A family not at war- 1914

Photographs provided by John and Mary Green

A peaceful idyll in New Zealand about 1914. The older man, with a cap, in the centre is John Davies aged about 72 at that time, he died 2 years later. He had had an interesting life, born in Chester the son of a travelling book salesman he married in 1864 in Wrexham, Wales, with Louisa Charlotte Davies, so far she seems to be an unrelated Davies.

I featured some of his life a few months ago in the tale of the tobacconist and hairdresser, but research has added quite a lot to his profile. He lived after marriage in Oswestry, his wife had died in 1900 and he emigrated to New Zealand with some of his daughters in 1907.

Sitting on the swing on the left is his youngest daughter Lillie May with her daughter Vera, Richard Thomas Haylock Daniels, husband and father is standing next to John. John’s second youngest daughter Alice Selina is on the left, she never married but kept house for the family. Lillie was apparently quite a character, she had two shops in Auckland, drove around in a model T Ford and took trips to Seattle.

The other side of the photograph has John’s oldest daughter Louisa Charlotte who was also interesting. It seems she eloped to the US with a cousin, William Henry Davies. There is, so far, little evidence of this apart from a baptism of a daughter Stella Irene in Pennsylvania, she is the young girl on the right of the photograph. They also had another daughter May who was possibly born in New York and died in New Zealand, age 16, her burial record states her birth in Oswestry but this seems to be incorrect, there are no UK or US records.

It is unclear what happened to William Henry but Louisa seems to have met Ronald McDougall Malcolm in the US, he was from Glasgow, he went to New York in 1893 and returned in 1900, he may have stayed with John Davies in Oswestry for a while. There is no marriage record of him marrying Louisa but when she emigrated she was listed as Louise Malcolm. Ronald is sat on the right swing.

It is unclear why John and some daughters went to New Zealand but they seem to have enjoyed life, the family that stayed in England were also quite successful it seems, many ran their own business.

One of my hopes was to find John and his wife were cousins, this might help get around the brickwall of her parents, so far though it seems not to be so. It could be that they link several generations earlier but tracing Davies lines is almost as bad as tracing Jones families.

The Chester triangle

Something like the Bermuda one but around Chester, UK.

I wrote some weeks ago about Edward Davies, a brickwall and Great Great Grandfather who is involved in the Chester triangle.

Boarders between many countries are clearly defined and generally stable, the boarder between the USA and Europe is the Atlantic, there could be disputes on where the boarder is in the sea exactly but who the land belongs to is definitely known. Some land boarders are very fluid, like Belgium for example, parts of it were in Spanish Nederland, many towns have German, Nederland and French names as they belonged to different countries at different times.

It might be imagined that Britain has clearly defined boarders, being islands but that is not so. The boarder with Scotland has moved by a hundred miles over the last 2000 years, I think Berwick on Tweed is still officially at war with Germany. Ireland was stolen 500 years ago and most was given back 100 years ago, the rest may follow soon. The whole Welsh boarder has be moving around for centuries and Edwards family highlight some of the problems created.

From 1851 to his death census records are consistent that he was born in Birkenhead, Cheshire although Birkenhead has changed counties since and been in several different registration districts. As he was born before civil registration we would only be concerned with parish records which would probably come under the Bishop of Chester. Of course he may not have been born there but thought he was born there or near by. In any case no reliable records have been found for birth or baptism.

His wife was initially only know as Elizabeth from census records, her birth name was never mentioned, but her place of birth was consistently given as Hanmer, Flintshire in Wales. Hanmer is a problem for several reasons, firstly being a parish consisting of a collection of villages and hamlets together with individual farms, it had no central town and in fact the county it was in was divided in two so it had no direct connection the the county town. Secondly parish records from the time of her birth are probably also under the Bishop of Chester but could be under Wrexham in Denbighshire or Whitchurch or Oswestry in Shropshire, which confuses foreigners by being called Salop. Being from Wales there is also a chance that her family were dissenters and so we need to look under non conformist records in Wales as well. None of this is much use without a family name though.

From the birth record of my Great Grandfather I found her maiden name was Williams, as much use a a chocolate teapot, hundreds of possibilities. Their marriage record might prove helpful, it may give their age but more likely just give over 21, but it should give their address and their fathers name and occupation which might tie the baptism records together. What can we deduce from the census records to determine the approximate date and place of marriage?

The 1841 census gives them living in Liverpool with two young sons born in Lancashire, Henry 2 years and Edward 2 months. This should be simple, but no. There were only two Edward Davies’ born in the first half of 1841, one a long way away, south of Shrewsbury and one in Holywell, in the Chester triangle. The certificate from Holywell gives the mother as Elizabeth Williams. There are no records for a Henry being born within 150 miles or two years of 1839 but I have found a baptism record for Edward in Liverpool in 1842, he died shortly afterwards. Henry is listed as being born in Liverpool on later census records, all the other children were born in Wrexham.

Assuming Henry was officially registered under a different name and he was born June 1838 to June 1839 the parents may have married in 1837 and in the third quarter of 1837 there is a record that has Edward Davies and Elizabeth Williams in Holywell, this looks promising, certificate ordered.

Bad news followed, my fee was refunded as, though both names were on the registration record they did not marry each other but did marry someone else on the page. The Chester triangle swallowed another lead. There are other possible marriages but ordering certificates for them by trial and error will get expensive and if they married before 1 July 1837 there is no civil record anyway. Finding if Henry had another name might help, but there are 250 registrations to check so it is back to waiting for DNA results and hope.

Cousins, why bother?

Not much in the of updates this week, a few brickwalls moved a step back with the new GRO search engine, for light relief traced some Australian, New Zealand and Newfoundland lines, about 25 people added and 30 edited.

Of more interest were cousins. I came across 2 colonist cousins who seem to have copied  a lot of my research, except the sources and with one the dates, and put them on their own tree sites. Without sources or dates it has no point and without researching the 2 – 300 people they have I cannot add anything from their trees to mine. Luckily I do have some cousins who collaborate on our joint trees.

Whist muttering to myself about the stupidity of some people I came across a site new to me. Lost Cousins which looks like a great site for new researchers, lots of tips and advice and a major tool to kickstart your research, there are also benefits for more experienced researchers.

The basic helpful tool will match your known ancestors with other peoples and link you to cousins. Many online sites will of course match ancestors for you, some will charge you to upload data, some will charge you for matching or otherwise limit you use of the links as a cash flow for their company. Joining and adding your data is free with Lost Cousins.

Other sites seem to like to give you hundreds or thousands of matches, most being incorrect but Lost Cousins works on a specific format to produce exact matches only and as the data matched has been added by a researcher in your family you are certain of finding cousins. You enter ancestors from specific sets of census data and your relationship to them and see if anyone else has added them. It takes less than 5 minutes to add complete families and I found a new cousin after entering about 60 people, two relatives of mine were direct line ancestors of theirs, a short while later another cousin popped up with four matches, a day later a third cousin was listed but I already knew her.

The main reason this site will help new researchers is many of the census collections are free to view on several sites, once you have people from 1940 US or 1881 UK you can add them and cousins will help your tree grow. If you think you have these people fully researched you may find your cousins have information that you were not aware of.

Once you have added enough people to the site you are invited to join the forum, which is another fun place to visit and learn from.

Only drawbacks to the site is you need to be a member to be able to contact cousins, but that costs less than a couple of cups of coffee a year. The other drawback you might find is the sponsored links, subscription is low as the owner covers costs by referral links, if you are thinking of buying something it will not cost you more to buy through his link, but if you really object to the low key links an adblocker will help you.

In any case it is worth joining for just the newsletter.

Congratulations to the UK goverment

Specifically to the General Register Office (GRO) who have finally dragged themselves into the late 20th century. Not the 21st century yet but still better than the archaic system they have had for 150 years.

There are two important changes, first they have reindexed the registers, using digital images from the abandoned digitisation project and from the original documents, this means less transcription errors, or at least different errors. The GRO site has a new search engine that includes things not seen before, like mothers maiden names going back to 1837 instead of not being available before 1912, also age at death is given for deaths before 1860.

You now have more chance of breaking brickwalls or finding infants that were missing on census entries. I moved several lines back to the 1700’s after decades of being stuck.

The search process is a bit clunky, you need a family name, a gender and a year as minimum requirements, it also helps to have an intimate knowledge of registration districts. I was reinvestigating Edward Davies the family lived in two counties in England and two in Wales in 5 towns at least. Liverpool has more than one registration district, Chester is a registration district but not at that time, it was the Great Boughton and Birkenhead as in Wirral. But I found his wife’s name and confirmed most children, the first two were not born in Liverpool as every census shows, one was baptised there but born in Holywell, the first child is still proving to be a problem.

The second improvement the GRO have introduced is pdf copies of registration details by email. The first bonus is they are cheaper, though they still cost more than paper certificates did a couple of years ago. The second advantage should be speed, instead of the usual three or four weeks they expect to send an email within five days. I got my first pdf on Sunday afternoon 3 days after ordering, there were two people with the same name on the index page and I got two pdf’s, the first was the wrong one so I assumed they had sent two different pdf’s but no they were both the wrong one, so that means another email with 5 day turn around to sort it out.

The pdf by email is only a trial at the moment so it is important to fill in the feedback forms to get the service extended, improved and cheaper. I certainly will not be ordering the 300+ certificates I need at the price they have set now.

Edward Davies

Edward Davies has been a brickwall for research for over 20 years.

He was born in that awkward time for UK research, just before official registration of life events and before census data was recorded and kept. He does appear in three census years, but does not help research much.

In 1841 he was in Liverpool with his wife and two young children. His age was rounded to the nearest 5 years so he was born 1813 to 1818 and his birth was given as not in Lancashire. In 1851 he was in Wrexham age 36 and born in Wrexham but in 1861 he claims to be 44 and born in Birkenhead. It could be I am looking at different Edwards but the wife and children all match.

He died sometime before 1871 but there are about thirty Edward Davies’ that died in Wrexham between the two census dates and some can be tied to a birthdate in the right range but nothing conclusive.

A similar problem occurs with his marriage, there are a dozen or more marriages with an Elizabeth in the two years before the birth of the first child and I cannot be sure if they married in England or Wales. The first two children were born in Liverpool so they moved there just before or after they married. His wife is consistent in giving her birth as in Hamner, Flintshire and she could have married there if she lived there until her marriage, often the marriage would be registered in Wrexham if it was after 1 July 1837 and the parish record would probably be listed under Chester in Cheshire. I used to be fairly certain they married in Holywell Flintshire but over the years it has become less certain.

The next step is DNA testing to try and find a Davies male line match behind the wall.