Using multiple family history sources

Using multiple family history sources can tell us so much more about people than we could get from just accepting hints on online genealogy sites.

Caleb Brown of Ainstable

Caleb Brown, born 1788, died 1861, never married… Doesn’t mean there aren’t stories to be found, by using multiple family history resources.

To begin at the beginning…

Caleb Brown was the third child (of six) of John Brown of Ainstable and his wife Bridget, née Dixon. Both ‘nightmare’ names to research.

Luckily, by piecing together wills, land records, census records, memorial inscriptions, and land sales, we can be sure at times we have the right people.

John Brown

The memorial inscription for John Brown and Bridget helpfully tells us they were ‘of Ainstable Row’.

In 1764, John Brown, son and heir, was admitted to a tenement at Rowfield. This gives us a generation back – his father was also a John. And his father’s year of death.

In 1802, John Brown was found tenant by purchase of freehold tenement called Rowfield. 

And in 1813, John Brown’s will not only names widow Bridget, the six children, and two grandchildren, it also refers to land at Ruckcroft, and to his estate at Row.

Row/Rowe, and Ruckcroft

In 1815, a newspaper notice advertises:

Bargain and sale of a tenement at High Field in Ruckcroft

It names John Brown, Rowe, parish of Ainstable, yeoman, and Caleb Brown, brother of the above.

Premises: A tenement at High Field in Ruckcroft

In June 1820, the Carlisle Patriot notes:

Ainstable Inclosure, common land for sale, by public auction at Armathwaite on June 26, the following plots and parcels of ground situate at Ainstable Common…

A long list follows, described by the proximity to other people’s land, and including:

42. containing 2a, 2b, bounded by John Baxter’s allotment, the Old Coal Road, and the ancient lands and allotment of Caleb Dixon. 30. contained 8a, 2ft, 15 f on the north west side of Harras, adjoining John Dixon’s ancient land and allotment and Croglin Road. 13. Containing 2a on Ruckcroft Green, adjoining Cross House Road and the allotments of Edward Fisher and Caleb Brown.  

Court leets

Court leets were local courts that dealt with a variety of matters. The best place to look for court leet records is the local archives, in this case, Carlisle.

Each court had a jury of local men – and can include their signatures. A great find for a family historian.

Caleb Brown’s signature can be found as a juror in Ainstable, in 1824.

Land transfers

Manorial records, also to be found in local archives, also include details of land transfers. The name of a field can help you link one person to another, as well as telling you ‘who was where, when’.

For instance, an 1824 Lease and release of parcel of land in Ruckcroft Green names:

1) Richard Lowthian Ross, Staffied Hall, Cumberland, yeoman.

2) John Norman, Kirkandrews upon Eden, gentleman, Thomas Hudson, Carlisle, gentleman.

3) Thomas Stubbs, Penrith

4) Caleb Brown, Ruckcroft, yeoman

Premises: Parcel of land in Ruckcroft Green bounded by the “new Inclosed lands” of Sir (?) Hampson, Rev William Monkhouse, Rev Thomas Robinson, Edward Fisher, and by the public road.

And in 1833:

Release by way of mortgage enement at Highfield and other lands in Ruckcroft

1) Thomas Dobson Bleaymire, Penrith, gentleman

2) Caleb Brown, Highfield, parish of Ainstable, yeoman

3) John Johnston, Armathwaite

Using multiple family history sources – wills

You can read about finding/using wills in this post.

The will of Caleb Brown tells us something unexpected. For the lifelong bachelor splits his property at Ainstable (and everything else) between:

my illegitimate daughter Jane, the wife of William Hornsby of Fellside, near Haugthley (sic), and

my illegitimate son William Byers of Liverpool, warehouseman.

Piecing together – the children

Knowing from his will that he had two illegitimate children, and that Jane’s married name was Hornsby, we can find, from parish records that:

William Byers was baptised in Ainstable in 1827, the son of Caleb Brown and Jane Byers.

The will was written in 1861, but when it was proved in 1863, it says that William Byers had died ‘in the testator’s lifetime’. 

FreeBMD pulls up a few options. The GRO shows the William Byers who died in Liverpool in 1859 was aged 33. But he doesn’t show on a census search (1841 or 1851) and the name isn’t rare.

It doesn’t help that he may have used the name Brown.

Given he had for sure died before Caleb wrote his will suggests communications between them must have been limited.

The other mother

What happened to Jane Byers, I don’t know. But for sure she was history (to Caleb) by 1833, because:

Jane was baptised, daughter of Caleb Brown and Ann Edmonson, in 1829.

Again, no trace of Ann after, but she did stick around, because four years later, Elizabeth, daughter of (etc) was baptised, again at Ainstable. 

Elizabeth isn’t named in her father’s will.

Jane Edmonson/Brown

There is an 1849 Penrith possible marriage (lots of names on the page) for a William Hornsby and a Jane Brown.

Given that ‘Haughtley’ doesn’t exist, but Fellside, Haltcliff does… and given they have a son called Caleb, born about the time the will was written…


Pasture Lane, Haltcliff, Caldbeck

William Hornsby, 48, stone mason

Jane 42

John 20, William 15, Mary 12, Caleb 10, Thomas 5, Jane 1.

 Is this Caleb?

In August 1840, the Kendal Mercury carried a round-up of court cases heard that week in Penrith.


Caleb Brown, of Ainstable, was apprehended on a charge of stealing a horse from the stable of Leonard Hodgson, of the White Hart Inn, Penrith, on Tuesday. 

With other cases he was examined on the Wednesday and remanded till Friday. The follow-up (Penrith court round-up) a week later names three people jailed with hard labour, but doesn’t mention Caleb at all. Given how seriously horse theft was taken, this suggests the case was dropped.

Piecing together – the census, tithes and the will

Caleb Brown doesn’t show up in Ainstable, or anywhere else, in 1841. But 1841 tithe records for Ainstable show Caleb Brown landowner, 34 acres of arable and some permanent grass (tenant John Harrison).

By 1851, he was an annuitant, living in Townhead, Penrith. 1861 shows him still there, ‘retired farmer’. And his will says he is ‘of Townhead’.

His will says he owes £700 to John Johnson, of Ruckcroft (see 1833 note). And that his property at Ainstable is ‘subject to a £500 mortgage thereon,’ with that held by Sarah Stamper of Plumpton.

£700 is about £67,000 in 2023’s values, and £500 about £49,000. His personal effects were worth less than £20 and he looks to have been living off either annuities, or rents from the property.

So, why was £1,200 (plus interest) owing?

A newspaper notice in 1854 tells us. And tells us about Caleb Brown’s property:

For sale

1854. Highfield, Ruckcroft, for sale

Commodious dwelling house, suitable outbuildings, and 37 acres. The house, which is double, and the out offices were erected some years ago by the owner at a cost of nearly £700. The whole are built in the most substantial manner, covered with blue slate, and in every respect adapted to meet the comforts and convenience of a respectable family.

The purchaser will be entitled to fish, shoot or hunt through the whole manor of Nunnery, and will possess the remarkable privilege of being toll-free through all England. 

Lot 1. The house, outbuildings, a good garden and orchard and two garths of about 2 acres.

Lot 2. Kellbanks, two fields of first-rate quality, adjacent to the road leading from Armathwaite to the Nunnery, about a quarter of a mile beyond the beck. About 12 acres.

Lot 3. Several closes, together about 25 acres, lying close and compact around the homestead, stretching down the slope towards the Croglin… Their summit commands a most enchanting landscape, embracing on the east the highest point of Crossfell… (lots about the views, and the walks at Nunnery, and the game in the neighbourhood).

County-beating swedes

The notice, after referring to ‘the lofty towers of Lowther Castle’, continues: 

NB a single glance at the crops will show at once the quality and condition of the land. 

There is a field of swedes, worthy of particular notice.

The owner CHALLENGES the whole county to beat them.

For further particulars, apply to Mr Caleb Brown, Armathwaite, the owner

The ‘double’ dwelling house at Highfield, on 1851, is tenanted by a saw mill labourer and his family, and a gamekeeper and family. Suggesting someone else was renting and farming the land. Unless one of them was an expert at growing swedes!

2 thoughts on “Using multiple family history sources

  1. I read with interest your post on Thomas ollivant hesket vicars will
    I research Oliphant ollivant variations
    My mother was an Oliphant
    I have many wills going back to Thomas Olyphant Lazonby 1566
    I did not find the will of Thomas ollivant 1686 so thank you so much for posting it here
    I did not know he was a vicar either
    His descendants are many both in England and the USA
    Long shot but do you happen to know who his father was
    I have searched many resource sites but can’t definitely link him to his father
    Can I ask if you have any connection to Oliphant family in Cumbria or elsewhere
    Look forward to hearing from you
    Sincerely Jackie Nicholson

  2. The only other info I’ve found on Thomas is:
    1680 accounts book Upper Heskett
    Thos Olivant, clerk, for a messuage and tenement, same for a tenement late Robinson’s
    also a parcel of ground called Robson Crosse, late Laine’s

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