I wrote recently about new evidence connecting my Roe ancestors with the part of England where I now live. My distant relative Keith Roe has found a Roe family living in the village of Pirton, just a few miles from Hitchin where I’m writing this, who may have been related to my 3rdgreat grandfather Daniel Roe (d. 1838), a Baptist shoemaker in Biggleswade, ten miles further north. As I noted in my earlier post, I was particularly intrigued by Keith’s discovery of a shoemaker named John Roe who served his apprenticeship here in Hitchin in the 1780s, and was married in the town twice, firstly in 1788 and secondly in 1792. It’s almost certain that he is the same John Roe who was paying land tax on property in nearby Luton in the 1820s.

Luton in the 19th century

Whether this John Roe was related in some way to the Roes of Pirton is as yet unproven. However, we know that William and Martha Roe of Pirton had two sons, named John and Daniel, who were both still alive when Martha made her will in 1817. We don’t have records of the births or baptisms of these children, perhaps because the family were Dissenters. We also lack records for any children born to John Roe of Luton, possibly for the same reason.

However, we do know that there would be Roes living in Luton later in the 19thcentury. I’ve written before about William and Peter Roe, who may have been brothers, and whose families can be found in the census records for Luton from 1841 onwards. There are some circumstantial factors pointing to a link with both John Roe and the Roes of Pirton – William and Peter were both shoemakers; William could have been named after William Roe of Pirton (his grandfather?) and Peter after Peter Moss, the father of Martha Roe of Pirton (his great grandfather?); and we know that William of Luton named two of his sons John and Daniel.

I’ve now obtained a piece of evidence that may provide a more well-founded link between these later Roes in Luton and John Roe, the shoemaker who served his apprenticeship in Hitchin in the 1780s. Marriage certificates usually include the names of each party’s fathers, so they can be useful tools for tracing an individual’s family origins. Official registration of births, marriages and deaths only began in 1837, which means that for events before that date we have to rely on the parish registers. Peter Roe married his wife Dinah Scrivener in 1827, and William Roe his wife Sarah Huckle in 1831, so certificates aren’t available for those events. However, I remembered that William married his second wife, Elizabeth Maddocks, in 1852, so I applied to the General Register Office for the certificate. My copy arrived yesterday, and it clearly states that William Roe, a 41-year-old shoemaker and widower of Luton, was the son of John Roe, also a shoemaker.

Copy of the marriage certificate of William Roe and Elizabeth Maddocks, 7th June 1852 (via GRO)

Now, there might have been more than one John Roe working as a shoemaker in Luton in 1811 or thereabouts, when William Roe was born. But it’s certainly possible that William’s father was the man who served his apprenticeship in Hitchin in the 1780s. At the same time, my distant Australian relative Julie Campbell, who is descended from Richard John Roe, one of the sons of my 3rdgreat grandfather Daniel Roe of Biggleswade, tells me that she has learned of DNA matches with two people who have William Roe of Luton in their family trees.