Are these two William Southways the same person?

Expert genealogist Lynne Cleaver comes to the rescue and solves the mystery of a possible doppel ganger

William Southway marriage, 1829

I’m researching William Southway, my 3x great grandfather, born in about 1810. He married Mary James in 1829 (see image above) at Stoke Lane (AKA Stoke St Michael), Somerset, and they had seven children. William was transported in 1843 to Tasmania for receiving stolen goods and died in Victoria, Australia, in 1876. I’ve found another William Southway, who married Sarah Flower in 1824 at Kilmersdon, Somerset. Sarah had remarried by the 1841 census to James Robins. I cannot find births, baptisms or deaths for these Williams, and wonder if they are in fact the same person!

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Janet Jacob

I suggest you start by ordering the Australian death certificate for your 3x great grandfather. This should give you details of his parentage, although the index entry doesn’t reveal this, so it may be that the informant didn’t have that information.

Secondly, check his entry on the Founders & Survivors website, which has a huge database of convicts with supporting original documentation. From this, I ascertained that the name of William’s father was Joseph and that he had a brother, James, who was in Staffordshire. This information can be used to track down family (I found James in the 1851 census, but the spellings are ‘interesting’ and inaccurate). A birthplace of Portsmouth was given.

The Hampshire/Portsmouth parish registers are available on findmypast.co.uk and I found both William and James, with their father listed as Joseph. Again using census records, I discovered that Joseph was a Naval pensioner. There are plenty of supporting records for him, such as in the collection ‘British Royal Navy & Royal Marines Service and Pension Records, 1704–1919’ on Findmypast. His birthplace is Stoke, Somerset. This information will help to establish which William is which and build up a picture of his life before transportation.

The quarter sessions records held at Somerset Heritage Centre should help with William’s court case – the deposition and charge are at reference Q/SR/525/46-47. The corresponding minute books of the quarter sessions are at Wells City Archives . Gaol registers can give marital status and number of children. Also check the church records for Stoke Lane, held at the Somerset Heritage Centre (with some transcribed at FreeReg). These detail the running of the parish and contain accounts, minutes of meetings and poor relief. They include the vestry minutes covering the period in which William was convicted, and there may be mention of his family being in need of help.

Building up a complete picture of the William who married Mary James should help clarify if he is also the William who married Sarah Flower. Although Southway is not a common name, it is more frequent in Somerset. It may be worth looking at all the Southway families in the county.

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Lynne Cleaver is a genealogist, research and author based in Somerset