View Full Version : Successful Genealogy Needs Equal Parts of Information & Imagination

ET in the USA
09-02-2006, 5:42 AM
My husband's Great Grandmother, Jennie Marion Dale nee Wood, owned
property, had 3 children - at least one of whom was baptized in CoE, registered to vote and died.
In 10 years of searching, however, I had been unable to find that she was actually born (even though I had her exact birthdate) or married to Great Grandfather Leonard Dale.

Finally, about a year ago, I found the 'perfect' family on the 1871 census.
The only problem was that they already had a daughter of Jennie's age (and exact birthdate) named Sarah Jane Maria Wood. After nearly a year of research and comparison between the stories told by my husband's mother and aunt about Jennie and her family and the facts I gathered about Sarah, her parents and her siblings from Civil Reg. documents, census records, etc. I am convinced that Jennie and Sarah were the same person.
For some reason, 18 year old Sarah moved from London to Weston-super-Mare, Somerset and changed her name to Jennie. She maintained contact with her sisters, so she wasn't hiding, at least from them. One sister was visiting on the 1891 census and another gave birth to a daughter in Jennie & Leonard's house in 1894. Perhaps she was hiding from her father or a previous husband and that is why she never married Leonard.

Did you ever notice that as soon as you think you know all the answers, the question changes?

Bothell, WA

mary elms
09-02-2006, 8:07 AM
Or perhaps she's always been Jennie. People don't always use their given names - especially within the family.

One of the families in my tree stump me every time I try to get anywhere with them and I admit to putting them on one side and doing something less hair-pullingly difficult! Thier surname is Meek and there are five of them. They didn't move anywhere or change anything. My father and his brother remember them as Carrie, Beatie, Flossie, George, Joseph & Esther. Therw's a family that fits perfectly but their names are Martha, Mary Ann, Esther, Joseph, George & Ann Caroline. Now who's who? Some are obvious but I'm stumped by the others!


09-02-2006, 2:02 PM
I can vouch for this still going on today, my only sister is really called Yvonne, but my younger brothers could not pronounce it so after various attempts she ended up being called Ginnie and this is still used today- nearly 50 years later.

09-02-2006, 3:07 PM
"People don't always use their given names"

Too true - and with at least one of mine, I get the distinct impression that she just didn't like what her parents had called her, as "Selina" doesn't seem a very likely pet name for "Sarah".

She is ...
Sarah Debenham when she marries Timothy Dockwray in 1809.
Sarah Dockwray, widow, when she marries William Busigny in 1828.
But on the 1851 census, I find three visitors with my Hansons. Two of them are the married daughters of John Letts, the diary fellow, who has very recently died - there's a family link, they probably all gathered for the funeral - and the other is a Selina Busigny with the right age and birthplace for my Sarah Busigny.

Enumerator error?
Or I have the wrong girl, maybe? I'm not perfect!
No - she died 1857 and is "Selina Sarah Busigny" both in the GRO index and the burial record.
She left a will. :)
"This is the Last Will and Testament of me Sarah Busigny commonly called Selina Busigny ..."
And, if we go back to her first husband, Timothy Dockwray, he made his will in 1819:
"... unto my dear Wife Sarah commonly called Selina ..."
So, although she's used "Sarah" when she remarried, the use of "Selina" is evidently not just something that's come about later on!

09-02-2006, 4:28 PM
It does still happen. When my mother's younger sister was married I was aged seven and a bridesmaid. I always knew the man as Uncle Mick, he was buried as Mick, and it was only a couple of years ago when I had a sight of his marriage certificate that I found out his name was actually George.


Diane Grant-Salmon
09-02-2006, 4:47 PM
I searched the BMD indexes for a George TWIDDY marriage, as it is less common a name than Mary CULLUM, knowing the exact year they got married.

I couldn't find a ref for him, so I ordered the marriage cert in Mary's name after all. When it arrived, his name on it was Sidney Gordon TWIDDY and later on I found out that his name was just Sidney on his birth cert!

I still don't think the family quite believe me, as he was always George! :D

10-02-2006, 3:43 AM
I have a child who was registered by his father as Gillespie Ranken McMILLAN, and as a child of his marriage. Dad died some six years later - with a different 'wife' and and two of the children had different names. Evander was Ewen (which this family swapped around at will) - Mary Ann and Flora were the same - but the youngest was called Oscar. The same 10 year age gap between the last children convinced me I had the right family, and their ages matched the birthdates I had exactly. Dad's parents names were correct too. No further trace of Gillespie, no birth reg for an Oscar.

But I was presented with proof eventually - when Oscar's mum died (two real marriages later) Oscar was on her death certificate as Ranken. But he was always known as Oscar. I eventually also found the first wife who had remarried, she only had the three children.

Imagination does come in handy - you cannot always accept things at face value. People sometimes give information to suit their circumstances.


peter nicholl
10-02-2006, 7:07 PM
[QUOTE=Terry]I can vouch for this still going on today,QUOTE]

Absolutely, a friend had an accident in Devon and ended up in hospital in Exeter. We visited, got to the right Ward and asked for Dave Whoever. The reply was "Oh, we don't have a Dave Whoever, but we do have a Cyril".:)


Brian Turnbull
11-02-2006, 12:29 PM
I our family my grandmother had a sister Dolly. I searched for some time and found nothing. However I new she had married a Peter McLaughlan so on searching death records for him discovered that he was married to a Rebecca Robinson. Subsequently I was able to establish that Rebecca and Dolly were one and the same but the name Rebecca had never been mentioned in the family.

13-02-2006, 5:22 AM
My grandma always told me her name was Cassandra, and so everyone called her Cassie. Not true. Her name was either Ellen Cassie Roselia (according to her marriage certificate) or Ellen Cassie Rosalie (according to a smudged birth certificate).
My Great grandfather was named William John. He called himself Jack.
My Great-grandfather on my fathers side was named John William.... or William John.... or Wilfred.... depending on which document you hold in your hand.
His father was named henry.... he called himself Harry.
My grandfathers brother is called Dennis. He calls himself Cyril.

On my mothers side, one male line of the family are ALL named William or John... or William John - but rarely do any of them call themselves this, or note their real names on the census reports :)

My great-grandmothers' neice is namd Winnie. She calls herself Norah.

On the 1891 census, my great-great-grandfather, his wife, and ALL their children have their names miss-spelt.

And, just to muddle things up, NONE of my family ever noted anything on the back of a photograph.

Am I bitter? Well, my name is Sheleen.... my friends often call me Charley - though that depends on whether the friends are on the east or west side. And I NEVER write on the back of photos.
I had to spend hours, days, and even months (years!!??) figuring out my family tree so far (all from my computer and family tales, I might add).... I have to leave something for future family historians to do ;) lol

Sandra Parker
14-02-2006, 4:35 AM
I spent ages looking for my G Aunt Polly and G Uncle Fred, they ended up, or rather started off, as Mary Ann and Edwin!