William Saunders, Thomas Saunders and James Holliday

Email from Robb Gorr, 28 June 2020.

Hello Richard,

Thank you so much for sending that. Although the transcription is not yet clean, it is like hearing the voices of my ancestors speaking across the centuries. What a fantastic document. Certainly it fills in some of the younger years of my ancestor James Holliday and much more than I knew about his half-brother William Saunders. It certainly shows that both began their careers working for James Smith, the father of Augustus.

I can easily understand how you were confused by William’s references to his brothers which he never clearly names and which seems as though he could be talking about just one brother. I think we have it right, though, that the first brother mentioned, his sheep-raising partner, was his brother Thomas Saunders Jr. In the 1841 census Thomas is listed as an agricultural labourer and he is actually living in the household of his older brother William so that seems to confirm that they were probably working together as well. At that time Thomas was a widower with no children, their sister Ann had died unmarried at age 25 in 1828 and their youngest brother John had died in 1839 at age 33 leaving three small children. Thomas Saunders married his first wife Mary Jenkins while still young in 1820 and a few years after the 1841 census he remarried to a woman some 20 years his junior named Hannah Dealey. They had two children (Job & Frances- also called Fanny like her grandmother) and were living at Heath End in Wigginton by 1851 where Thomas was still occupied as an agricultural labourer. By the time of his death in 1853 they had returned to Northchurch. His widow remarried to James Wright of Tring where she moved with her two Saunders children.

When James Holliday refers to cottages owned by his grandfather, I think he is referring to property owned by his grandfather John Holliday (1713-1793). John was a substantial property owner, having acquired many properties in his own right, and those he held for his wives. His first wife Mary Royce was the only child and heiress of Stephen Royce, a cordwainer from Northchurch, and his second wife, my ancestor Anne Cox, was the granddaughter and co-heiress of Jeremiah Peacock of Hemel Hempstead. At the time of his death in 1793 John was able to make substantial bequests to the nine surviving of his eighteen children including James’ and William’s mother Frances (Fanny) Saunders.

I look forward to reading the “cleaned up” version of the documents and to see what else you will add to your new website. I wish you much luck with it. If I can be of any assistance, please feel free to ask.

Best regards. Robb.