Stockfords of Oxfordshire

Generally, I don’t like to venture into genealogy research beyond the shores of the United States.  It’s not due to disinterest in our immigrant ancestors; it’s more a matter of time, effort, and cost.  I am not yet familiar enough with old world records, micro-geography, or history.  And I can’t read German, French, or Thai.  To put it bluntly, I just wouldn’t know where to start.  This has recently changed for me.

I was poking around our Stockford line, trying to find out where Joseph’s parents ended up.  I believe they came with him to the United States, along with several siblings.  But Joseph is the only one who seems to have stayed in sight through public record.  The other Stockfords named on the 1844 passenger list vanish.

There are a few people who have cited various United Kingdom records, none of which I can see because I’m too cheap to fork out the dough for an international subscription to – as I mentioned before, I’m just not ready to cross the pond.  But I realized some of these records are available for free on (ok, I already knew that, but again, I wasn’t ready). Soo…thanks to boredom born through peer pressure to remain self-isolated through COVID-19, I pulled that string.  

Many of these United Kingdom records were ruled out because they are records of a Joseph Stockford AFTER he is found in the United States.  The law of physics insists that one person can’t be in two places at the same time – and since the Concorde Jet didn’t make its first flight until 1969 (over 100 years after the Stockfords arrived in the United States), I felt confident in my conclusions.

But then there is the 1841 England Census Returns.  And there is a family recorded in Stoke Lyne, Oxfordshire, England, consisting of members with the same names and ages as the family on the 1844 passenger list for the ship, Sea.  I have a lead through his death record that Joseph was born in Oxfordshire (though it is recorded as Orefordshire in the file).  Oh, what the heck, right?

Starting with the passenger list for the 1844 Sea voyage. Notice the order of the family, and their ages.
Wm Stockford 55 (b. ~1789)
Mary 54 (b. ~1790)
Richard 25 (b. ~1819)
Joseph 21 (b. ~1823)
Elizabeth 19 (b. ~1825)
Jonathan 17 (b. ~1827)
David 15 (b. ~1829)
1841 England Census Returns for Stoke Lyne, Oxfordshire. Elizabeth would have been 18 and is living elsewhere in the parish. The order and approximate ages of the remaining household are close to that of the 1844 passenger list.
William Stockford 50 (b. ~1791)
Mary (spelled Marey) 45 (b. ~1796)
Richard 20 (b. ~1821)
Joseph 20 (b. ~1821)
Jonathan 15 (b. ~1826)
David 11 (b. ~1830)

Since genealogy considers it an unsubstantiated leap without evidence, I initiated more research on this family from Stoke Lyne by looking at the local parish’s vital records to make a case with indirect evidence.

May I just say, I am in love with United Kingdom records? They are an obsessive compulsive’s dream come true.

I follow the vital records all the way back to William’s parents, William (the eldest Stockford) and Mary (Abraham), and I find birth records for all of William (we’ll call him Junior) and Mary (to be named later) children (Joseph and his siblings).  They had two additional children who died at Stoke Lyne before the 1844 voyage.  Leaving the same-named children as surviving by the time of their immigration.  

Children born to William Stockford and Mary in Stoke Lyne, by baptism and their burials (if found):

  1. Thomas Stockford was baptized 28 July 1816 and was buried 5 February 1839
  2. Richard Stockford was baptized 25 October 1818
  3. Joseph Stockford was baptized 29 July 1821
  4. Elizabeth Stockford was baptized 12 October 1823
  5. Johnathan Stockford was baptized 12 March 1823
  6. Mary Stockford was baptized 13 July 1828 and was buried 22 June 1829
  7. David Stockford was baptized 18 July 1830

I then looked forward through the records.  William and Mary (to be named later) are not buried in Stoke Lyne. Additionally, none of their children marry or are buried there either (except the two that died before 1841).  Other Stockford relatives remain in the area well into the end of the recordset.  These relatives use the same names (William, Richard, David, etc) but their birth years are far enough apart to distinguish one from another.

Moving backward again, I finally found a William of Stoke who married Mary Bicester in Charlbury, Oxfordshire. Charlbury is a little town west of Stoke Lyne. The spelling if Mary’s surname is fuzzy. Initially, I thought other researchers had assigned her that name out of error, as the Oxfordshire parish seat is Bicester. But then I found the record they referenced, and sure enough her surname is recorded as Bicester of Bicesfer.

Additionally puzzling is, I haven’t come across anyone else with that surname in Charlbury, but I am not done scouring the records. William (Junior) of Stoke and Mary of Charlbury did have one son before returning to Stoke Lyne, William (the youngest). Based on age and timing, this youngest William is probably the same man in Stoke Lyne who married a woman named Elizabeth and fathered two sons, John and William before his death in 1838. This is looking pretty good, don’t you think? If only I could find a DNA match to other Stockford researchers, but nothin’!

I am not done, of course.  I need to finish my review of Charlbury records, and then look at other nearby villages and parishes to make sure they didn’t just move a few miles away.  Meanwhile, I’ve been looking into the history of Stoke Lyne, and here is what I have found.

The name Stoke Lyne is reported to derive from Old English stoc, meaning ‘cattle-farm.’  Lyne was added in the 15th century when the Lynde or Lyne family became the manor lords, thus establishing the modern name of Stoke Lyne.   The Stockford family were enumerated as agricultural laborers, and I presume livestock as Joseph and his sons made their living in the livestock industry.

The village’s existence is recorded as far back as 1086 in the Domesday Book, though archeological evidence suggests Saxon structures may predate at a nearby spot in that location.  Some historians have tied an AD 584 battle between the Saxons and the Britons to the area of Stoke Lyne using etymological evidence for their basis (Battle of Fathan Leag could refer to a fathelee wood found in the area).  Vital records for Stoke Lyne start in 1665 (these are the digitized records I looked through – or transcriptions of them). During the time that our Stockford’s of interest lived in Stoke Lyne, the village was located north of St. Peter’s Church (Church of England).  A fire devastated many village structures in 1851 or 1852 (sources conflict), which caused the villagers to rebuild south and east of the church.  Some of these structures are what remain in present-day Stoke Lyne.  St. Peter’s church is the oldest structure still standing, and was initially built in the 12th century.  

In 1801 the parish recorded a population in Stoke Lyne village of 334 souls divided into 74 families living in 66 houses; 121 worked in agriculture, 5 in trade, manufacturing or handcrafts, and 208 “other.”  These 208 “others” would have been women who were chiefly employed in spinning and occasional agriculture, and children of both sexes who were occasionally employed in agriculture as well.  During this enumeration, the Stockford family was listed as containing 3 males and 4 females.  According to the vital records, these would be William the eldest and his first two sons, William and George, his wife, Mary (Abraham), and three of his five known daughters (this implies two were dead before 1801). The population of Stoke Lyne was on the rise at this point, peaking at 631 by 1851.  An agricultural depression, followed by farm automation, started the downward population trend, which dipped to 124 souls by 1951.

Cool overlay maps of the United Kingdom showing old maps superimposed over current satellite images.

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