The Liddiard Family

Newbury Branch meeting Wednesday 10th April 2019

Speaker: Karen Rogers

Karen Rogers began her one-name study of the Liddiard family 25 years ago, in the course of which she has identified 26 different spellings of the name. She is not constructing pedigrees, but collects instances of the name and attempts to fit them into Liddiard family branches.

         The death certificate of one of her own forebears, William Liddiard, described his cause of death as “hanged”, which prompted her to research his life further.

         William, son of John Liddiard and Sarah Sherman, emigrated from Wiltshire to New Zealand under the Brogden scheme, which sought to recruit railway construction labour. By the early 1880s he was in New South Wales, where he married Elizabeth Fanque, who came from the famous circus family. Elizabeth had also emigrated to Australia from an unhappy family background in England. Records show that they had two daughters.

         Australian newspapers are available free online, from their earliest publication to about 1955, which enabled the speaker to discover the circumstances of her ancestor’s unfortunate death. One of the suspects in the murder case turned queen’s evidence, leaving William and Elizabeth Liddiard to answer the charge. They were convicted on circumstantial evidence, the murder victim having been a former employee of William’s. William attempted suicide in gaol, which was considered to be further evidence of guilt. He was hanged in 1886. His prison record described him as a labourer of five-foot-five, with hazel eyes, dark brown hair and a “broken mouth and chin.”

         Elizabeth went to gaol as an accessory to the murder. She was 24 years old, standing four-foot-eleven. Presumably released eventually, she disappeared from the records, perhaps by changing her name. The daughters meanwhile were returned to England to live off the same benevolent society that had cared for their mother in her childhood.

         The Liddiard name is first found recorded in Ramsbury in 1273, then in Ogbourne St Andrew in the fifteenth century, from where it spread world-wide, although with a significant concentration in north Wiltshire and West Berkshire. DNA matching has established some degrees of linkage between branches further afield. Karen Rogers encourages any interested male Liddiard to take YDNA tests to discover where he might fit into the family, and autosomal DNA testing has also been helpful in matching branches of the family located in areas where parish records are incomplete.

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