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29 Aug 2016

Paris Match: The Italian, Welsh marriage turns up in Ancestry Overseas records

Yippee, a mystery solved. I knew Jane Elizabeth Jones had married Giovanni Leone because she is described as his 'veuve' (widow) in the Guernsey death indexes. But I had no idea where or when the marriage had occurred. It could have been Italy, the States or elsewhere. It was actually in Autumn 1853 at or near the Paris Embassy, France. Giovanni is started as being from Palermo, island of Sicily - bearing in mind this was 30 years or more before Italy was unified as one country.

Jane herself was born in about 1820, unluckily it was in Wales (somewhere) and Wales (Hay-on-Wye) was also where she was living on her marriage. Considering she spent most of her childhood and widowhood in Guernsey, this is a bit unfortunate. It's going to make it a bit harder to find her in the 1851 census. Her occupation will be nursery nurse like her cousin down the road in Little Hereford and sister Rosa over in Reigate, Surrey.

Pieces of the puzzling Dibben clan are coming together with Jane's marriage showing up. Her parents Mary Dibben and William Jones's wedding is nowhere to be found. Nor the marriages of Mary's two sisters.

24 Aug 2016

Finally found my Danish cousin, born 1900 Nyborg, living Copenhagen 1921

After years of Googling, I hit the right combination of key strokes and have found a reference to my cousin May Park Sørensen under her full name May Augusta Park Sørensen, born 21 May 1900 presumably at Nyborg, Svendborg, Denmark, living in Copenhagen 1921 and 1922.

This information is from the website which seems to have attracted some rather puzzled forum posts in the last year or so.  I was pretty glad to get the following sniplet out of it before it shut me down completely.

If anyone can help track this lady onward I'd be most appreciative.  At least I know now the country in which she resided.

UPDATE: now found her brother in the same resource and May's entry in the 1921 census in the main shopping street of Copenhage: Østerbrogade, see the image below.


1) daughter of Holger Johannes Sørensen 1871 ('corn merchant') who married in Edinburgh, Ida Augusta Park 1872- before 1922; and sister of Carl Frederik Sørensen.  Nothing known about these individuals onward from the above dates.  These slim details already published on my website's family pages.

2) named with her brother in the will of grandmother Augusta Park which was dated about 1922

I think this was her brother, who is listed here as musician in Odense, Carl Frederik Sørensen born 13 Dec 1897 at Nyborg, just about ten months after his parents married in Edinburgh!
 The 1921 census
And for the brother (both in Copenhagen)
 The dad is in hospital in Middelfart, the other side of Odense, a widower and seemingly a former grocer.  For some reason he is in the index but Copenhagen does not yet seem to be.

Genealogy Potluck Picnic: Creating Speculative Searches to Find Missing Records Online

In this day and age we live with a multitude of resources at our finger-tips, some would say too many.  There are 55 million records for William Jones on Ancestry, and 100 million entries for Elizabeth Smith, for example.
With all this content, I never want to leave holes in the middle of my family tree. I'm always on the look-out for something to move the story forward and today I'm making the case for good old-fashioned guesswork - supposition, if you will.  I'll show how using your intuition, and posing 'what if?' questions is a valuable dish to bring to your internet meal.

Our first two cases come from Wales.  Nowhere is 'just supposing' more needed, with a distinct shortage of names, few middles and a lack of other identifying criteria make progress a big challenge - until now!

What if.... family rumour was right after all?
When my mother's third cousin Sue let me see the family bible in Wales, 1997, I was pretty happy.  At last we'd get some clues about older members of the family, who were lost in the midst of time.
  She married a Hubbard in Swansea.
  She was born in Marloes, and her daughter Mary will be missing from the family home age 22..

These rumours from the family were just not helping.  There was no trace of Mary or Ann with the information provided from the bible, in the census and in death records.  Was it plain wrong?

Frustrated at the poor quality information about Mrs Hubbard I parked these notes.  One day, after coming back from my Aunt's house and seeing a copy of the rumours, I gave in and clicked on the nine possible marriages in Wales, and there in front of my eyes, was the groom, Mr Hebbard! (Mary had lopped five years off her age and faked her spinsterhood to make sure the marriage to this teenager went ahead.  Facts that were missing from the family bible!)
Ann Francis (born 1815) was still a puzzle.  In desperation, I looked at a map of Merthyr Tydfil, where she must have gotten married, hoping it would somehow help.  I noticed a community called Morlais.  What if Ann's birthplace had been misrecorded as Morlais, not Marloes?  Sure enough in 1871, the enumerator makes that exact error, and she is solved:
Mrs Ann Jenkins, age 55, born Morlais Pembrokeshire
But now there was the problem of Ann's missing daughter Mary Jenkins, who was not at home in the census aged 22.  What a common name!  How on earth was I going to find her?  I used my knowledge of the community to help me.  Nobody was going to afford servants or have an unmarried woman laying around the house.  If she wasn't at home, there were two options: dead or married.  So, let's see if she was married.  There were 40 married Marys in Merthyr of the right age in 1861 on FindMyPast - step away from the census, that's too many!  Yet, a simple click showed the first Mary had a baby boy Thomas Francis Bromham, bearing the family name of Francis.  Logic had paid off, but with the downside that I needed to fork out £9.25 in the form of a certified marriage document as proof.
Family rumour had been correct, and with some intuition about a tired census-taker muddling the place names, and the unlikelihood of a young unmarried woman floating around a town of ironworkers, our three mysteries had been solved.

Just suppose... there was a way in?
Still thinking about Wales, I was visiting a cloudy Black Sea coast town in the summer of 2012.  Hillary Clinton, who herself has ancestry from Merthyr Tydfil, had recently honoured an American study area in the town.  Around its black formica tables were gathered a number of Brits and Americans, soaking up the free WiFi and congenial company.  But my attention was elsewhere.
I was deep in nineteenth-century Wales.  I had fought tooth and nail to establish some kin of my ancestress Ann Morgan, born 1761, and I wasn't about to let them slip away.  I needed answers about Ann's five nieces, the Rees girls.  The way I saw it there was just one way forward.  Just suppose a Rees girl had decided to honour their father, Morgan Rees, and give his names to one of her sons?  I thought it was definitely worth a speculative try, on FamilySearch.
As if by magic, an entry appeared, Morgan Rees Price born in the Vale of Neath, 1810, son of Jenkin Price and his wife Jennet, formerly Rees.  This couple have quite a story to tell, running away to Bristol to marry and then becoming proprietors of Rutland Arms in the heart of Swansea.  I would never have found them without this imaginative work-around.  They will at some point get their own article.

What if... I've been looking in the wrong country
Francis Harris, born Cornwall 1818, had been on my tree for years, but I wasn't convinced I had his story straight.  Living an ordinary life in a Cornish town?  I felt that my Harrises would work up a bit more wanderlust than that.  When I spotted another Francis born in the same year, I was even more suspicious I had mistaken identity.  I got my first wind of a missing uncle, and I was determined to hunt him down!

He flourished in the 1840s and at this time, America was definitely calling.  Not to mention Oz, Mexico and anywhere with ground worth mining.  So what if Francis had come to the States and had a family out there – after all I realised, his sister wouldn't be far away.  How come he had slipped through the records!  And here was the little entry I needed, the 1850 census from FamilySearch for Grant county, Wisconsin, a well known Cornish hang-out:
Even though there's nothing to trace this man to Cornwall, his wife Phillippi Rowe can be directly linked to Crowan, Cornwall, about 2 miles from where Francis was born.  Hmm!  I think this speculative search was successful.  But that wasn't all, dunking his name back into Google's watery index and there is plenty more on our uncle...
His 3x great-grandson Jonah Harris and myself exchanged emails over Christmas last year with snaps of our respective family gatherings and the food we were having (Brits on the left).
"What if?" had worked out for us.

What if... a puzzling initial could lead me to a missing cousin
Percy Creed Bell was born in 1874 at Abersychan, South Wales and disappears from every record available aged 16.  It is very odd to realise that his closest living relative is now my grandmother (and a chap called Alec in Glastonbury).  I found a trace of a plausible fellow out in the western States, name of Percy H. Bell, real estate agent, who sometimes gave Wales as his birthplace.  Could this be him?  I could find nothing at all to link the two men, except that no other record matched either one of them.

I got to thinking about the 'H'.  No offence, but Creed is a terrible middle name and maybe Percy had thrown it overboard along with his British identity. Percibly.

So, what if, he was really the Percy H. Bell all along?  And what then, might the H be?  By the way, this story hasn't even begun.  With Google's search bar waiting, I realised his grandma's maiden name, Hammond, would fit the gap.  And so I entered his name into Google...

Poor Percy Hammond Bell existed alright.  As a dapper young Brit, with soft pale skin (if he was anything like my Great-grandpa), he was learning Cantonese in rough parts of Los Angeles when he witnessed the slaying of Chinese gangland boss Wong Wee Chee, 1896.  The name of the murderer was whispered in his young ear, which sealed his fate.  LA was not going to be a nice place for Percy.  No sir.


The trial papers gave his parents' location as Ipswich, England, which fitted the facts.  Percy never again lived in LA.  His elder son was swept away in the Columbia river, 1920, and he himself was convicted of fraud ten years later in Oregon.  The whole family died out, leaving as mentioned, my grandmother as theoretical next-of-kin.

Just suppose.... the shipping list had a sister on it?
When Doug Jones sailed to Toronto in 1952, his parents came too.  I noted down all the details and very quickly had an email address for his son in Ontario, but nothing more came of that, and the email address no longer works.  Back to the drawing-board, then.

I got to thinking, as Doug's parents had come out with him, what about sister Peggy, just suppose she had come out as well.  She had definitely gone to Canada, according to the nosey-parker relatives back in Wales.

I had no easy way of finding Margaret Jones born 1919 and known as Peggy, but what if she was on that same boat, the Empress of Canada, the same day, with her parents and brother?  That could reveal plenty.  It was worth a search, on Ancestry, surely?

From this:
To this:

So, we were correct.  Margaret Jones became Margaret Roberts.  From the most common name in Wales to the sixth most common – progress!  This slender thread was enough to find her grandchildren in the Rocky Mountains, see Riddle of the Timeshare for more.  Without the helpful search of migration records, I'd still be scratching my head at Liverpool Docks.

For more successful speculation (after all, searching is free!) look out for the next article: What if the impossible is possible?

For more blog entries on this theme see: Genealogy Blog Potluck Picnic hosted by Elizabeth O'Neal.

And why not tarry awhile here on my blog: there are some great articles here and some terrible ones too.  Try the Popular Posts as a starting point.

17 Aug 2016

You can run but you can't Hyde

I promise my account of ancestorliness in this pretty market town won't reference a certain notorious doctor - all that much. Except that, ahem, the first relative I find in the town, Mrs Kathleen Dyson, was minding her own business when she glimpsed Dr Shipman murdering someone out of the corner of her eye. I couldn't help but notice this clip out of the corner of my eye, myself... so, sorry about that.

Hyde is an old settlement of 40,000 folk nestled around an old market cross and mostly ignoring the more built-up neighbourhoods of Dukinfield and Audenshaw nearby. It's sited between Stockport and the hills of Derbyshire.

Arriving here in the 1870s was carpenter John Carr from up on the hills. His family was to experience war death, 2 murders, chosen solitude, informal adoption, fleeing justice and honest striving for a good future. Fear not, none of my relatives perished in the crimes mentioned.

100 years later was another arrival! Fresh from a learning establishment and looking for a new start, she has been 'parked' on the family tree for a while. Being recently inspired in this area, I remembered about ten minutes ago that...

Electoral rolls can be ordered. Electoral rolls better than sausage rolls.

I can pore over the entire township for free at the British Library next week. The puzzling question is why this idea never crossed my path before? Rest assured though, Lady H: you may run, but you can't Hyde.

5 Aug 2016

Bike Me Up Scotty

Regular readers of this blog may be aware of a recent indiscretion. Owing to a sense of haste I decided to ignore the instructions of my bike manufacturer to proceed with caution on wet and slippy weather. I'm sure that wasn't in the instructions last time I looked!

On closer examination the bicycle concerned, Bike #1, has had a hard and unrewarding life, similar to a mine donkey. Five minutes of TLC showed me getting nowhere in making improvements, so I today acquired Bike #2. (I will now consider ethical methods for the disposal of its predecessor.)

Reserving it online the night before was super easy. I packed absolutely everything this morning in my Decathlon Wünderbag/ rucksack: Contact lenses, glasses case, laptop phone with chargers, screwdriver, Allen key, spanner, toenail clippers (a scissor equivalent), water, wallet, torch, spare socks, helmet, bike lock and key.

Half an hour in the park and it is assembled ready for the journey home. How lucky I am to live in a throwaway society!

27 Jul 2016

Smiths Saga: Let's don't hide let's seek

What a year! I have to look back and think, did I just do all that? I'm referring to my Smiths, George, William, Arthur, Ellen and all the others. They've all been sewn up.

That's right. All the Smiths coming down from Robert Smith, born 1790 in Wymondham, Norfolk are gathered up, spotted on the map and thoroughly accounted for. James Robert, present sir! Mabel Flo, here mister! William. William? Speak up I can't hear you very well across the Atlantic.

There's Tel who works for Virgin Media, George the gardener in Carshalton, George the coachman in Islington, George the labourer in rural Norfolk. Edward who saw the war through, bombs and all, in Bethnal Green.

How is this even possible? Isn't Smith supposed to be *the* most ornery name to research. Folk shudder at the work involved, I'm told. It's not a good name, say others.

Well I think Smith is a fantastic name. Not only were their crisps good in the 80s, square and crunchy, but the genealogical challenge has nearly been maxxed. One wrong turn and you're heading for the wall. A brick wall. Oh.

There is just one of those: Laura. Laura, Laura. Have you not heard us calling? Why are you still playing hide and seek in the woods 140 years later. Dinner is definitely ready. You've totally got the best hiding place, so congrats. Now come out!

I absolutely love when people say, oh that's now become so long ago that you'll never solve that one. Errrr. I'm not going to lie, I enjoy proving that's false. I loved finding William Smith born in England, 1851. Easy! And Charlotte Smith born in 1880, harder! But Laura needs to appear, or we'll just cheat and use DNA to sort her out. Yes your story is obviously *too boring*, I'm turning you over to the science guys.

Charlotte rocks. Ok, turns out she wasn't exactly a nice person, but her family are just so delightful. I met up with them earlier this month for a barbie, after one last effort to find them proved successful.

I have to say that thanks to all these cousins (except one!), I'm proud to be a Smith researcher and I'd consider printing this on a t-shirt for all to see.

25 Jul 2016

Solving a Smith puzzle... using the worst English census!

Let me begin by confirming this was a real puzzle. I had *no* clue where Catherine Smith (born 1785) originated, and judging by her early death, she'd perished long before Victoria had even looked at a throne.

I needed to explain her origins, as it looked dangerously possible that one of my Welsh fisher-widows could be responsible, or some other woman in England, Wales or Scotland.

The 1841 census is the worst of the UK censuses, as the image shows, with hardly any detail at all. More often it creates even more questions, that can perhaps never be answered. But I would have been glad for its help today. Sadly, Catherine's early death rules her out from even this most basic of lists.

Little did I know that there was a nice little trail, a useful path, which if I found it, would take me right to the place and time of her baptism. This Smith had a definite point of origin.

The beginnings of the path lay with her daughter Elizabeth Hogg who seemingly married a Cornishman, Thomas Quick. Thomas and Elizabeth Quick are living together in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in that most terrible of censuses, the 1841.

I would never have found them there except for a quaint forum concerning Cornish matters, of the name Azazella. My paths first crossed with Azazella some 20 years ago in the dawn of the internet.

Azazella's elves had no clue about the Smiths, but they're sure sewn up poor Thomas Quick. His life was an open book. Although they didn't have the crucial 1841 reference in Newcastle, their notes helped me find it.

Listed with the Quicks at Newcastle was plain William Smith with a rough age, useless occupation and no hint of marital status. What it did offer was the initial 'S' standing for Scottish-born.

The path next led me to the very next census where searching for Smith born in Scotland showed only one William still in the town, who had very helpfully just married, a lady who helped him run a pub. The marriage record for the 1840s gives his father's name (Ralph Smith) and so I was arrived at births of all the Smith siblings in Pitlivie, County Angus, including our original Catherine (1785).

Probably the most frustrating Smith enquiry I've dealt with solved with compelling circumstantial evidence from several British port towns, linked by a seemingly boring entry from the worst British census.

23 Jul 2016

Genealogist's Rage Against The Machine

Contrary to the above snapshot, it has been a very unhappy week here at Family History Exploration. The work horse that is laptop number #3 decided to put up some opposition to the heat. Despite opening all available doors and windows, Number Three voiced its concerns in no uncertain terms. The fan reached an impressive crescendo, George Solti would have been impressed with, before the screen dramatically flickered on and off.

To add insult to injury, just as my workhorse was lighting up the town with its own special show, the mouse froze. Predictably, the Excel spreadsheet I was 'using' flashed one last time before everything shut down.

This was not good. I enjoyed spending Sundays moving boxes around in Excel. Now I had to convey a very sick laptop rapidly to some kind of life support.

I regained some composure as I chatted to the Ideal PC experts. Most stuff should be recoverable, they said, as long as you've got it backed up. Errr... This wasn't very helpful. We'll need to run some diagnostics, they said. They could run a bath as far as I was concerned. As long as I got Employee Number #3 back.

Do you remember the nineties? Let me tell you, friends, I've just been back, and it wasn't pretty. Leaving aside the joys of 'Rhythm of the Night', a little known fact is that Corona nearly lost the lyrics to this anthem, due to a lack of memory on their nineties pc.

With Number Three out of commission, Number One (which shared a charging cable) was also unavailable. Number Four was a prize in a raffle and Number Two was as good as its name implies.

This just left a very ancient house pc with Microsoft Works 2.0 (1996). I also realised I had 110 school reports to write that very day. Who said you can't turn back time? Cher, I've found the secret.

Did you know folks, that documents with more than 17000 entries won't fit. Or with more than one sheet. Inconvenient as well as unhygienic. Want to fill in, say, 110 rows, with 'could try harder'? Not possible. You're copying and pasting that manually, fella.

Fast forward back to 2016 with a song written by a duck at the top of the charts, and I'm told the reason for my bedroom sound-and-light show. Dust.

Having been reunited with laptop #3, it has a serious amount of work to catch up on.

Here ends the account of Genealogist's Rage Against The Machine. For now, at least.

22 Jul 2016

Aggravating Ancestor: The Butler's Daughter

The July Blog Party entry for Elizabeth O'Neal's aggravating ancestors blog party:

Ok, I do have the world's worst logic problem in the shape of three couples in the same village with identical names, all producing children at the same time. (Crowan, 1800s). But... that was easy.

My elderly great- aunt sent me a letter in 1985 which I still cringe at "Dear David, I'm sorry I sent you a book you already had. You asked about the family [ even though you are barely toilet-trained ]. Well, my grandmother was Annie Gibson, a Northumberland farmer's daughter. Bye!!"

Seven years later I had the toilet cracked, but my 150 year-old forebear was fast retreating into history. I ordered her marriage certificate via an intermediary. Document said her father was John Gibson butler. Butler, oh dear. I wondered if this was auntie giving me the middle finger.

From Country Club Drive NW in Olympia, USA, came a letter from third cousin Roger. I was now 16. "Contact my family again and I'll properly sort you." I took his lead and he did as he promised.

Annie, our forebear, was indeed some kind of orphan. She arrives into town for the 1851 census with a birthplace in Northumberland being the niece of one James Atkinson, coal agent.

She was of course born a beat before civil registration (1837), which puts her parents' marriage also in that category. There's no baptism but two vital clues hung out, which I ignored.

It's 2008 and really time to sort Annie. For the first time in a while I was not the person to do this. Credit goes to Roger and his second (my third) cousin, R.G.

I'd got as far as her having an aunt Miss Dodd and then backed off. What a fool. Roger had followed a green leaf hint on Ancestry and spied Annie and her kids visiting her unknown mother in 1861.

Annie was unlucky. Her dad, a putter not butler, died in a knee injury in 1844 in Westoe, South Shields age 33. She was then sent off to the Lakes where she released her genetic potential, having ten kids. Her grandfathers both worked for Rev'd Christopher Bird of Chollerton, near Hadrian's Wall. Her earlier forebears had been wealthy farmers (as was her stepfather) and one had married Bird's brother.

I spent a whole weekend glued to the computer, with jelly legs finally emerging for a kebab late on Sunday night.

Annie's tribe is massive, with loads of hidden corners and rock pools to explore. The internet made it quite easy. I'm still hoping we'll find her photo, though.

And the butler? This was Annie telling the poor priest 'putter' in her Tyneside accent.

10 Jul 2016

Come on, give yer Granny £1

A pound was a lot of money in those days. Wealthy Henry Rauthmell, Old Hutton, the brawn behind the lord of the manor, was thirty in 1876 and doing well. Thousands of pounds were at his disposal. But his life was actually about to end and he made his will, which is not yet in my hands.

Twenty or thirty miles south in a popular mill town was Mrs Betsy Whitehead, a smiling toothless lady in her early seventies, just getting on with life. She still had a few more miles on the clock, but not much money. Nothing, in fact.

The death of wealthy Henry could change all that, as he might or might not be her grandson.

It all hinges on the bastard Barton baby's birth at Brook in 1851. If baby born at Brook, Betsy becomes granny. If baby not born at Brook, genealogist is thwarted, Betsy may not be granny.

I hate leaving this conundrum to a throw of the dice in this way. So, come on Henry, prove it for me and leave yer Granny a pound!