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I always assumed that my ancestors were Welsh, because my father and grandfather were born in South Wales. However my great-grandfather, George William BOWLER, moved to Cardiff between 1883 and 1891. He was born 9th April 1855 in Hunslet, Leeds, to George and Mary BOWLER (nee ELLIOTT). I have a copy of the marriage entry for George to Mary ELLIOTT. This marriage occurred on 31st December 1846, at the Church of St Peter, Leeds. I also have copies of two marriage entries for George’s brother John BOWLER in June 1849 and November 1853, also at St Peter, Leeds.

My great-great-great-grandfather, Thomas BOWLER, is shown on two of these marriage entries as a publican, and as an innkeeper on the other. Thomas is not recorded as deceased on any of these three marriage entries, but I suppose he could have died before the first marriage in 1846.

The 1861 census shows Mary, widowed, with sons Thomas and George (William). In the 1851 census, George’s wife Mary is shown with son, Thomas, (born in Hunslet, Leeds in 1850), residing at 11 Ashley Street, Hunslet. Her occupation is given as ‘wife of a locomotive engine driver’ – perhaps she was unsure of George’s occupation as he was definitely an engineer. There is an entry for a George BOWLER, born in Burneston. He is residing at the Pack Horse Inn, St David’s Hill, Exeter. The entry shows him as unmarried, which is a concern, and his age is given as 26. He is recorded as an ‘engine fitter (rail)’, so the occupation is very plausible.

I can’t find an entry in the Deaths Index, for George, between 1854 (when George William would have been conceived, being born April 1855), and 1861 – unless his death was not registered in Yorkshire. I may have found George in the 1841 census at Burneston, working as an apprentice engineer to John TEASDALE, a manufacturer of agricultural machinery. George’s age was shown as 15. There is also an entry for John BOWLER in the 1841 census at Burneston, although he was born in Leeming, Yorkshire. John is also shown as aged 15, but he is at least a year younger than George, and he is also away from home apprenticed to a joiner, Richard PRATT.

I would also like to prove if the christening I found on the International Genealogical Index (IGI) is that of my great-grandfather, George BOWLER. This is for George BOWLER on 20th September 1824 in Burneston, Yorkshire, whose parents are Thomas BOWLER and Mary. I’d also like to prove whether a marriage I located on the IGI is his parents’: Thomas BOWLER to Mary HARE, on 20th December 1823, at Burneston, Yorkshire. I have not found Thomas in any census.

I would like to find out about Thomas’ life as a publican/innkeeper, but I am uncertain where he would have been, or how long he worked in the trade, or the name of any licensed premises he may have been connected with. Is it possible to find any records of publicans and innkeepers during the 1840/50s? I have tried the Historical Directories website but haven’t found him: maybe I haven’t been searching in the right area as I have been looking at Leeds Directories. 

Les Bowler


The probability is that George BOWLER did die between 1854 and 1861. His wife, Mary, may have been entered as a widow on the 1861 census in error, or on purpose, even if she was still married but that is unlikely. You have not mentioned the 1871 census but I see that in that year Mary is again described as a widow. Although it is not 100 per cent reliable, the FreeBMD website ( includes 14 deaths registered between 1854 and 1861, but none in Yorkshire – to be certain you would need to search the original indexes. Unfortunately, age at death is not recorded in the indexes until 1866. You could also investigate the National Burial Index. In the absence of any alternative, I feel you should order the 1863 death certificate you have cited.

Briefly referring to the 1841 census entries, you should remember that ages are usually rounded down to the nearest five years for those aged over 15. So in this case, both George and John could have been aged 15 to 19.

I have noted what could be an interesting entry in the 1851 census. This is for a Thomas BOWLER, aged 23 and born in Burniston. A confectioner, he is described as the son of Mary, whose surname is almost impossible to read – something like ‘HONSERNIM’ – also a confectioner, aged 50 and born in Burniston. There is a lodger, Joseph JOHNSON, aged 30, born in Staffordshire, probably Brewood. If this is the correct Mary then there is work to be undertaken in investigating this further. Possibly Thomas Snr died as far back as 1827.

For information on publicans and licensees you should look at Simon Fowler’s Researching Brewery and Publican Ancestors (FFHS, 2003), which explains what records are available, and where to find information.


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