Home > Emilia Hollier
It was in October 2001 that I was first contacted by Ted Bean who was trying to find information about an Emilia Hollier, who had married a William Cater and had a son John Cater in 1890 in Birmingham. This article traces the intermittent research undertaken over a period of years to identify who Emilia was and where she descended from.
In the early months of the research, there was a lot of confusion over exactly when Emilia and William were born and died. I didn't have any birth of an Emilia Hollier in my comprehensive database and at one stage we were thinking that she might be Emily Hollier of the Studley Hollier family. That turned out to be completely wrong. I could not see Emilia in the 1881 census and at that time the 1901 census hadn't been released. A further remarkable coincidence was that John Cater was born at 7 Court, 2 New John Street West in Birmingham, the same address where a Hollier family had lived at the time of the 1851 census, but this didn't help locate Emilia.
Over many months, I managed to piece together a lot of information about Emilia and the constant factor was the change in her name, being recorded variously as Emila, Emma etc. I bought a marriage certificate for Emila Hollier from February 1871 but this turned out to be a marriage to a Henry Joseph Kibby, not William Cater, but it did at least establish that she was probably born c.1852 and that her father was a Joseph Hollier, a butcher. I didn't have any births c.1852 that might match Emilia and nor did I have a Joseph Hollier who was a butcher. The only Joseph Hollier in Birmingham in the 1851 census was a Journeyman Smith Striker.
By 2003, Ted Bean and I had established quite a lot about Emilia:
Though this now gave an extensive history of Emilia from 1871 onwards, it still provided no clues as to where she came from and who her ancestors were.
Once Ancestry had released the indexed 1861 census, a further opportunity arose to try to locate Emilia. But once again, there was no Emilia Hollier to be found. So I decided to list all the Birmingham Hollier families I knew and compare them with the 1861 index. I found one family that didn't link up to known families.
At 3 Saltley Road, Aston, I found:
|Joseph Hopkins||Head||Mar||37||Butcher||Kingsbury, WAR|
|Charles Hollier||Son of wife||13||Birmingham|
|Emma Hollier||Dau of wife||9||Birmingham|
Here was an apparent Hopkins connection and 'Emma' fits exactly for our Emilia. On the face of it, this suggests that a Sophia Hollier had two illegitimate children, Charles and 'Emma', then married Joseph Hopkins and had another son Thomas. It also suggests that when Emilia mentioned her father as being Joseph Hollier, butcher, she was possibly referring to Joseph Hopkins. I obtained the marriage certificate for Joseph and Sophia and this showed Sophia to be 24 in 1855, so born c.1831 and her father was quoted as William Hollier, labourer.
I subsequently found the same family in the 1871 census: Joseph, Sophia, Charles Hollier (merely described as visitor) and son Thomas. In the 1881 census Joseph, as noted above, was staying with the Caters and I haven't found Sophia in that year, but have located widow Sophia and Charles in the 1891 census.
I had no records of a baptism of a Sophia Hollier c.1831, so this still presented a 'brickwall'.
This still left the problem of why I could not find a family comprising a father William, daughter Sophia and possibly grandson Charles in the fully indexed 1851 census - not the Ancestry one (which hadn't then been released) but the 'Tri-County' index of Warwickshire, Norfolk and Devon on CD-ROM that the Mormons had published some years back as a trial before they did the 1881 census index. I had searched all possible variants for Hollier but drawn a blank. At this stage, I decided to check all the Birmingham Hollier families I had found in the 1851 census against my master database to see if any families might be missing. This proved to be a good move, as the only missing family was that of William Hollier and his wife Sophia (née Buffery), who I knew had married in 1820 and had children spread over some 20 years. But there were many gaps as the family had been 'constructed' partly from IGI baptism entries and partly from a couple of birth certificates I had bought in an attempt to identify the many Birmingham Hollier families. I knew therefore that they had 4 children: Thomas, baptised 1821; Emma, baptised 1823; William born 1838 and Charles born 1841. It would be quite possible for William & Sophia to be the parents of Sophia born c.1831.
It was at this point that serendipity played its part. I stumbled across a 'query search' feature in the 1851 census disk that is not documented. Rather than running the normal 1851 census application, if you click on the underlying database file, it allows you to search family records against sets of words. I knew from the birth certificates that William was a Waggoner, so I searched for any family entry with the words William, Sophia and Waggoner and it only found 7. Skimming through, it was clear that the missing Hollier family corresponds to this entry:
|William Oliver||Head||M||50||Waggoner||Handsworth, STS|
|Sophia Oliver||Wife||M||44||Birmingham, WAR|
|William Oliver||Son||U||14||Groom||Birmingham, WAR|
|Charles Oliver||Son||U||9||Scholar||Birmingham, WAR|
|Sarah Oliver||Daur||U||20||Thimble Maker||Smithack, WAR|
|Betsey Oliver||Daur||U||17||Thimble Maker||Birmingham, WAR|
|John Bilmington||SonL||M||25||Labourer||Yardley, WOR|
|Sophia Bilmington||Daur||M||20||Thimble Maker||Birmingham, WAR|
|Charles Bilmington||Son (Gson)||-||3||-||Birmingham, WAR|
Somehow, Hollier had got enumerated as Oliver - the original census document has the family as Oliver, so it wasn't a modern transcription error. The list shows that Charles aged 3 was not apparently illegitimate, but the son of a John Bilmington, married to Sophia. I feel sure that this should read Billington and I found a John Billington, 37 born Yardley in the 1861 census.
So Sophia, like her daughter Emilia, had several partners. I have no record of a Sophia Hollier marriage to John Billington, however, and on her subsequent marriage in 1871 she describes herself as a Spinster. Also, as noted above, by 1861, the children Charles and Emma are being described as Holliers. On the assumption that the name was Billington, I searched for births for Charles and Emma/Emilia and found:
Q2 1848 Charles Billington Aston Vol 16 page 195
Q4 1852 Emily Billington Aston Vol 6d page 195
So, in answer to the question 'who was Emilia Hollier?', I feel I can now say that Emilia Hollier was Emily Billington.
So what about William, Emilia's Grandfather? From the census, we know he was born c.1801 in Handsworth. I have no record of a baptism of a William in Handsworth at that time, but I do have one Hollier family in Handsworth in that period, so there's a good chance that William might fit into this family:
Thomas Hollier and Sarah Lloyd married 25 May 1795 in Handsworth and had children:
Ann, bap 30 Sep 1798 Union Independent, Handsworth
Sarah, bap 30 Sep 1798 Union Independent, Handsworth
Deborah said to be born 1801 (according to Jose Crump)
George bap 30 Sep 1804 Handsworth, St Mary's
Rebecca, bap 30 Aug 1807 Handsworth, St Mary's
Jose Crump also identifies the father Thomas as being of this family:
Thomas Hollier (a butcher) married Elizabeth Symonds 29 Sep 1766 Birmingham St Martins and had children:
Anne, bap 27 May 1768 St Martin's
Elizabeth, bap 27 Feb 1770 St Martin's
Thomas, bap 26 Mar 1773 St Martin's
However, I don't know what proof there is of this last connection.
What about further back? There is no obvious Thomas Hollier baptism around 1745, but there was a Hollier family having children baptised at Birmingham St Martin's around that time: Joshua Hollier and his second wife Rebecka Corbett, who had children baptised there in 1742 and 1744. Joshua's father was a Robert Hollier who died in Feb 1728/9 in Little Packington. The identity of his parents is unknown, but another significant researcher of the Hollier family, Harry Duckworth, suggests that it is likely that they were from the group of Holliers in the area around Wychnor and Barton under Needwood in Staffordshire, as his brother Thomas was at Wychnor when he made his will in 1718. There are Hollier records in Barton under Needwood from as early as 1582 and I have little doubt that this knot of Staffordshire Holliers ultimately connects back to the Holliers in North Warwickshire, the apparent original source of the surname.
As can be seen, there's much speculation here, but I can at least say for sure that Emilia's grandfather was William Hollier born in Handsworth (now subsumed within Birmingham) around 1801. Rarely have I researched someone who went under so many different names in her lifetime.
Having completed this research, I was keen to go back to Ted Bean to tell him that after 3½ years I had solved the problem he set me in 2001. Sadly, by this time, Ted had died.