A History of Preston in Hertfordshire
The Children of Preston in the nineteenth century
This is a listing of children who were born in or who lived in Preston during the nineteenth century. It is compiled from the parish registers of Hitchin, Kings Walden, Ippolitts and St Pauls Walden and the censuses from 1841 to 1901. Note that it is not a catalogue of all the children – it is by no means complete. It is impossible to produce a definitive list of the children born in Preston for the following reasons: a) Some children were not baptized. b) The parish baptism records from 1800 - 1813 do not usually state the abode of children’s parents so that we cannot identify where they were living. c) Many children were baptized at Non-conformist places of worship such as Tilehouse Street Baptist Church and Back Street Independent Meeting House at Hitchin. Their records in the IGI do not provide details of where families lived. d) Several babies were born in Preston and baptized in Kings Walden and Ippollitts. Often their parish records state that children were born in Preston but there are also many examples of when this information was not provided. This is especially so of children born at Preston in the parish of Ippollitts. The parish entry may correctly state that the parents were living in Ippollitts but may not mention that they were specifically inhabitants of Preston.
The value of parish records
The parish records are useful because they provide information about people who lived in Preston but who do not appear in censuses. To illustrate, a family might move into the hamlet after a census year and move out before the next count. A parish baptism record is a footprint of their brief sojourn. So, we know that Thomas and Sarah Balston and Alfred and Lavinia Chalkley (innkeeper at the Red Lion) were living in Preston in 1845 and 1875 respectively because the baptism record  shows that they were living there when their children were born - but the families do not appear in any census.
Essential censuses
The censuses provide some information about the birthplace of local folk but many told the enumerators the parish of their birth and not the hamlet. Thus, if a couple were living in Preston at the time of one census and were still in the hamlet ten years later, any children born during the decade would probably have been born at Preston. However, their birthplace may be entered in the census as “Hitchin” – the parish in which they were residing. An example of this are the children of John and Charlotte Jenkins. This couple were living at Preston in 1851 and 1861. Doubtless, their three children born in the 1850s were born in the hamlet, but the 1861 census notes their birthplace as Hitchin. However, the census information is of considerable help in determining the birthplace of many other local people. Another benefit of consulting the censuses is that if we know that a child was baptized in a certain year but does not appear in the following census (after checking whether he or she was residing with or visiting a relative), it is probable that the child died before the next census was taken. Thus, there is a note of the baptisms of two children (Charles and Ann) of James and Jemima Mead in the 1840s although the children do not appear in the 1851 census. An examination of the Herts Burial Index reveals that they were buried as infants in September 1846. The census data helps us to plot the movement of families. When children were born at different locations it is a guide to their parent’s mobility.  So, when one reads in the 1901 census that my grandparent’s (Alfred and Emily Wray’s) first six children were born in Preston and that their next two children were born in Ippollitts, knowing that they moved home from Back Lane to the north side of Chequers Lane (ie from Hitchin parish to Ippollitts), one can deduce that this relocation was sometime between 1895 and 1898 when their sixth and seventh children were born.
Change of baptismal habits
When Preston established its first church in 1850 at the school, there was a marked change in the use of Kings Walden church for baptisms – which perhaps indicates how the villagers felt about travelling to Hitchin to baptize their children in their own parish church. Firstly, there appears to have been a mass baptism of young villagers on 16 August 1857. Then, twenty-six Preston infants were christened, including many who were not babies. L. Graham performed the ceremonies and as he was a curate (whose name does not appear elsewhere in the records), the baptisms were probably performed in Preston school. The schoolroom must have been unusually noisy on this occasion! Secondly, between 1813 and 1857, 128 Preston children were baptized at Kings Walden parish church – approximately three babies a year. From 1857 to 1899 Only twelve Preston-born babies were baptized there – or one every three years.
Listing of children
What follows is a chronological catalogue of children born at Preston.  This sometimes gives a hint about friendships and families as two or more mothers went together to have their babies baptized. It is pertinent to mention here that if two or more babies were christened on the same day, it does not necessarily mean that the children were twins or triplets. It may just be an indication of laziness on the part of parents or an indifference to the importance of baptism in those days. Also, baptism did not automatically follow birth – extreme examples of this are the children of Thomas and Maria Sharp, John and Thomas, who were baptized together on 7 January 1883 aged 40 and 37. Link: List of children born at Preston in 19thC