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  • Writer's pictureDavid Brougham

In search of James Brougham's parents

Updated: Oct 28, 2023

An old phograph showing James Brougham, his daughter, granddaughter and great grandson
James Brougham (1838-1912), Daughter Eliza BROUGHAM (1869-1953), granddaughter Florence HAIGH (1890-1984), and great grandson, Harry KNIGHT (b1911)

James Brougham is my third great grandfather and I’ve hit the proverbial brick wall with his parents. There are a few theories but nothing I can substantiate, all of them have their flaws.

According to various census returns James (1838-1912) was born in Collingham, a small village just outside Wetherby in Yorkshire. His marriage certificate to Jane MIDWOOD (1843-1910), records his father as James BROUGHAM. I’m struggling to locate another James BROUGHAM who is of the right age and in this area.

James at some point moved to Huddersfield and there he met his future wife. James is a labourer/agricultural worker.

Certificate showing the wedding registration of James Brougham and Jane Midwood.  It shows James' father as being another James Brougham.
Wedding registration for James Brougham and Jane Midwood

In Kirkheaton, my home village, and not far from where James has lived in Huddersfield, there is James Brougham, baptised at Kirkheaton Parish Church on 2 September 1821. The parents to this James are Joseph and Hannah BROUGHAM. This Kirkheaton James has a sister, Jane BROUGHAM who was baptised on the same day. This James would have been around 17 when my James was born in 1838. The problem with this family however is that I can’t find any more trace of them, no marriage for Joseph and Hannah, no census records for them or no record of them in Collingham. They remain a possibility.

In Collingham there is a George BROUGHAM (1784-1845) married to Mary COURTNEY (1783-1870) – they have a large family including a James BROUGHAM who was 7 at the 1841 census making his birth date 1834. The majority of their children were baptised in the local church, but James wasn’t. after this census we can find no further evidence of a James BROUGHAM in Collingham. Could this James be my James and George is his father. We know that census records were often incorrect and the four year difference could be explained away with this fact alone.

George and Mary had 10 children, the eldest is 21 years older than James. It is quite possible that James was born to one of Georges eldest children. The second daughter, Jane BROUGHAM (b 1809) had 3 children out of wedlock, Alice BROUGHAM (1829-1900) and Charlotte BROUGHAM (b1834). She then married William APPLETON (b1813) in 1835. George had 3 other daughters who could have been James’ mother. This is all speculation, and why would James say his father was James on his marriage certificate and not say George for example.

For George we have not yet been able to find any evidence of a father or a mother. It is likely that George did have brothers and maybe James’ father is his brother – possibly even Joseph from Kirkheaton?

There is then the question of where did George (1828-1881) comes from? How did he end up in Collingam? Why only his family mentioned in Collingham? Could George have travelled from elsewhere and it is from there that James’ father might be found.

There are so many questions and so many possibilities. Several fellow researchers have concluded that George (1828-1881) is the father of James and the census has an incorrect date of birth, and the father James on the marriage registration of my James is an error. There is logic to this but for me there are too many buts for my liking. I can understand the census being wrong but the father’s name on the marriage certificate wrong as well? Possible but ….

Wedding certificate of George Willie Brougham and Alice Burhouse
Copy of George Willie's wedding certificate showing James Brougham as the father

On the birth certificate of James’ grandson, George Willie Brougham (1888-1946), the father isn’t identified, only his mother. On his marriage registration, his father is named as James. Could this have been history repeating itself?

Hopefully, one day, more information will shed more light on this, and we may eventually know the answer. If you know more then please do get in touch,


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