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I've just found that my 8th great grandfather John Hobb married his wife in 1708 in Cornwall - Launceston, St Mary Magdalene. The wife's name is listed as Joan Befford.

Upon searching for her birth, I've found a Joan Beaford listed as being baptised at the same location in 1679, and also a Joan Beauford, baptised 1675, again at the same location. Any advice as to which name could well be the corruption of Befford, and therefore John Hobb's wife?

Joan Beaford's father is listed as Thomas. I've found 6 children for John and Joan Befford, none of whom is called Thomas. Joan Beauford's father was called John - the first male child of John and Joan is called John, but I'm assuming this is after Joan's husband, rather than her father.

Speaking of the children, there's a ten year gap between some of them, during which I've found a record for John Hobb marrying another lady in St Mary Magdalene. I assume Joan must have died, but I can't find a record for Joan actually dying at some point, but I gather it was common not to bother making a record of the death of women at the time, in certain areas.

  • Burials of women were recorded just as commonly as men. Misogyny is probably the least likely of 100 reasons why you cannot find a death record for Joan. – Harry Vervet Oct 15 '16 at 14:16
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If you can find informative wills as described in another answer then that will be the more reliable technique.

However, if that draws a blank then you could focus on:

Joan Beaford's father is listed as Thomas. I've found 6 children for John and Joan Befford, none of whom is called Thomas. Joan Beauford's father was called John - the first male child of John and Joan is called John, but I'm assuming this is after Joan's husband, rather than her father.

According to the Cornwall Online Parish Clerks (OPC):

Over the centuries, some families used the following naming pattern, or a slight variant:

 1.The first son was named after the father's father
   The second son after the mother's father
   The third son after the father
   The fourth son after the father's eldest brother

 2.The first daughter after the mother's mother,
   The second daughter after the father's mother
   The third daughter after the mother
   The fourth daughter after the mother's eldest sister

If you are confident that you have tracked down all the children of John Hobb and Joan Befford, and there is not a Thomas amongst their sons (assuming they have more than one) then I would lean away from Joan Beaford being Joan Befford.

If the fathers of both John Hobb and Joan Beauford were named John then naming the first son John would match the naming convention and not undermine Joan Beauford being Joan Befford.

I would try to find a marriage for the other Joan "Befford" candidate and see what children's names were used for any of their issue.

Child naming patterns do not provide strong evidence but I find they can be helpful for developing theories on identity in cases like this.

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Your ancestor could be either – or neither – of the Joans that you mention. The spelling of the surname really tells you very little. It really made no difference whether the name happened to be spelled Beauford or Beaufort or Boford or Beffort on one record.

Probate records are the first type of record I would search for, given their usefulness in establishing relationships. Search for wills for the parents of each Joan, for the siblings of each Joan, even cousins. This may require you to do some in depth research into each family, but may be the only way to determine which is the correct Joan.

Fortunately for Cornwall there is much available online. For example, a quick search of the Cornwall Records Office catalogue shows the following wills proved in the Consistorial Court of the Archdeaconry of Cornwall:

  • AP/B/2103 - Will of Henry Beauford, tailor, of Launceston, 1686-1687
  • AP/B/2552 - Will of Joan Beauford, widow, of Launceston, 1701
  • AB/B/3278 - Will of Rebecca Beauford of Launceston, 1729

All these wills have been filmed by FamilySearch in their collection titled Original wills, administrations and inventories for the Consistorial Court of the Archdeaconry of Cornwall, 1579-1859. Although it is a bit of a hassle, and requires some effort and patience, you should be able to read these original probate records from the comfort of your own home. The wills are organized by first letter of surname, then by date of probate. You can use the reference number above (e.g. AP/B/2103) to help locate a specific document, since the reference numbers are the order in which the wills appear in the film.

I only included the above wills as examples. You might be lucky and find one of them helps, but I expect they might not be particularly helpful at this stage. If you research the siblings and extended family of each Joan, you might find a will for somebody that mentions a relative called Hobb, which would provide solid evidence that you have the correct Joan. My advice is to be persistent and try to track down as many branches of the family as you can until you find a link.

  • I've seen that there are many other Hobbs and some Beauforts/Befforts etc in the area...I will start using your information asap... thank you, it will hopefully be a big help. Could you explain a bit more about the mysogony in regards recording the deaths of women? I was recently told that in Cornwall they just didn't bother noting burials of women and children most of the time.... – Allan Smith Oct 15 '16 at 18:59
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    @Allan I think it would be best if you could ask that as a separate question, looking for explanations why you can't find Joan's burial – Harry Vervet Oct 15 '16 at 23:00

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