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Newbury Branch meeting held at West Berkshire Museum 8th September 2021

Speaker: Susan Ellis

There are numerous reasons why an ancestor may go missing: often it is because of mis-transcription in the census. Where possible, it is best to begin searching in the 1881 census, because this was transcribed by volunteers who were more dedicated to the work, and it lies mid-range between 1841 and 1911, maximising the likelihood of finding a given person.

Make full use of the wildcard * because mis-transcription can arise at any point in a personal or place name. Check the original record whenever possible, especially if anything looks odd.

If the target is missing, check out extended family members. They can give helpful pointers, such as locating a guest relative. It was common for children to board with a relative for fairly long periods.

People had many reasons for lying to the enumerator. Co-habitation (past or present) might be concealed by adjusting dates and ages. Checking back on actual marriage records is helpful. Brides or grooms who lied about their age on marriage might perpetuate the lie in a census, so widen the age range in searching.

1911 was the first census in which householders filled in their own details, and each household had a separate page, minimising the risk of accidental overlap. Previously, transcribers often accidentally mixed household details.

Mobility was more commonplace than is often realised. Birthplaces of children can often indicate mobility patterns of families. Aristocrats often had more than one residence. With the advent of rail travel many occupations in trade required travelling. Directories can be useful for locating tradespeople.

Domestic service took people away from their birthplaces, and in some cases employers might even change a servant’s name.

Missing ancestors can sometimes be found in the news. There are many published collections of snippets about people from a particular locality. Abscondees (from apprenticeship or family responsibility) are often named and physically described.

Emigration can account for disappearances. Search passenger lists, more and more of which are being published online. Remember some emigrants came home later.

Military photos (in uniform) can supply clues to regimental service. Used the Uniformology site to trace details. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission is another searchable source.

Wills can be useful in tracing strays, especially if the testator goes into detail about family relationships. The probate index alone can be informative.

Penny Stokes

Penny Stokes

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