Linda Brookes finally broke through a brick wall regarding thet marriage of her great grandparents after a struggle of almosta two decades. Claire Vaughan finds out how she did it…
Linda Brookes tells us how she broke through an 18-year brick wall regarding the marriage of her great grandparents
How long have you been doing your family history?
On and off for about 20 years, but over the past six years I have really been concentrating on it. I now have the time to devote to it as my family has grown up and I’ve finished working.
What was stopping you progressing your research?
I wanted to research both sides of my family and, while I was making good progress on my mum’s side, I had hit a brick wall with my dad’s line. I had the birth certificate for my paternal grandmother Lucy Kate Marshall and it gave her parents as William Stanley Marshall and Maria Evans. I managed to find William’s birth certificate and continue back through his family, but could not find any record of a marriage between him and a Maria Evans. At this point, I assumed that perhaps they had not married.
How had you tried to solve the problem previously?
As I could not find a marriage in the area where I knew William and Maria had lived, I searched throughout the country in case they had married somewhere else. William had previously been married to a Lottie Lane and she did not die until 1911, although my paternal grandmother, Lucy, was born in 1907.
Despite widening my search for any possible marriage – even a bigamous one – I found nothing. Tracking down my grandmother’s siblings might have helped locate Maria, but again I drew a blank. I also had no luck searching for birth and death certificates for Maria or by looking on genealogical websites. I posted messages on a couple of forums, but no one could suggest anything, so I put this research to one side while I continued to focus on other areas of the family. I hoped that one day, with new records coming online all the time, something might help to break down this brick wall.
How did you solve the problem?
I found the solution when I wasn’t actually looking for it. At the time, I was helping a friend start to research his own family tree and was going through how to get started and seeing what we could find. While looking on Ancestry, I saw they’d released some London electoral registers. I explained to my friend that these were good records to use to find people inbetween censuses. As I originally came from London, to show him the information available, I looked for my own parents and found them. I then searched for my grandparents and thought that while I was there I would look for my elusive great
grandparents. I looked up William Stanley Marshall and there he was with his wife Alice Maria Marshall living on Himley Road in the Balham and Tooting polling district.
Whoever had registered the birth of my grandmother had used the name by which my great grandmother was known rather than her full name. Armed with this new information, I searched for a marriage certificate for William and Alice and found it immediately in 1914. So they married six years after the birth of my grandmother and two years after William’s first wife had died. I ordered a copy there and then.
How did you feel when you discovered the solution?
I was extremely excited. I could not wait for the certificate to arrive. A brick wall that had been there for 18 years was broken down and I’d be able to start my research into this branch of the family.
Did you discover anything else interesting?
When I read the long-awaited certificate, I found that Evans was actually my great grandmother’s married name, as she was a widow. The marriage certificate gave her father’s name as Ernest William Perugia (1867-1895).
I was now able to find her birth certificate and hoped that as the surname was a bit unusual I would be able to trace the family without any problems.
The Perugia family turned out to be really interesting. Alice’s father was married to Ada Emily Elsdon and while researching on Ancestry I came across divorce papers for them. These contained details of the whole divorce, the children from the marriage, the affair that my great great grandmother had that caused the divorce and the fact that my great great grandfather was in the army. It even gave his regiment.
Armed with this information, I checked the records and discovered that my great great grandmother stayed with the man she’d had the affair with, although she never married him, and they had eight children together.
I was fascinated by the fact that Ernest had been a soldier and researched his career. He had been in a regiment based in South Africa and I found that he actually died out there aged just 28. I posted a request on an army forum for information about him. A chap replied giving me the reference for his death notice in South Africa and suggested a record agent there who would be able to obtain a copy for me. I followed his advice and within three days not only did I have a copy of his death notice, but also an account of the sale of his personal belongings.
Even more importantly, I had a handwritten letter from Ernest’s father, Charles Antonio Ratcliffe Perugia (1830-1904), that he had written to the army asking for details of Ernest’s belongings.
During the course of my research, I made contact with a third cousin in Australia who was researching the same family and we were able to exchange information. I also found out that Charles’ mother Louisa Ann Benedicta Perugia (1803-1881), my 4x great grandmother, had seven children for whom there was no identifiable father, although there was an implied father who was a married man. No wonder she died in Peckham Lunatic Asylum.
What would your advice be to other family historians who hit an obstacle on their family tree?
Never give up. Think about other documents that could provide you with information to help break down the brick wall. Keep looking at new documents as they come online, as you never know what you may find – even if you think you have all the information possible about the people in your tree.
I was extremely excited. I couldn’t wait for the certificate to arrive
The marriage certificate of William Marshall and Alice Maria Evans in Wandsworth, October 1914 The handwritten letter from Ernest Perugia’s father written to the army after his son’s death
The electoral register from Ancestry showing William and Alice Maria Marshall in Tooting