Where is my 4x great grand­mother’s birth record?

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - QUESTIONS & ANSWERS -


I’ve been try­ing to lo­cate the birth record of my 4x great grand­mother El­iz­a­beth ‘Betsy’ Wa­ters for a while now. The facts I do have is that her fa­ther was named George Wa­ters, a mer­chant sea­man, and that she mar­ried a man named Wil­liam Don­ald­son in 1875. Her mar­riage and death cer­tifi­cates both put her year of birth at around 1845.

The 1881 cen­sus also sug­gests that she may have been born in Hull, but I can’t find any birth records from the area that match. Can you help? Karen Shor­tall, via email


Wil­liam Don­ald­son was a wid­ower in 1875 when he mar­ried Betsy Wa­ters in Hasling­den. In the 1871 cen­sus he had been in the same area, lodg­ing in a house in Tot­ting­ton Higher End with his son Abra­ham. Close by at Foul­coats in the parish of Hol­combe, a 22-year-old Betsy Wa­ters was liv­ing with her wid­owed mother, Char­lotte, and two sib­lings.

In 1861 the same Wa­ters fam­ily were liv­ing in Bury. The head of the fam­ily is listed as George Wa­ters, age 52, “for­merly sailor”, born in Scot­land. Betsy (recorded as Betty) is 14 years old. A decade ear­lier in 1851 they were in Dews­bury, where Betsy ap­pears as El­iz­a­beth, age two.

Birth reg­is­tra­tion de­tails for the other Wa­ters chil­dren re­veal that Char­lotte’s maiden name was Lowe – and there is a mar­riage in Keigh­ley, West York­shire, in 1858 be­tween Char­lotte Lowe and George Wa­ters, a sailor.

Betsy Wa­ters’ birth­place on the cen­suses is shown as Hull, Pen­rith, Bury and Ac­cring­ton (with other chil­dren born in Black­burn and Skip­ton) and her birth year is be­tween about 1844 and 1849, so find­ing a birth reg­is­tra­tion may be dif­fi­cult. To make mat­ters more dif­fi­cult, Betsy’s par­ents didn’t ac­tu­ally marry un­til 1858 (de­spite be­ing listed as mar­ried in the 1851 cen­sus), mean­ing that Betsy’s birth may have been reg­is­tered in her mother’s maiden name of Lowe.

None of the places in which the fam­ily lived were that close to the sea, but many were on the coun­try’s ex­ten­sive canal net­work. Maybe that is where George did at least some of his ‘sail­ing’? Antony Marr

The death cer­tifi­cate of Betsy Wa­ters gives her birth year as 1845

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