John Owen ‘or Warburton’

I have been looking recently at the Salford ancestors of Andrew Warburton. My search led me to William Warburton of Urmston. William married Betty Mudiman, in 1784, had seven children baptised, and was buried on September 14th 1819, aged 59, all at St Michael’s Flixton.

Urmston is a township within Flixton parish, which lies between the River Mersey and the Manchester Ship Canal. This puts it on the southern edge of the ancient county of Lancashire. It is midway between Salford and the village of Warburton, which are about 6 miles away in opposite directions. The ancient parish of Bowdon, where my own ancestors lived, originally stretched to the opposite, southern bank of the River Mersey.

William’s age at death matches the William who was baptised at Flixton on March 30th 1760 as the son of John Owen or Warburton of Urmston. The ‘or Warburton’ is omitted from the Bishop’s Transcripts, the copy of each parish register which vicars were obliged to send regularly to their Bishops. I have yet to find an alternative baptism of a William Warburton that matches.

 There are two possible explanations as to why John was Owen or Warburton.

The first is that John was illegitimate and these were his mother’s and father’s names. No record of an illegitimate birth of a John Owen or Warburton has yet been found. In my experience illegitimate children invariably take their mother’s name. Bancroft Warburton, the son of John Bancroft and Elizabeth Warburton, remained a Warburton, even after his parents eventually married, though perhaps Bancroft Bancroft wasn’t really an option, and he was already 10 years old when his parents married.

The second explanation is that John’s father died young and his mother remarried. The second husband’s name may have been used by the whole family for convenience, but when John grew up he began to use his own father’s name, at least some of the time. In January 2017 I wrote a Post about Amelia Warburton nee Stokes who had a large family in South Australia by two husbands, George Lee and then Charles Warburton, and the children of George used Lee, Warburton, and Warburton Lee at various times as their name or maiden name.

In either case it isn’t obvious which name was John’s father’s. Also it is possible John Owen’s son did not use the Warburton name, and that William’s baptism has yet to be discovered.

In developing my one-name study I have realised that the name is adopted in a number of different ways. Each adoption is a story in itself, though many may never be discovered. Some stories are ancient, but others are far more recent. Once adopted the bearers of the name become in integral part of the study.

The story of the first adoption of the Warburton name is well known. In the 13th century the land of the village of Werberton was owned by a family of de Duttons whose name derived from another Cheshire village. When they built a manor house at Werberton they began to be known as de Werberton (of Warburton), and this stuck even when, 200 years later, they moved to a new home at Arley Hall.

Although details are not recorded, others will have adopted the village name when the adoption of surnames was driven by the need for feudal record keeping. Many a serf will have adopted the name of his place of birth, though I believe it was most likely for a person who no longer lived in the village. If everyone in the village of Warburton became a Warburton there would still be a problem differentiating them.

Once everyone had a surname it would be rare for new Warburton lines to begin without some relationship to other Warburtons. However one of the characteristics of a one-name study is the correlation between the name and the Y-chromosome which are both normally passed from father to son. The Y-chromosome must always come from the biological father, so when the name doesn’t there is a non-paternal event (NPE). The most obvious of these is illegitimacy. Bancroft Warburton’s Y-chromosome is from his father John Bancroft.

At least illegitimate births are normally recorded in parish records, and they often simply result in new branch of a clan, though I need to remain aware that the Y-chromosome in that branch will be different.

More difficult to spot are infidelities. If a wife has a child by a man who isn’t her husband, but he is knowingly, or unknowingly, treated as one of the family, there will be no record. Nevertheless I have identified two clear examples.

The first is the story of Samuel Warburton, who at the age of 60 married 13 year old Alice Emma Adams in Western Australia. Alice had 11 children, the last the year before Samuel died aged 83. She had a twelfth child a couple of years later. DNA has shown that her second child was the son of a neighbouring farmer. Another son is said to be by an aboriginal stockman. I can only speculate how many of the children were actually Samuel’s, though DNA confirms that at least the eldest son was.

I have four DNA results from the Warburton Village clan that are two matched pairs. Each pair is very different from the other. Each pair can be triangulated back to a common ancestor who lived in the early eighteenth century. These two individuals were cousins who shared a Warburton grandfather, though they had different grandmothers. Only one of the pairs of results can have come from the grandfather. The cousins and their fathers were all born at least 2 years after their parents were married. All four were baptised at St Mary’s, Bowdon and recorded as the sons of their fathers. However one of these entries must be a lie. One of those boys must be the result of his mother’s infidelity.

There is one other group of NPEs, and these are cases where someone adopts the Warburton name from choice at some point in their life. A classic example is Terence Charles Warburton, Protestant Bishop of Cloyne. In 1792 the London Gazette recorded how Terence Charles Mongon had adopted the name Warburton, the name of his maternal germane cousins. The reason for the change was that Mongon, or O’Mungon, was too Catholic and would inhibit has progression in the Church of Ireland. The fact he became a Bishop seems to prove it worked.

Another reason to adopt a name is because it brings property and wealth. When the last Warburton of Arley Hall died in 1813 he left his estates to his 8 year old great nephew Roland Eyles Egerton. Probably as a condition of this bequest, Rowland’s father, also Rowland, changed the name of his large family to Egerton Warburton.

I recently investigated the family of Captain Bernard Warburton-Lee who received the Victoria Cross at the battle of Narvik in 1940. His father was Joseph Henry Warburton Lee, but the Warburton was originally a forename. It harked back to marriage of his ancestors Matthew Henry and Mary Warburton in 1690. The name had occasionally been used as a forename in the interim, and Mary’s own son Philip Henry had become Philip Henry Warburton when he inherited her estates. JHW Lee seems to have incorporated Warburton into the family surname at some point in the early 20th century.

Returning to the Urmston clan I have now documented it and added it to the website. There are still a number of sons in various generations that have yet to be explored, and may have modern day descendants. I hope that some day DNA will answer the Owen or Warburton question.

1 thought on “John Owen ‘or Warburton’”

  1. Hi,

    I am an Owen of the family from Flixton with roots throughout Bolton, Bickerstaffe, Cheshire, St. Helens, Liverpool, and Omskirk. If you are looking to compare dna please let me know.

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