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 Ancestry.com 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 192.com, 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.

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