Several years ago, my wife and I decided to continue our family history research on a more formal basis. We had several paper charts and files of data. In those days there was dial up internet and very little data online. We used free Family Origins v4 software to keep a searchable electronic database (we’re now up to RootsMagic v7 – and soon it will be v8). This was now into the early 2000s.

Our main sources at the time were the FamilySearch (International Genealogical Index (IGI)) web pages and CDs (we bought the Vital Records Index (VRI) and 1881 census from IGI in Birmingham), FreeBMD web pages (mainly information from the 1800s), various, mainly private, organisations, and some family history societies enquiries. We also visited several Record Offices.

We checked that the data we had gleaned from family was in fact correct by using more than one source and buying certificates (lots of them!). Too often we find that grandparents and earlier could be in error.

We worked back from the living, as one should, using these resources to help us with dates and places so that we could buy certified copy certificates.

My wife’s father was Gordon Goddard and we were told his father was Frank William Goddard (born 1896 and died 1945) and his father, Frank Goddard (born Aug 1871 and died 1933).

We also knew that Frank William Goddard married in 1921 and had a father, Frank. This information came from his widow, Elsie who was still alive.

We were given a marriage certificate which had the following information:

1921 Islington

GODDARD Frank William, 25: with his father Frank as a Provisions Assistant (indicating Frank William was born about 1896)

Married: PERRY Elsie Mildred, 25

We knew Frank William died in 1945 in Chelmsford and bought his death certificate. It stated:

GODDARD Frank William, aged 48 (meaning Frank William was born about 1897)

All of this confirmed what we thought we knew.

We therefore bought his birth certificate (using FreeBMD or IGI for reference information).

GODDARD Frank William born 1896 at 40 Moscow Rd (Paddington) with father, Frank as a Poulterers Assistant and mother, Agnes Emily formerly WALKER.

We then bought a marriage certificate for Frank William’s parents from 1892 (again using FreeBMD or IGI for reference). It told us:

GODDARD Frank 21 as a poulterer (of 20 Temple St Bethnal Green) with father, John, deceased, Shoemaker

Married: WALKER Agnes Emily

Confirming that Frank was born about 1871.

The 1881 Census became available from the LDS (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) store in the form of CDs, so we bought it. It showed the following:

Hackney, 4 Grove Lane

John: head, 45, a shoemaker, born Berksh (sic) Reading

Ann E: wife, 40, born Middx Reading George: son, 15, born Middx ReadingFrank: son, 9, born Middx Reading (birth calculated as about 1871 – confirming other information)

As George is 15, it implies the marriage was probably before 1866.

The family were all shown as born in MIDDX. READING – strange.There is a Reading Lane near the address given in the census, so were they born there? More than likely this is an error in copying. John was therefore born about 1836.

We bought the birth certificate for Frank (again using the IGI for reference). It told us:

GODDARD Frank born 1871 at 4 Grove Lane Hackney, with father John a Shoemaker and mother Ann E formerly KENDALL

Using this information, and utilising FreeBMD or the IGI for reference, we bought a marriage certificate from 1860. It stated:

GODDARD John, of full age, a Shoemaker of East St., with father, John Goddard a Shoemaker Married: KENDALL Ann E in Hoxton

With all this information we therefore needed to find a birth or Baptism for GODDARD John in about 1836 in Reading.

There was one possible on the IGI, but there were no details, so we needed to see the original. I made enquiries and found that there was a flourishing Berkshire Family History Society. We did not know we would find Berkshire ancestors which, I suppose, is why we never thought to look locally. I went along to their Research Centre, paid my money and spent a long time upstairs going through microfiches.

We were on the right track. I found John Goddard christened May 10th 1835 but with a father named George and mother, Maria. But our John had a father JOHN on his marriage certificate.

Then I found it.

John Goddard christened July 2nd 1837 in St Mary (The Minster). Parents John, Shoemaker of Alfred Street and Maria.

This looked better.

I decided, then, to join the Society and it has yielded information a hundredfold! We then realised that the Society has access to records “everywhere” which has been most useful. Years later as the censuses came online (not in chronological order) we were able to have a continuous check to confirm our findings.

What about Ann E Goddard who was born Middx., Reading (according to the 1881 census)?

Later released censuses show that she and her children were born in Hackney.

Berkshire Family History Society

Berkshire Family History Society