No father is given for Mary Elizabeth Stanley on her birth certificate dated 28 August 1860, about three weeks after her birth on 9 August. However, when she married John Alfred Prestwich in 1884, her marriage certificate gave the name of Thomas Stanley (deceased), occupation Minder, as her father. By this time, her mother, Elizabeth had married Jonathan Walker and had bore him a son of the same name. So the question is; did Thomas Stanley exist or not?

The 1861 census is not conclusive . Elizabeth gives nothing away about her condition, neither married nor unmarried, even though the other people boarding at the house did so. She also gave her age as 22 which from later records was clearly at least 10 years too young. By 1871, she had married Jonathan Walker and they had a young son, also called Jonathan. However, the real surprise is that she also has a son, Thomas Stanley, who is five years older than Mary Elizabeth. So where was this five year old boy in 1861? Bolton was recorded as his place of birth, so is it possible that he was still there, perhaps with his father or his family?

I originally worked on the theory the child was illegitimate, but that a father was 'invented' in the intervening years and that Mary gave this information when she married believing it to be true. There are certainly other examples in my research of illegitimate children giving a father's name when they married. However, when I finally tracked down Elizabeth's marriage to Jonathan in 1866 at St John the Evangelist Church in Hurst, Ashton-under-Lyne, she is described as a 38 year old widow, daughter of Thomas HILAND. On checking The 1871 Census, I found this Thomas in Ashton with his wife, two married daughters, their husbands and his grandchildren living with them.

Cross Keys
The Cross Keys today

This seemed to confirm that Elizabeth had indeed married someone called Stanley, but the mystery deepened further through a search of the IGI which gives the marriage of Elizabeth HIGHLAND to James Stanley at Manchester Cathedral on 30 June 1850. On checking the marriage records at Manchester Central Library I discovered that this was indeed the elusive wedding. Elizabeth gives her father's name as Thomas and hatter as his occupation which match the later census information. James was a brewer and his father's name was also Thomas. Interestingly, the address James gave, 97 Jersey Street, Manchester, was the Cross Keys pub. He may have been staying there to avoid paying for two lots of banns to be read, he may have been working there as a brewer, or possibly there may have been a family connection as is discussed later on.

I was initially unable to locate the couple on the 1851 Census in Manchester. Fortunately, a kind soul on the LANCSGEN list was able to provide the details. The couple had already moved to Great Bolton and were lodging with fellow brewer, John Nuttall and his family, who had also been the witness to his marriage. They also had a two month old son called Thomas. Assuming later dates given are correct, this was not the same Thomas living with Elizabeth later in life. The assumption at this stage is that the child must have died and their second son was also christened Thomas.

On Mary Elizabeth's birth certificate, no father's name is recorded and the assumption is that he had died, leaving Elizabeth as a young widow. On the Cheshire BMD site, there is a James Stanley who died in Audenshaw in 1857 at the age of 29 which fits the known facts, so technically speaking I am not directly related to the Stanley family.

James' father, Thomas, appears on the 1841 Census at the Bull's Head in Audenshaw, and Pigot's Trade Directory lists him as Hat Manufacturer and Victualler. He had the pub for about three years, although it would later be run by his son, John, who was partner with his brother-in-law in the brewing company, Stanley and Bayley.

Living with Thomas were his wife Elizabeth and children John, Fanny, Thomas and Hannah. I initially had difficulties in tracking down church records because I made the elementary mistake of assuming that Elizabeth was their mother. In fact, Thomas married twice, first to Hannah Ryder in 1822. She died in 1837, presumably in childbirth since her daughter was baptised a few days after her burial. Thomas married Elizabeth Wright a few months later. They married at Manchester Cathedral and Thomas gave his address as 97 Jersey Street, the same address his son James was to give 13 years later.

Elizabeth Stanley was born in Droylsden, but I have been unable to find any record of her in that area in 1841 when he would have been about 12 years old. There is a Stanley family which originated in that area around 1600. About 1700, some of the family moved to Dukinfield and began to worship at the Old Chapel. One John Stanley became one of the chief elders of Jonathan WROE's Christian Israelites and funded the building their 'sanctuary' on Church Street in Ashton-under-Lyne, the chosen centre for the 'new Israel'.

More research to do, but not helped by the fact that many of the baptism and marriage records for the Christian Israelites between 1825 and 1850 are missing.

Those interested in the Stanley name should visit Ian Stanley's website. Ian is conducting a one-name study that you may find useful. Also Gay Oliver's Stanley Website which has excellent information about the Stanley family in the Tameside area.

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