‘A civil ser­vice record was my break­through’

A sworn tes­ta­ment giv­ing an an­ces­tor’s pre­cise date of birth tore down a brick wall in Christa Stephens’ fam­ily tree. Gail Dixon ex­plains

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - MASS OBSERVATION -

What was stop­ping you from pro­gress­ing your re­search?

My next quest was to fol­low Reg’s line as far back as I could, which is when the brick walls started ap­pear­ing. I man­aged to trace the fam­ily quite eas­ily through census data, but this started to gen­er­ate more ques­tions than an­swers. The ini­tial prob­lem was that on the birth cer­tifi­cate of my great great grand­fa­ther Henry Pad­more, his mother’s maiden name was spelt in­cor­rectly.

How had you tried to solve it pre­vi­ously?

For­tu­nately, he had a large num­ber of sib­lings, and as I tracked them down one by one, the spell­ing of their mother’s name be­came clear. She was Mary Wanklin and not ‘Wantling’, as I pre­vi­ously thought.

I found all of my great great grand­fa­ther’s sib­lings’ births, with the ex­cep­tion of the el­dest – Wil­liam.

The in­ter­est­ing thing about Wil­liam was that, ac­cord­ing to census data, he had been born in Birm­ing­ham, when all his sib­lings were born in Leominster or Monmouth.

His father Wil­liam (later known as Ur­ban) Pad­more, was born in Handsworth, Birm­ing­ham. His wife, Mary Ann Wanklin, was born in All Saints, Worces­ter. I searched ev­ery­where for Wil­liam Jnr’s birth and his par­ents’ wed­ding and em­ployed a pro­fes­sional ge­neal­o­gist, but he couldn’t find any­thing ex­cept for Mary Ann Wanklin’s birth. This was ex­tremely frus­trat­ing as I couldn’t con­firm their son Wil­liam Pad­more’s birth date, nor could I work out why the fam­ily had moved to Monmouth where they lived through­out the cen­suses.

What’s your ‘eureka mo­ment’?

Over the years I kept re­vis­it­ing this search, us­ing dif­fer­ent sources, then in Septem­ber this year, I re­ceived an email of­fer­ing a ‘ free week­end’ of search­ing on Find­my­past. Eureka! Some­thing caught my eye. It was a Bri­tish civil ser­vice record from 1870. Wil­liam Jnr had ap­plied for a job as a post mes­sen­ger and in or­der to ob­tain the po­si­tion, he needed to prove his age.

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