The few days ago I was scrolling through my list of Madder birth, marriages and deaths. As I do when I haven’t anything better to do, or avoiding doing something I don’t want to do!
This list is an Excel file into which I have entered the details of all the Madders in the GRO indexes. An easy collection to make nowadays when you can just make a search on FreeBMD and download the lot in a matter of minutes, if not seconds. No my collection was made in the “Good Old Days” when nothing was online, in fact when online hadn’t been invented.
When I started my family history I used to travel up to London, to Somerset House and haul the big books off the shelves and leaf through the pages and enter details in my trusty notebook. I then followed the books to St Catherine’s House and then to the brand new Family Records Centre at Middleton Place – the Future of family history. Then they closed the FRC and the books went into storage and everything is now online. Do you suppose the books miss their visitors?
Anyway, by the time that happened, I had all the 1255 Madders in the index, bought a few certificates and had started placing them all into different families. Of course there are quite a few individuals that I haven’t been able to place in a family and the worse culprits are the more recent generations, when you can’t just “look them up on the census”. Some aren’t a problem, by using the surnames of spouses and mothers maiden names, it’s easy to fit them together, but sometimes you hit a brick wall.
This is what happened recently, I happened to notice a name and wondered why he wasn’t in a tree. (When I have placed someone in a tree, I give them a reference, so it’s easy to spot the ones I haven’t traced – they have no number). I should point out at this point that I am not going to mention any names, as these people are living and I always respect people’s privacy.
So, I looked at, who we will call, Madder A. I found his birth, so knew his mother’s maiden name and sorting the database discovered he had a brother. Both he and his brother were married and I could find their wives and children in the list. From Madder A’s birth record, I could also find the marriage of his parents and their names. That is where the problem started – there was no birth entry for Madder A’s father, let’s call him Madder B. I tried all the usual methods, perhaps he had swapped this forenames around, but nothing fitted. I could tell by the area where this family was living, who the most likely relatives were, but there were several candidates for his parents.
I decided to find out more about the family to see if there were any clues. Do you realise how much you can find out about a person nowadays? From the UK electoral registers 2002-2013 on Findmypast I could find out where these people were living and then look at their houses on Google Streetview. I found some of them on Facebook – adults hide most of their information but teenage children are a mine of information and of course you can trace relatives by looking at lists of Facebook friends. Madder B wasn’t on Facebook though.
Going a bit further back in time, Ancestry has British Phone Books, 1880-1984, where I found Madder B’s address and occupation in the 1960s, as well as his phone number. Had he been born elsewhere? I checked passenger lists – nothing. I had tried all the obvious online databases and finally, in desperation, I just put his name into the main search on the Ancestry front page. There were only two results – the GRO marriage reference (which I already had) and an entry in the Electoral Registers. Hadn’t I already checked these? No – this was Ancestry’s version, London, England, Electoral Registers, 1832-1965. There he was, listed with two other people – these must be his parents.
I looked at this couple on my family tree – they had no children, as far as I could tell. I compared their marriage date with that of Madder B, he would have been a bit young to marry. Suddenly it clicked. Had be been born before his parents married? A quick check on FreeBMD and there he was, registered under his mother’s maiden name, except it wasn’t actually his mother’s maiden name, she had been married before.
I quickly found more information that told the whole story. This lady, lets call her Madder Wife, married had three children, one of whom died as a baby. Her husband then died. Several years later she married a Madder. I don’t know whether they were officially adopted or not, but her children were using the name Madder by the time they married.
Problem solved! I could add this family to my tree. (The marriage of Madder B’s sibling also allowed me to cross off another unknown Madder on my list). I know these people are not genetically Madders, but this is a one-name study I’m running – if they use the name they are included. Although if any of them approach me, I will know they are not useful candidates for a DNA test!
Why didn’t I think of looking for Madder B under a wife’s maiden name at the start? I don’t know, but it has certainly given me a lot of information about the family, using all the information available online. Now, If you’ll excuse me, I’m off to check my security settings on Facebook.