Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Solving family history problems...

Welcome to my new follower Jo.

As it is such a lovely day today I have begun to wash some windows (a job I was unable to do in summer because of the wet weather). Managed lounge, kitchen x 2 and dining room doors. Hope to get back bedrooms done later on. The rest will have to wait.

I am currently researching and trying to solve some conundrum’s on my family tree. When you have Welsh ancestors, with very common surnames such as Jones, Evans, James and Smith etc, it can be very difficult. Whilst some ancestors accurately state their place of birth, some seem to get confused or their employer's put something else down.

One such case is my paternal great grandfather. His later census information (which he is filling in) states he was born in Leominster. Using his and his fathers forenames (marriage certificate), I was unable to trace him in earlier census. There were 3 people in Herefordshire who could fit but didn't feel correct as my grandfather had always maintained his father was part Welsh.

If you struggle to find direct ancestors, it often helps to try one of their parents siblings - if you know them. Unfortunately for me, his father has the same forename and surname. Have you any idea how many Welshmen have that combination, quite literally hundreds.

This search has taken many years of research but at last, we recently made a breakthrough. Deciding to ignore what my great grandfather had stated, we began to look for males with his name and that of his father, who were in the same household at some time.

We had previously found there were two unusual female names in their family and used that as a starting point.

There were many, many families to initially choose from but risking taking those forenames as ours, there was only one family that fitted. We still were not 100% sure but a few weeks ago, made another potential breakthrough.

Having some free time on Ancestry, we began to search probate records. My great grandfather doesn't appear to have one but there was one that fitted our newly found great great grandparents. It confirmed they left their money to someone with our great grandfather's name. We sent for the probate and luckily, it stated where the man was living at the time of his inheritance and it fitted 100% with my great grandfather. Hooray, another link made.

So now we had his parents and were able to start again. There were however, too many people with my 3 x great grandfather's name to pick out his birth but on the last census before they died, his parents were at home with two children, both with this unusual forename.

Tracing backwards, we were able to obtain the birth certificate of one of them and that gave us the mother's maiden name. Yeah, we were on track again.


  1. I know what you mean about common names. It took me years to find my great grandfather Charles Smith from Notting Hill in London. And I mean years. That was the days before Ancestry and I had to visit the Records Office in Farringdon and go through the microfiche listings and then go to the heavy original BMD volumes only to find I was on the wrong track. Thank goodness for computers, the Internet and Ancestry. Good luck with your research.
    Patricia x

    1. The internet has certainly made life easier but we never take anything for granted until we get the certificates. There are some truly awful family trees on ancestry, many of which are ours but are completely wrong.

  2. Congratulations on finding another thread to follow. I understand the frustration when you come to a dead end, and I have still to pluck up the courage to follow my paternal grandmothers family - Jones from Wales...
    Good luck with this next step :o)
    Rose H

    1. Ask people while you can what they know, if they'll tell that is. Some older folks like to keep everything a secret which is a shame, as they say, the truth will out.

  3. This sounds fascinating and something that one day I would love to do. My grandparents all lived in to their nineties, so some of the family history was traced whilst they were still alive to confirm a lot of the details. I would like to go back further than we have xxx

    1. We find it very interesting, certainly have to be Sherlock Holmes at times though.

  4. When I retire and have a bit more time of my own, I would love to trace my family's history. I know somebody went off to the gold rush in the Yukon in Canada but ended up living in America. I'd love to find out what happened to them all.

    Any chance of you posting quantities for yesterday's cake? The book doesn't seem to be in print any more.

    1. I'm worried about copyright but will give the apple version here as it is nicer, same making principles apply though: 9 oz S.R. flour, pinch salt, 6 oz margarine, 4 oz sugar, 4 oz dried fruit, 12 oz cooking apples (or if using eating apples, reduce the sugar), 2 eggs. Cook in an 8 inch tin for 50 minutes or until cooked at 180 Celsius.

      You can still buy the book second hand on Ebay.


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