After I posted about my brick walls on Wednesday, I got a very useful suggestion from Niall McMahon on how I might be able to get over one of them:
Elizabeth Robinson was born in 1877 in North Yorkshire, and married Bertie James Newby in 1899. I found Elizabeth on the 1881 and 1891 censuses living with her grandmother Mary Ann Robinson. In my indexing I have tentatively assumed that Mary Ann is her paternal grandmother, on the basis of her surname, but I’ve as yet failed to trace her parents. Unfortunately Elizabeth Robinson and Mary Ann Robinson are rather too common as names to be able to make educated guesses to fill in the gaps. The next step surely has to be to order Elizabeth and Bertie’s marriage certificate and see what that can tell me.
At Niall’s suggestion I looked up Elizabeth Robinson's grandmother Mary Ann on the 1861 and 1871 censuses, using the address from the 1881 census.
Unfortunately Newton-le-Willows (in the parish of Patrick Brompton, North Yorkshire, not the one on Merseyside) is so tiny that it doesn't appear to have even had street addresses – the census simply numbers the households, and they're different every time. Fortunately, it's so tiny that it only takes up about a dozen pages of census, so I was able to work my way through and find her quite quickly.
Mary Ann Robinson has two children on the 1861 census – Jane born 1854 and Thomas born 1856. In 1871 Jane is still at home with her mother, an unemployed domestic servant, but Thomas is not. Interestingly, Mary is listed as unmarried on the censuses, meaning that her children are most likely illegitimate.
As the children were born when Mary Ann was in her thirties, I now wonder whether she might have had other children before this who had died or left home by 1861. I trawled all ten pages of the 1851 census for the parish and they’re not there.
There is a possibility on the 1841 census: Mary Robinson aged 20, in the household of Thos Robinson aged 55 and John Robinson aged 25. They are her father and brother, presumably, though the 1842 census doesn’t give relationships. An alternative possiblity is that Mary is married to John and they are living with John’s father, though since Mary Ann is consistently listed as unmarried it seems unlikely.
I turned my attention to Mary Ann’s children, Jane and Thomas.
Having ruled out one possible 1881 census record for Jane, I can use this info to identify her birth with some certainty – registered first quarter of 1854.
There are three possible marriages of a Jane Robinson within the registration district, Leyburn, all in 1874. To John Coglin in Q3; to Robert Wellock or Thomas Mawer/Mawes in Q4; or to John Clarke or Joseph Donkley, also in Q4. This is going to take some unravelling! However, as there aren’t any possible deaths between 1871 and 1881 in the Leyburn district, I can be reasonably confident that one of these marriages is her.
So, this then suggests that Elizabeth Robinson is more likely to be the daughter of Thomas. She was definitely born after Jane’s marriage, and so if she were Jane’s daughter she would have Jane’s married name, surely?
So then I start searching for Thomas, but this also throws a bit of a spanner in the works.
It appears that Thomas Robinson is married to a woman called Phyllis and living with her and their one-year-old son Thomas in 1881 in Newton-le-Willows. There is a possible marriage in the Leyburn district in 1880, but there are only three names on it, meaning one female name is missing – Phyllis?
By 1891 they have moved to Durham and their family is growing. They continue living together in the Durham area on the 1901 and 1911 censuses.
The 1911 census states that they had seven children altogether, three of whom have died. This in itself is incorrect as there are in fact eight known children. Mary, William Henry and baby Grace, still living on 1911 census, and Thomas, Arthur, Elizabeth and an older Grace, who are not present. Three of them, at least, can be assumed to be dead. Grace seems a likely possibility, as they have given a second child the same name.
This still doesn’t solve the mystery of Elizabeth’s parents, however. She could be Thomas’s daughter by a previous marriage – but why wouldn’t she be living with her step-mother and half siblings in that case? Or, she might be his illegitimate daughter – in which case what has happened to her mother? The other possibility is that Mary Ann Robinson did indeed have other children, and Elizabeth is the daughter of one of them. I think the only thing to do is to order as many of the relevant certificates as possible and see what emerges...