Your Family History - - Expert Q&a: Your Problems Solved - ND

QI am writ­ing af­ter 10 years of re­search on my fa­ther’s ma­ter­nal side of fam­ily and get­ting nowhere (and af­ter con­sult­ing experts at var­i­ous WDYTYA? Live shows). I am look­ing for a great-great­grand­fa­ther who was born in Manch­ester, mar­ried there, and died there (I have doc­u­ments re­lat­ing to these facts). How­ever, I can­not go fur­ther back as I have no idea who his par­ents were – and he is miss­ing from the 1861 cen­sus as a child.

His name was Michael Duffy, and he was born in Manch­ester in 1852. He mar­ried Sara Ellen Clark at Manch­ester Cathe­dral in 1870, al­though he ap­pears to have lied about his age on the mar­riage cer­tifi­cate, and had a hair­dresser’s busi­ness recorded in the var­i­ous di­rec­to­ries. He is on the 1871 cen­sus, with his wife, and liv­ing with his in-laws, and died in Sal­ford in 1879, aged 27. I have his death cer­tifi­cated, which shows that the only per­sons present were his moth­erin-law, Sarah Clark, and his wife, Sara. His fa­ther-in-law, Wil­liam Clark, had a bis­cuit/ food busi­ness in Manch­ester; and Michael stated on his mar­riage cer­tifi­cate that his fa­ther was a sol­dier. He later had two sons – John Wil­liam and John James, who was my great-grand­fa­ther – and af­ter he died, his wife re­mar­ried and had more chil­dren.

As I can­not find him as a child, I can­not trace his par­ents, or any sib­lings. I can­not find any school records be­cause An­ces­try does not have them for the dates I need. I can­not find any sol­diers who had a child named Michael for that pe­riod. There are no other clues on his mar­riage cer­tifi­cate; I have three birth cer­tifi­cates, but only one has a fa­ther called Michael – he is not a sol­dier, and the cer­tifi­cate is not for Sal­ford or Manch­ester, but Liver­pool - and he def­i­nitely stated he was born in Manch­ester.

Could he have lied about his fa­ther be­ing a sol­dier? If his par­ents had died when he was young, he should still have been on the 1861 cen­sus, but he isn’t, and I can­not find any obituary in­for­ma­tion. One of the birth cer­tifi­cates I have for a child called Michael for the right time has a fa­ther called Ed­ward – he comes from Cot­ton Street in Sal­ford, where many of my more re­cent rel­a­tives resided, but this could just be co­in­ci­dence.

Can you help at all? I am about to give this up – I can trace many other rel­a­tives eas­ily, but ab­so­lutely stuck on this one be­cause it is my only link back to Ire­land, and I have to know where we came from. MA­REE WEBB, VIA EMAIL

AAs you have found out, Michael Duffy, as a 20-year-old hair­dresser, mar­ried 19-yearold Sarah [sic] Ellen Barker at Manch­ester Cathe­dral on 25 July 1870, both par­ties giv­ing their ad­dress as 1 St Thomas Street. Sara Ellen, who signed her name with a cross, was the daugh­ter of John James Barker, a French pol­isher; Michael gave his fa­ther’s de­tails as Michael Duffy, a sol­dier. The wed­ding was wit­nessed not by fam­ily mem­bers, which is a shame, but by John Sweney and Mary Rose. Al­though you call Michael’s wife Sarah Ellen Barker Clark, she was a Barker rather than a Clark, as Wil­liam Clark was her step­fa­ther, (Wil­liam and Sarah mar­ried at the cathe­dral in 1867, with Sarah Barker de­scribed as a wi­dow), al­though you’re right in that Wil­liam Clark and his wife Sarah are liv­ing with Sarah Ellen Duffy, de­scribed as ‘daugh­ter’, and her hus­band Michael in 1871.

You state that Michael was born in 1852, and must have lied on his mar­riage cer­tifi­cate about his age – but given that you don’t know his par­ents’ de­tails, are you sure that this is the cor­rect date? I am just won­der­ing whether de­tails on other doc­u­ments are wrong, and the mar­riage states the right age.

It would not be un­heard of for the wrong age to be recorded on the cen­sus, for ex­am­ple, in which case, it’s worth look­ing for a Michael Duffy born in 1849-1850 as well as those born a bit later (Sarah’s age is also dif­fer­ent on mar­riage and in the 1871 cen­sus – in the for­mer, she is 20 in 1870, but in 1871, she is 18!). For ex­am­ple, the 1851 cen­sus has a badly dam­aged page that in­cludes a Michael Duffy born in 1850 in Manch­ester, liv­ing at 38 Stone­hewer Street, Manch­ester, with his mother Mar­garet, 33, and nine-year- old brother Henry (both born in Liver­pool). This is in­ter­est­ing as many Ir­ish mi­grants at this time set­tled ini­tially in Liver­pool be­fore mov­ing on.

The 1851 cen­sus was taken on 30 March, and Michael’s age was given as eight months, which would nar­row his birth down to around July 1850. There is a birth record which I sus­pect is for this Michael ( Jul-Sept 1850, Manch­ester, vol 20, page 658) which might be worth get­ting. In ad­di­tion, in this cen­sus, Mar­garet is liv­ing alone with her chil­dren, but is listed as mar­ried rather than a wi­dow, which might in­di­cate that her hus­band was away work­ing in some ca­pac­ity. Fi­nally, there is a bap­tism record for Henry Duffy which might be this Michael’s older brother. The bap­tism took place at St Mary’s Catholic Church in Liver­pool on 10 April, and states that Henry Michael Duffy, born 31 March, was the son of Mar­garet and Michael Duffy – so the fa­ther’s name also ties in with your re­search.

I don’t think you should

nec­es­sar­ily limit your re­search to Manch­ester, but con­sider ex­tend­ing it to Liver­pool, as it strikes me as wholly fea­si­ble that the Duffys might have set­tled there first. Un­for­tu­nately, as you’ve no doubt found, there are so many Duffys – even Michael Duffys – in the north-west of Eng­land around this time that it can feel a bit like look­ing for a nee­dle in a haystack try­ing to lo­cate the right one.

Ir­ish mi­gra­tion to Liver­pool and Manch­ester was un­der­stand­ably high in the 1840s in par­tic­u­lar, due to the ef­fects of the Great Famine.

You should also bear in mind that Michael Sr might have been trav­el­ling with his wife and son(s) at the time of the 1861 cen­sus, and thus not recorded ei­ther at a home ad­dress or at a tem­po­rary lodg­ing.

This may well be be­cause of a peri­patetic army ca­reer – or Michael Sr may at that time have been do­ing a dif­fer­ent job, one that re­quired a lot of trav­el­ling. Un­for­tu­nately, un­less you can find an army record for the right Michael, you may have more frus­tra­tions to face in try­ing to lo­cate this branch of your fam­ily.

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