Naughty John Dawson Strikes Again

Last week I wrote about education records and gave the example of how they helped to tell the story of John Dawson. I was also able to use land records to find out more about him, as you will see.

Reading through the minutes of the Board of Guardians in the 1870s, I became aware that John and his brother owned a farm in a small village not far from Keighley. By this time, John’s brother had returned to live in the workhouse, where he was identified as being a lunatic in the 1871 census. The brother’s share of the rent, one third, was being handed over to the workhouse to pay for the brother’s upkeep.

Making use of the records held at the West Yorkshire Registry of Deeds I was able to trace the purchase of this farm in the 1860s, when John and his brother had bought the farm from its owner who lived in Kirkby Lonsdale. The Dawson brothers never lived at the farm, which was tenanted by a Mr Gill, and the Gill family continued to occupy the farm into the 20th century.

In 1883, John’s brother died in the Wakefield Asylum. I found two deeds had been registered on the same day. One was a statutory declaration of intestacy of the brother, the other giving details of a mortgage that John had taken out on the farm. In subsequent years, John took out two further mortgages on the property. Two of the mortgages had been advanced by the same person, a solicitor in Bingley.

John was registered to vote in Keighley, although the electoral roll confirms his address as being Brasenose College Oxford and his name remained on the roll until 1906.  Now it is not an easy task to find a date of death for John, as he has quite a common name. I had no idea where he died. There were simply too many options in the first decade of the 20th century so I decided to try and find a deed which would record the transfer of the farm to another owner which would have confirmed the date of John’s death, but to no avail. I then looked at the 1910 Valuation Office Survey, sometimes called the “Lloyd George Doomsday Survey” and found that the owner of the farm owner was shown as Samuel Weatherhead.  Perhaps John defaulted on the mortgage?

The 1910 survey is fascinating and contains lots of information about properties and you can read more about it here

I hope this week’s series of blogs have given you some ideas for how you can use land records to help to tell your family story.


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