Searching for Thomas

When a genealogist comes across a person with a name like Thomas Reuben Whitfield Burn they get a good feeling, this is an unusual name and should be easier to research than John Smith.

Thomas is a common name but Reuben is less so, and Whitfield is more of a family name than a given name. It was common to use a mothers maiden name as a middle name in 19th century Britain. Even the family name is less common than the usual Burns and ties the family roots to Northeast England or Southern Scotland.

A quick search does bring up a problem, the name is not unique, there were two people with the name, but then you see they are father and son and this leads to census entries and lots of information about the son, but what of the father, where did he come from?

A census entry for 1871 shows him, age 11, living in Newcastle on Tyne with his grandparents, so we can produce a family tree like this.try one

No record has been found him and his parents for 1861, the grandparents were at a different address in Newcastle with daughter Ann, 20, and sons James and Thomas who are both under 10 years old. Further research shows they had two other daughters but no older son. This family group were left on the backburner for some time, until the 1911 census was released/ This showed the family group with a visitor widow Ann Whitfield.

With renewed vigour it was discovered that Ann Burn had married Thomas Reuben Whitfield in 1871, a short while after his father had died, which lead to a couple of generations back on his line. The first guess tree is redrawn as this.try two

And the moral of the story is when you get stuck on a line leave it alone for a year or two then try again.