Who Do You Think You Are?

‘Another Reader Helped Me Solve My Mystery’

Annabelle Long had been searching for her great great grandfathe­r William Chard for 26 years. An inquiry to our ‘Q&A’ section led to fascinatin­g discoverie­s about his double life, says Gail Dixon


Divorce was almost unheard of in 19thcentur­y Britain, and highly scandalous. An Act of Parliament was required to approve each petition, and the process was costly and time-consuming. As a result, many couples who fell out of love stayed married but cohabited with new partners.

This was not always the case, however, and multiple marriages can lead to confusion for family historians. The truth behind such a mystery can be astonishin­g, as Annabelle Long has discovered.

My Brick Wall

In 2019, I wrote to WDYTYA? Magazine about a conundrum that had fascinated me for 26 years. It centred on my great great grandfathe­r William Chard, a labourer born in the Somerset village of Ston Easton in 1832.

I knew that William married my great great grandmothe­r Mary Gibbons in Wells, Somerset, in 1862. Intriguing­ly, they married in the register office, which was an unpopular choice at the time.

William stated that he was a bachelor and Mary was a spinster. They lived in Bridgehamp­ton, not far from Yeovilton, and had four sons including my great grandfathe­r Henry Chard.

The conundrum arose just after I started researchin­g my tree in the early 1990s. I was contacted by fellow researcher­s who were also interested in the Chards.

I was very perplexed to receive

ANNABELLE LONG, seen here with her mother Stella, lives in Bridgwater in Somerset. She has been researchin­g her tree for 30 years details of William Chard’s marriage to Emma Moore Barry in 1857. The couple got married in High Littleton, Somerset, and William gave his father’s name as Richard Chard, labourer. This matched the details on the register office certificat­e from William’s marriage to Mary in 1862.

I was sure William was the groom at both marriages, but I couldn’t find a death record for Emma Moore Barry until 1866. Had their marriage been annulled because William was convicted of theft in 1858 and imprisoned?

The web became even more tangled when I discovered that Emma Moore Barry had a child called William Charles Chard. He was born in July 1863, 10 months after William senior married

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