All family historians know that at various times throughout their research one has to make use of strong circumstantial evidence in order to make progress. Between the misspelled church registers and the 'unusual' handwriting there are many instances when we simply stare at what looks like someone else's name but we just know that it's the person that we've been looking for. If we're fortunate, then some further research will reveal that what we thought of as a possibility is actually a real probability.
Although chronologically back-to-front, the story will make more sense if it's told in the order upon which I came across each problem.
The conundrum began when after around two years solidly researching the Orland name I came to a sudden dead-end in early 2001. I had gone back fairly smoothly using Birth, Marriage and Death certificates, the 1881 census on CD and then parish & census records at the LDS Family History Centre as far as John Orland in Winwick who married Prudence Simons in 1781. However, I found no baptism for John in Winwick, and the marriage record gave no clue as to where he was from. It just said "both of this parish". From John's age on his gravestone (88 years old in February 1839) I could assume that he was probably born around 1750 to early 1751. An allowance would have to made there, though - only as recently as 1988 my grandfather's age was incorrectly inscribed on his memorial stone as being 77, when he was actually 76.
Hoping for some further clues, I turned my attention to the nearby Orland family around the Creaton area (including Coaton, Teeton and Holdenby). I found the same problem there.... everyone traced back to a marriage between William Orland and Jane Farndon in 1774 but no clues to William's origin. We even visited Creaton and recorded many Orland gravestone inscriptions, but on that first occasion failed to find William's grave. I really needed to find out how old he was if I were to stand any chance of making any progress.
Long beforehand I had already looked at the familysearch website, and by doing a general search for all Orlands, a pattern emerged. All the early Orlands, up to the late 1700s, were in the Leicestershire area, mostly from the village of Billesdon or nearby. After that time, though, most Orlands appeared to have moved to Winwick or other nearby villages in Northamptonshire. There was, however, a record of a John Orland, baptised in East Norton, Leicestershire, in Nov. 1749.... very close indeed. Could this be this our man?
Looking at the similarity between John and William's families, it seemed feasible that they were brothers who had moved from Leicestershire together, and found work 20 miles farther south in two adjacent Northamptonshire villages just 5 miles apart. To increase the likelihood of their relationship, William named his first son John, and seven years later it appears that John reciprocated this gesture by naming his first son William. In both cases, their next son was named after his own father, which would normally, in those days, have been the first choice.
After reaching this dead end in Northamptonshire, I ordered the parish records for the Leicestershire villages to try and work forwards from there. To my astonishment I found these records:
It would seem that a couple named Benjamin and Hannah had changed their family name from Ireland to Orland! Or had they? Perhaps it was feasible that in the tiny village of East Norton there were two different couples named Benjamin and Hannah; one couple with the surname Ireland, and the other with the similar surname of Orland. Then, two years after Ben & Hannah Ireland had finished having their four children, Ben & Hannah Orland started having theirs - cleverly avoiding using any of the names that the Ireland family had used, including the parents' own first-names! No, I didn't believe that either!
Looking again at the familysearch internet site, I found that the 'Orland' couple used two of the names (Ann & George) from Benjamin Ireland's own ancestry, and two more names (John and Elizabeth) from Hannah's family too. Taken sequentially, Benjamin and Hannah Ireland/Orland named their children after themselves, their parents and all of their brothers and sisters.
The circumstantial evidence was now too strong to ignore.... there could only be one couple named Benjamin and Hannah, and after marrying in Belton with the family name of Ireland, it changed to Orland during their time in East Norton and before the baptism of their son, George, in 1745. This is more easily demonstrated by a quick look at their family tree.
The true reason for the change in name will forever have to remain lost in the mists of time, and therefore speculation must play a major part. As I am updating this information in 2012 the original reason suspected for the change might no longer be applicable due to the information now available, and this is explained in more detail below.
At first, however, the only sensible theory for the change in family name from Ireland to Orland appeared to be that it was the result of a mistake by the clergy at the christening of George in 1745 - the first of Benjamin and Hannah's children to bear the Orland name. If the Ireland parents had an unfamiliar accent, and were asked at the christening what their child was to be named.... the Rector or Curate might have misheard "George Ireland", and decided to spell the name as "Orland" in the way with which he was more familiar. With most "peasants" being illiterate at that time, they were unlikely to challenge the strange scribblings made by the clergy.
However, a link still had to be proven to exist between this newly named Orland family from Leicestershire and our known ancestors in Northamptonshire.
With the finding of the Leicestershire Ireland and Orland children came another clue to our past. We had already established that "their" John, born in East Norton in 1749, had a birth date very close to that of "our" John, who appeared to have been born around 1750.
We now also had a family with a brother for John.... in William. The dates all seemed to correspond. William in Creaton married seven years before John in Winwick - and Ben and Hannah's son William was born in 1742 - seven years before his younger brother John.
Another clue manifested itself when looking again at the record of William and Jane's marriage in Creaton - the witnesses were Jane Orland and William Dunn. The Leicestershire brothers also had a sister called Jane, born in 1754 in Billesdon - and when I looked up William Dunn on the familysearch site, the only likely match was a child baptised in Belton, Rutland - the village where Benjamin and Hannah were married! Had Mr. Dunn travelled with William and John to Northamptonshire? The evidence was mounting.... what I really needed now, was to find out William's age when he died in Creaton.
I knew from parish records that he was buried on the 6th January 1795, so if he was the son of Ben and Hannah born in 1742 then we were looking for him to be 52 years old at death. It seemed a fair assumption that his 53rd birthday would more likely have occurred later in that year.
I have long been a convert to the advantages of the internet, and it's ability to collate worldwide information onto your computer screen without having to mail billions of people in the hope of a reply! Once again it provided the catalyst in the breakthrough for which I'd hoped during the last two years.
In January 2003 I registered with the newly formed Genes Reunited (formerly Genes Connected) website. I uploaded our family tree in the hope that it might be of some help to somebody, and made a few half-hearted searches for any other Orland names, not really expecting there to be any. There are not too many Orlands around and, besides, this website had not been established for very long.
Surprisingly I found quite a few, and they were all someone's ancestors from the Creaton area. It seemed that I had stumbled across a modern day family descended from William Orland in Creaton! I tentatively contacted the person who'd registered these names, and the next day had a reply from a most helpful and friendly lady from Surrey named Carolyn. In my next email I explained my 'conspiracy theory' about William and John being brothers and the possibility of Ben and Hannah being their parents etc. - I certainly wasn't expecting what was to come next.....!!
Carolyn's reply two days later provided the answer to the crux of the whole investigation. A cousin of hers had done some research years before, and had recorded an inscription which gave William's age at death in January 1795 as 52 !
Of all the possible ages that it could have been, it was a perfect match, and meant that it was beyond reasonable doubt that he and John were the two sons of Benjamin and Hannah in Leicestershire.
If that grave still existed, then I just had to have a photograph of it! I had received that email on a Saturday morning, and two hours later Bev, me and the kids were on our way to Creaton with the camera. The conditions were more favourable this time, and although we had to clear some fallen branches away and some undergrowth, the face of the headstones appeared to have been washed by the recent wind and rain, and were not covered with moss. After a very short time, I discovered William's grave next to his wife Jane's, which I had also failed to find before. They were just in front of a hedge next to a large tree, which had shed it's leaves and many branches too - and adjacent to many of the other Orland graves that I'd already recorded. So I can only surmise that they must have been unreadable or covered in growth on our previous outing to Creaton. Despite being over two hundred years old, the inscription was remarkably legible, and it's perhaps ironic that the foliage which may have prevented us from finding the graves on the earlier visit might have been the very thing which preserved the condition in which we found the graves.
So, for several years our known family tree stood static, with the earliest record belonging to Benjamin Ireland marrying Ann Parsons in Belton in Rutland in 1712. To gather a family tree spanning three hundred years was a pleasing enough result in itself, but I remained intrigued about Benjamin's roots even though casual searches from 2003 until 2012 found no matching parish records. It was only possible to guess at when or where he was born: I was estimating that a person marrying in 1712 would probably have been born between the late 1670s and early 1690s - but had he stayed local, or moved to Rutland from far afield?
Of course, such a record might not even have existed. Many parish registers have perished over the centuries due to things like damp storage conditions, fires, or destruction in wartime - and additionally, some parishes did not record every single event. At this point the internet was the only practical place to search, but even if such a record existed, had it yet been transcribed - and if so, had it been done accurately? To physically travel to, and search for, every village church record was obviously not feasible.
However, the internet is never a finished item, and new records are being put online all the time. The IGI index on the familysearch website has long remained the fullest collection of parish records, and in early 2012 I repeated a search on there that I'd tried many times before in the hope of finding "our Ben". Knowing that transcribers occasionally struggle to decipher the beginning of a surname, I began my search in Leicestershire for any Benjamin with a surname of *land. The *wildcard* could have picked up many similar names, like Rowland, England, Hadland, etc.
But what did I find this time? Well, it was none other than a Benjamin Orland. That was rather similar to Ireland, wasn't it! Obviously it was much better than that - it was our name! The date was perfect too - 1684, which meant that he'd have married aged 28 (the same age I did) - that's if he was the one who married Ann Parsons in 1712.
But this wasn't all.... this Ben Orland was born in Billesdon. Most of the Orland family around that time were in Billesdon, so that wasn't a great surprise in itself, but it was also where Benjamin Ireland's son, Benjamin, and his family were to move to (or could it be return to?), two generations later.
This was all very exciting to find, but was this Benjamin Orland, born in 1684, the same person that got married as Benjamin Ireland in 1712 in the nearby village of Belton, just across the border into Rutland? For those of you who have persevered with this page, it must seem like deja-vu! Well, in addition to the name, place and date being a close match for our man, other things, although only circumstantial, also supported the theory.... Benjamin appears to have been the last of five children born to Thomas Orland and Sarah Davy, and Ben's siblings were, with the exception of one, given the same names that were subsequently used by Ben Ireland and his family. It all certainly feels right.
We can now wind the clock forward to 2017 and conclude this episode. A lovely lady named Judith Mayoh (nee Meadows) recently got in touch to let me know that she had also been researching the Orland family in Billesdon as a branch of her own family tree. And not only that, but she informed me that findmypast.co.uk had recently added to their database full colour scans of the original Leicestershire and Rutland parish registers. This certainly had me licking my lips in anticipation!
Well, while I was gathering as much information as I could to fill in our tree, I came across the original church records for East Norton, of which I'd only ever seen modern, typed transcripts. What I found next caught me completely by surprise, as it provided the definitive answer to this long standing puzzle. We've seen how a corrected mistake in the recording of a baptism can provide unexpectedly helpful evidence of a link between two families (in that particular case, Prudence's maiden name, Symonds, had accidentally been written, then crossed out and Orland substituted). Well, in this case, the incorrectly recorded name of Ireland for Benjamin & Hannah's children's baptisms (see farther up this page) had been retrospectively corrected, as is shown below....
We will probably never learn the true reason why either the vicar or a member of the Orland family suddenly realised, before 1745, that the name had been written incorrectly, but at least they did notice it and restore our family name.
The origin of the Ireland/Orland naming problem above would appear to be because the records from which I'd gathered the names, back in the late 1990s, had been transcribed from the "Bishop's Transcipts" - copies of the register that were sent monthly to the local bishop. And, of course, once sent away the records were no longer in the care of the local vicar who could've corrected them. However, if those records had never been wrong in the first place, the research wouldn't have been half as much fun, and I'd not have learned so much about some elements of our family!
So, after all that, it would seem that our Orland family has always been the Orland family.