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I have come to a point in this search where I need expert help; it is one of my main family lines and cannot be left unsolved. The subject is Thomas CAPELL, or a spelling variation of the name, whose only appearance in records, that I can find, is in the census for Kilsic Lane, Arnold, Nottingham, in 1861.

As you will see, he is with his wife, Hannah, who is aged 25, born in Lowdham, Nottinghamshire, and their two children – Elizabeth, aged six, born in Codnor Park, Derbyshire, and Thomas, aged two, born in Arnold. His name is spelt CAPPEL on this occasion, his age is 34, his place of birth is Leicester.

I cannot trace a marriage for Thomas and Hannah, or a birth registration for Elizabeth, but there is a birth registration for son Thomas in Basford District 1859 – his name is spelt CAPELL, mother Hannah CAPELL, formerly FOX, father Thomas CAPELL, stocking framework knitter. The address is ‘Top End Arnold’, which is the same area as the 1861 census address.

Hannah has had two more sons, both born in Arnold: Henry, born in 1862, ‘Top End Arnold’, and John, born in 1864, ‘Malakoff, Arnold’. In both these registrations no father is given, though it is possibly still Thomas CAPELL.

I have worked exhaustively back and forwards from this time and can find no other trace of Thomas, the father. In 1867 Hannah marries old Samuel STAFFORD as Hannah FOX, widow, which isn’t strictly the truth, as I have found that FOX is her maiden name, and she is the daughter of Joseph FOX and Elizabeth GARNER. Joseph had an alias, William COOK, and the family can be found, in Lowdham, Nottinghamshire, as COOK in the 1851 census.

The 1871 census has the STAFFORD family living on Dafts Terrace, Arnold. The four children, Elizabeth, Thomas, Henry and John, are entered as FOX, and as Samuel STAFFORD’s step children. The CAPELL name has gone. In 1876 Samuel and Hannah have a son of their own, Samuel, and by the 1881 census, the whole family, excluding Elizabeth who has married, is recorded as STAFFORD.

Hannah’s son, Henry FOX, born in 1862, is my great-grandfather. He married in 1884 as FOX, but in subsequent censuses, he and his family are recorded as STAFFORD. Eventually the FOX name is dropped entirely and the family becomes, by my father’s generation in 1913, simply STAFFORD.

So who is Thomas CAPPEL/CAPELL senior? Where did he come from and where did he go? Did he marry Hannah FOX? Why was Elizabeth born in Codnor Park and her birth apparently unregistered? Most importantly, to me, is he the likely father of Henry and John, even though Hannah registers their fathers as unknown? Am I a CAPELL, a FOX, a STAFFORD or something in-between?

I have done an immense amount of work on this problem, even compiling a partly finished database of Leicestershire CAPELLs, and am no nearer any answers. 

Mrs Hilary Drysdale


What seems fairly certain is that Thomas CAPPEL and Hannah FOX were never married. The chronology is fairly straightforward, but it is the detail that is the problem.

Elizabeth was born in Codnor Park, Derbyshire, in about 1854: she may have been the daughter of Thomas CAPPEL or Hannah FOX, or both. Thomas was born in 1858 in Arnold, the son of Thomas and Hannah. Henry and John were born in 1862 and 1864, the sons of Hannah; their father(s) may have been Thomas CAPPEL or Samuel STAFFORD, or neither. In 1867 Hannah married Samuel STAFFORD.

If Elizabeth’s birth was registered, it may have been under either FOX or CAPPEL. But it has to be accepted that the birth may not have been registered as there was no penalty in not doing so at this time. I do note that there is the birth of an Elizabeth FOX registered in the June Quarter 1853 in Basford Registration District: could this be her?

Codnor Park was an extra parochial place about eight miles due west of Arnold. It became part of the new parish of Ironville in 1859. Ironville itself had been formed in 1850. You should research the parish registers for the baptism of Elizabeth, as if this search is successful there may be clearer information about her parentage. The Derbyshire Record Office ( be able to advise which parishes might be involved as there were, it appears, considerable changes to boundaries around this time. Similarly, you should look for the baptisms of Thomas, Henry and John as these registers too may give information about their father(s).)

Assuming that Thomas CAPPEL was a real person – it hardly seems likely that Hannah would have totally made him up – then who was he? You say you have done ‘an immense amount of work’ and therefore I expect you have researched all the relevant records: baptisms, marriages, deaths, burials, monumental inscriptions, wills and so forth. So perhaps a FHM reader holds the answers you that you need?

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