Old Roots Genealogy

Family & Social History

Unreliable Documents

Sometimes even primary sources of genealogy information are incorrect. The misleading information they contain, rather than helping you through a brick wall, can simply add more layers to the wall. Let me give you an example from my family tree.

One of my ancestors was named Harold John Evans(1) . His marriage certificate lists his father as Alec Evans, a waiter, and Harold’s age as 29 years old  – so we roughly know his year of birth. A BMD search brings up 1 birth for Harold Evans and 43 births for John Evans around the correct time (assuming the age on the marriage certificate is accurate of course). Three of the John Evans births were in the same county as the marriage, but can we be sure he was born in the same county he married (there is no census data available to check this). The Harold Evans birth was in a different part of the England, maybe he moved. If you research Alec Evans you will discover that he came from Edinburgh, perhaps his son was born there? And of course there is the name – there are no births around the time indicated by the age on the marriage certificate for a Harold John Evans.

We try moving onto the parents to narrow it down a little. Where did they marry? There are two marriage’s for an Alec Evans 5 years either side of the estimated birth of his son, one of these (to a Winifred Watts) is in the same county as the son’s marriage. We could assume that is him, although none of the births we found earlier have the mother’s maiden name as Watts.

So what now? It is of course very possible that Alec married Harold’s mother 10 or 20 years before his birth, or that they married after his birth (if they married at all). Perhaps Harold’s birth is missing from the BMD records. Maybe Harold was born overseas? Maybe Harold’s age is wrong on his marriage certificate? Now this is all starting to get a little confusing. We need to take a step back and re-evaluate.

The truth is simple if you have personal knowledge of the family. The marriage certificate is incorrect. Alec Evans was not Harold John Evans’s father. The marriage we found between Alec Evans and Winifred Watts is the correct one and Winifred was Harold’s mother. She never revealed who his father was, but it was not Alec (who she met 2 years after her son’s birth). Harold’s birth name was Harold John Watts – his birth record is now easy to find, and from that we can carry on tracing the tree backwards. But without that personal knowledge of the family story, it would have been a lot more difficult to locate Harold’s birth.

1. names have been changed for no real reason.

Cycling – Sports Centre Saturday Prompt

A day early, here’s a prompt post for Sports Centre Saturday. The sport in question is cycling and the sport centre (or club) is Bolton United Harriers & Athletic Club.

My grandparents both enjoyed cycling, but while for my nana and her friends it was a free way of getting from A to B, my grandad and his friends took it far more seriously.

Gilbert McAndrew and a friend in 1931

When my granddad died, I found a membership medal for Bolton United Harriers & Athletic Club, where he most likely a member in the late 1920s and/or the 1930s. There was also another medal, this one a little is a little worse for wear and I don’t know where it was for, the only writing is “C.W.B. 1929” engraved on the rear. The medals were in an envelope with some cycling photos. If anyone has any idea what the mystery medal is, drop me a line in the comment box below.

This is one of those times when I really wish I had listened more closely to the stories my grandparents told. I do know that they cycled to the Guides House at Warton in Lancashire and to Rivington Barn near Bolton, as well as New Brighton and the Lake District.

My grandad and his friends raced bicycles,  and in April 1933 he was knocked off his bike in Ambleside, Cumbria after taking a corner too wide and meeting a car coming the other way.

Lancashire Evening Post, 15 April 1933, article on my grandad’s accident.


The Search For John Marshall

Whilst researching my paternal great grandparents, John Marshall and Jane Jarrett, I had thought I was doing well. I found their marriage cerificate, the births and baptisms of their children and I found them on each census following their marriage, from 1891 until 1911, I found John’s World War 1 records and their deaths and burials. I have had no problems following Jane and her family from Denbighshire to Amlwch on Anglesey and on to Caernarfon (in spite of the multiple ways of spelling their surname – Garrard, Jarrard, Gerrard, Jarad, Garret… the list goes on).

It was all going so well, until I tried to trace John before his marriage and there was no trace of him anywhere.

John worked as a sailor for L&NWR, sailing out of Holyhead. The RMS Hibernia is one of the ships he would have sailed on.

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Vanished Streets Of Bolton

While researching my family I found that some of the streets people had lived on in Bolton no longer existed. I compiled a list of these streets to pinpoint their locations, together with any photos or old maps I could find.

Dawson Lane 1938 – Bolton Worktown

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People & Places

Before I started seriously researching my family tree I knew a few of my family’s surnames and 3 places they had lived. Of course as my research progressed the list of names grew and grew along with the list of places.

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1939 Register

The 1939 Register is a snapshot of live in England and Wales at the beginning of World War II. It was taken on Friday, 29th September, under the National Registration Act of 1939, an Act of Parliament introduced as an emergency measure at the beginning of World War II. The Act also brought in identity cards which had to be carried at all times. It was repealed in 1952 after which it was no longer a requirement to carry identity cards in the UK.

Example of the 1939 Register

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Census Guide for UK & Ireland

In the United Kingdom, a census of the population has been taken every 10 years since 1801, with the exception of 1941 (although a similar register was taken on 29 September 1939, shortly before the outbreak of war).
In Ireland, the census was taken along with the UK census until 1911. No census was taken in Ireland in 1921 because of the Civil War. The first census taken by the Irish government was in 1926.

Census records are released to the public a hundred years after they were taken, meaning the latest census we can view is 1911 (although the 1939 Register is also available for England and Wales). The next full UK census released will be the 1921 census, which is due to be published on 1 January 2022 (though there is growing pressure for it to be released earlier). The next Irish census released will be in January 2027.

Blank 1911 census

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Genealogy Websites

There are a great number of genealogy websites out there. Some offer worldwide coverage, from birth marriage and deaths through census data to passenger lists and newspaper archives. Others focus on one subject or one region, with some focusing on a single town. Many are free and some are either subscription or pay as you go.

Free Sites

Most of these sites are free to search and to view the transcripts of the information. Some require a subscription (or link to a subscription site) to view the original record.

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