1 Jun 2011

One Wrong Turn...

On my way home from work tonight I stumbled into a conversation on Twitter between @carlplage and @kmwebott about the joys of following the wrong route. This got me thinking, not about the many wrong branches I’ve followed but about the reason why it appears there’s not been much progress on my own family tree. Now as you know I’ve just started the STEERS ONS and you may think that this is the reason but you’d be wrong. This is why....

On the 28th August 2010 I went to the London Family History Centre at Hyde Park to look at the parish registers and Bishops Transcripts. One of the records I found there was the marriage of Robert DAVIES to Elizabeth JONES. Their marriage took place on the 15th September 1900 at St. Mary without Walls Parish Church, Handbridge, Cheshire.

Photo taken from Microfilm.
Marriage record for Robert DAVIES & Elizabeth JONES

Now I know that this is the correct marriage certificate as I have their son’s birth certificate. Their son was Edward John DAVIES and my Great Grandfather. I have mentioned him previously on this blog, most notably in Wordless Wednesday, Tombstone Tuesday and Sunday’s Obituary posting.

Edward’s birth certificate shows that Robert was a Coal Miner and his mother was Elizabeth JONES. Edward was born 22nd December 1900 in Ewloe. Ewloe is not that far from Handbridge so it’s not surprising they went “over the border” for their quick wedding.

I purchased Edward’s birth certificate in 2007, back when I’d only just started out on this adventure so my instincts hadn’t quite developed and I was still making mistakes. 

Back then I found Robert, Elizabeth and Edward on the 1901 census (RG13/ 3378 Folio 29 Page 49), living in Dury, Flintshire. Dury is part of Mold and Buckley district and this area includes Ewole so I had the correct family. Robert gave his age as 29 (born approximately 1872) and stated he was born in Hawarden.

So I followed them back to 1891 (RG12/3223 Folio 71 Page 23), and this is where it all went wrong. The Robert DAVIES I thought was my relation in 1891 was a 14 year old living in Salford, Lancashire in about 1877. His birthplace was given as Wales and his father Samuel was a coal miner. Well I went on a merry trip down this gentleman’s line tracing it back to a William DAVIES born about 1822 in Pentrefoelas, Denbighshire.

Needless to say when I got my hands on the image of the marriage in the parish register for Robert and Elizabeth and saw that the groom’s father was blank I had to go back.

Luckily by this point the 1911 Census had been released by FMP and I used the computers at the Hyde Park FHS to obtain a copy of the family, who were now living in at The Chemistry in Saltney, Flintshire. Robert gives his age as 38 (born approximately 1873), and tells that he was born in Hawarden and has been married for 10 years, further supporting his marriage being in 1901.

So next on the list was to order up the birth certificate for Robert (that was my wishful thinking, maybe he didn’t know his father, maybe he disowned his father... and other such fanciful ideas). I was very lucky in knowing that he was born in Hawarden as this falls within the registration district of Chester. I searched births for Robert DAVIES in Flintshire between 1871 and 1873 using FreeBMD and came up with two possibilities, the first in Q2 of 1871 and the second in Q1 of 1873. I used North Wales Free BMD to confirm the birthplace as Hawarden (listed as a Sub-District) for these two entries. Robert gave his age as 27 when he married in 1901, which puts his birth in 1874 although in the census of the same year his age is given as 29. He was older than his bride so I believe that the census age is more accurate. With this in mind I ordered the birth certificate from 1873.

This certificate gives his mother as Hannah DAVIES, widow of Peter DAVIES, formally DAVIES. However the father’s name is left blank. Again.

Birth Certificate Extract
GRO: 1874 Q1 Chester, 8a 427

When I received this birth certificate I realised that I couldn't trust my work from when I started. At the very least it needed to be checked and sources clarified. It also dawned on me that my tree was only kept on Ancestry. This was not good practice as I could only add to it for as long as my subscription stays current!  As my tree was only on Ancestry, this was the only place where the sources were stored, I hadn't downloaded ANYTHING.

And so began my re-vamp.

I decided that I needed to have
  • A fully sourced tree both online and offline. 
  • Copies of all sources i.e. census returns, military records, baptisms [photographed from microfilm where possible], marriages in parish registers [photographed from microfilm where possible & save on certificate costs], burials [again photographed from microfilm where possible], GRO index’s etc. etc. 
  • Family Group Sheets filled out for each member on my tree. Pedigree Tree’s for all main lines that can be linked into the family group sheets. (For this I use Excel and Hyperlinks)
Now that doesn’t sound like too much work does it? Well I’ve been doing it for two years and I’m still only on the PARRY’s.  

It takes time to go back through ALL your research and it’s frustrating when you see glaring mistakes like that mentioned above. It’s still not certain that I have the right certificate; I’ll have to order the other to be sure and then see if I can tie up the family on census records but at least this time I know that and I’m not going to go hurtling down a branch and get splinters along the way!

So I am still doing work on the tree, I may not have made any advances backwards for a while but it’s because I’m making sure what I have is correct. That’s much more important than having traced my ancestors back to the medieval period or into Royalty, if it’s wrong then what’s the point?

I’m doing the PARRY’s at the moment (my paternal great grandmother’s line). I think they’re the largest family within my family and the only reason I’m on the PARRY's is because I happened to be speaking to a cousin when all this began and they gave me some info.

So to all you genealogists out there, newbies or seasoned amateurs