Sarah (Mottershead) m. Elijah Wood
Henry (Mottershead)
b 1845
Emma (Wood)
b 1848
Samuel (Wood)
b 1853
Harriet (Wood)
b 1858
Sarah (Wood)
b 1863
Ezekial (Wood)
b 1866


There is much confusion, and not a little conjecture, about the story behind Sarah (b. 1825). For as long as I can remember, family lore had it that she married Samuel Wood (b. 1826), who was a dyer, the son of William Wood (b. 1799), a blacksmith (see the old page for more details - and note that they are incorrect!). Samuel it was alleged also had a brother, Peter (b. 1836). More recent research and reviewing of the census reports back to the 1841 census now indicates that Samuel was the father of the person Sarah married - Elijah Wood (b. 1825/26).

It would appear that Sarah and Elijah had a "relationship", although whether it was out of wedlock or not is unclear. The result of this (initial) relationship was Henry born 18th March 1845. Where the confusion sets in, is that on his Birth Certificate, only one parent (his Mother Sarah) is listed - a usual sign of illegitimacy. The "informant" was Sarah's Mother, Hannah Mottershead. Other family records suggest that Sarah and Elijah were married in 1843 (although official marriage records indicate March 1847 as the date of recordation) so why is Elijah not listed as Henry's Father? One possibility is that Elijah may have been apprenticed to his trade in 1843, and not permitted to marry, much less father a child. The timing makes this theory possible.

The questions are further compounded when reviewing census information, as the 1851 census - the first that would have recorded Henry - indicates a "Henry Wood, scholar aged 6, grandson" as being resident at Peter and Hannah Mottershead's residence at 10 Brunswick Street, Macclesfield. It is clear that at that point, Henry was still a "Wood". By the time of the 1861 census however, Henry is still resident with Peter and Hannah, still at 10 Brunswick Street, still a grandchild, but is no longer a Wood, but now a Mottershead! He has also gone into the silk trade and is listed as a silk dyer.

Another piece of family legend tells that the senior Mottersheads did not consider the match between their daughter Sarah and young Elijah to be "suitable", at least as far as their grandson was concerned. The Wood family were dissenters, in fact Baptists, and as such Henry would be required to undergo a complete immersion in the local River Dene when being baptized. The story relates that Peter and Hanna were dead set against this, because of the "Mottershead chest" which was a reputed family weakness. They felt that submersion in the river would result in Henry's rapid demise. Consequently, the story goes, they adopted Henry, gave him their surname and raised him. It is strange to note however, that in the 1851 Census, there is a "Henry Wood" listed as a "grandson" present in the Mottershead household!

Sarah and Elijah did subsequently marry, and had several more children. Elijah, was also the witness at Henry and Harriet's wedding in 1869.

Nobody seems to know or remember, the truth. Harry Mottershead, Henry and Harriet's son - my grandfather Harry - always used to tell people he was of the "illegitimate branch of the Mottershead family", but as he was a great practical joker, nobody took this seriously. It appears that there was a grain of truth in the story after all!

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