Surname Saturday: Dunham

The DUNHAM family of Witchford, Cambridgeshire is the subject of today’s Geneabloggers SURNAME SATURDAY meme.

This week’s Surname Saturday post focuses on research I’ve been doing today. This morning I found my link to two new maternal family names, one of which is Dunham (the other is Foreman), so I’ve been typing this entry all day, covering the amount of information that I’ve uncovered in just a few hours.

Witcham church
Witcham parish church, Cambridgeshire, has seen a mixture of building extensions through the years, and more recently removal of headstones to ‘make the grass cutting easier’!

My connection to the Dunham tree happens in Witcham, Cambridgeshire in 1815 when John Hawkins married Jane Dunham. These two people were to become my Gt x 5 Grandparents, with my ancestry following down through their daughter Sarah Hawkins.

John Hawkins, who was illiterate at the time of their 1815 marriage, worked as a labourer. He was born about 1796 in Witcham.

Jane Dunham, who could at least sign her name in 1815, was born in about 1793. At the time of the marriage, the Banns and Marriage entries state that they were ‘otp’ (of this parish), however no trace of Jane could be found in the church records until the Banns.

The censuses

Having found the 1841 census entry for John and Jane, along with their growing brood of children (they had eight in all), the shortcomings of the 1841 census was unable to tell me which village Jane was actually from.

The 1851 census revealed the clue – it was Witchford – a village I have personally had connections to all my life, and in fact I was named after it (it’s St Andrew, although I wasn’t fortunate to be named the ‘Saint’ bit… yet). It’s one where several other of my ancestral families have lived and still do, and many of my ancestors and relatives have been buried.

Witchford, Cambridgeshire
St Andrew’s Church at Witchford, Cambridgeshire, home to yet another ancestral name.

With this piece of information I was able to rummage through the Witchford Parish Register and found Jane’s baptism in January 1794. Her parents were given as William and Alice Dunham.

The family grows

I then looked to see if this Jane had any siblings – with a rummage either side of her own baptism. I found four other siblings – 3 sisters and 1 brother. Having gauged the range of the births, I then crossed my fingers and looked for a William and Alice marriage.

There it was! William Dunham married Alice Foreman in Witchford in June 1789.

Next up was the burials. Another rummage revealed what seemed like an unfortunate picture:

  • William Dunham – he appears to have died in 1844, outliving all but his daughter Jane.
  • Alice Dunham (née Foreman) – died age 52 in 1821.
    • Elizabeth Dunham – the oldest, born in 1790. She died weeks later.
    • Alice Dunham – Born abt 1791, died in 1800.
    • Jane Dunham – my descendant, born 1793 – married John Hawkins.
    • William Dunham – Born abt 1797, appears to have died in 1799.
    • Rebecca Dunham – Born 1799, died 1800.

From this, it appears that after marrying Alice, they both have undergone insurmountable pain and heartache by outliving all of their children apart from my ancestor, Jane Dunham.

There’s no indication as to why the children died – disease? prematurity? harsh conditions? malnutrition? The possibilities could be anything at this period in history where life expectancy for adults wasn’t as it is today, and infant mortality rates were still high.