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52 Ancestors - How Do You Spell That | Our Prairie Nest
52 Ancestors, Week 15: How Do You Spell That?

It’s time for another 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks post! Since this week’s topic is about spelling, I thought I would talk about the spelling variations for one of my lifelong research projects.

I’ve been researching John Goodwin Hawksley and his sisters – Mary Hawksley, Sarah Brown Hawksley, and Margaret Elizabeth Hawksley – and trying to find their father since 1993. When I married my now ex-husband that year, people thought it was a great last name to have. Kind of unique, memorable, flowed well with my name (Wendy Lee Hawksley), and very British. You might think the name would be exempt from variations except maybe Hoxley, but that turned out not to be the case!

In fact, I’ve never found any of the Hawksleys in this family spelled as Hoxley. However, I’ve found them as Hawkesley and Oxley in marriage records, and Oxla in the 1851 Canadian Census. Surprisingly, I have not found a connection between this family and the Oxley family of Cumberland, Nova Scotia… Yet, anyway! Perhaps there is one back in England at some point.

However, I quickly learned that I should check a minimum of three different places in the alphabet when searching indices for this name – H, O, and, I figure to be safe, A. Though I haven’t found any variations beginning with A, I don’t want to discount the possibility of the name being found as Awksley or something along those lines.

So this week’s 52 Ancestors topic is a good reminder that what you see isn’t always what you get. Even if you think a name is straightforward, consider all the possibilities. Your Smith might be Smyth sometimes!

Manuscript Collections | Our Prairie Nest
Manuscript Collections

One of my ex-husband’s family mysteries is right there on his paternal side – who are the ancestors of John Goodwin Hawksley?

Thanks to my visit to NEHGS several years ago, and not enough hours spent looking through the Isaac Adams manuscript file (there are never enough hours – it is like being a kid in a candy store!), I found this wonderful document:

This is a document written by John Goodwin Hawksley’s niece, Mary Elizabeth (Adams) Foster.  She was the daughter of John’s sister, Margaret Elizabeth Hawksley, who married Isaac Adams (son of Isaac Adams and Rhoda Babcock).

The Adams family ended up in New Brunswick due to their Loyalist convictions, as did the Goodwin family – the ancestors on John’s maternal side.

John’s mother was Mary Goodwin.  Her father was a Loyalist from New Jersey.  We don’t know her parents’ first names; only that her father was, of course, a Goodwin and her mother was a Workman.  We also know the names of Mary’s siblings, thanks to this letter.

The letter mostly gives clues, but not much concrete information.  I began piecing the Goodwin family together in hopes that working sideways would yield more information.  Fortunately, I “met” a Goodwin descendant online, and she and I have worked together to create a fuller family tree.

However, the Hawksley question remains. This letter says simply that Mary Goodwin married “an Englishman”.

I have guesses and ideas based on the area (Fredericton and St. John, New Brunswick) of why this Hawksley man might have been there. I think he was a British soldier, but I have no definite information. However, I also don’t think they were actually married, which is another hypothesis entirely.

I know that Mary Goodwin, after having her 4 children, was married to William Madigan on 14 October 1824, placing Mr. Hawksley’s date of death between 1816 (when the youngest child, Margaret was born) and 1824, or his return to England (or Ireland, in my hypothesis) in that time frame.

Thus far, death records have not given us the name of Mr. Hawksley (or the mother either – finding her was a lucky break based on my research at NEHGS and then connecting that to the 1860 census, in which Mary Madigan lives with her daughter, Margaret (Hawksley) Adams).

What’s next?

Certainly, there are plenty of possibilities open, and most of them point to actually visiting Fredericton, where the 4 Hawksley children were born, In addition to on-site research, I think obtaining the service file for the hypothesized father might also help. The person who is currently the basis for my hypothesis was stationed in Fredericton during the time frame that Mary had her children. No Hawksley male, prior to John Goodwin Hawksley, left any records – no birth, baptism, marriage, or death, no court or land or newspaper records – nothing. It’s not often that a male lives without leaving some kind of mark. So who was this elusive Mr. Hawksley?

Someday, I hope to know. For now, it’s this one document found in a manuscript collection that answered at least one important question. Never underestimate the importance of these collections in museums and historical societies!

Civil War Pension Files | Our Prairie Nest
Civil War Pension Files

You’ve probably heard of Civil War (and other military) Pension Files, but maybe you haven’t ordered one yet. They’re costly, perhaps out of reach for some people, which can make obtaining them difficult. However, if you are able to order one, they can be valuable sources of information. Here’s an example:

Samuel Hawksley was born about 1847 in Richmond, Carleton County, New Brunswick.  He died 6 February 1865 at Hatcher’s Run in Virginia. Samuel never married or had children.

His parents, John Goodwin Hawksley and Lucy Lilley, filed for a pension for his Civil War service on 27 March 1877. Because Samuel was unmarried and without children, any documentation in the file should center around him – perhaps I would find his actual date of birth – and his parents.

At least, that’s what I surmised. John and Lucy would have to submit documentation proving they were his parents. Perhaps it would give me more clues regarding John’s background, since he was a brick wall. Perhaps not. As you know, you can leave no stone unturned when dealing with a brick wall. Because Samuel’s parents would have been the ones submitting information and documentation to obtain his pension, these are firsthand documents created by or for them.

The pension file was incredibly useful, because while it didn’t give me the names of John Goodwin Hawksley’s parents, it did verify the marriage date for him and his wife, Lucy Thomas Lilley, as well as the birth dates of their children. In a few instances, we only had approximations. It also verified the death of Lucy T. Hawksley and the marriage of their first daughter.

At the time when I received the file several years ago, nobody seemed to know who Isabel Hawksley, the eldest daughter and child of John and Lucy, had married. The file told me that her husband’s name was Charles Staples Boothby of Saco, Maine. They went to Newton, Massachusetts, which was good news for me, as I found the records of births and marriage on their children, as well as Isabel (Hawksley) Boothby’s death, via NEHGS.

Meanwhile, I learned other interesting information about John Goodwin Hawksley himself that gave me a better understanding of the family history.

He is my ex-husband’s 3rd great-grandfather. In September of 1861, a tree fell on his leg, breaking the leg below the knee and making him lame. He had to use a cane for the rest of his life, and was unable to work the family lands. They were too poor to get a doctor to set the leg, so it healed, but not well.

He relied on his unmarried teenaged son, Samuel, to do the work. Then Samuel enlisted with the Army in 1864, hoping to be able to send money to his family. But he was lost after going missing in action during the battle at Hatcher’s Run, Virginia.

When the family had not heard from him for 12 years, they filed for the pension in 1877 as dependent parents. Lucy died in 1880, so John then requested the pension be transferred to him, and it was paid until his death in 1893.

My ex-husband’s great-great grandpa, William Roger Hawksley, was “legally bound” to support his father from 1880 to March 1881, and the affidavits say that John and Lucy Hawksley survived thanks to their children’s generosity, and Samuel’s work on their home and lands, before he went to war at the age of 17.

So it was interesting stuff.  While it didn’t give me anything further on Hawksley ancestors, it told more of the story of John Goodwin Hawksley’s and his family’s lives.