How WDYTYA? Mag­a­zine helped to find Caro­line Hill’s ex­tended fam­ily

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How long have you been do­ing your fam­ily his­tory?

I started re­search­ing 28 years ago af­ter my father Dou­glas Roy An­drews died. I found his birth cer­tifi­cate and a so­lic­i­tor’s doc­u­ment, signed un­der oath by his mother, where his sur­name was changed from Gerry to An­drews when he was five years old.

This came as a huge sur­prise to me as it in­di­cated that my maiden name was not An­drews but Gerry. My sis­ter Linda had no idea of the name change and at the time we be­lieved that we were the only liv­ing rel­a­tives on Dad’s side. His father’s name was James Henry Gerry and we knew noth­ing of him. This sparked my in­ter­est.

What had you un­cov­ered be­fore hit­ting your brick wall?

My father never dis­cussed his fam­ily and I knew prac­ti­cally noth­ing when I started this jour­ney. His birth cer­tifi­cate was dated 1922 and gave his mother’s name as Ar­me­nal Alice Keast. The doc­u­ments re­vealed that she was of­ten re­ferred to as May, and for­merly known as Davies. James Henry Gerry, Dad’s father, was an elec­tri­cal en­gi­neer from Bris­tol. How­ever, Ar­me­nal’s res­i­dence at the time of reg­is­tra­tion was at an un­of­fi­cial mother and baby home in Cardiff. I traced Ar­me­nal’s Keast fam­ily and found them in Pen­silva near Bod­min Moor, Corn­wall.

Her first mar­riage was to a Wil­liam Gerry, who also came from Corn­wall. Af­ter 17 years of mar­riage and no chil­dren, Ar­me­nal was wid­owed.

What was stop­ping you pro­gress­ing your re­search?

De­spite many on­line searches, I couldn’t find any in­for­ma­tion on my grand­fa­ther James Henry Gerry. Was it a co­in­ci­dence that Ar­me­nal’s first hus­band Wil­liam and James had the same sur­name of Gerry?

Why did she state in the ‘name and maiden name of mother’ col­umn that she was for­merly Davies, when her maiden name was Keast? How and why did she end up in Cardiff giv­ing birth to my father?

I in­ves­ti­gated Ar­me­nal fur­ther on the FreeBMD web­site ( and dis­cov­ered that a woman with a sim­i­lar name and for­merly Davies had given birth to a son, Colin Derrick, in Bris­tol in 1919. Cu­rios­ity led me to or­der the cer­tifi­cate. My sus­pi­cions were con­firmed – Ar­me­nal had given birth to an­other boy be­fore she had my father. Again the birth cer­tifi­cate stated that she was Ar­me­nal Gerry, for­merly Davies, but this time the father was not Wil­liam Gerry or James Henry Gerry but a Richard Gerry! To say I was shocked was an un­der­state­ment. Were th­ese Gerry men re­lated or was she ly­ing?

Ar­me­nal mar­ried her last hus­band James Ed­ward An­drews in 1927 in Bris­tol at the age of 47. My father was five years old at this point and this was the year she had the so­lic­i­tor’s doc­u­ment drawn up and signed un­der oath stat­ing that she had been mar­ried to James Henry Gerry, now de­ceased, and was the mother of Dou­glas Roy Gerry. Did she also lie in this doc­u­ment and com­mit per­jury?

How had you tried to solve it pre­vi­ously?

I have six chil­dren and al­though I’ve been des­per­ate to find out more, time has been

My father never dis­cussed his fam­ily. I knew prac­ti­cally noth­ing

lim­ited. I tried on­line and en­tered dif­fer­ent spellings of the sur­name Gerry such as Gary, Geary or Gery. Also, my sis­ter-in-law, Sarah Lott, put me in touch with El­iz­a­beth Owen of Mer­lin Ge­neal­ogy So­lu­tions, whose ex­per­tise has been in­valu­able.

What’s your ‘eureka mo­ment’?

My break­through came while read­ing

WDYTYA? Mag­a­zine. A let­ter from a reader on the ‘You’re the Ex­pert’ page caught my eye. Krys­tal Gary had al­ways wanted to know more about her grand­fa­ther who had sadly passed away and, al­though she lived in Canada, she wrote to the mag­a­zine hop­ing for help. Her grand­fa­ther was Colin Derrick Gary and she knew his mother was Ar­me­nal Keast but had been un­able to find out more. Could this be the same Ar­me­nal as my grand­mother?

How did it solve the prob­lem?

I emailed WDYTYA? Mag­a­zine straight away and they put us in touch. Af­ter sev­eral emails, we were able to con­firm that Krys­tal’s grand­fa­ther Colin and my father Dou­glas Roy shared Ar­me­nal as their mother.

Over the years, the sur­name Gerry has changed to Gary for my Cana­dian cousins, which shows that you shouldn’t ig­nore names with dif­fer­ent spellings.

Krys­tal and I have been able to share the in­for­ma­tion that we have gath­ered over the years, as well as use­ful tips from ge­neal­o­gist El­iz­a­beth Owen.

By pool­ing to­gether this in­for­ma­tion, which in­cluded some oral his­tory (fam­ily sto­ries and mem­o­ries that Krys­tal had gath­ered), we were able to fill in gaps in Ar­me­nal’s his­tory. This gave us fresh av­enues to ex­plore in or­der to un­ravel the mys­tery of the three Gerry men and why Ar­me­nal put ‘for­merly Davies’ on both Colin’s and my father’s birth cer­tifi­cates.

How did you feel when you dis­cov­ered the so­lu­tion?

I feel elated to know that I have liv­ing fam­ily mem­bers on my father’s side, who I had no clue about pre­vi­ously. When Krys­tal sent the pho­to­graph of her late grand­fa­ther to me by email I was stunned to see the like­ness be­tween Colin and my father. They had sim­i­lar hair, mouths and even glasses!

We still don’t know whether they are half or full brothers, or if they knew of each other’s ex­is­tence as they both worked in sim­i­lar trades in Bris­tol. How­ever, I’m sure we’ll have more eureka mo­ments.

In the sum­mer of 2013, I flew to Canada with my hus­band and three youngest chil­dren to meet Krys­tal, her hus­band and par­ents John and Mar­i­lyn. The first time I saw them was at the ho­tel we were stay­ing in and we hugged and cried as a fam­ily with a shared his­tory. Sit­ting next to John, Colin’s son, was like sit­ting with my father – his man­ner­isms were so sim­i­lar. John was amazed to hear how sim­i­lar his father Colin was to my dad. It was a won­der­ful mo­ment.

Did you dis­cover any­thing else in­ter­est­ing along the way?

Un­for­tu­nately we haven’t solved the rid­dle of the three Ger­rys yet, but Krys­tal re­vealed some much more fas­ci­nat­ing in­for­ma­tion. It tran­spired that Colin went to school in Olve­ston near Bris­tol. Eric Gar­rett wrote a book called The His­tory of Olve­ston Schools, which con­tained pho­to­graphs of him as a lit­tle boy. Krys­tal knew that Ar­me­nal had given Colin away and a Mrs Pick and the Churchus fam­ily had cared for him. This was be­fore the Adop­tion and Chil­dren Act of 1926 so find­ing any doc­u­ments might be dif­fi­cult.

He was awarded a schol­ar­ship to Thorn­bury Gram­mar School and later joined the Glouces­ter­shire Reg­i­ment. He mar­ried Doris Brown­low in Not­ting­ham and they had two boys, John and his brother Brian. Af­ter the war, they em­i­grated to Canada.

What is your ad­vice to other fam­ily his­to­ri­ans who hit an ob­sta­cle on their fam­ily tree?

Think out­side the box and don’t give up. I’ve found snip­pets of in­for­ma­tion in un­likely places and im­por­tant clues from grave­stones, his­tory books and oral his­tory. If I hadn’t sub­scribed to WDYTYA? Mag­a­zine and read Krys­tal’s let­ter, I would never have met my Cana­dian cousins.

Dou­glas Roy Gerry’s birth cer­tifi­cate from 1922 stated that his mother’s first name was May

Caro­line Hill ( cen­tre), with her Cana­dian rel­a­tives Krys­tal Gary and her father John Gary

The father of Ar­me­nal’s son Colin Derrick is named as Richard Gerry on the child’s birth cer­tifi­cate

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