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From bigamy to the Boer War, we an­swer your ques­tions

QMy great great grand­fa­ther Wil­liam Bird was born c1801. In the 1861 cen­sus, he is listed as born “on sea, Bri­tish Sub­ject”, but the 1851 cen­sus just reads “NH” (?) un­der the place of birth. Wil­liam lived in Hadley, Shrop­shire, un­til his death in 1871, mar­ry­ing Emma Bird (1793–1854?) in 1838 at Hadley Church and go­ing on to have eight chil­dren.

I have searched in vain for a record to give me an idea as to who his par­ents were. Is there any way I can find out more about his par­ents and pos­si­ble sib­lings?

He could pos­si­bly have been born on his way back from Ire­land (fa­ther look­ing for work?). Due to the state of the roads then, did they take a ship from Liver­pool to Ch­ester to re­duce the dis­com­fort his mother would have felt, as she must have been near to giv­ing birth?

Jan Johnstone

A‘Mar­riage records for his chil­dren may name cousins as wit­nesses’

Since Wil­liam and Emma had four chil­dren bap­tised be­tween 1825 and 1831 in the parish of Welling­ton, which in­cludes the town­ship of Hadley, 1838 seems too late for mar­riage. He is more likely to have been the Wil­liam Bird who mar­ried Emma Cor­bett in 1822 in All Saints Church, Welling­ton. This was be­fore the in­tro­duc­tion of civil reg­is­tra­tion in 1837, and the mar­riage record doesn’t give his fa­ther’s name.

The word­ing on the 1851 cen­sus re­turn is “NK” – “not known” – al­though the 1841 cen­sus lists Wil­liam as born in Shrop­shire. There are no pas­sen­ger lists for travel from Bri­tain to Ire­land and vice versa, be­cause these jour­neys were within the UK. The same ap­plies to jour­neys from Liver­pool to Ch­ester. Also, your great great grand­fa­ther is not in­cluded in the col­lec­tions of over­seas births and bap­tisms on find­my­past.co.uk.

The Shrop­shire Fam­ily His­tory So­ci­ety (SFHS; sfhs.org.uk) has pub­lished the 1821 Welling­ton cen­sus, with the names and ages of more than 8,000 in­hab­i­tants. Wil­liam may have been liv­ing there then with his par­ents. You could also search the cen­sus for Wil­liam’s chil­dren from 1851 on­wards, which may show them vis­it­ing rel­a­tives; mar­riage records for his chil­dren, which may name cousins as wit­nesses; me­mo­rial inscriptions for Hadley (the SFHS has an on­line data­base); mil­i­tary or naval records for Wil­liam or pos­si­ble rel­a­tives; wills for Birds who lived in the Welling­ton area; or other Bird births, mar­riages and deaths in Shrop­shire that may help you to find Wil­liam’s par­ents and pos­si­ble sib­lings. Alan Ste­wart

Wil­liam Bird’s grand­son, Isaac (1876–1949), with his wife Martha and their daugh­ter Ethel. Isaac might not have known where Wil­liam was born

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