Solving the next Ridley Riddle

In my previous post, I described how I learnt that Joseph Ridley and Mary Dean were the parents of my 2 x great-grandfather, Henry Frederick Ridley. My next task was to discover where Joseph and Mary came from and how they fitted into their families.

I'll begin with Mary. First of all, I found her in the 1841 census living with Joseph in Brewery Street in Aston, Birmingham, with a number of their children. Their surname was spelt Riddly, just to make things difficult! After Joseph's death in 1847, I initially struggled to determine what had become of Mary. However, I eventually came across her by accident in 1851 as a visitor in a household headed up by a John Dodds, along with her 3 year old daughter, Mary Ann. They were located at Stoke Works, Stoke Prior in Worcestershire. I'd originally missed Mary when I first viewed this particular census record as she was no longer called Ridley. The only reason I'd found the record in the first instance was because I was looking up her daughter. Mary, herself was now called Mary Hill but it wasn't until I discovered a newspaper notice in the Birmingham Journal that I realised Mary had remarried a William Hill, less than four months after Joseph's death and so the Mary Hill listed in the Dodds household was indeed my Mary Ridley, nee Dean.

Descendants of Sarah Dean
Descendants of Sarah Dean

The good news was the 1851 census stated Mary's birthplace as Lichfield in Staffordshire so I next set about looking for her baptism entry. I knew her approximate birth date was around 1811. The only entry I could find which fitted the bill was a baptism on the 4th March 1810 at St Chad, Lichfield, Staffordshire, "Mary illegitimate daughter of Sarah Dean". This then, became the end of the road on the Dean line as I couldn't find where Sarah was from and I didn't know her age and, with Mary being illegitimate, I had no knowledge of who her father might have been. Searches for Mary after 1851 have also proved fruitless so I'm not certain when she died but I don't think it was long after this.

Turning now to Joseph, I was unsure of his birthplace. The only census record he appeared in was in 1841, living in Birmingham, Warwickshire. The specific place of birth was not a census question for that year. The answer was 'Yes' to being born in the county but, then again, the same answer was given for Mary and we now know that she was born in Staffordshire.

Joseph's age at death meant he would have been born in around 1811 but I could find no baptism record for Joseph in Birmingham. I was running out of options so I decided to concentrate on the whereabouts of Joseph's children as well as any potential siblings.

Descendants of Samuel Ridley
Descendants of Samuel Ridley

As already mentioned, Joseph's daughter, Mary Ann, was with her mother in 1851 and I found her again in 1861, this time residing in Catherine Street, Aston, Birmingham, and crucially she was labelled as a niece. The head of the household was Frederick Ridley who, by definition, must have been her uncle. I proceeded to look into Frederick and discovered that he was born in Birmingham in about 1819. Again, there was no baptism but Frederick married twice and both marriage certificates recorded his father as Samuel Ridley, a carpenter by trade. In fact, Samuel was a witness at Frederick's first wedding.

Keen to find more evidence I discovered Joseph's daughter, Mary Ann, residing at Canal Street in Birmingham in 1871. This time she was listed as a lodger, the head of the household being an Emma Hood. This meant nothing to me at that stage but when I went in search of Joseph's possible siblings, there was an Emma Ridley who married John Hood in 1842 in Aston. Could Emma have been Joseph's sister? Her marriage certificate also showed a father called Samuel described as a cabinet maker, which would be in keeping with a carpenter.

Emma was living with a family by the name of Lee (sometimes spelt Lees) in 1841, 1851 and 1861. The head of the household, John Lee, had married Ann Ridley in Aston in 1824, another potential sister for Joseph. Also residing with the Lee family in 1841 was a 26 year old John Ridley, who married Emma Ketteridge in 1846, and who also stated his father was Samuel Ridley, a carpenter, so it looks likely that John Ridley was a brother. Indeed, witnesses at his wedding were Frederick and Ann Ridley, Ann most likely being Frederick's first wife, Ann Cobley.

In 1851, the Lee family had a 'visitor' called Joseph Ridley, born in about 1835. This turned out to be Joseph and Mary's son and so I'd found an aunt/nephew connection similar to that of the uncle/niece connection previously mentioned. In fact, Joseph junior was baptised on the very same day in the same church as Ann Lee's son, John Lee junior, even though John was already three years old.

The final piece of the puzzle came, once again, with the use of DNA. You may recall in my previous post that a new person had appeared in my dad's DNA match list which showed a connection to Joseph Ridley and Mary Dean. Well, this same person kindly allowed me access to his DNA results and I discovered that he had a match who is descended from Joseph's brother, Frederick Ridley and his wife, Ann Cobley. This then implied a common ancestor being Samuel Ridley. Yes!

As you can see, it's very useful to have Viewer access to the DNA match lists of other people descended from your ancestors as you get more bites of the cherry, so-to-speak. Ancestry allows this but I'm not sure how easily it can be done on any other DNA websites.

Ideally, I would like to see at least three descendants all sharing DNA at this level but the probability of this happening as the generations grow more distant is much decreased. Every generation loses 50% of their DNA from each parent as they pick up the combination from both of their parents to bring them back to 100%. This is why it's so important to test the oldest generation available.

I never did find a single baptism for any of the children of Samuel, and I'm not entirely certain as to who his wife was either. I can't say whether it would pass the genealogical standard of proof but I'm confident of my findings and feel the evidence for Samuel being my 4 x great-grandfather is compelling.

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