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William Dobson v John Dobson

Privacy Level: Open (White)
Date: Jun 1864 [unknown]
Location: Lancashire, England, United Kingdommap
Surname/tag: dobson
Profile manager: Matt McNabb private message [send private message]
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Synopsis of court case of William Dobson v. his son John Dobson, Lancaster County Court, June 1864.[1]

  • William Dobson was a poor man labouring in the parish of Halton. He was a sexton of the church. He had a very large family, of which John was the youngest.
  • John had left home to be a policeman in the southern part of the county,[2] There he met a minor, Mary Jane Pringle who had a fortune of 1200 pounds.[3]
  • Mary Jane was not on good terms with her step mother, so she left home.
  • John sent Mary Jane to live with William until she turned 21 and they could marry.[4]
  • The court case was William suing to recover about £16 from John, this being the cost of board provided by William to Mary Jane, between Aug 1861 and Oct 1862.
  • By Oct 1862 John and Mary Jane had married.[5]
  • The witnesses included:
    • Mrs Shiell, owner of a shop that had advanced money for Mary Jane's expenses (furniture, perhaps).
    • Mary Dobson, sister of John.
    • Betsey Dobson, mother of John and wife of William.
  • There was some back and forth about how much was actually owed, with John and Mary Jane claiming amounts had been posted, with William and Betsey saying they had not received anything.
  • Eventually, the prosecution withdrew the case.

From the fact that Mary Jane had £1200 but the couple were willing to go to court to avoid paying £10 or thereabouts, we can theorize that neither were on good terms with their parents; perhaps this explains the hasty emigration to New Zealand shortly after this court case.


  1. "COUNTY COURT". Lancaster Gazetter, Saturday June 25 1864, Issue 4030, Page 5.
  2. Corroborated by Ancestry Record 8767 #23334653 John Dobson in the 1861 census. He lives alone at 79 Churchtown Rd, Churchtown, North Meols. (Modern-day Southport, Lancashire). He was age 22 and a police constable.
  3. The 1200 pounds can be traced as left to Mary Jane's mother Jane in Jane's father's will.
  4. My understanding is that parental consent was required for under-21s to marry, so we can conclude from this that Mary Jane's father had not given consent.
  5. Other records -- her baptism and her NZ death record Feb 1867 age 24 -- indicate that she would have turned 20 in that year, not 21. The registry office must have not checked the birth record.

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