Ancestors that changed their names!

 

The Nosey Genealogist at Birmingham Archives

 

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.

Find your ancestors in Trades Directories
Trades Directories at The Library of Birmingham

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.

Trades Directory
1938 Kelly’s Trades Directory

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:
www.FamilyHistoryResearcher.com

 

Send to Kindle

The On-line Family History Researcher

Researching into our ancestry on the Internet is becoming one of the most popular pastimes in the 21st century with more people every day beginning family history research on-line. It wasn’t that very long ago that a person who wanted to trace their family tree, would need to make various visits to many libraries, record offices and the family history centres for the areas their forebears came from. Nowadays, except for the serious genealogist for whom this will still be an important part of family research, the amazing increase in genealogical websites with databases that we can search easily, has made it simple to carry out most of the slog researching our forbears from our computers. ranging from the average family historian, aiming to locate some difficult to find ancestor, to the professional genealogist carrying out a commission for a client, the data sets such as those provided at www ancestry.com or ancestry. co.uk and a whole lot of other websites have made things  easier and better for us. The sheer amount of data and other information that is already made available is being supplemented even as I write this with all sorts of new releases of old records and indexes. There are sites offering us access to the census collections, parish registers  and other church records, transcripts of tomb stones and other monumental plaques, BMD sites providing data on births, marriages and deaths, various family history societies, websites selling old maps, genealogical resources such as parish registers, old town or trade directories and so on.

In the United Kingdom the1841 census records data will be the earliest that will be encountered on-line. Today sets of census data are available to search on the web right up to the census of 1911. Census information can be found on a number of commercial sites, the majority of which necessitate an individual to pay-as-you-go, or simply to obtain a subscription of some kind. You will commonly have the ability to lookup transcripts and after that pay to view actual images, of enumerator’s books, for the different censuses undertaken every decade between 1841 and the 1901 census. Recently, the 1911 census for England and Wales went on line sooner than the normal one hundred years before release. This is under a Freedom of Information judgement, but the delicate data as to the mental state of  individuals have been blacked out. The different feature of this collection is that, for the very first time that, we can view an image from the household’s return, not merely the enumerator’s book and thus can see our ancestor’s handwriting.

The provision of the various kinds of family history information, on the Internet, has encouraged an ever-growing number of individuals to make a foray into the arena of genealogy on-line resources. Most want to discover who their own forefathers had been and the things they did. A good number of folks have been prompted to start looking for themselves after the popularity of the BBC’s tv series called: Who do you think your are?

They might be motivated because of the many books about the topic, the different magazines on the newsagent’s racks as well as the genealogy and family history events, such as the annual show in Olympia and a host of others organised up and down the land all year round. But although some research will be effortless, a good few of our forebears are frustratingly tough to find and so frequently a beginner doesn’t know exactly where to turn.

You may still find some people, out there, whom merely do not know how to even take the first steps to undertaking their family research on a computer. You can also find others who, having made a beginning, do not know how to get past the inescapable brick wall that they have stumbled upon.

Brick walls can be aggravating, however when you discover a way to smash through the logjam it usually is immensely satisfying. I’ve discovered exactly how to do this, for a few of my forefathers, by taking e-courses in this fascinating area of interest. Just what I have observed is that the family historian must be made aware of the various tips and tricks to utilizing the internet resources to greatest effect. While the simple information can be acquired by using the straight forward search field on a website, to locate evasive ancestors may require a certain application. The good news is that somebody has most likely come up against the very same sort of problem as you are having and so a means of working around the difficulty may already have been devised. For example, I had been taught exactly how to make use of the freeBMD website to locate missing brothers and sisters of one of my grandmothers.

Many researchers may have used the LDS or Latter-day Saint’s familysearch.org site. Finding your ancestors, when using the search tools furnished by the website, can be challenging; even if they are included in the International Genealogical Index, and that is not always the case! The problem is that a search simply by last name only isn’t allowed, unless you search within a single batch of records at a time or over the entire country. A search of the whole of Britain is overwhelming, unless of course you have a rare name. What if, however, you are looking for a Smith or a Jones? I have discovered how to use a tool provided on a website to search the IGI batches and it is really easy to try and do, once you know how.

The world wide web has made researching ancestors a great deal easier to do. As more and more data finds its way onto the internet many more lines of research are opened to us. But, on the other hand, there is the danger of information overload. The new family historian could become frozen in the headlights as the data juggernaut races on towards them. My advice is to carefully record your research at each and every phase, so you are aware the blind alleys which you have gone down and the various people that you have researched erroneously, as well as the ones you have had success with. In the long run you will save yourself time and very possibly money on certificates purchased, or pay-as-you-go searches on the Internet. Next word of advice, is that it’s well worth continuing to learn as much as you are able to about this fascinating subject by taking classes or reading around the subject matter. The best family historian is one that thinks of themselves being an advanced beginner. That is, they are constantly wide open to learning more skills. The more skilled you become, the better you’ll be able to uncover those elusive ancestors!

Send to Kindle