"Each has his own tree of ancestors, but at the top of all sits Probably Arboreal." - Robert Louis Stevenson

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Fearless Females 2012: My brick walls

Fearless Females: 31 Blogging Prompts to Celebrate Women's History Month

I like to differentiate between a brick wall and a small hurdle – quite often I’ve come to a halt because I know what I need to do to make the next step, but that involves ordering certificates. Unfortunately given the expense I can’t do that many at a time – I think I need to start a waiting list! So, here are some of my current female ‘hurdles’.  Where possible I’m sharing my thoughts on where to go next. If you have any suggestions, don’t hesitate to offer 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.  
The mother of Mary Ann Birchall is proving equally untraceable. Mary Ann is born somewhere between 1833 and 1836 depending on which census record you believe. By the 1851 census she is living alone with her father John, so I assume her mother has died in the intervening years. Once again, John Birchall and Mary Ann Birchall are too common in Lancashire to easily identify, and the issue is complicated even more in this case because I am searching pre-1837. Without siblings to cross-reference, I am struggling a bit. I think the only way to progress will be to narrow down the area to search and then going to the parish records, and hoping that John Birchall’s profession as a professor of music crops up in either a christening or marriage record, though the Lancashire Online Parish Clerks and FamilySearch have thus far turned up nothing.
Amy Hall is the sister of my 2x great-grandmother Mabel. Amy was born in 1880, but I’ve been unable to trace her beyond the 1891 census. There is a possible census entry for her in 1901, but the name given is Emma rather than Amy, and as yet I haven’t been able to eliminate possible Emma Halls for this record. Also, there is the possibility that she might have married already and thus I don’t know what name to search for. Though she continues to perform under her maiden name, so did her sister Mona after her marriage. I know Amy is alive until 1922, because her name appears on an obituary tribute to her father – unfortunately it is only her first name! I have managed to trace her career quite fully, as I explained in yesterday’s Shining Star post. But despite having a pretty good idea where she was located in both 1901 and 1911 at the time of the censuses, I still can’t find her, or indeed any of the people she was touring with at the time, using the search function. This means that my only way forward is to browse the entire census for the area and try to pinpoint them that way. Hopefully I’ll then be able to verify whether she was married or had any children, to help me trace her life further.
The last one is a slightly different brick wall. My mum’s first name is Ceredwyn, and she was always told that she was named after an aunt of her father’s. Thus far I’ve had no luck identifying who this might be. Despite living in Wales, most of my ancestors tend to have rather English names, and where the 1911 census tells you whether they spoke English, Welsh or both, my ancestors are overwhelmingly English-only speakers with very English names. This might have something to do with the fact that quite a lot of them actually hailed from over the border in the Forest of Dean. However, I have still got a few Hancock and Webb brothers for whom I haven’t identified a spouse yet, so I my mum’s namesake might turn up eventually!
L x


  1. Regarding Elizabeth Robinson - do the 1881 and 1891 censuses give accurate addresses? Are they living at the same address? Perhaps you could go back to 1871 and try and find the same address by manually going through census records - or searching for a neighbour 10 years earlier.

    Regarding your mum's namesake - have you considered that the 'aunt' may not be an actual aunt after all. Other family members such as cousins, or even just family friends, were often known as 'aunt' or 'uncle'.

  2. I think you're on to something with the address, I'll try it and let you know how I get on. Thanks :-)

    We have considered that it might be a 'pretend' aunt - in fact I'm increasingly thinking that's the most likely explanation!

  3. I once got lucky with finding someone in the 1911 census using an address rather than by name. I ordered the birth certificate for a child born in 1913 and looked up that same address in 1911 and there was my great-great-grandmother, hiding under her mother's maiden name!

    If not an pretend aunt, maybe it's an aunt as in the wife of an uncle. I'm sure you've already considered that though.

  4. Yes, I've had a few successes with addresses, so fingers crossed it helps here!

    I'm hunting down all the marriages I can to confirm whether there was a related Ceredwyn, but I reckon it's going to be more of a 'family friend' type auntie. Sometimes you just get these hunches, don't you!


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