Genealogy discoveries and mysteries still to be solved – The lost marriage

Lost, First Marriage

Over the summer I have been busy with solving a couple of genealogy mysteries on behalf of clients. The one, below, involves a lost first marriage.  Let me explain:

The first involved a lady who believed her mother may have been married before her mother and father met and married.  When this lady was a child an elderly aunt had once told her that her mother had been married before, and that she, this lady had a brother.  The revelation remained a secret and was never spoken of again.  Her mother died in her fifties and now this lady wanted to know if she did in fact have a half brother.

I was able to help her by searching her genealogy through the marriage records and birth records. Unfortunately her mother had a common name, and came from a city.  This meant cross referencing with over 40 possible matches with the mothers names.  I had to check for deaths of some of these 40 women and birth records around the correct time.  But in the end I found her mothers first marriage, which took place in a different city.  This is probably why her family did not know of her first marriage or birth of her first son, who was born just 3 months after the marriage.

The story turned out to be true and the lady is now hoping to contact her half brother.  However, I did not find a divorce record for her mother, so we believe her father did not know of the previous marriage or child.  I hope very much that this lady finds her half brother and gets to hear all about his life story.

(The client granted her permission for me to blog her story).

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Second story to follow soon…..

New Bristol Family History Course dates – 2017-2018 book now!

New course dates

The new course dates are available and bookable now though Bristol City Council’s web site. Please link to the Courses tab above for details of the Family History courses running in Bristol 2017-2018.

The courses are aimed for beginners and for those who have already undertaken some research.

Also, a new course day is on offer is an intensive one day course.   The idea is for the student to really be able get on with fresh research through the aid of on-line records.  The day is tutor led and will be in tune with the individuals progress so far – even if you are just beginning.

For more details and to book click the link  Book 

Pauper death and burial in Eastville, Bristol

On 12 July a fascinating public walk and lecture about the history behind the unmarked pauper graves of Rosemary Green, situated on the outskirts of what was once Eastville Union Workhouse, Fishponds Road, Bristol.

After the 1834 Poor Law Act a paupers funeral was considered to be an extravagance that the parish should no longer pay for.  Before the 1834 Act, pauper funerals were paid for by the parish, with local persons attending to the traditional funeral rituals and necessities. In other words a person with no or little money who had died was treated with respect in death and buried as a human being as would be expected, albeit simple, within the cultural rituals of the time.

But after the Act was enforced the Poor Law Unions, in order to save money, and ‘demonstrate disgrace in death of those who had surrendered to poverty‘.  Death and burial practices were changed to become a disgraceful new attitude that resulted in approximately 4,000 men, women and children simply being wrapped in a shroud and dumped in unmarked graves in a small piece of land that sloped into a small river.   The pauper graveyard is located at Rosemary Green just opposite Greenbank Cemetery where there is also an older pauper grave yard.

Extensive research into Eastville workhouse has been undertaken by Bristol Radical History Group and published in 100 Fishponds Road.  (Book available from BRHG). Click here.

Many people have now contacted the BRHG as they suspect that their ancestors may have be buried at Rosemary Green. (Records of names still exist).  If you think that you may have an ancestor who might have died in a workhouse you can contact Heritage Found, free of change, to try to find out more.

At Rosemary Green there is now a touching monument to all those souls once buried beneath.

Made of slate it reads:

Rosemary Green Burial Ground

1851-1895

On this site over 4,000 men women and children

who died in Eastville Workhouse,

known as 100 Fishponds Road,

were buried in unmarked graves.

A further 118 were given to the medical school.

This memorial stands in recognition of all

who lived and died in the workhouse.

Not Forgotten

Please click here to discover more and see fascinating photographs of Eastville Workhouse.

How far do you want to go back exploring your family history?

How far back in time to find out your family history?

In theory it is possible to go as far back as the 15th century for the average British family history, but this is usually only if your ancestors tended to live in the same region, or few parishes, and that the records have survived.  It is amazing how many church records of baptisms, marriages and burials have survived.  However, if your ancestors before around 1841, tended to move around, or were immigrants into the British Isles before this time, tracing them may be more difficult, but not impossible!  This will be similar to those who reside in other countries.

Having said this every person has a different and unique family ancestry that will always be fascinating, uncover some surprises, and reveal hidden circumstances that lead you to understand why you may have come to live where you live or where your parents lived.

I believe it is best to research your family history in generational stages, perhaps going back 4 generations to begin with, and then choosing to take a particular line further back that you find of most interest.  By researching your family history in logical stages it is easier for you to absorb the wealth of information that will be uncovered for you and to understand your unique family story.

Please feel free to contact Heritage Found to discover the possibilities available to you to find your family history.

 

18th May 2017 a talk about Bedminster Workhouse

The Life and Death of Hannah Wiltshire

I will be giving a talk on Bedminster Union Workhouse. Bristol to the Clevedon History Group on the 18th May, 2017.  The talk will illustrate how during the year 1855 the workhouse Guardians neglected in their care and duty to protect a vulnerable young women, which resulted in her death. This lead to a public outcry and calls for the first mental health asylum to be built in Bristol.

Bedminster Union Workhouse was located Flax Burton, in North Somerset, England and served the parishes in the region of south west Bristol as well as Bedminster, Bristol.

Let me search for your ancestors and see if any of them were in a workhouse click

Why search and send off for a copy marriage certificate?

As we start to go back in time, through a few generations, it is easy to not be quite sure that we have the right individuals who we feel may be that missing great grandparent for example.  It can often be that we find 10 or even hundreds  of couples who married around the time our couple may have married, and in the same vicinity.  The only sure way to find out is to send off for a copy marriage certificate, which in the U.K. you can find records recorded on and after 1837, when formal civil registration became the law.

Firstly, you should try and find out the volume number and page number where the marriage is recorded, known as the Indexes. This information can be found out by doing a simple search on one of the on-line genealogy sites.  You can now go onto the GRO (General Register Office) web site.  This is the site where you order your certificates and is the cheapest method.  You will find a couple of simple forms to fill out and currently a charge of £9.45 at time of writing.  If for some reason the certificate cannot be found your payment is refunded.  Currently it is taking about 10 days to receive the ordered copy certificate.  It is exciting when the envelope arrives. I can help you do this by filling out the contact form here.

A marriage certificate will give you a lot of information and very importantly the maiden name of the bride, and of the couples fathers and their occupation.  The occupation of the bride and groom is also recorded which is a useful tool for cross referencing our couple on the census returns.   This can be a wonderful resource to help us to go back a further generation and be confident that we have the right people added to our line before we attempted to go back further.

The history of British marriage certificates

Civil registration in England and Wales commenced on 1 July 1837, and relates to the birth, marriage and death of an individual. In Scotland records began in 1855 and in Ireland in 1864, with Irish non-Catholic marriages recorded from 1845.

In England and Wales, up to that time, the government had relied on the church to register the population but this was was not a complete record, not a full listing of the population. Also, mass printing of government administration forms was now possible due to advances in printing technology.  A single tier registration system was introduced, based on the administrative poor law unions, which had been set up in 1834, and previously the administrative hundreds. These became the registration districts. Births, not baptisms, and deaths, not burials, were recorded as well as marriages.  Parish and nonconformist baptism & burial registers were still completed at the same time that the new civil registration system began.  The Act also permitted marriages to be performed in Register Offices and outside the confines of the Anglican Church. Many nonconformist chapels were authorised to perform marriages. Since 1837 there has been much fine tuning of the system and various new regulations and legislation have been introduced.

It can be very rewarding to send off for a copy of our ancestor’s marriage certificate.

And below are are some pointers to understanding what you may read.

No exact age may be shown and ages may be recorded that the bride or groom were “of full age”, an age in excess of 21 years. Although this statement may have been false to avoid a minor having to obtain parental consent.  Where an actual age is given, it is usually reasonably accurate but it may also have been altered for a variety of reasons and remember not everybody actually knew their exact age!

The same address for both parties may show and  this was common to avoid paying two sets of banns fees if one or other party resided in a different parish.  Marriages traditionally took place in the parish of the bride.

The absence of a father’s name and occupation usually meant he was unknown.  But, also a made-up name, or a male name with in the family, could have been used with (deceased).  I have seen several suspected examples of this on certificates.  Also this is a clue of illegitimacy.  If the father was in fact dead the name was usually filled in and the word deceased written alongside it.  The inclusion of the name of the father without the word deceased did not automatically mean that he was alive at the time of the marriage! Remember the certificate was being hand written with details often being given by the bride and groom who could not always read and write, and vital information may not of been asked for.

New Book! Lady Blackshirts

New Book out now: Lady Blackshirts

‘Lady Blackshirts. The Perils of Perception – suffragettes who became fascists’

This is the true story of suffragettes who became fascists during the inter war years.

During the 1930’s a small group of ultra-nationalistic women, who considered themselves feminists, joined Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists.  Surprisingly some of these women were former high ranking members of the suffragette movement.

This work examines the political and social tensions that confronted women in the 1930’s and also the tensions that arose within Mosley’s ranks.  Issues that were so profound, that some women were drawn into the world of the fascist political elite, and became ‘militant women citizens’ advocating and endorsing fascism.

Available in book shops now and directly from the Bristol Radical History Group.

 

The British Census a beginner’s guide 1851

1851 Census

Following the first census that is of use to us as family history researchers came the second census of 1851, taken on the night of 30 March.   This was to set the pattern for a census to be held every 10 years, which still happens to the present day.

The census of 1851 was taken in slightly more detail than the 1841 census.  It shows us a persons true age (or what they thought was their correct age!), as well as the relationships between the people living in any one household, institution or vessel.  Disabilities were also recorded, which were listed as either blind, deaf, or imbecile.  Also, the documents reveal to us where a person was born.  This is an incredibly important piece of information for the researcher because it aids us to find baptism, marriage and perhaps other records such as property records that exist before 1851.  Therefore, helping us to trace a family line further into the past.

So, in brief the 1851 census will tell us:

  • Place of birth
  • Martial status
  • Relationship to the head of the household
  • Disability
  • Exact age to the nearest year
  • Occupation  (the number of people employed)

Reaction to the 1851 census. Punch, April, 1851 p.152

 

 

 

The British Census, a beginner’s guide 1841

1841

The first British census, which covered England and Wales, was undertaken in 1841.  The census was carried out by literate persons who had to visit each and every household, institution and vessel on the xxxxx 1841.  We can view all the records on line at various sites, which you will have to pay for.  The 1841 census gives us the names, age, occupation, where they lived and whether born in the county where they were living.  This was noted as a simple y for yes, or for no.  An S was recorded for those born in Scotland and an I for those of Irish birth.  If a person was born abroad an was marked instead to note this, although it does not tell us in which country they were born. The 1841 census rarely gives us full addresses and never states the relationship of the people within one household.

Another important fact that you need to be aware of is that age was marked down to the nearest 5 years.  So if a person was 38 their age was recorded as 35!   Why would they do this, when it would have been just as easy to put the persons real, known age?  Well, some people did not know their exact age in 1841, and the government were really just interested in where people were living.  There had been a huge wave of migration in the early to mid 19th century as people moved off the land into the cities and towns to find work.  The Industrial Revolution had caused many families to move to find work in the new mills, coal mines and factories that were now covering large areas of the new urban regions.

So, in brief the 1841 census will tell us:

  • The persons first name and surname (last) name
  • Age of person
  • Gender
  • Occupation
  • Where born