Can you solve this adoption puzzle?
QI’m trying to find a birth record for my grandmother, Alice Lingham, who married my grandfather Thomas George Bauckham on 18 April 1897 in the parish of St Mary Newington, Surrey. Her age is shown as 23, and her father’s name on the marriage certificate is given as “William Lingham, carter”.
I have searched birth registers for the 1870s, but haven’t found a matching entry. However, I did manage to find Alice recorded in the 1891 census as the adopted daughter of Sarah A Wright, widow, living at 9 Saunders Place, Lambeth.
I have also found an entry in the 1881 census for Alice “Slingham”, visitor, in the household of Charles and Ann Wright living at 2 Saunders Place, Lambeth. In both entries her age is compatible with a birth year of 1874.
The only other record I have for Alice prior to her marriage is for the admission on 11 June 1877 to Walnut Tree School of Alice Wright, daughter of Charles Wright of 2 Saunders Place. Her date of birth was given as 2 March 1874.
These records seem to indicate that Alice was born in 1874 and was taken in by the Wright family quite soon afterwards, but that she was aware of her father’s name.
I have considered the possibility of one or both of Alice’s birth parents dying soon after her birth, but I can find no record of the death of a William Lingham in that period and area. It could have been her mother who died, but without knowing her name I can’t look into this possibility.
Can you suggest any other avenues? Tim Bauckham
AAlice Bauckham appears in the 1939 Register (available on ancestry.co.uk,
findmypast.co.uk and myheritage.com) with a birthdate of 4 March 1874, which is a close match to her school record. This may well be accurate, but her place of birth shown in census records varies from Lambeth (1881) and Hampstead (1891) to Fulham (1901 and 1911).
Assuming that her birth was registered but not as Alice Lingham, it is likely that she was illegitimate and will be registered (and indexed) under a mother’s surname alone. Adoptions at that time were not legally regulated, but many are often found to have a family connection – maybe the child of an unmarried daughter, sister or cousin being brought into the family. Start by looking at births to Wright and any connected surnames.
Alice marries as Lingham, and appears as such on the 1881 and 1891 censuses, which means she appears confident of her father’s name. In the 1871 census, when the family of Charles Wright are living in Carlisle Street in the parish of Holy Trinity, Lambeth, there is an unmarried William Lingham, aged 23, in the neighbouring parish of St George the Martyr, Southwark, who is a carpenter (rather than a carman) but must be worthy of further investigation.
There is also an illegitimate Alice Wright registered in early 1874 in Lambeth. The birth certificate shows the mother as Mary Wright, a seamstress, but this Alice is born on 31 March. However, I wouldn’t completely discount it, and you should see if Mary has any connection to your Wright family. If not, then extend the search to similar illegitimate births in the relevant London districts.
This might be a case where an autosomal DNA test may hint at possible surnames to investigate, although it will still be a challenge to find her true origins.
This photograph of Tim’s grandparents, Alice and Thomas, was taken in around 1936 – but he can’t find Alice’s birth record
On her marriage record Alice names her father as William Lingham, and is using his surname – but who was her mother?