I've traced my family tree to the 1700s Yorkshire, England.

Thomas Fowler B: Abt. 1744 England Marriage: 1766 Stillingfleet to Jane Hare, Yorkshire and he was living in Thorganby at the time

Thomas' decendants were all from Thorganby, Yorkshire, England. I looked on both Ancestry and FindMyPast and I could not find any matches for any Fowlers before 1744 in this town so they must have been from somewhere else. I also could't find any matches for Thomas Fowler either. He probably wasn't born in Thorganby in that case.

I took a look on FindMyPast and I found two good matches! However, I don't know how we are going to decide which one is the right one.

I found one match from Nether Poppleton and one from Fulford. Fulford is closer to Thorganby but I think there could have been a road either way. 1744 matches the marriage certificate better. John is a new name in our line but Robert is not.

How can I make this decision?


I followed the suggestion in the answer. Here's what I came up with:

What records are available for Thorganby?

Parish records from 1653-2007

Borthwick Institute in York, The Family History centre in Hull North Yorkshire County Archives in Northallerton



No 'Fowlers' found in Thorganby church records 1632-1699 Earliest 'Fowlers' found 1704 in Thorganby - may not be our family

Thomas & Jane Fowler had 3 children: Robert 1767 Ann 1773 Margaret 1793

Married 15 Oct 1766 Jane age 24 1742

How is that the correct marriage? Was the only marriage record +/- 10 years in Yorkshire where a Thomas Fowler married a Jane


  • Thomas Fowler was not born in Thorganby
  • He was living in Thorganby in 1766
  • He married 15 Oct 1766 in Stillingfleet

One source indicates that he was probably born abt 1744 - 1745.

Most people got married around age 25 so a likely rage is 1741 +/- 5 years.

There is one record match for 1744 which matches the marriage record.

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  • 1
    I don't know about Thorganby and FMP specifically, hence comment rather than answer, but have you considered that one possible reason for not finding Fowlers before 1744 is that the records may not exist (survive)?
    – JPmiaou
    Commented Mar 16, 2020 at 2:46
  • According to this source: familysearch.org/wiki/en/Thorganby,_Yorkshire_Genealogy there are records from the 1650s for this parish in Thorganby Commented Mar 16, 2020 at 19:08

5 Answers 5


As a fellow rookie, one trick the others haven't mentioned, is to search the marriage registers in the parishes of Thorganby, Nether Poppleton, Fulford and Stillingfleet in the years 1740-1780 for marriages and marriage witnesses in the names of Hare and Fowler.

That's the best way to build up a reliable FAN network - unless your man was a church warden - he may turn up witnessing the marriages of friends, relatives or neighbours. Also, published Monumental Inscriptions may have several generations inscribed on the same gravestone or relatives listed in nearby plots.

The witnesses for Thomas Fowler's marriage and the marriages of his children unless acting in a professional capacity - e.g. Church Warden - would also be members of the FAN Club.

The Yorkshire parish collections are split between Ancestry and FindMyPast.

FamilySearch are currently indexing Yorkshire, Marriage Bonds & Allegations (Licences) - if the images are available to view online then you could try browsing for the relevant entry otherwise you could order a copy from the Borthwick Institute for between £5 and £10. This should give an occupation for Thomas and the name and occupation of any fellow bondsman (a FAN member) unless a John Doe.

Try searching Fowler [+ Parish] in the Borthwick Institute and other Yorkshire ROs'catalogues.

FamilySearch will usually have microfilmed most of the parish chest / land tax type documents. Further documents may be kept at the appropriate Record Office or occassionally at the church itself.

https://www.familysearch.org/search/catalog/results?count=20&placeId=26928&query=+place:"England, Yorkshire, Thorganby-with-West Cottingwith"&subjectsOpen=572411-50

I have two instances - although one may be a clerical error - where searching over several years of land tax and manorial records one person with an unusual surname was seemingly replaced by someone with the same surname. One of the parishes was large enough that the quit rents for the manor were arranged under the street name - the surnames of some neighbours turned up later as marriage partners or fellow witnesses and my ancestor witnessed at least one of his neighbour's will.

At least for the counties I'm interested in there are only a reliable survival of land tax records for the years 1780s to 1832. There's also a searchable collection called UK, Land Tax Redemption, 1798 available on Ancestry. Land tax records may be roughly correlated with the later Tithe Maps (1840s) and census or the Enclosure records (18th/19th century) to pinpoint the (approximate) location of their holdings. If Thomas Fowler was a tenant try searching online catalogues on the names of his landlord(s), which may turn up relevant land deeds.

Yorkshire maintained its own version of a land registry long before a national one was created. But I'm not familiar with searching these - one for each Riding if I recall correctly.

Manor Court Books record the transfer of copyhold land and so may note the arrival of the Fowlers in the parish. Occassionally wills, which won't be found anywhere else will also be enrolled with the court.

Unfortunately the Manorial Documents Register lists no survival for Thorganby records.


But best to double check with the local RO.

Settlement Certificates may give a brief family history of newcomers to the parish.

There's a booklet called pre-1841 census listings - if someone has a copy, hopefully there are entries for one of the parishes you're interested in. There are also other booklets that list militia musters and various tax documents that are known to have survived.


The following may be relevant (and should also be available on Ancestry).

Reference: PROB 11/1815/360 Description: Will of Robert Fowler, Farmer of Thorganby , Yorkshire Date: 31 May 1833 Held by: The National Archives, Kew Legal status: Public Record(s) Closure status: Open Document, Open Description


Searching Fowler + [keyword:] Thorganby https://www.findmypast.co.uk/search/results?o=eventyear&d=asc&keywords=thorganby&lastname=fowler

Ann Fowler married Christopher Smith, 20 November 1733 at Thorganby.

Also, a Mary Fowler of Overton, married John Brown of Thorganby, 27 September 1761, at Overton.

A John Fowler, 31, of Thorganby, intended to marry Ann Cammell, 22, of Thorganby, 05 January 1741.

Their children included: John (1742), Mary (1745) and William (1746). Some of these records are indexed under the name FEWLER on FMP. So it's worth browsing the images for Thomas in case he was mistranscribed as well. William applied to be made a Freeman of the City of York in 1774.

Thomas & Jane's marriage record can be browsed to on FMP from the 1769 marriage of Thomas Gibson & Ann Fowler who share a marriage witness in Thomas Slater - possibly indicating Thomas and Ann Fowler are brother and sister. Thomas Fowler signed his name, which could prove very useful to compare with any other potential documents in his name.


I don't believe you have enough information to make a determination based on the Genealogical Proof Standard.


You might also check out this post on how to evaluate evidence. https://www.legacytree.com/blog/evaluating-genealogical-evidence

That probably isn't what you wanted to hear. I have a similar problem with one of my ancestors. My best progress so far has been to look for published information in other places such as local newspapers and city directories.

  • What if I can only find one source? What if there aren't many sources? Commented Mar 18, 2020 at 21:19

In Nether Poppleton Robert Fowler appears to have a large family - unless there's two Roberts with families almost overlapping. His children's names include Ann, Jane, Lucy, Margaret. Mary, Robert and William (also check under FULER and FULLER).


It would be worth trying to trace some of their marriages starting with the more uncommon first names. See if Thomas appears as a witness.


You've made some rookie mistakes here (don't worry, we've ALL done it).

  1. It's possible that neither one of these matches are your person. We tend to fall into the trap of thinking all record sets are complete and there's never any record loss. Now that you have these matches, investigate each match as if they are different people than the one you are looking for, and try to trace them from baptism to burial + probate. (Try to prove that they are NOT your people.)
  2. You're using too few record sets. As previously mentioned, this does not meet the "Reasonably Exhaustive Search" element of the Genealogical Proof Standard. See Genealogy Explained's flowchart for an overview of the research process. The BGC's site lists the five elements of the Genealogical Proof Standards on their ethics and standards page. QuickLesson 8: What Constitutes Proof? explains why simply collecting documents isn't enough. We need to evaluate them.
  3. You (apparently) aren't using FAN Club research. What do you know about 'your' Thomas Fowler and Jane Hare's extended family, friends, associates, and neighbors? See QuickLesson 11: Identity Problems & the FAN Principle for a case study of detemining identity through looking at a cluster of people, rather than just one or two.
  4. Have you thoroughly studied your research location? Have you mapped out the locations mentioned in the historical records you've already found? What other research have you done to put the records into their historical context?
  5. Avoid PCS (premature connectivitus syndrome) by working in small steps from what you already know. "Think inchworm, not leapfrog."
  6. Have you reviewed prior research? Have you searched for other researchers working in the same geographical area, or studying the same surnames?
  7. You're only looking at one generation. Clues about your research subjects might be found in the records of their descendants.

For further research:

  • 1
    2. One question about that one. As we are in the 1700s now there are no census records or civil registration records. All that exists are church records for birth, marriage, and burial. Some people might have had a will and there was a probate court in York. That's all there is. Only one institution has the church records because it's a small village and there was only one church there. Commented Mar 18, 2020 at 15:24
  • 3. How would you find out who his neighbours and associates were without a census? Commented Mar 18, 2020 at 21:29

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