Whilst researching my paternal great grandparents, John Marshall and Jane Jarrett, I had thought I was doing well. I found their marriage, the births and baptisms of their children and I found them on each census together 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 (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.

Using census data, marriage certificate, baptism records, crew lists and burial records I knew the following.

  • John was born around 1860 in Maldon, Essex (census 1891 and 1911; Crew Lists, Mercantile Medal papers)
  • His father was called George and worked as a mariner (John’s marriage certificate)
  • He married Jane Jarrett in Caernarfon in 1883.
  • John worked as a mariner. From 1902 he was employed by L&NWR sailing from Holyhead to Ireland.
  • During World War 1 he served in the Merchant Navy. The 1915 crew lists shows he was onboard HMHS Anglia (along with 2 of his sons).
  • In 1919 he received his Mercantile Medal.
  • He and Jane had 10 children (Winifred Mary, 1885; William John, 1888; Uriah, 1894; Harriet Elizabeth, 1895; George, 1898; Catherine Jarrett, 1900; Jospeh, 1902; Eunice May, 1905; Jane Jarrett, 1909 and Albert John, 1913)
  • From 1883 to 1902, he and Jane lived in Caernarfon. In 1902 they moved to Holyhead. By 1931 John and Jane were living in Fleetwood, Lancashire.
  • John died in Fleetwood in 1932 and was buried at Fleetwood Cemetery. His burial record lists him as still being a mariner.

So I have John’s place of birth, year of birth, father’s name and father’s occupation. That should be enough information to find something on John before his marriage in 1883, but I can find nothing. I have searched…

  • FreeBMD
  • FreeReg
  • Parish records in Maldon (someone on Rootschat kindly searched there for me)
  • Census records from 1861 to 1881 for both John and his father
  • Crew lists before 1883
  • Ancestry.co.uk
  • Find My Past
  • Family Search
  • Crew List Index Project
  • Roots Chat
  • Genes Reunited
  • Google
  • Bing

I am now beginning to think that John could have changed his name for some reason – maybe his mother remarried when he was young (though then he would surely still appear on the 1871 census) or maybe he was running away from something (now that would be fun).

And so the search goes on. I spend a few days researching him and then I leave it alone for a while. But I will keep coming back to the elusive John Marshall.