Welcome to the first blog post on our new website! I'm not a blogger, but thought it would be nice to sometimes let you in on the day in my office. While I'm sure in due time we will have a chat about the small stuff, I want to jump right into our story about the Alice 'twins'.
This story I've been working on for the last few weeks isn't far from the common occurrence. Particularly in new projects or with new researchers. Professionals are not immune to the challenge just more experienced with what to look for and how to clear things up. Our full clarification isn't quite done with these girls yet, so bare with me in the coming weeks.
When I originally began the project on John William the family presented me with a great deal of information and photographs on the adult John. All of this on a wonderful man who, it was thought, grew up in an orphanage. While the date of his birth was a little unclear, they believed his father worked with glass bottles. After our preliminary search, I started with the only thing I felt I could with certainty, his marriage and death verification, information that the family had known.
His marriage certificate arrived first, which of course had valuable information, his father's name, William Harry. It also confirmed the family's knowledge of his profession as a glass worker. There was John's given age, which narrowed the birth year gap from a possible 10 years to a maximum possibility of 3 years. I started to look in the England Birth Index for this time frame. When I received the death certificate it helped to narrow his date of birth from the 3 year gap to the 'day of'.
Armed with these new tidbits I began to search William Harry's wife, John's mother; and of course, John's birth. I had a few possibilities for his mother's surname based on the birth index which by 1917 had well begun to include them. After no luck for a marriage for a William or William Harry I changed it to just 'Harry'. Finally, a result, Harry had married Alice Aldridge! The job was a great match for Harry and Aldridge matched one of my options for a mother for John in the birth index. Enter Alice 'twin' #1.
I was pulling and reviewing family records for Harry and Alice, the pieces began to fit. The couple had multiple children and both had died while John was a young boy. By this point in the search, the family had remembered a possible two names of John's siblings; which matched the children in this family. Finding their deaths registered in a Manchester church record, just months apart when John was a boy, could explain how John became an orphan.
As research progressed I moved up a level to the parents of Alice and Harry. Alice's father, John, was listed as deceased on the marriage certificate, an unfortunate issue that would limit balancing an occupation search parameter. So I did the natural thing - I looked for John who died prior to their wedding in 1899, who had a daughter named Alice, preferably in the same area. I eventually found a man who matched our description. He was a widower with several children. For me this wasn't conclusive at all but did lead a hint as to why I'd not seen any information on a mother in Alice's life while researching Harry and Alice.
Searching the marriage records for John, I found that his wife was Elizabeth. Elizabeth had in fact died prior to the census which listed him as widower. I began to dig into this family to match the records to those in the life of Alice and Harry. Boy, was I pleased to find the records on the family and build the tree for these members.
Suddenly, things were not matching up! Birth years were different, but a year in some records and more in others - though this happens in records sometimes. I couldn't find a birth entry for Alice to these parents and they seemed to be a larger distance from Harry and Alice than I expected. I pressed on for a bit looking for a further entry in the records for the family. Something legitimate to pin my concern with. I was fairly worried at no results, so I went back to the beginning and compared every Alice record to itself.
Then the undesirable hit me:
there were TWO Alices!
In the same area!
Born at about the same time!
With husbands named Harry!
And with parents named John and Elizabeth!
How was this even possible? Sheer luck of the draw as Alice 'twin' #2 entered the scene.
Of course I have had to pull that family from the tree. While their married names were different, up until this time they appeared to be one person. Time was used to press on digging deeper and find out who was the correct Alice. Which meant one Alice on one screen... and .... one Alice on another screen, while I sorted the records I already had.
Analysis continues and additional birth, marriage and death certificates have been requested. We have some time for those to arrive and then we can unravel our ladies a bit more.
The moral of this story is: Don't worry if you hit a small speed bump, we all do. It's acknowledging it and correcting it that matters. How else will we grow and nurture our family tree?