Unfortunately I was unable to trace him on any census although I did know, from his son William's marriage certificate in 1844, that James was a baker. This is confirmed by the fact there is an engraved snuff box (photo opposite) owned by a relative and, on the silver ring around the top, it says "James Hill Baker N.Shields 1793". It is believed that this may have been awarded to him after successfully completing an apprenticeship, although would he have been too old at 43 ?
At some point prior to 1793 James must have married Margaret, as I found that he put this Notice in the newspaper (below), which suggests they may no longer be living together and that there were a few problems with the marriage.
Luckily, James left a Will, which appears to explain everything and, seems to confirm we are talking about the same man. It seems James was probably running his gingerbread bakery from a freehold property he owned in Bedford Street, North Shields. In the Will, he ordered it to be sold and the proceeds plus all his other assets were to be split equally between "Catherine Hall now living with me and to Mary Hill, James Hill, John Hill, Francis Hill, William Hill and Matthew Hill, children which the said Catherine Hall has born to me, and by which I am the reputed Father", the children to receive their shares once they reach the age of 21.
Wow ! What a Gentleman ! Looks like James fell out with his wife Margaret, threw her out of the house but they never divorced. He then met and lived in sin with Catherine Hall and they had all those little Hills together. Very modern !
Cautionary note : It wouldn't be right for me not to say I am still not 100% on this as I haven't traced any of the children's births or found them on the 1841 census. It is still possible the gingerbread baker and the baker are two James Hill's living in the same area both with sons called William born around the same time.
Genealogy is very similar to the sea on a beach. It ebbs and flows; you feel optimistic, then pessimistic. One minute you are rushing in over the sand, the next stuttering out to sea again. I was feeling confident that the father of my William Hill, who was born about 1804, was this gingerbread man who had a lovely story about having a family outside wedlock with Catherine Hall. All was going so well until I found his baptism records which give a birth in 1797. If this were him, how can my William Hill have died aged 75 in 1879 and have a birth year of about 1804 (based on age shown on three census) ?
There is another family of Hill's living in Camden Road which I have proved weren't mine which has William married to Cora with a number of children. This William died in 1844 so can't be mine as I have a death certificate in 1879.
It looks like this story has, sadly, come to a grinding halt.
Updated 6th February 2015