Having exhausted parish registers and probate records, and followed the land records as far as they could take me, I’ve got a much better sense of who was who among the many Denchfields of North Marston and surrounding villages; however, there are still some holes. As active in the community as this family was, with lives quite well documented, there are still a couple of elusive characters who seem to have mysteriously fallen from the face of the earth, or at least Buckinghamshire’s corner of it:
• Richard Denchfield, baptized in North Marston on 13 February 1637, eldest son of Mathew. Richard was alive in 1660, when Mathew wrote his will, by which Richard stood to inherit half of the family’s homestead. He is mentioned again at the probate of brother John’s estate in 1689, having been asked by his brother to help guide John’s son in the execution of his father’s will, but that is the last he is heard from.
• Richard Denchfield, baptized in North Marston on 8 June 1725, son of John the maltster. Richard, the youngest of John’s three sons, was only nine when his father made his will in 1734. In it, unlike his brothers who were both to receive property, Richard was bequeathed money.
• John Denchfield, baptized in North Marston on 5 September 1714, son of Richard who’d inherited his father John’s house and property in Quainton in 1689. John appears to have been Richard’s only surviving son, and would have stood to inherit his father’s property upon his death. Farmer Richard paid tithing on four fields in North Marston in 1707, and was buried in North Marston in 1727. If he left a will, it has not survived. Apart from his baptism, there is no other record of John in either North Marston or Quainton.
• Richard Denchfield, baptized in North Marston on 16 February 1742, the younger son of John Denchfield and Elizabeth Brewer. Richard inherited the Brewer property in North Marston upon his father’s death in 1788.
Although these men are from collateral lines, I don’t like leaving loose ends in a family tree as complex as this one—too much room for error.
My next step is to look for records of military service.
Nothing showed up in Ancestry and FindMyPast searches, but I know Ancestry doesn’t have much in the way of early British military records, and while FindMyPast has the Chelsea Pensioners Records, I find searching their databases to be frustratingly troublesome. FamilySearch Wiki on British Military Records had lots of information and suggestions for databases that look promising, so I’m starting there:
• Early Militia records—the earliest British military records are those of the local militia. The histories of most regiments have been published, the trick would seem to be identifying the correct regiment. The FS Wiki suggests a couple of books, one of which is available and may tell me which Buckinghamshire regiments my Denchfields may have enlisted in :
Swinson, Arthur S., Editor. A Register of the Regiments and Corps of the British Army. London, England: Archive Press, 1972. (Family History Library book 942 M2.)
Googling Buckinghamshire regiments may turn up something as well.
• Muster Rolls—records for the Royal Artillery are the earliest, with muster rolls dating back to 1708, although what’s available online at the TNA seems to date to 1732. WO series 12: General Muster Books and Pay Lists covers guards, infantry, cavalry, and household troops and includes special groups, such as colonial troops, various foreign legions, special regiments. These records have enlistment details and service activity. General information on searching the online TNA catalog is here.
• Ship Logs—date from 1673, and may include records of the seamen serving onboard.
• Militia Lists—Militias were county based, and the parishes regularly prepared lists of men ages 18–55, eligible for service, and turned them into the county Militia lieutenants. Most of the lists have not survived, but quite conveniently, a complete list for Buckinghamshire parishes, known as the 1798 Posse Comitatus, is intact and has been published! I purchased booklets for the various Bucks hundreds and am anxiously awaiting their arrival in the mail. Although the 1798 lists are too late to include information about my mystery men, I still expect to see a healthy population of Denchfields in and around North Marston.
• Soldier’s Documents WO 97—the earliest of these records are organized by regiment and cover the period of 1760–1872. I suspect they are the British Military Records which have been digitized and are available at FindMyPast; however, I have trouble searching these records. Maybe I need to research Buckinghamshire regiments first.
• Lists of Officers—I sort of doubt my Denchfields were officers, but you never know. The Wiki suggests two starting points for locating their records:
Army List. London, England: publishers and title vary, 1754–. (Family History Library book 942 M25; films 856427–452 and others.) First published in 1740, these lists have been published continuously since 1754 and are indexed beginning in 1766. They list army officers and are arranged by regiment. Half-pay (semi-retired) officers were not included in the early indexes. The listing for WO 65 is available for free download Family History: Digital Microfilm Catalogue Description WO 65 National Archives online. From the looks of it, these are enormous PDF files with a potential wealth of information- definitely worth a look.
Index to Commission and Warrant Books. N.p., n.d. (Family History Library films 824516–7.) This index lists naval officers from 1695–1742 and gives dates of commission and a reference to further details available at The National Archives.
• Origins.net—this is another subscription based British genealogy site which has a nice collection of military records including a database of over 110,000 early English militia recruits. I may search for Denchfields here and, depending on the preliminary results, might purchase a 72 hour membership to see what I can find.
• FHL materials on British Military—if I have no luck with the records above, the FHL has compiled a list of its British military records in typescript format which is also available on microfilm.
I have no plans to return to England anytime soon, so any British military research I do will have to be done from the comfort of my desk chair, or from the only slightly less comfortable chairs at my local FHC. I’ll let you know how it goes :-)