Finding Living relatives – part 2

Putting your family tree online seems to be the way many people start in family history. Ancestry and Genes Reunited seem to be the sites of choice in England at present. In my experience, much of the information in those trees is suspect once you look beyond the submitters’ grandparents. Newcomers often do not recognise that there may be several people who could be their great grand parents and have chosen the first they came across, correct or not. However, for the recent generations the information is likely to be a bit more accurate.


Unlike Ancestry and  FindMyPast, where the index information is available on the web site for free, Genes Reunited is more restrictive and it is normally impossible to see a submitter’s tree without making contact with them, which requires subscription. However, with a little ingenuity, it is possible to extract a little more information about who submitted information about a person. This can be built up into a list from which you can determine that there is a relationship between several persons. In due course I will resubscribe to GR and try to contact the submitters to check whether my deductions are correct.

Finding Living relatives – part 1

A recent correspondent expressed surprise that “a complete stranger” (that’s me!) could know so much about her family. What she doesn’t know how much work it actually takes to put all the pieces together!


In 1911, the General Register Office added to their indices the mother’s maiden name on a person’s birth record, and the wife’s maiden name on the marriage record. These records are available from FreeBMD or sites like and FindMyPast. The mother/wife’s name meant that it was possible to work out family groups, ie. husband, wife and children, for many families. In some cases it is also possible to link 2 or more families into branches when the father of one family group can be identified as the son of a different family group. This requires that the said son/father has a name that is not common. Whilst Micklethwaite certainly isn’t common nationally, in certain locations it is. So location can be used in some cases to make the link, but not that many. Problems arise when names come into fashion. There are 7 Andrews born between 1951 and 1970 and a further 15 with a middle name. Having a little inside information has made sorting them out a bit easier, although a few questions still remain. More popular names like David and Jean pose greater problems.


Society’s changing habits don’t help. I have always been surprised by how much some of our ancestors moved around, but many did stay in one location. By the late 20th Century, this was reversed and very few people stay in the same locality. Using location to work out how people relate becomes much more difficult.


Attitudes to marriage and divorce have also changed. In the 19th Century, divorce was only for the wealthy as it required an Act of Parliament. Not so in the late 20th Century – assuming a couple had married at all. A marriage break-up produces “interesting” side effects – sometimes the woman retains the Micklethwaite name when she remarries, sometimes she reverts to her maiden name, sometimes I wonder if she invents a name to use! The difficulties compound!


Besides the GRO records, there are other resources that can be useful. Every household is required to register people of voting age. These can be found online for the years since 2002 at, although since 2003 it has been possible to opt out from the version which is published. From these records it is again possible to work out some family units, although some caution has to be exercised as some of the assumptions made in the data seem to be wildly inaccurate. However, it has proved an extremely useful resource.


Modern technology can also play a part. Many people are now on Facebook. Some people even identify family members there. These records are open for all to see. Looking over someone’s friends to see what names turn up can also be very revealing and I have grouped families as a result of looking there.


So all of this effort can find that little bit of extra information which links families into branches. The downside is that I now have more unattached branches – for example I have 4 new branches that I cannot place, all headed by Davids, all born between 1931 and 1941, despite being in contact with 3 additional Davids of that generation. Each question answered in genealogy results in at least 2 new questions to be answered.

Persistence Pays

I have had a long standing problem: on the 1841 census Joseph and Nancy (nee Nutter) of Thornhill by Dewsbury have 3 lads living with them: Miles aged 15, Joseph 6 and Edward 2. The 1841 does not state relationships to the head of the household (that starts with the 1851 census). So who are these lads? There are no other census entries, baptisms, or birth, marriage and death registrations for any such lads named Micklethwaite.


In explaining this to my wife, we realised that it was most likely that the lads were not called Micklethwaite but the enumerator had assumed that they were. It seemed probable that they were grandchildren. The most likely candidate for their mother is Joseph’s daughter, Sally, who married William Twedle in 1831. A search of the records showed that Joseph and Edward were indeed Twedle or Tweedale – it’s not just the Micklethwaite name that gets mangled by record keepers! Further digging showed that Edward had married his cousin, Nancy Micklethwaite, daughter of Sally’s brother George. Edward and Nancy didn’t marry until after Sally’s death – was there was some opposition to the marriage from his mother or did they meet at her funeral?


Even more digging showed up a Mills Nutter of the right age and location – his name was sometimes recorded as Miles, but on the census image it doesn’t look like either Miles or Mills! I haven’t investigated further but it seems reasonable to assume he is Nancy’s nephew or great-nephew – I’ll leave looking into that to those researching the Nutter family.

New Year Resolution

HAPPY NEW YEAR to all of you who read this blog. May your 2013 be a Happy and Healthy New Year.

My New Year’s resolution is to try and write more on this blog and on my web site – I have a couple of posts in the works awaiting a bit of energy to make sure they make sense! In return, I hope you, dear reader, will contact me and, if you can think of something, tell me what you’d like to read about. My web site has a contact form or you can comment via WordPress.