelling error in her signature in James' marriage entry in 1848, which appears to have been repeated by Elizabeth (Johnson) in her marriage entry in 1853 and then corrected.
  5. Elizabeth Hawksley already had two children and might have wanted to be thought a widow on her marriage. No trace of any former marriage of Elizabeth has been found, either as an event or referred to in the birth entries of her children.
  6. Elizabeth Hawksley had a brother and nephew called Winfield and Elizabeth Johnson's grandson (my grandfather) carried the name Winfield.
  7. Elizabeth Hawksley's parents were George and Sarah and Elizabeth Johnson's first two children by Edward were called George and Sarah.
  8. Elizabeth Hawksley's date and place of baptism agree with the date and place of birth of Elizabeth Johnson.
  9. Elizabeth Hawksley does not appear to have stayed single and subsequently been buried at South Wingfield. There is no other likely marriage of Elizabeth Hawksley at South Wingfield, nor nearby (IGI), in the period 1830-1870.

So why was Charles given as her father's name in the marriage entry? She was not married in South Wingfield where the family would have been well known and such an error there would not be expected. The vicar at Pentrich is less likely to have been familiar with her family. The Pentrich marriage register entry contains three other mistakes; the entry's number has been changed from 293 to 289, the surname of Elizabeth in the entry has been crossed out and rewritten above and an extra 'e' in the surname of her father has been crossed out. The witnesses do not appear to be members of Elizabeth's family, Edward was illiterate and perhaps Elizabeth could not read well. Perhaps the errors of 'widow' and 'Charles' are not so unexpected?

Elizabeth Hawksley's two children before her marriage to Edward Johnson were

  1. Caroline, baptised 10 July 1836 at South Wingfield. She married Nathan Shepherd 23 February 1858, at Alfreton.
  2. Mary, born about 1839 at South Wingfield and married Matthew Tupman, 16 January 1860, at Alfreton and then John Wright 2 November 1863 at Alfreton.

Elizabeth Johnson died of heart disease, on 31 January 1886, at Ironville, possibly at 36 King William Street, where she was living in 1881. Her daughter, Sarah Edwards (formerly Johnson), was the informant.


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Revised March 2014