Wednesday, 1 April 2015

A-Z Challenge - Book of Me - A is for Analysis

As a family historian it is vital to analysis the information we discover. It is not enough to look at the information once, and that process should be a consistent theme as we research. Just because we read something does not mean what we have read is correct, nor does it mean the same thing out of context.

Our research is a journey to the past. That journey begins with a single step and each journey we take becomes easier as we become more familiar with the names, places and people we are researching and as we understand the context we are researching in.

My Great Uncle died in the mid 1960's and is buried at the municipal cemetery at Guildford. When my Cousins started researching they had problem locating this entry in the General Registration Office (GRO) indexes. For some reason a full copy of his birth certificate was not in the family. All my Uncle's siblings were located and yet he was not, and his birth dated back to 1906 - his siblings were born between 1900 and 1917.

Taken by Julie Goucher, May 2007
When my Great Aunt died she was interned with her husband and the headstone changed. Family records showed that Uncle was given the year of birth of 1907 which was incorrect. It had been calculated from his age at death, but was a year out based and proved using biology. Uncle was born in Dec and my Grandfather, the next sibling was born in March - gestation is as we know nine months and I had the birth certificate and numerous other documentation which confirmed he was born in March 1908, so Uncle was born in December 1906 and not 1907 as the headstone indicated.

A further search was done in the neighbouring registration districts to Guildford, and eventually Uncle's entry was discovered in Hambledon registration district in Dec quarter 1906. So why was there are difference between him and other siblings? The address was the same. The reality is that no one knows the answer, My Great Grandmother died in the early 1970's, so she outlived her son be several years.

The reality at this point was this. Births usually happened at home. In this instance Wanborough Surrey. All my Grandfather's siblings were baptised in Wanborough and the registration district for all except one was Guildford. I looked again at the date that the registration of my Uncle took place. It was early December, and according to the Monthly record report from the Meteorological Office, December 1906 it was cold, windy and there had been instances of snow and sleet.

My Great Grandmother, who had already buried two of her six children born between 1900 - 1906 would have wanted to protect her children as best she could. Therefore it is likely that decision to record the birth in Hamledon registration district was logistical - Godalming was nearer than Guildford. Perhaps they had secured a lift on the back of a cart.

But what if the birth had not happened at home? Perhaps the birth occurred whilst visiting another household, and the birth recorded in the nearest registration district with the baptism in the family parish. Whilst that did not happen in this instance, it is absolutely possible which means that any time a place of birth is required, the individual could quite unwittingly records the place of birth incorrectly based upon what they believe to be true and let's face it would the individual would not recall their birth, just what they are informed by their parents and read on the official documentation.

We should be analysing the discoveries we make, even using non genealogical sources to assist us.

Book of Me
Copyrighted Julie Goucher
More details can be found about the Book of Me and the A - Z prompts HERE

You can see who else is participating in the A - Z Challenge by visiting the participants lists at


  1. An interesting post. How often do we find that just because a date or other fact has been accepted, it doesn't mean it's correct. It always pays to check,

  2. So true. Not paying attention to a different name for my great grandmother used in 1 census record, delayed finding her death certificate for years and years.

  3. Anonymous1:26 pm

    hello from across the pond! are you still participating in the challenge?

    1. Pam, I am so technical trouble so B & C will publish together!

  4. Anonymous8:16 pm

    Good detective work! I got into genealogy 40+ years ago and still enjoy the challenge of figuring out a person's life story from the scraps of information found in documents. Nicely done. Hope you haven't given up on the A-Z


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