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.

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.