TheGenealogist has this week released a batch of London school and university records to join its ever growing educational collection.
Researchers can use this new data to find ancestors who attended or taught at a variety of Educational establishments within London between 1831 and 1927. Also listed are the names of those who held high office in the institutions, such as the patrons; deans; visitors and professors, in the case of universities and the principles, masters and governors in the case of the schools.
This release covers the names of those who graduated from the University of London between 1836 and 1926 – while for King’s College London, it also provides a list of Fellows from 1847 to 1920, registered students for 1920-1921 and those awarded degrees in 1920 and 1921 as well as the prizes given at King’s.
With a number of school records, joining this London release, researchers can also find old boys who served in World War I. For example it is possible to track down men serving with the colours in the Great War in the case of the Old Wilsonians, as listed in The Wilsonian Magazine. For those Old Alleynians and Old Haberdashers, who perished in the war, their names and often a photograph are recorded in the First World War Roll of Honours for both Dulwich College and the Haberdashers’ Aske’s Hampstead School.
The list of records included in this release are
- University of London Historical Record 1836-1926
- The Skylark Magazine from Haberdashers’ Aske’s Hampstead School 1918
- The Wilsonian Magazine April 1914-April 1919
- University College School, London Register 1831-1891
- Royal College Of Chemistry, Royal School Of Mines And Royal College Of Science Register Of Associates
- Record of Old Westminsters Vols 1 and 2 earliest times -1927
- King’s College, London Calendar 1921-1922
- Dulwich College War Record 1914-1919
These records and more are available at TheGenealogist.co.uk
CAPTAIN JOHN DUDLEY WHYTE of the 8th Service Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment, was born on the 5th July, 1890. He attended Dulwich School between 1902-8 and after this he went up to London University, having obtained an Andrew’s Scholarship at University College, and shortly afterwards he was awarded a Law Society Studentship.
Like many of his generation, his life was cut short in action during the First World War. Who knows what he may have made of his life, but by using a combination of two of the newly released records we are able to discover his achievements in his earlier life.
The Dulwich College Roll of Honour includes a picture of the deceased officer in uniform and a potted history of his academic and military career. We learn that at University College, London in 1910 he was awarded a Scholarship in English History, and also a Scholarship for Research in History. The school’s roll of honour tells us that in 1912 he took his B.A. degree with honours in History.
By then searching for him in the University of London Historical Record 1836-1926, also made available by TheGenealogist in this new release, we find John Dudley Whyte listed among the students in 1912 awarded a Second Class Bachelor of Arts (Internal) degree in History. By continuing to search further within the University of London records we locate his name again in 1913, now as an external student of the University College and London Day Training College. This would point to him training to be a teacher as that was the purpose of the London Day Training College which, by that date, was a school of the University of London. The start of World War I ended that path for him. The Dulwich College Roll of Honour explains that ‘being a member of the London University Miners Training Corps he obtained a commission in September, 1914, as 2nd Lieutenant in the 7th Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment, and trained at Colchester, being promoted temporary Lieutenant in November. When the 8th Battalion was converted to a Pioneer Battalion he transferred and was promoted temporary Captain in January, 1915. In May, 1915, he moved to Salisbury Plain and crossed to France in July. For some months his company was engaged on forestry work behind the lines with the 18th Division, but during the winter they were on the Somme, with headquarters at Albert. He took part in the July advance and was killed in action at Bernafay Wood during the night of 13th—14th July, 1916, and was buried at Danzig Valley Cemetery.’
By using these records you can find out a lot more about your ancestors who were educated in London between 1831 and 1927. These records join an ever growing collection of family history resources at TheGenealogist.co.uk
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Sometimes I am reminded that family historians can make assumptions that others understand what we mean when we refer to records and archives.
I was talking to a man at a bar recently and with a drink in hand he asked me to educate him a bit about this genealogy pastime of mine.
It was when I had got to the bit where I was explaining about records and how they are kept in archives and other repositories and he said to me:
“So when you go to one of these libraries, how do you know if they have the records that you are looking for?”
That was when I realised that, in his mind, he saw an archive as just a sort of library, with loads of dusty records sitting on the shelves just waiting for us to go in browse a little and then find our ancestors within the files.
Notwithstanding that some archives share a building with a library (I am thinking of Portsmouth and Birmingham to name just two) I had to explain that they were really very different beasts. It is complicated by some major libraries having collections of records that are relevant to our ancestor research – the likes of universities, the British Library and so on – but generally a library and an archive are not the same thing.
This conversation reminded me of something I had read in Chapter 9 of Tracing Your Pre-Victorian Ancestors by John Wintrip. His explanation is that:
‘Archives resemble retail catalogue showrooms, in which customers use a catalogue to identify the items they require, which are then fetched from storage areas by members of staff.’
I so loved the analogy of browsing a sort of genealogical Argos where we select a record collection in which to research our ancestors. Inevitably I used it in my conversation and immediately saw a realisation cross the face of my friend at the bar.
I gave him an example of a recent visit I made to The National Archives. I used the Discovery catalogue to look for a particular person, whom I was researching, and found that TNA held his 1919 divorce papers. I was able to select it from the online catalogue, book myself a seat at a table in the reading room and then wait for the archive staff to bring the file of documents to be collected from the locker.
By now examining the bundle of papers I was able to understand that my subject had been divorced by his wife as he would not return home to her after fighting at the Somme in the First World War. Who knows the exact human details of the case, but the court ordered him to return to her or his marriage would be legally ended. The result was that he refused and so they were divorced; but happily they remarried at a much later date.
By also ordering up his service papers I discovered that, as he waited to be demobbed, he was being treated for depression as a result of his experiences in the war.
So my drinking acquaintance now understood that it was not simply a case of browsing down the shelves of a library, where all the books are arranged alphabetically by subject to find what we required, but that records were catalogued by reference in an archive and that we order up what we want from the strong rooms in which they are held.
The subject of how archives reference those records in their catalogue is another matter altogether. If you want to learn more then you could do a lot worse than reading the chapter on Archives in Tracing Your Pre-Victorian Ancestors by John Wintrip.
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This week I, like many other members, got an email from the Society of Genealogists.
It comes on the back of the LDS news that The London FamilySearch Centre, that has been ‘temporarily’ at The National Archives in Kew for several years, is reaching the end of its contract with TNA and the size of presence at Kew and the type of offerings from the London FamilySearch Centre will change in June 2017.
With this news the SoG Library in Clerkenwell becomes even more of an important place for family historians to pay a visit to than ever.
I have always been a fan of the SoG and so this is good news that the films are still going to be available when The London FamilySearch Centre stops providing access themselves.
Here is the email from Else Churchill…
The London FamilySearch Centre microfilm collection, which is currently temporarily located at The National Archives, is transferring to the Society of Genealogists in Clerkenwell. The move reflects a partnership between the Society of Genealogists and FamilySearch to ensure that the microfilm collection continues to be available to family historians. The London FamilySearch Centre will continue to provide its research support services at the National Archives.
The collection of about 57,000 microfilms complement the SoG’s remarkable library of genealogical sources and both bring together, in one place, an unparalleled resource for family history researchers in the UK. Having been carefully curated over many years, the FamilySearch Films include many thousands of copies of original church and local records from the United Kingdom and Ireland; probate records for England and Wales before and after 1858 and selected items for Caribbean research.
The films will be available to view at the National Archives until 31 May and should be available for consultation at the Society of Genealogists Library from 26 June 2017.
Information about visiting and using the Society of Genealogists Library can be found on the SoG website http://www.sog.org.uk/the-library
June Perrin, CEO of the Society says “ The Society of Genealogists is delighted to offer a home to such a remarkable collection and looks forward to welcoming family historians to our library in Clerkenwell”
TheGenealogist is adding to its Court & Criminal records by publishing online a new collection of Quarter Session rolls and books from Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Shropshire, Surrey and Middlesex covering dates from as far back as the 16th century and up to, in some cases, the Victorian period.
Also released at this time are the Middlesex Colour Tithe Maps to join the grayscale maps of the National Tithe records already available on TheGenealogist. This latest issue covers parishes in the County of Middlesex and will allow researchers to view the plots where their ancestors may have owned or occupied land at the time of the survey which took place at the start of Victoria’s reign.
The Quarter Session records were produced by local courts traditionally held at four set times each year. Being made up of two or more justices of the peace and presided over by a chairman, they sat with a jury at Epiphany (in January), Easter (March/April), Midsummer (June/July) and then at Michaelmas (September/October).
- Find the names of people before the courts that include those indicted, witnesses, as well as the names of the Justices of the Peace and the Clerks
- Some of the earliest records in this release reach as far back as 1549 for Middlesex and 1591 in Worcester
- Indictments can range across a wide number of offences. These include Larceny, Housebreaking, Assault and Riot, Running Unlicensed Alehouses, Receiving Rogues and Not Going to Church on Sunday
We may be amazed at some of the cases that came before the magistrates. One example we found was in 1613, before the Worcestershire Justices, where Margaret Lewys stole ‘an old towell’ at Feckenham. Other proceedings include one involving Daniel Steane who was fined 20s at a private session at Wolston, Warwickshire in 1631. His indictment was for ‘selling less than a full quart of his best ale for a penny’ – showing us that consumers, back then, were equally as concerned with short measures of alcohol as they are today.
Searching these new records, for your ancestors, may also find them appearing in the many Orders handed down by the JPs. These can include the names of people at the bottom rung of society who were in need of financial help from their communities. An example of such, from the Easter 1625 session in Warwickshire, is the case of Anne Harte of Hampton in Arden. Her husband having been ‘pressed for a soldier out of this county and have left her destitute of maintenance and one child’, the Justices of the Quarter Sessions made an order to the effect that Hampton in Arden pay her 4d weekly and find her work; plus, if she were to get sick, the parish officials were to pay her more ‘until this court take order to the contrary’.
Orders for the upkeep of illegitimate children can also be found in these records. In Michaelmas 1632, Katherine Singleton was to have ‘10s out of the treasury towards the keeping of a bastard child’ that had been left with her by a man who had promised to pay her to look after the child and had not returned.
From riotous Luddites to the gentry sitting on the bench, all echelons of society can be found in these fully searchable Quarter Session records for Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Shropshire, Surrey and Middlesex. To search these and the many other records, including the National Tithe Records on TheGenealogist, go to: www.thegenealogist.co.uk
Disclosure: Compensated affiliate links are used in this piece
I’ve been reading Tracing Your Pre-Victorian Ancestors by John Wintrip this week and I am impressed!
It is a book aimed at the more advanced family history researcher, those people whose research has taken them back to the early nineteenth century in England and Wales and are now discovering that it is a bit more difficult to go back further.
The author examines online services, repositories, archives and the catalogues that exist for these. He also encourages his readers to look at factors that can influence the outcome of their research, to be aware of their ancestors’ wider family and to use a variety of resources and search tools when tackling the problem of tracing back before the Victorian period and its civil registration and census records.
As someone who is passionate about family history I found John Wintrip’s book to be a very stimulating read.
In the years that I have been building up my own knowledge of family history, in some cases I have learnt which record to use and perhaps that the record was set out in a particular way, but without ever being told why it was so. As I read more and more of the pages of this book I found myself increasing my own understanding of the whys and wherefores and the number of ‘light-bulb’ moments occurred when it revealed some of the fascinating details of why records are the way they are made.
The author makes a great case for researchers to expand their ‘External Knowledge’, where this helps to understand a record or what records we may use to chase after our ancestors.
For example, I have known for many years that ancestors’ names can be written down how they sounded to the clergyman, especially when our ancestor couldn’t read or write. I was aware that we should bear in mind the local accent, but I hadn’t attached much thought to the fact that the clergyman may have been from a different part of the country altogether and so unused to the local way of pronunciation. Reading this book has made me realise why I have been telling people to think about how a name sounded!
While on the subject of Vicars; I knew that Church of England incumbents may well have had more than one ‘living’, having a curate in place to look after the parish where they did not live. But I had just not considered the fact that the ‘livings’ may have been many miles apart, even in different parts of the country!
Then there was the Militia. Before I read this book, I did know a little about the part-time local force, but that information has now been considerably fleshed out after reading a case study involving a pensioner sergeant. I had forgotten, for example, that in peacetime the sergeants were appointed to permanent posts and sometimes received pensions for long service that may have created a record. That they may have been posted away from their original town, or village, to a full time position at the militia headquarters and thus their wife may hail from that town and their children would be born there.
I was reminded that an illegitimate child could be referred to as a ‘bastard’ in the church registers, or as a ‘natural born’ son or daughter when they were acknowledged by the father. In my family, if we go back into the 17th century, we have a ‘natural born son’ who is gifted a parcel of land from his father’s holding and thus could be seen to have been acknowledged.
Other revelations from reading this book, that some may find interesting, include how the change of the meaning of the title ‘Gentleman’ took place between the early 18th century and today. Family historians should also know that Mrs came from the word Mistress and was not always a prefix for a married woman, but had once identified the status of a person. This could be very useful to help identify which of two similarly named women in an area was the member of your family.
John Wintrip also reminds his readers of the different meanings that were once attached to the occupation of Clerk, Pensioner, Commoner and Invalid – very different from the modern meanings.
I have been greatly stimulated in reading this book as it has reminded me of facts that I had learnt and long since forgotten; taught me new ones; and made me think about the sources and the specific records that I may use when tracing my pre-Victorian ancestors. With a wider knowledge of the historical context, a researcher can often make progress in finding their ancestors. John Wintrip focuses on how to do the research and also gives his readers some of the practical steps that can help them to break down their brick walls.
Disclosure: Compensated Affiliate Links are used in the above
This piece of news was released by the team at TheGenealogist.
The data subscription site has just launched a new collection of Police Letter Books for Hampshire. This is an intriguing mixture of promotions, retirements, movements, and other observations about Police officers in this county from 1891 to 1911. In amongst its pages you will be able to trace the career of your Hampshire police ancestors as they rise or fall.
These records reveal names and collar numbers of officers promoted, reduced in rank or dismissed from the force for committing various acts of misconduct. The misdemeanors often seem to involve alcohol, ranging from accepting a glass of beer to being drunk on duty. For those more competent officers who were commended for their actions in the pages of these documents, you can read the actions that had been seen as deserving of inclusion in the Letter Books.
In addition, TheGenealogist has released the Colour Tithe Maps for Northumberland. These maps join the previously released greyscale maps for the majority of the country that are already published on TheGenealogist.
- Contains over 600 colour maps, linking to over 62,000 tithe records for this county
- These maps are a fantastic resource that enable you to see where your ancestors owned or occupied land in Northumberland
- The only online National collection of tithe records and maps
The searchable schedules, or apportionment books, contain detailed information on land use and these are linked to the maps on TheGenealogist. Clicking through from the transcript to a map will jump straight to the plot for an individual and can reveal buildings, fields, houses, rivers, lakes, woods and also cover villages, towns and cities.
A case study using one of the new record sets
The Ups and Down of a life on the beat
The latest release of Police Letter Books for Hampshire is an eclectic mix of details of promotions and removals of officers (postings from one place to another), as well as recording such things as additional pay and a number of disciplinary matters that were handed out to the policemen of the Hampshire County Constabulary.
If we search for one late Victorian police officer in the records, named John William Walsh, we can see that P.C. 82 J W Walsh had set out on his employment in the force around 1893. On the 12th June of that year, our 3rd class Police Constable appears first in the Letter Books when he was being sent from headquarters to serve at Kingsclere Police station. As this officer appears no less than nineteen times in the records between 1893 and 1911, we can see that he was a career policeman having probably set his sights on progressing through the ranks. By the end of that same year, on the 8th November 1893, he had been transferred to Totton and promoted to 2nd Class Constable.
So far so good for John Walsh. In 1898 he had made 1st Class Constable and then the job took him to Brockenhurst.
January 1900 sees a blip in his job prospects when he failed his Sergeant’s exam, which is duly recorded in the records – but he bounces back a few months later. By the 18th June 1900, when he gets his coveted promotion to Sergeant and is ‘removed’ to Petersfield the same day, we now see that he has been allocated collar number 14. He crops up in the Police Letter Books in a note of an entitlement to extra pay for 13 days in 1905 and then in 1906 saw him reach the pinnacle of his career as he is promoted to Inspector!
What could possibly go wrong?
These new records on TheGenealogist show that, conversely, 1906 was also the worst year for John Walsh’s path up the ranks of the Hampshire County Constabulary. Promoted to Inspector in January 1906; in October he was on the way back down!
The Police Letter book for the 18th October 1906 sadly reveals that our Inspector, of nine months, was to be reduced in ranks to that of a 1st Class Constable. This must have been devastating for him and his family as he was not just going down one rank, to Sergeant, but back to where he had been eight years before. His offence: being drunk while on duty in Holdenhurst Road, Bournemouth.
A lesser man may have considered his position in the police, but not John Walsh. From the records we find the newly numbered P.C.165 removed from Bournemouth to Farringdon on the same day that he had been busted down in rank. A year later, in 1907, and he has been promoted to Sergeant for the second time in his police career. He is posted to Basingstoke with this rank with yet another change in collar number to 35. It was on the 22nd November 1911 that we see he had climbed further still. It was not quite to the rank that he had lost in 1906, but J Walsh was now a Sergeant Major in the force and was removed to Winchester.
Using these new records on TheGenealogist has enabled us to follow the ups and downs of one particular police officer who, like many of his colleagues, came a cropper through partiality to a drink. If you have Policeman ancestors from Hampshire then search this collection to find interesting mentions of them as they are removed to new stations across the county, are commended for catching thieves, receive promotions, or are sometimes disciplined for their actions.
See more at: TheGenealogist
Compensated affiliate links have been used on this page
I was looking for some clues this week about which branch of a family to pursue, while researching someone’s family tree for them.
I did a quick trawl of the online offerings, to see if I could get some pointers as to which direction my research should go and which of two cousins to concentrate on.
We all get taught that we should NEVER take someone else’s research and add it into our own tree without verifying the information in the records.
I may, however, look to see what others may have found before me as a clue to which people I need to research in the primary records. But I always scan to see what sources they have added to their tree, to back up their research. If there are few records cited – or worse still, none at all – then my in built BS meter tends to go off in my brain.
Unfortunately, too many people don’t seem to approach ancestor research with a healthy dose of scepticism for what they have found online and so the web based family trees can be a great example of people’s fantasy being passed off as truth.
I was once bombarded by messages from someone who thought that doing genealogy was simple. They willy nilly grabbed people with the same names as their ancestors and completed their tree in no time at all. When I raised with them the subject of proof they became very annoyed with me. To them “it stands to reason” that X was the father of Y and that there was no need to waste our time proving it.
Sorry, that is so wrong!
I do think that it is acceptable to take a look and see if we can get some clues for our own research from what others have done, but sometimes I am speechless at what I find published in an online tree.
This week I found that someone had made public their family tree with a line going back to the eighteenth century. Supposedly, if you believed their tree, one of their female ancestors had been born in 1779, got married 8 years before she was born, had a son when she was 3 years old and then died in two different places!
Perhaps this was a work in progress and they were entering possible candidates into the tree before checking the records to verify if they had the right person. In this case it must, surely, have been obvious they were barking up the wrong tree. I just wonder how they were not embarrassed to have this nonsense publicly available for all to see?
Lesson from all this, for those new to family history research, don’t make your tree public if it contains daft speculation!
Take a look at Genealogical Proof on the Amazon store, some books are very reasonably priced: http://amzn.to/2lVoZYO
My own English/Welsh family history course includes a module examining genealogical proof.
Compensated Affiliate Link to Amazon.co.uk used above.
New records released by TheGenealogist
The Genealogist has added to the millions of its UK Parish Records collection with over 282,000 new records from Essex, Cumberland and Norfolk making it easier to find your ancestors’ baptisms, marriages and burials in these fully searchable records covering ancient parishes. Some of the records go back as far as 1672.
Also released are another 43,000 new war memorial records.
The new release of War Memorial records means there are now over 350,000 searchable records. This latest release includes war memorials from London, along with further English counties including Cumbria, Berkshire, Warwickshire and Suffolk. The collection also stretches across the globe to encompass new War Memorials situated in Perth, Australia and the Province of Saskatchewan in Canada. Fully searchable by name, researchers can read transcriptions and see images of the dedications that commemorate soldiers who have fallen in the Boer War, WW1 and various other conflicts.
In amongst these newly published War Memorial records are those from St John’s Church in Bassenthwaite, Cumbria. This is a fascinating WW1 roll with men who died or served and includes information such as that for Louis Willis Bell who died in Rouen as a result of poison gassing. Another notable entry is that for Isaac Hall. This soldier enlisted in January 1915 in 7th Border Regiment and was discharged on the 21st March 1917, because of wounds resulting in the loss of his left leg.
Example of Parish Records on TheGenealogist:
Parish Records can sometimes unearth fascinating stories
We are all aware that parish records give us those all important dates and names for our ancestors – but in some cases they reveal interesting stories as well. When a vicar, or parish clerk, feels the person they are entering in the register needs an extra explanation, over and above the date and name of the person, then some fascinating historical details can emerge for researchers to read.
As an excellent example of this we can look in the parish records for All Saints Church, in Maldon, Essex. Here we find the burial of one Edward Bright in the year 1750. Edward, a Tallow Chandler and Grocer, who died when he was in his late twenties, had an unusual claim to fame.
The entry in the parish register on TheGenealogist reveals that he was an extremely large man, weighing 42 stone (588 pounds) and was in fact believed to be the fattest man in England at the time.
Edward Bright by David Ogborne http://www.itsaboutmaldon.co.uk/edwardbright/) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The notes for his burial on the 12 November 1750 in the parish register explain that Edward had to be buried in a special coffin as he was so large. To remove the casket from his room above his shop, special provisions were needed requiring structural modifications to the wall and stairs to aid his final journey to All Saints.
Having arrived at church on a carriage, more unusual procedures were used to get the deceased to his final resting place. Edward’s coffin would have been far too heavy to be borne by pallbearers up the aisle to rest before the congregation during the funeral service. Also it would have severely taxed the muscles of those men who would have normally lowered it manually into the grave. The logistics, in this case, needed rollers to be used to slide the coffin up to a brickwork vault and then a triangle and pulleys were used to lower poor Edward into his grave.
The parish register entry did, however, not just dwell on the problems of burying a man of such large proportions. It went on to also record a number of positive attributes that Edward Bright had – so giving us a picture of the man that he was. We can see that he was well thought of by the vicar and community of this 18th century Essex parish. The register tells us that he was: “… A Very Honest Tradesman. A Facetious Companion, Comely In His Person, Affable In His Temper, A Kind Husband, A Tender Father & Valuable Friend.”
As we have seen here, sometimes a parish register can give you so much more than just the date that your ancestor was baptised, married or buried.
Find out more at TheGenealogist.co.uk
I received a request to break down a brick wall this week from Pre-World War II Birmingham in Warwickshire – though it is now in the county of West Midlands.
The challenge was, essentially, how to identify someone’s birth and family when that person had changed their name, having got married.
As it was a ‘brick wall’ that was entirely surmountable, by applying some easily available records, I thought it might make a good blog post that others may benefit from.
All I had to go by was that Mrs Smith (not her real name) had lived in a particular road in a suburb of Birmingham in the late 1930s and shared a house with another couple (whom I will call Mr & Mrs H Jones). I was only given the lady’s married surname, as her first name was not known. Other facts I had were that she had been widowed young, when she lost her husband in the First World War and that he may have been an officer.
So this is how I approached the problem.
I was on a visit to The Library of Birmingham and so I took the escalators to the fourth floor where the Archives and Heritage centre is now situated. Many of the records, however, are accessible online and so even if you are on the other side of the world you would be able to duplicate these steps.
I took a look at the Electoral Registers for Birmingham and found Mr H Jones, Nell his wife and Mrs Annie Alice Smith listed as eligible to vote. Their address was in the Mosley area of Birmingham.
Now I checked the GRO indexes online for the marriage of lady called Annie A (leaving the surname blank as it was unknown) and a man with unknown first names, but a surname of Smith. I assumed that they married between 1905 and 1918, as the information I had was that he had died in WWI.
Frustratingly I could not find such a match.
Next I consulted the run of Trades and Street Directories to find the names of people living in the road where we knew that she had resided in 1938. Some directories can be found online on various websites now, so it is possible to have done this step from the comfort of my own home, should I have chosen to do so.
The first hurdle was that as she was one of four people living in the house and only the name of the main householder was listed for each property. I could see Mr Jones listed but not Mrs Smith. I had been told that Mr and Mrs Jones left Birmingham, as the war began, so that they could join the war effort. I wondered if Mrs Smith left too, or was there a possibility that she remained in Birmingham?
Looking at the volumes for 1939 and 1940 I could find two householders that were possible contenders – a Mrs Annie Smith in Selly Oak and a Mrs Alice Annie Smith in Edgbaston. This last one, with her first and middle names the other way round from her listing in the Electoral registers, made me wonder if this was the reason why I had not found her marriage.
Returning to the marriage indexes online I now entered the new details and was rewarded with the marriage of an Alice Ann Evans (surname changed to protect privacy) marrying a William Samuel Smith in Devon during the year 1916. Seeking corroboration I searched the military records online and found a Corporal W. S. Smith MM who had then been commissioned as a Second Lieutenant and who had died of his wounds at the Somme. This seemed to echo the information that I had been given about the widow’s husband, so I was now confident that I had found the lady’s name.
When carrying out your own research it is always worth keeping in mind that some of our ancestors may swap their first and middle names. They may also even modify one of the names, as in this case, with the lengthening of Ann to become Annie. If you are new to family history research then you could be thrown off the scent when you are looking for your own ancestors, if they too changed their names like Alice Ann did!
Armed with the quarter of Alice Ann’s marriage, I was now able to find her in the church register for the parish church at Paignton. I could equally have bought a copy of her marriage certificate from the GRO. Both would have furnished me with her father’s name, which was Thomas and that his occupation was a School Master.
I then turned to the 1911 census to find Thomas Evans, school master, in a town in Worcestershire and one of his daughters was the elusive Alice A Evans. The census also provided me with her age, last birthday, and where she was born.
Armed with this I could search now for her birth, finding that she was registered with the names Alice Ann and I could also go on to find her death registered in 1983 at Portsmouth.
The brick wall had been overcome.
If you’d like to find out more about how to tease out your elusive English or Welsh ancestors then CLICK this link:
My research this week has hit a number of the inevitable brick walls that most family history researchers find litter the path to seeking out our elusive ancestors in the records.
I know just how frustrating it can be when we are trying to add people to our family tree and the wretched people just don’t seem to be anywhere to be found.
If you find yourself in that situation then my advice to you is, 1 – Don’t panic! 2 – Take a deep breath and 3 – Take a step back.
I was asked to write a piece for TheGenealogist on the actor Sir Ian McKellen to be live on their website before the Who Do You Think You Are? programme went out.
The very first thing I did was to see if I could find his birth in the General Register Office (GRO) birth records. To my frustration he was not there!
What did I do? I calmly considered what was the likelihood of him not being recorded, against there having been a mistake made in the records (I didn’t panic, or curse the online portal that I was using). I took a deep breath (point 2) and ran the same search at a second site to see if the record would be returned there. Unfortunately, there was no sign of him there either. It was time to take a step back (tip 3).
Often, when we can not find an ancestor, it can be for the reason that some sort off error has crept into the data; or the record was incorrectly written down at the time it was created. A little lateral thinking and Ian McKellen was eventually found to have been mistakenly recorded in the GRO Index for the April-June quarter of 1939 under the surname McKellar.
This neatly illustrates what can happen in the official birth, marriages and death records, as well as in other sources. The birth would have been reported to a local registrar shortly after Ian McKellen was born on the 25 May, 1939. Perhaps the writing was not clear at that stage? With census records, or baptisms, we have to also consider that the official, such as a census enumerator or the vicar in the church, misheard the name.
Even if the surname had been given correctly to the local registrar and faithfully noted in their records, they would have copied their information and sent it on to the GRO – did they make a mistake at that stage? Or was it when the GRO collated it into the index that most of us will use to order a certificate from?
Another stage that mistakes can happen, although not in this particular case, is when these indexes go online. The website will have created a transcription of the data in order that their search engine can find the entries when we type a name into their search box.
This week I came across an example of a transcription error, one that can be easily forgiven when I opened up the image of the census to see a florid capital J that looked exactly like an S. I was searching for someone with the first and middle names of Frederick and John. For some reason, however, they had been enumerated by only their initials F.J. and then their surname. The top of the J had a short twist to the right and nothing to the left so making it look for all the world like an S.
My advice for family history researchers, who are having difficulty finding their ancestors in the records, is to stop; breathe; and think. Consider the possibility that your ancestor really is there in the records, just not quite correctly recorded as you, or probably they, would have liked.
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