The Harris family in Hook Norton: Henry Harris, ?-1754

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Family history research involves starting in the present and working backwards. But time doesn’t work like that – it’s always dragging us forwards. So I’ll start at the earliest point that I can, and work forwards, even though that’s now how I researched this.

Going backwards from Thomas Harris, who married Mary Collett, we meet his father John Harris, and then his grandfather Henry Harris. So let’s start with Henry.

Henry Harris

The earliest I can take the Harris family back, at the moment, is to Henry Harris, a yeoman who died in Hook Norton in September 1754. He wrote his will on 28 December 1743, mentioning his wife, three children, and one grandchild.

His wife was Jane, and his children were John, Mary Hayns, and Jane Phipps. And his grandson was George Phipps. I haven’t yet found the marriage of Henry and Jane, the baptisms of their children, or the marriage of his daughter Jane, or the baptism of his grandson. However, there are Phipps headstones in the Baptist chapel yard at Hook Norton, which might explain why George Phipps’ baptism wasn’t recorded at the parish church. It could be that Henry and Jane were Baptists too.

He mentions friends Abell Evans and Jonathan Evans of Chadlington, about 8 miles south of Hook Norton, and another friend, Thomas Harris “otherwise Clark” of Whichford, a few miles west of Hook Norton, over the border in Warwickshire. I’ve tried to research Thomas Harris/Clark of Whichford, but not got anywhere yet.

Mary, Henry’s daughter, married Thomas Haines (as it’s spelt in the marriage register) in Hook Norton on 15 February 1738/9. Mary died before Thomas (she’s perhaps the Mary Haynes buried at the parish church on 15 April 1773). Thomas died in February 1779, and left a will. He and Mary evidently didn’t have any children, or at least, none that survived them. Thomas only mentions two relatives: his kinsman Matthew Wyten, son of John Wytten, deceased, of Hook Norton, and his nephew George Phipps, son of Richard Phipps of Hook Norton. And he made George his executor. This would be the same George as Henry mentions, so we know that Jane’s husband was Richard Phipps, even though I haven’t been able to find their marriage yet.

Thomas Haines’ witnesses were Mary Minchin, Richard Dee, and William Harris. William often witnessed wills, and I think this was because he’s the Baptist minister, Rev William Harris (Daniel’s uncle) and it’s usually Baptists’ wills which he witnessed. As you will see, Rev William Harris was presumably Thomas Haynes’ nephew.

George Phipps has a headstone in the Baptist chapel yard, giving his date of death as 13 October 1821. His age appears to be 77 on the stone, although it’s difficult to read. This means he was only a baby when his grandfather Henry Harris wrote his will. George’s own will mentions his children George and Jane, and his wife – who he doesn’t name – and his son-in-law Henry West. George married Elizabeth Pitham at Hook Norton on 5 September 1775, and one of the witnesses was another Phipps – John Phipps. Jane married Henry West of Swerford at Hook Norton on 2 November 1812. Henry West was buried in the orchard burial ground (at the back of the parish churchyard, a space opened up for Baptist burials) on 7 May 1870. He was 90 years old. His wife Jane appears to have died before the 1841 census, as she isn’t on the census with him, or the subsequent ones in 1851 and 1861. She doesn’t appear in the transcriptions for Hook Norton’s Baptist church, or the parish church. I think she must have a worn headstone in the chapel yard and died before the surviving burial records. The birth of their daughter Jane on 26 May 1814 was registered in 1837.

Jane West married David Walford at Hook Norton’s parish church on 20 July 1847, even though both were Baptists. David’s former wife, and two of their children, were buried in the chapel yard, and Jane would also be buried there when she died in 1849. She and David don’t appear to have had any children. As you will see later, this wasn’t the first marriage between the Harrises (bearing in mind Jane was Henry Harris’s great-great-granddaughter) and the Walfords.

There are Harrises in the Hook Norton parish register going further back than Henry, although Henry doesn’t make an appearance until his burial. And there’s evidence that Henry had a brother. In 1792, James Harris, Henry’s grandson, was the administrator of Thomas Harris, a bachelor who had died without a wife, siblings or parents. James is described as Thomas’s next-of-kin, his “cousin german once removed”. This would make Thomas the nephew of Henry Harris – so Henry evidently had a brother. It could be that Thomas moved to Hook Norton after Henry had done so.

So while this means I’ve traced Henry’s daughters Mary and Jane and their descendants as far as I can, we still need to meet John, Henry’s son.