William Edward Hingston's study

News April 2013

WEH's study has now been found and is available here.

William Edward Hingston (WEH) (HN#26) conducted a study of the Hingstons, from about 1880 to his death in 1906. It was a remarkable piece of work but we feared that most of it had been lost. William had been born in Ireland and the family emigrated to the USA when he was vefry young. His father died so he returned to the UK with his mother and grew up in Liverpool, before emigrating to Buffalo in 1863.

He was clearly already interested in the family history when by chance (as described in a letter her wrote shortly before his death), he happened upon a package of papers in 1879 belonging to his late uncle (HN#24. John Townsend Hingston), which had been accumulated by William's grandfather.

Starting with this information he set about compiling a "Register". He accumulated information by writing to all the Hingstons with whom he could make contact to obtain their family records; his information for the 19th century is thus largely anecdotal but is presumably reasonably accurate. He also made contact with the vicars in the relevant churches to obtain their parish records.

As early as 1880 he was writing to other Hingstons. We have a letter he wrote to HN#55. John R. Hingston in Lynn, Massachusetts outlining his thoughts at that time.

He was intending to publish his register in the form of a book, and had gone so far as to obtain a printer's proof, which I have been given, showing how his tables listing the individuals would have looked. Some of his material was typed up, ready to go to the printers, by Lavinia Hingston, a daughter of HH#7. William Gillard Hingston. She was a court stenographer, so a skilled typist, and known as Aunt Vine to her family. That manuscript survives and is listed here as the Vine Tree. It was one of the first elements to be published on this site.

WEH made several trips to England gathering information, but on his last trip in 1903 he was taken ill; it was not until the end of 1905 that we hear from him again. He wrote to the Hingstons in Tasmania: a copy of that letter has recently come to light. He explained why he was doing the study, and gave a summary of the descents of both himself and the Tasmanian line. He died early in 1906, which probably meant he did not live to see any replies to his letter. It is possible that he wrote a number of similar letters to his other correspondents at about the same time.

WEH was also in contact with Harold Cuddeford Hingston (Tree HO). A chart was found in his possessions and sent to Jim King who published the information in a book deposited at the LDS. There are aspects that link in with what we already know but elements that disagree.

Last year, Florence McQuinn, who is WEH's great grand-daughter, wrote to me after finding a box of papers that turned out to be part of the missing study, and after collecting similar boxes of papers from other members of the family she has now assembled, either in manuscript form or as typescript, all of WEH's study in the form he was intending to publish it. Some was written in WEH's own hand in January 1906 when he knew he was ill - he died in February that year - but it is virtually all legible. I have now transcribed it all and it is available (as a big text file (>660kbytes)) on this web site. I have included internal links to aid navigation, and am in the process of adding links to the Trees avaiable on this web site.

Individuals are numbered in the WEH study. It would appear that the numbering system reserved 1-1999 for Hingstons, 2000-2999 for Hingston spouses, and 3000 upwards for others.

WEH may have fallen into the Genealogist's Trap of assuming what he wanted to prove, which I hope to avoid on this site. There seems to be an assumption in what is written that all the lines can be traced back to a family at Wonwell in South Devon. This family is fairly well known and has been documented elsewhere, both in the tree presented by Allen & Dymond and in Tree HD on this web site. But we now know that Wonwell and Hingston (Farm) had passed out of the family by marriage by 1511 and also that the Hingstons were widespread across the South Hams by the 1540s. That is earlier than the likely dates for WEH's assumed links.

There are some aspects of WEH's work that are confusing. In the typescript listings there are errors in place names, but these were almost certainly introduced by the typist; WEH himself had almost certainly visited the villages concerned or wrote to the local priests. Earlington is probably East Allington, Great Brent is probably South Brent, and Mageressay is almost certainly Mevagissy in Cornwall. The biggest worry though is Deptford where he seems to be confusing two places. There is a Deptford in Kent, which would have been a naval base in the time of his great grandfather (30. Edward). However in his letter of 1905 he refers to Deptford, near Brent, and this is certainly Diptford in Devon, where many of the Hingstons he lists can be found.

Nevertheless, William's work is an amazing effort, given that it would all have been carried out across at least three continents by sea-borne post. He didn't have access to the censuses, nor of course to the internet, but he would have had access to some sources now lost to us - personal memories, family Bibles and possibly some Devon Wills lost in the blitz on Exeter in 1942. Even if he was wrong in some of his deductions, piecing together as much as we can of his study remains a priority.

Florence McQuinn has made the information available to be published here so that it can be used by Hingston researchers, but she is considering publishing the material as a book and retains copyright.

If anyone has any correspondence from William, please contact me so I can make it available here.

Chris Burgoyne. Updated 8th August 2013