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The Ancestors of Mary Dickens

A Research Status Report

The ancestors of Mary Dickens have eluded me for years.  I am publishing this in the hopes that someone out there can help to get me past the brick wall.


This material represents research in progress.  Use of terms such as may, possibly and probably means that this is speculation only and should not be repeated as fact.  Further research probably can only be done on site in England and some at least must be done in London.

The notation after the person's first name denotes their generation.  The generations are going back from Mary1 Dickens, and are noted as letters rather than numbers.

The sources are mentioned in the body of the text.  Further description of some sources is in the endnotes.  All locations are in England, and are in Northamptonshire unless otherwise indicated.


Family histories often suggest a connection with the author Charles Dickens.  However he was born in 1812 near Portsmouth in Hampshire, so if there is any connection it would not have been a close one.(1)


Mary1 Dickens, the daughter of William and Mary Dickens, was born on 10 Nov 1784 at Long Buckby (Long Buckby parish register)(2).  The record notes duty paid.  The parish register records her birth but no baptism.  This date is consistent with her age and birthplace in census records and at her death.

Mary died on 29 Jun 1862 at Long Buckby (civil registration).  See The Descendants of Thomas York and Mary Dickens for her marriage and children.  Mary was well educated, unusual for the wife of a flax dresser and cordwainer, but not unusual among nonconformists.  (The children of Thomas York and Mary Dickens were all baptised in the Nonconformist Church in Long Buckby.)  In addition to her signature on the marriage record, letters have survived that she wrote to her son Henry which demonstrate a fine penmanship and a good grasp of the language.


WilliamA Dickens, the son of JohnB and ElizabethB Dickens, died in March 1799.

Two brothers, William Dickens and John Dickens, cordwainers at Long Buckby (1777 militia list(3) and estate administrations(4) ), were born before 1758 (both would have been at least age 18 to be included in the 1777 militia list).  John died by 1829 (administration of both his estate and William's occurred in 1829).  No record has been found of the birth of either brother.

John Dickens was married, on 27 Dec 1781 at Long Buckby, to Sarah Robinson (Long Buckby parish register).  Their only surviving child was Sarah Dickens, spinster.  She was born on 14 May 1785 at Long Buckby (Long Buckby parish register).  Sarah Dickens is known to have resided in Oxford, Oxfordshire, in 1829, and in Long Buckby in 1841 and at her death in 1848.  In the 1841 Census in Long Buckby, Sarah, age 56, of independent means, and born in the parish, was living with William Robinson, age 73 and his wife Mary, age 65, also of independent means.

In her will(5), Sarah names Mary Dickens York as her first cousin.  Other heirs are three first cousins named Robinson: John Robinson of Dunstable, Beds, grocer, William Robinson of Kettering, Baptist minister, and John Robinson, late of Burford, Shropshire, now of Manchester, Lancs, Surgeon.

No marriage has been located for William and Mary Dickens in the Long Buckby parish register.  Either they were married in a nonconformist ceremony and never followed up with an "official" Church of England ceremony (the only ones legal at that time) or they were married in another parish which has not been located.  There is always the possibility that they may not have been formally married.

Possible marriages in other parishes include:

  1. William Dickens married Mary Sansom 17 Jan 1773 at Boughton (IGI)(6).
  2. William Dickens married Mary Buckness 1 Dec 1768 at Daventry (IGI).
  3. William Dickens married Mary War 11 Mar 1770 at Ravensthorpe by licence (parish register).  On the licence he was called yeoman, widower of Ravensthorpe.  She was a spinster, of Gaton in parish of Ravensthorpe.  The bondsman was William Biggs of Ravensthorpe, yeoman.  They had a daughter Jane baptized on 22 Mar 1772 (IGI).  It seems unlikely, but not impossible, that he would be called yeoman here and cordwainer in other records.
  4. Another family has been ruled out: William Dickons married Mary Johnson at Pytchley on 25 Aug 1776 (parish register).  Children (Bishop's Transcript): Mary baptized 26 Jul 1778 (probably the Mary Dickens buried on 10 Sep 1787 at Pytchley); Elizabeth baptized 29 Jul 1781; and Anna baptized 15 Aug 1784.  However, both William and Mary signed the marriage record with their mark, which seems unlikely for the parents of well-educated Mary Dickens.  Also, they had a daughter Mary who was still living when Mary1 Dickens was born.

No children of William Dickens other than Mary are recorded in the Long Buckby parish register.  In his estate administration, William's only surviving child was Mary Dickens, wife of Thomas York.  If William and Mary had other children, they may have been baptized in the nonconformist church and no record of their birth made in the Church of England parish register.  The records for the Long Buckby nonconformist church begin in 1795 and do not contain any records for children of William Dickens.

William Dickens is known to have resided in Long Buckby in 1777, from 1786 to 1796, and at his death.  According to a letter written by Alice Elizabeth Ivens to George Dallas York, she had copies of letters written by William Dickens when he was in the army. No other record of that military service has been located.  Might he have died in the service?

William Dickens is mentioned in several Long Buckby land records(7):

  1. 1 May 1786 - lease by the children of Thomas Wadsworth to William Dickens of a farmhouse in Long Buckby.  Six closes now divided into 8: Hopkins's Close, Fonter's Close, Spinney Close, Barnsgrave Close, Carrol Close, Near Benbow Close, Far Benbow Close, Dartshill Close.(YZ 932) It is not clear from the wording that the farmhouse was located on any of the closes.
  2. 7 Apr 1790 - lease to Wm - not clear of what (YZ 836)
  3. 14 Nov 1791 - lease to Wm, mort from Wm (YZ 2781/2)
  4. 25/26 Mar 1793 - trustee in lease of dwelling house in Long Buckby to William Bunting (YZ 6363)
  5. >4 Apr 1796 - trustee in lease of Wright's Cottage in Long Buckby to Joseph Sabin of Long Buckby and Elizabeth his wife (YZ 298)

Another clue to be pursued is in a letter from Ada Kinch to Pat Russell.  "Louis Dickon from London with his grandmother - our Aunt Sarah, Grandpa Kinch's [George Kinch] sister."

1884 letter from Henry York regarding their passage through London on the way to Canada: "I was on the look out for T.D. - and saw him along the towpath, but had now idea of it being him, he is so much altered in manners and aperance, being drest in the London style and looked like a gentleman.  He entertaned us with tea, porter, and beef and a bottle of brandy, and attended us to the last."  The initials seem clearly T.D. not L.D., however Henry uses capital letters so seldom that it is difficult to be certain.  However, Henry's brother Thomas York used the surname Dickens while he lived in London, so this reference probably refers to him.


MaryA [--?--], wife of WilliamA Dickens.  No record has been found of her other than Mary1 Dicken's birth.  If there were no other children, she may have died shortly after Mary was born.  In any case, she must have died before 1829 since she is not mentioned in the administration of her husband's estate.

Pat Russell has suggested that her maiden name may be Lucas, as a Thomas Francis Lucas, gentleman, was appointed co-administrator with Thomas York of William Dickens' estate and as a co-administrator for others of John Dickens' estate.  Further research is needed.


JohnB Dickens, Long Buckby, cordwainer, husband of Elizabeth, was buried on 11 Sep 1794 at Long Buckby (Long Buckby parish register).  His will(8), calling him John Dickens the elder, was signed on 25 Aug 1794 and proved on 25 Mar 1795.  He left his "cottage or tenement together with the outbuildings garden and appurtanances ... now in the occupation of my son William Dickons and William Bunting ..." to his son William Dickens.  The will names his wife Elizabeth Dickens as his executor.  (Note the 1793 record in which William Dickens was named trustee for William Bunting, the elder.)

The Dickens family was already in Long Buckby in the late 1500s (early parish register)(9), and were collarmakers.  A Philippe Dicons was buried on 19 Jan 1590/1.  However, probably because of the nonconformist connection, mention of the family is sparse in parish registers and no connection has been made with JohnB Dickens.  The land records of WilliamA Dickens and the correspondence between Henry York and his parents suggest possible connections with the Bunting and Wadsworth families, both early Long Buckby families.


ElizabethB [--?--], wife of JohnB Dickens, may be the Elizabeth Lee who was married, on 24 Aug 1755 at Long Buckby, to John Dickens, witnessed by John Lee and John West.  Lee is another old Long Buckby name.  Members of the Lee family also married into the Bunting and Robinson families.

She may be the Elizabeth Dickens, widow, who was buried on 25 Aug 1824 in Long Buckby (Long Buckby parish register).  Assuming she was born by 1737, that would make her age at death at least 87.

Another possible ElizabethB that was considered, but ruled out, is Elizabeth Chapman who was married, on 27 May 1751 at Long Buckby to John Dickens (Long Buckby parish register).  She is probably the Elizabeth, wife of John Dickens, that died on 17 Mar 1788, and her husband the John Dickens, wid, buried on 17 Jul 1794 or the John Dickens, wid, buried on 4 Feb 1800 (Long Buckby parish register).

In his will(10), proved 10 Aug 1784, John Lee, woolcomber of Long Buckby, named one of his heirs as his daughter Elizabeth Dickens.  John Robinson is executor and Mary and Joseph Bunting are witnesses.


Notes -

  1. 6 Feb 1996 letter from Dr. David Parker, Curator, The Dickens House Museum, London England.  Return to text
  2. All Northamptonshire parish registers are at the Northampton Record Office.  The Northamptonshire Parish Records are not available at this time through the Family History Library of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Return to text
  3. Victor A. Hatley, Northamptonshire Militia Lists, 1777. Northamptonshire Record Society, 1973. p.61.  Return to text
  4. Northamptonshire Record Office: N admon. Wm. Dickens 20/8/1829/ N admon. John Dickens, 7 Nov 1829 [FHL film #187822].  Return to text
  5. Will of Sarah Dickens.  Return to text
  6. IGI - International Genealogical Index of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  It is an index only, and not a final source.  The source records for the IGI have not yet been examined.  Return to text
  7. Extracted by Mona Harrison at the Northamptonshire Record Office.  Return to text
  8. Northamptonshire Record Office: N will John Dickens 25/3/1795.  Return to text
  9. R. L. Greenall, editor, The Parish Register of Long Buckby, Northamptonshire, 1558-1689.  Vaughan Papers in Adult Education No. 17, University of Leicester Department of Adult Education, March 1971.  Return to text
  10. Northampton Record Office (Mona Harrison extracted for me) Return to text

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