I seem to be stuck in a phase of case studies at present. My article, ‘Ten steps to Finding John Armstrong’ is due to appear in the May edition of Family Tree Magazine, on sale from the 11th April. This was not a straightforward case to work, although on reading back the solution seems ridiculously obvious. With very little paper trail information before the marriage of John Armstrong and Mary Kirk in February 1811, the key to solving the puzzle lay not in proving who John Armstrong was, but who he was not! It was also a case that used autosomal DNA testing to maximum effect. The DNA provided the necessary evidence to support theories that would otherwise have remained on the hypothesis pile. There are no spoilers in the following paragraphs but suffice it to say John’s parentage differs from the consensus!
But back to the case in hand. I promised a distant cousin (5c1r to be exact), to commit my ‘scratchings’ of the Hogg family pedigree to paper over two years ago! We share mutual ancestors in John Thompson, (c1745 – 1810) farmer at Upper Shields or Overshields (now Shieldykes) and his wife Ann Grey (c1747 – 1812). We connect through Margaret their fifth daughter of nine, who married William Hogg, at Felton on Wednesday 14th August 1805.
William Hogg, husband of Margaret Thompson is the sticking point in most family trees. But there also seems to be some confusion over the pedigree of the couple’s daughter-in-law Dorothy, also Hogg by birth. Therefore, now seems an opportune time to share my methodology and findings to help reset the compass. Whilst the Hogg family itself may not necessarily be of interest, the research principles and sources used are relevant to many other cases of a similar period and nature.
In an about-turn from Armstrong of Haltwhistle where DNA provided valuable evidence, the earlier ancestry of the Hogg family has been pieced together using traditional research methods alone. The family left a comprehensive trail of paper records including a helpful clutch of Wills and Probate Admins in their wake. Other evidence is literally written in tablets of stone. A bonus is that almost all the records used are freely available online. It’s just a case of knowing where to look! William Hogg’s death burial and associated Will provide an excellent starting point to begin the journey back in time.
Step 1. William Hogg's Death and Burial
Top Tip: Death and burial records are often neglected but often contain vital information & other clues.
Although William Hogg died at Kyloe in North Northumberland on 20 December 1845 aged 77, he is buried at Shilbottle, some 24 miles to the south.
This memorial strongly suggests links with mid-Northumberland at both Shilbottle and Acton. It also provides:
Step 2. William’s Will
Top Tip. Wills can be a great source of family information, although use caution in Scotland where eldest sons are sometimes absent in earlier documents pertaining to inheritance due to laws of primogeniture. Always consider a potential familial connection between the deceased and their executors.
William Hoggs Will dated 1st July 1845 is available through the North East Inheritance Database. It provides the names of further sons George, John and James and details of freehold property interests in ‘Whitlees Farm’ at Elsdon, a Freehold Brewery and Maltings with associated land and premises at Felton. He bequeathed these along with his interests in the farm at East Kyloe to his (youngest) son James, who, along with his two surviving brothers were executors to their father’s estate.
Step 3. Establish William’s place of Birth
Top Tip: Establishing an individual’s earliest known residence may also point to the area of their birth. It is often useful to come forward in time to go back.
The 1841 Census
At the time of the 1841 census William had yet to make the move north to East Kyloe. He and his wife Margaret were farming at South Acton, near Felton. Son William and daughter Ann were at home as was a further son called James, the chief beneficiary of his father’s Will. Son George and his wife Barbara Hogg were farming at West Kyloe and John with his wife Dorothy Hogg were farming at Low Hedgeley, near Eglingham.
The census confirms William, Margaret and their children William Jnr and Ann were all born in Northumberland. Pinning down where required alternative sources.
Step 4. Baptisms of William and Margaret’s Children
Top Tip: Take the time to look at the original records, either Parish Register or contemporary copies known as Bishops Transcripts. They often contain far more information than transcriptions. Bishops Transcripts for many Northumberland and Durham Parishes are available for free through Family Search. The English parish record transcriptions provided by FreeReg also contain the extra information and are an excellent alternative, also available for no cost to the user.
William Hogg and Margaret Thompson of Newton on the Moor baptised five children at Shilbottle between 1807 and 1813: George 1807, John 1808, William 1810, James in Jan 1813 and Ann in October of the same year.
This was the time of Shute Barrington, Bishop of Durham, who along with William Dade revolutionised the information entered in Parish Registers. For a short time at least, more extensive appears against vital events. William Hogg was farming at Newton on the Moor at the time his children were born. However, the entries at their baptism also suggest birthplaces for both parents.
Record reads: ‘John Hogg [born] Sept 28th 1807 [Baptised] Aug[us]t 26th 1808, 2nd Son William Hogg of Newton Farmer, native of Ritton White House by his wife Margaret Thompson native of Upper Shield in the Parish of Alnwick’.
Step 5. Other Hogg Connections at Shilbottle
Top Tip. Casting a net for other potential relatives in the immediate often pays dividends.
Before looking for information on the family’s time at Ritton, the Shilbottle were checked for other familial connections. The parish registers contain several records which formed the basis of family groups. There are also probate records that confirm potential family members.
The administration and grant of a George Hogg’s probate in 1806 provides the following familial information.
The renunciation document confirms William’s relationship to the deceased, his place of residence as Newton on the Moor and occupation as Farmer. 
From this short document an outline of William’s immediate family can be mapped; his mother Margaret, brother John Hogg, married sisters Margaret Taylor and Mary Forster and cousin John Hogg also of Shilbottle Parish.
Key Points: The document mentioning two cousins named John Hogg farming at Shilbottle at the same time perhaps suggests more than one Hogg family had previous connections with Ritton.
Step 6: Establish the parentage of the two John Hoggs farming at Shilbottle.
Top Tip: Although in this case the relationship was that of first cousin, this is not always the case. It is not unusual for it to be more distant.
The two John Hoggs confirmed as cousins in the probate administration above suggests their respective fathers were brothers. Therefore, their grandparents were their most recent common ancestors.
The burial information for each provides calculated birth years.
6.1 William Hogg’s brother John.
John Hogg, William’s brother, died at Hazon High Houses 5th July 1853 aged 69. His calculated birth year of 1784 corresponds with a baptism on 2 Jan 1785 to George Hogg, farmer at Hazon High Houses and his wife Margaret.
(I already knew that William and John’s father was George Hogg who died at Hazon High Houses in 1800 due to a previous encounter. John was married to Mary Pringle, daughter of Edward Pringle of Snitter near Rothbury and his wife Margaret Vardy. Edward Pringle and Edward Anderson, (brothers in law) provided surety for the admin of the Will of Isabella Mole nee Pringle suggesting a further familial connection yet to be run to ground. Isabella Pringle was a 5th great grandmother of mine who died at New Heaton Farm in 1814. (Strange how life works!))
No Will or admin has been identified for John and William’s father George who died at Hazon 1800, or their mother Margaret who died at Hazon in 1821. Apart from a daughter Ann who was born in 1770 at Ritton White House and died at Shilbottle in 1788, the family is pieced together from the administration of their brother George at Step Five above.
6.2 William Hogg’s cousin John
John Hogg, William’s cousin died at Hazon High Houses 1st May 1823 indicating a birth year of 1772. This corresponds with the baptism of a John Hogg son to John Hogg and Barbara Hume of Ritton White House baptised at Netherwitton 13 Jan 1772.
Step 7. Hogg family connections at Ritton White House.
Top Tip – The Northumberland Farms Index can be a useful aid for pinning down locations and unfamiliar or obsolete names.
Ritton White House is a farm in Netherwitton Parish. Again, probate documents came up trumps with the Will of John Hogg of Ritton White House dated 17 July 1759. It contains the following information summarised as follows:
Step 8. Extract family info from Netherwitton & Hartburn Registers
It quickly became apparent that in addition to Ritton White House the Hogg family also had interests in the neighbouring Farm of Greenleighton.
John Hogg married Anne Spearman at Netherwitton 14 My 1730. ‘John Hog (of the chapelry of Netherwitton) married Ann Spearmen (of the parish of Hearthburn)’
(The siblings of John Hogg born circa 1696 are not detailed here. There are other records at Hartburn and Netherwitton that if traced and verified 'may' add additional branches to the family tree.)
Step 9. Trace William, John & George of Ritton & Greenleighton.
Top Tip: Avoid the chance of missing vital events by using a map to spot neighbouring properties and parishes. Family Search England Jurisdictions 1851 is a helpful online resource
The parish registers for Netherwitton & Hartburn yielded further helpful information:
As his brother John pre-deceased him (see below), the farm of Whitlees at Elsdon passed to his surviving youngest brother George according to his late father’s Will of 1759. In the absence of a Will for George, it appears he then passed it to his eldest son William at his death in 1800.
The trees appearing above have been compiled using information extracted from the registers. For more details and supporting information please contact me.
Step 10. Further Inter-family Connections
There are several further cousin interconnections within the Hogg family and between other cousins in families connected by marriage such as Pringle. Two of the intermarriages occurred in William Hogg and Margaret Thompson’s line of descent. Sons George and John Hogg married their second cousins, sisters, Barbara and Dorothy Hogg. Barbara and Dorothy were daughters of William's cousin John Hogg (1772 – 1823) and his wife Margaret Peary.
John and Dorothy Hogg were married at Alnwick on 1st May 1838. Among the witnesses to the marriage were Dorothy’s sister Barbara and John’s bother George. The others were Ann Hogg, John Hogg and Thomas Tate.
I sometimes wonder how much of the Northumberland farming community lies hidden under a web of inter-connection by blood and marriage, particularly amongst descendants of the eighteenth and nineteenth-century farming families. A web leading between denser pockets of interconnection where the threads become full of twists and turns. Being alert to these twists and turns or even expecting them can help enormously when it comes to ‘unravelling’ families and family members.
 John Thompson was a farmer, some time of Upper Shiels or Overshiels, now known as Shieldykes. More can be found on the history of the farm and others within Alnwick Parish in George Tate’s ‘The History of the Borough, Castle, and Barony of Alnwick, Volume 2’. It is available through Google Books
 Probate Admin of George Hogg of Hazon High Houses in 1806. North East Inheritance Database, England, Durham Probate Bonds, 1556-1858 DPRI/3/1806/A p.112
[3 & 4] Durham Records Online
Bishops Transcripts for Northumberland and Durham
Debrett’s Ancestry Research Ltd, Bishop Shute Barrington and the English Parish Register
Durham University, North East Inheritance Database
Transcription of Monumental Inscriptions at Shilbottle