Thursday, August 24, 2006

Filling in the details

When I first started genealogy, I thought of it in terms of working back from generation to generation – that, almost circular, process of finding a birth record, in order to obtain the parents’ names, from which one could find their marriage, and from there, their births, in order to then repeat the activity for the earlier generation. Perhaps this was a consequence of my interest starting after listening to my Dad talking about his research over the previous 15 years, since his main concern was in tracing his direct lines back.

But it wasn’t long after I started researching Parrys, and was working through Clodock parish registers and censuses, that I realised some of the advantages of checking original records and of taking a wider view, collecting the details of others with the same name. The discovery that my widowed 3x great grandmother, Hannah Parry, had a widowed brother-in-law, Henry Jones, staying with her in the 1861 census enabled me to make the link between her late husband, Thomas Parry, and the brother-in-law’s late wife, a Phoebe Parry, who I had listed from the PRs, thus establishing the parentage of my 3x great grandfather.

Similarly, it was following up the burial of an “unrecognised” baby, Lewis Parry, who I’d found listed in the Llanwenarth registers with an address of Pwll-du, which enabled me to discover that my 2xgreat grandparents had a fourth child. Born just four days before his 26-year-old mother died of meningitis, he died of bronchitis eight months later, a brief life that barely left a mark (except, I imagine, in the hearts of his family).

In his case he didn’t even appear in a census. But the censuses often reveal such additional information about a family. I was recently contacted afresh by a researcher who had sent me his pedigree four years ago, which traced his line back into the 1700s. Since I now have access to all of the censuses I thought I’d quickly check the details of his family from that source – and almost immediately found three further children who were not on his pedigree. A new tree is now in the post to me – clearly the researcher has been able to add much more detail to his original tree, as the census information has become available.

There are always new things to learn about our ancestors’ lives and filling in such details can often help with the more important aspects of research. I have received the railway record that I had requested from Cheshire Record Office for an Alfred Parry who had worked at Brecon Station. As well as including the date he started working for the company, all the different posts he held, at which stations, the salary that he was being paid, and when he received a bonus, it also gave the man's date of birth and death. If he was actually my ancestor, I would immediately be able to find those vital records for him, which would help to further the research back another generation.

I once heard a talk about “burying your dead”. Although UK death certificates are not as informative as those from some other countries, it’s still important to investigate deaths, searching out other sources of information as well. There might be more relatives buried in the same grave, or a newspaper report of the burial might give important clues (when I first started research, on a Minett family, it was a newspaper’s listing of a son of Henry Minett as “Mr Sorel-Cameron”, which first alerted me to a name change). Another Parry researcher recently investigated the reference to a dying ancestor having just given birth, something which has led to the possible marriage of the lady’s sister - a useful piece of information given the wife’s maiden name was Jones. And, if I hadn’t already known about Lewis from investigating the parish registers, I would have discovered him when I checked the memorial inscriptions, where he is the only one of the children mentioned on the gravestone of my 2xgreat grandparents. As it was, already knowing about him from the parish register information made it easier for me to recognise the memorial inscription as “mine”.

Of course, sometimes it is hard to find these additional details. When I finally find the death of my 3xgreat grandmother, I shall be very glad to “bury” her!


Rosalind said...

Dear Barbara

Please have you details of the said Henry Minett changing his name or anything to do with him>

Many thanks

Rosalind Minett

Barbara said...

Thanks for your question, Rosalind.
I don't have any official record of the name change. Henry Wallace MINETT married Flora Agnes Sorel CAMERON in 1879. Perhaps you'd like to contact me directly to discuss the Minetts?