EUREKA MO­MENT

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…

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - CONTENTS -

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

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