This is a brick wall from my family tree that's been a doozy for me. It's been about three years and I've learned a lot but haven't solved the issue. Before starting my research I remember saying "I really hope I don't come across a William or John Smith in my tree" and here we are. I am starting to transfer my sources to this profile and family today, but I will break down what I know here:
My ancestor, Mary Ann Smith, born about 1839 in Nuneaton, is the daughter of this man, William Smith, who is listed as a cordwainer. With this fact I'm able to corroborate the 1841 census I have with Mary Ann's marriage license. On the 1841 census, he is there with Mary Ann and his wife, Hannah, and both are listed as about 21 years old. They're all born in Warwickshire.
This is where most of my knowledge ends. William has five more children with Hannah through the 1840s, and there are baptism certificates to demonstrate that they are their children, but is not present in the 1851 census, or any census thereafter. Hannah, however, is listed as married until the 1881 census, where she switches to widow. There is an additional child, but I haven't found a baptism certificate and there is a eight year gap between this one and the youngest of the original five so I am not confident enough to list William as the father just yet.
I was able to determine Hannah's last name due to one of the children staying with their aunt in 1851, whose maiden name is Varden; the last child's middle name is also Varden. I found the baptism records for the sisters who match the census ages, and they are found next door to each other once they had moved from Nuneaton to Leicester. Their father, John Varden, is also a cordwainer. Additionally, one of the children, Hannah, married into the Langridge family, and I have multiple of those in my Ancestry DNA matches.
However, I cannot find a marriage license matching Hannah Varden and William Smith, but they must have been married if they're living in town where Hannah grew up. I also can't find a marriage certificate for Hannah Varden in Nuneaton or nearby in case she had been married once before. She's not quite old enough to be married long before the 1837 mark, though it's certainly possible, but other than another Hannah Varden who is definitely not this one, the Ancestry Warwickshire collection doesn't populate anything at all.
The marriage license feels essential to hopefully finding William's father's name. Because the 1841 census only has a 5 year ballpark for ages, and does not list the town of origin, it feels a little hopeless otherwise. Likewise, the necessity of the marriage license would be moot if the name was less common. There are just too many William Smiths born about 1818 in the county of Warwickshire.
Ironically my family loves chatting about family history but we don't have anything to go on for this, and no one left to ask.
I think that's all I know, but I'm happy to answer follow ups. I was wondering about apprenticeship records, voter lists, but I'm not sure how to use additional records or whether they're available.