Can you solve this adop­tion puz­zle?

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

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 ances­,

find­my­ and my­her­ 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?

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