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Anthony Adolph, professional genealogistWelcome to the Genes Reunited web chat, where you can get help and advice from our resident genealogist and expert family historian, Anthony Adolph. To find out more about Anthony click here.

Thanks again to Anthony and everyone who joined in on the sessions so far.

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Name Date
Doreen Dowall 18/12/2012 21:10:32

Hi Anthony, my great great grandfather was born in Danzig, Prussia in 1823. He was a Ship Master and married in Greenock, Renfrewshire in 1857. At that time both his parents were deceased. I would love to get a copy of his birth certificate and find out more about his parents and whether he had any siblings. His father was also a Ship Master. I am a fairly experienced genealogist, but have really hit a brick wall. Any suggestions as to how I can access information or records? Many thanks.

You'll know that you will gain further coordinates on the parents' names from the Scottish death record of your great great grandfather. Thereafter, you will need to use the records in Danzig (Gdansk, Poland). There would probably have been detailed birth, marriage and death records there kept by the town, and there would also be church registers there, and as a shipmaster the father may also have been a burgher of the town, so there is a lot of potential there - it all depends what has survived and how easy it is to gain access to it - you could go yourself or engage a local genealogist.

Andrew Bromley 18/12/2012 21:07:17

Hello Anthony I have traced the Bromley side of my tree to my 4xGreatgrandfather William How Bromley born 1781 london. His christening record shows his father as Edward Bromley,mother Jane,Edward was a Dyer by trade but there is no record so far to search his birth. How can i research further.?

Births only started being recorded systematically in July 1837, so before then we must rely on baptisms. The next step would be to seek baptisms f other children of this couple, and then the marriage of the parents - and no, there is not always a fail-safe method of knowing that a marriage you have found is the right one. Context is everything. If you are lucky, the clue in this case will be in the son's name and perhaps Jane was Jane How.

Sally Grant 18/12/2012 21:01:09

My great great grandparents were born in Hull, Yorkshire and lived there all their lives. They married in 1831 and by the time of the 1841 census they'd had 5 children but four of them died over a period of two weeks in December 1839, at least one (and probably all) of them from Scarlet Fever. Between 1840 and 1851 they had at least four more children but I have searched every conceivable online resource under every possible variant of their surname 'Revell', including wildcard searches, and can find no record of their births (around 1840, 1843 and 1847) except for their last child in 1851 (my great grandmother). The 1851 and subsequent censuses show the whole family was born in Hull. G-g-grandfather was a mariner. Any ideas? Do you know of any gaps in the Hull records?

I know of no particular faults in the Hull records, no: some children (anywhere) were not registered in those early years of General Registration (it started in 1837) but as you say they might be under a variant., I remember a study of this surname years ago - a book by Cecil Humphery-Smith about High Revel, Master of the Hospitallers in the Middle Ages, which included quite a lot about variant spellings, including Renell (perhaps even Reynolds), as 'n' and 'v' are very easily misread.

Sally Grant 18/12/2012 21:00:29

I wonder whether you can suggest a reason for the following scenario. My great great granddfather was born illegitimately. His name was Robert B*. His mother married when he was less than 2 years old to a man called Thomas M*, a small farmer. They had four children together. On the 1841 census g-g-grandfather was an agricultural labourer working about 10 miles away from his home town and was recorded as Robert M*. By 1851 he had married Mary and appeared as Robert B* as he did in 1861. Robert's stepfather, Thomas M*, died around March 1861 and his mother died in 1873. In 1871 he appeared as Robert M*, in 1881 as Robert B* and in 1891 as Robert M*. The only unusual thing about the 1881 census is that he was being visited by his half-sister who was a child of his mother with Thomas M*. It almost seems as if he was hiding from her the fact that he had been using her father's (his stepfather's) surname. Robert and Mary had four sons. Robert died in 1892. His wife and two of his sons continued to use the surname M* for the rest of their lives but his other two sons, including my great grandfather, moved away from home in their youth and used their birth surname of B* throughout. Birth, marriage and death records for the whole family are officially recorded under the surname of B* with the exception of one of the sons whose two marriages (1873 and 1891) and death (1908) are recorded under the surname M*. The family origins were in North Yorkshire.

That's not unusual at all. People can use any surname they like: there are no rules telling us what we can and cannot do in that respect, and illegitimate children brought up by married mothers often ended up being called by their step-fathers' surnames. Then in the records you may see them using (or being called by) the surname they were used to using, or, at other times, by the surname with which they were actually born. Sometimes, both surnames got clumped together as an alias, B alias M, though not apparently in this case. Bear in mind that Thomas M could always, actually, have been the real father of Robert B.

Lesley Brooks 20/11/2012 22:02:57

Hi Anthony, On the 1911 census my Great Aunt's father in law Edward Whiting b1844 at Avoning, Gloucester, a retired Shepherd, Lived with his family at Garden Street, Leek, Staffordshire. The mystery is that on the census form it has Tyrone Power, visitor, aged 46, married, Occupation Theatrical, born London. also Kate Power, 36, Theatrical, born Leicester. It doesn't seem possible that this could be the real actors, could it ? what do you think. Thanks, Lesley

I think it is highly likely that they were actors. In the days before television there were a lot of them around, touring about and of course having to find board and lodging wherever they were playing. 'Tyrone Power' sounds like the sort of name an actor would choose, too!

SHARON MCLAUGHLIN 20/11/2012 21:53:03

Hi Anthony, The Neal McConaghy i am looking for was Roman Catholic, and as for the spelling, that is the way his name is spelled in all his childrens birth records including his marriage record

The Catholic records are more likely to have survived, so you are lucky. Neal's name may have been spelled consistently on all the records you have seen and might be spelled so on the ones you haven't, such as his elusive baptism. My point is that you should be aware of possible spelling variants, and look out for them.

Mary Skeffington 20/11/2012 21:44:39

Hi again, am helping my friend with her fascinating tree her grandmothers family originate from Spain, what would your advice be on tracing old Spanish records - ( one family story dates the family in Spain in the 14th Century!!) I am sure we will have to visit Spain at some point, but is there anything online that would start us off meanwhile ? so far my tree has only involved UK and Irish records - so I'm not too sure where to start with this !

There is a lot on this website for English and Welsh research - the building blocks are the censuses and birth, marriage and death indexes (using which you can order the certificates). My books (see explain research here and in Ireland. If the family were Spanish nobility then there are plenty of pedigrees in print - the Society of Genealogists in London has a fine collection. Otherwise you will need local records - mayor's records and church records. If you are so inclined, a visit to the relevant place in Spain would be the best way to kick start things. ,

Thomas Byers 20/11/2012 21:33:29

hi can you tell me if you can research the birth of my six times grandad , peter Byers born 1825 approx in Scotland checked with Scotland but no birth found can you help me find his true birth place ,please,please.

I can certainly undertake research - if you contact me privately at I'd be happy to give a quote. A problem in Scotland before 1855 when General Registration started is that not all children were baptised. If no baptism can be found, you have to be clever in finding ways around the problem. One is seeking deaths - Peter's death record should name his parents and if they died after 1855 then you can seek their deaths and learn their parents' names too.

wendy dunham 20/11/2012 21:29:33

grandfather surname changed between age 6 and 16 but still living with his parents

That's interesting but can you tell me a little more. Is your question simply why such a thing might happen? It all depends on the context.

SHARON MCLAUGHLIN 20/11/2012 21:27:29

Hi Anthony, I am trying to find a birth record for my ggg grandfather Neal McConaghy, born Antrim C1839. I have been to PRONI in Belfast as you suggested previously, but there are no records of Neal except his Marriage to Margaret Ann WilliamsonI in 1868 I was also hoping to find the names of Neals parents but unfortunately they were not named on the marriage cert. Is there anywhere else i can look for his Birth record?

The father's names should appear on an Irish General Registration marriage record of that date, which makes me wonder what you have been looking at. Births started being registered in Ireland in 1864, and before that you have to look for baptisms in church registers (the PRONI being a good place to start). Many Protestant ones have been lost and some Catholic ones don't start that (relatively) early - you just have to work out the right denomination and search the most likely, There are many possible spellings variants here, such as Neil Connachy or Niall M'Connahy.

Jan Seymour 20/11/2012 21:26:07

Hi Anthony. On my gr-gr-grandmother's death certificate, a coroner's report stated that she died "of peritonitis as the result of a fall whilst in a pregnant state". I would like to find out more, but how do I obtain a coroner's report from 1870? I have trawled through numerous newspaper reports for information on inquests in London, but cannot find anything. Any advice would be welcome. Thank you.

Newspaper reports are always the best place to look in the first instance, but if you have had no success then you can try coroner's reports. Those over 75 years old which have survived are usually to be found in the relevant county record office (so you could try the London Metropolitan Archives in the first instance) and their whereabouts is detailed in J Gibson and C. Rogers’, Coroners’ Records in England and Wales (FFHS, 1997).

Dawn Beattie 20/11/2012 21:17:16

Hi Anthony, Ive managed to get my great granddads birth certificate but his fathers name is not who most of the family think is his father. Ive also been told this name is wrong, been told his mother had an affair with 2 guys around the same time and its more likley that charley is great granddads father but he disappeared when the lady said she was pregnant so the 2nd guy George was forced to put his name as the father. Is there anything anyone can do to change the entry or do we have to leave it as it is? Dawn

An interesting question there. No, you won't be able to have a record changed so many years after the event, and in any case you presumably don't have absolutely cast iron, 100% evidence that the record is wrong anyway. Luckily, this website connects up so many people who are tracing family trees that anyone tracing back to those ancestors will find you and you will be able to set them straight.

Teresa Champ 20/11/2012 21:11:33

Hi Anthony.I am researching my partners family.He was adopted as a baby in 1950 by Annie&John Watson Glasgow scotland. and he found out when he was 36yrs old. he sought the help of Birthlink ,they found out he had half brother and sisters. His mother had passed . On his adoption papers it stated that the putative father was William Thomson aged 42yrs and was an engineer and a widower.Area was in Glasgow.He had an elder sister who remembered a baby brother being adopted .My partner didnt get to meet her as she passeed away but her daughter said that her mum remembered his father and that he had been a friend of her mum and the family . but that was all we have to go on . Do you think there is anywhere we could look to try and find anymore information. It has been suggested that perhaps the council in Glasgow as it was council property that his birth mother lived ,to try check if he was local ???other than that I am stuck what to try next . . ?

It's really bad luck with the father had such a popular combination of names. That does not make things impossible, but it will simply be much harder to find the right person. You have some good clues. You can seek all possible marriages of all possible William Thomsons (limiting the search initially to Glasgow, and with your fingers crossed) to see which were the right age, and which were engineers, and then see which had a wife who died before he reached 42. You could then trace down to children of that marriage and seek living relatives. A simple DNA test would prove you had found the right family.

Mary Skeffington 20/11/2012 21:03:23

Hi Anthony, On finding my great grandparents on the 1891 census, I was hopeful of finding an address , as the village in Gloucester is still there and we have previously visited. Sadly all the census reveals is the schedule number, with the Civil Parish, Village, and road/street/house name all being named as “Naunton” No Borough or Ward is named. Was this a normal thing on Census records ? did people just have an address listed as “x village” ? or is it possible to ever find out where a family actually resided within a small community ?

This was the period when the Post Office was trying to regiment addresses, but in small villages most houses were simply known by reference to their occupants. Arm yourself with a contemporary map and the village's rate books and other censuses: rate collectors and census enumerators usually followed the same route around, and sometimes you can work out who was where by counting up and down from fixed points such as the rectory, pubs which are still there, butchers (the butcher's block was pretty immovable) and so on. Needless to say, any local historians, or people in the village who have traced their house's own history would be invaluable contacts to make.

Jane Morris 20/11/2012 21:02:39

Hi Anthony I am helping a friend with her family tree and having got back to 1729 the biggest mystery lies with her grandfather who was born George Walker 1868 Wymeswold, Leicestershire who was a surgeon during WWI in the Royal Navy. He married Eily Eltham in 1918 and had a son, Robert George Walker in 1919 (both registered in Croydon) He died mysteriously around 1924/25 when Robert was four or five and here is where we are stuck! (Rumour has it he fell or jumped under a train!). We have no idea where he lived, where he died and can find no record of a Dr. George Walker in or around Croydon (as far as our limited access to records goes anyway!). His wife Eily, remarried in 1932 also in the Croydon area, so assume George stayed around there until his death. Not knowing the address obviously makes looking at electoral rolls difficult. Is it easy to find Navy records for WWI also? Any advice would be much appreciated Anthony.

As a surgeon, George Walker will appear in the annual published Medical Registers, and he should also appear in the Navy Lists for the period when he served in the First World War (there are copies in the Society of Genealogists and it wouldn't surprise me if many are now on line on FindMyPast or Ancestry). George's disappearance from the Medical Registers former may indicate when he died, or as you know George's age it shouldn't be that hard to find a George Walker death of the right age, but if he died away from Croydon you may have some possibilities to sift through. A short-cut would be seeking a will in the annual probate indexes of the Principal Probate Registry and there may be a newspaper report (you could try the newspapers which are indexed on this site).

Jacqueline Hotston 20/11/2012 21:01:56

Hi Anthony My grandmother has no birth certificate or registration details under the family name of Johnson and neither do three (at least) of her siblings, although they were christened under the parents names of Henry and Mary Ann Johnson. I think they were registered as Morris (but that could be a coincidence as they all had common names for the time.) My great grandparents died in 1945 and 1950 (but I can find no marriage certificate for them) and my grandmother in 1957. How do I find out if one of them was abandoned and living together with another person. I have tried to trace back Mary Ann and have got as far as 1898 when George James, Dorothie Nellie, Mabel Harriet and Winifred Alice were christened in Leamington Spa. In the 1901 census they were living in Coventry with an addition to the family who as far as I can see(I have not sent for her b/c) was registered as a Johnson. Ten years later they were living on the Isle of Wight (more Johnson additions) and moved to Bognor Regis. I have tried to trace her back from her estimated dob (1866 in the 1911 census) but there were no Mary Ann's for that year so I have traced many for 1867 but am getting bogged down. The children's place of birth tends to change with each census so I think my g grandmother may have had a reason for her deviousness but I would like to make sure I have my grandmother's correct birth certificate and her mother's maiden name. Thank you

You've outlined a confusing situation here, but part of the problem is that you don't have the birth certificates. I know they are relatively expensive - £9.25 each, and it is immensely frustrating when you buy one that turns out not to be true, but they are the essential building blocks of family trees, and by obtaining the relevant ones a lot of your quandries and problems should disappear.

Brenda Bobbett 16/10/2012 22:02:10

I tried apprentiships not sure about trade directories where would i find them please. Brenda

In the Society of Genealogists or the archives in Bristol..

Sharon McLaughlin 16/10/2012 21:59:29

Hi Anthony, i'm trying to find a marriage record for a Neal and Margaret Ann McConaghy,(Maiden surname Williamson) both from Antrim,Northern Ireland, tried ancestry etc but found nothing, Any suggestions? Thank you

What you want is not on Ancestry, but the records are all in the Northern Irish archives. A trip to Belfast is what you want.

Margaret Taylor 16/10/2012 21:59:07

Thanks for the advice, I did wonder if that were the case so will do as you say and see if I strike lucky.

The very best of luck to you and everyone out there who is missing a male ancestor. Cherchez l'homme!

Brenda Bobbett 16/10/2012 21:58:27

Just had another thought, surely there would have been a birth certificate , i suppose MUM could have married by 1851 and changing George's surname but why would he revert to her maiden name of Bobbett when married. Sorry to be a pest Brenda

Or MUM could have married a Bobbett and her existing child George became Bobbett as a result....