I started researching my wife’s family tree in 2013 when we found out that her father, known to all as Peter John Cooper, had actually been born Thomas Peter John Lovegrove. There were all sorts of interesting family snippets to draw my interest as her mother was Swedish and they had met in Sweden during the war; we were also aware of the Lovegrove link through family stories so I decided it was time to put some solid facts behind the stories.
On the Swedish side I’d been able to get back as far as the early 1400s due to the amazingly detailed records they have over there. I’d also managed to trace my wife’s paternal grandmother’s family back as far as the early 1600s. But her father’s father remained just a name on a couple of certificates.
I could find very little information on John Lovegrove other than his name and a few possible addresses in the Reading area. There was a family rumour that he was actually the uncle of my wife’s grandmother but, despite there being Lovegroves on both sides of the family, I couldn’t find any concrete evidence to confirm the rumour. I’d searched various internet sites, countless forums, spent days in the local records office and even written to the local newspapers as well as trawling through their online archives; in short, I’d pursued every avenue I could think of.
I’d bought a copy of 'Who Do You Think You Are?' magazine and noticed that they had their own forum on their website. As it was a path that I hadn’t previously taken, I decided to post the details of my search and see what happened. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much as I’d spent so much time on so many forums that I’d grown used to people offering me information that I already knew in their kind attempts to help. What I wasn’t expecting, was a reference to a John Lovegrove in the London Electoral registers and details of a possible marriage and daughter. Several follow up responses had further details as well as similar information but with Francis George Lovegrove as the protagonist, not John. Looking outside of the Reading area had seemed far too daunting a task as I didn’t think that there would be any way of confirming any details that I’d found and my previous attempts had all ended in uncertainty or just plain dead ends.
I already had a lot of information about Francis George Lovegrove as he was, indeed, my wife’s grandmother’s uncle; but I had discounted him because I’d assumed he was too old to be the person on the certificates that I had for my wife’s father’s birth and the marriage of her grandparents. However, once I started looking at him more closely, I started to realise that the pieces fit together. On the wedding certificate (1920) it stated that John Lovegrove’s father was called Thomas, was dead and was a painter and decorator; Francis George Lovegrove’s father was called Thomas, was a painter and decorator and had died in 1918. Other forum responses showed that John Lovegrove had married in 1925 (he’d disappeared from my radar in 1923) and had a daughter called Rita Lovegrove. Rita had gone on to marry a Jamaican immigrant called Clyde Blake with John Lovegrove listed as her father on the marriage entry. Later London Electoral register entries showed John Lovegrove living with Rita and Clyde Blake but then, sometime in the 1950s, the registry entries showed Francis George Lovegrove living with Rita and Clyde. A final link came after I’d trawled through hundreds of newspaper cutting for the Reading Mercury and discovered details of a magistrates appearance by a John Lovegrove of 38 Grange Avenue, Reading (he and a group of lads had ‘damaged a hayrick’) as this was the same address as Francis George Lovegrove, whose father was called Thomas Lovegrove and who had no brother called John; the age and address both matched! The forum then provided another snippet of information as John Lovegrove had listed his next of kin as Thomas Lovegrove of 38 Grange Avenue when he enlisted for his military service.
At first, there was some disbelief; I’d spent more than 3 years looking for this person and he’d been right under my nose all this time! But then I started backtracking through my earlier research notes and going over everything that I had on Francis George Lovegrove and soon started to realise that the answers had been there all along. I discovered that I’d made one huge error as Frances George Lovegrove had a cousin called Frank George Lovegrove who not only lived in the same area but also went to the same school. Frank George Lovegrove served in the Royal Berkshire Regiment and had been killed in WW1 and I’d wrongly attributed this to Francis George (who was in the Hampshire Regiment). I felt foolish, but at the same time elated as I knew I’d finally managed to fit the pieces into place and solve the puzzle of John Lovegrove’s identity.
Ironically, the fact that he was indeed the uncle of my wife’s grandmother didn’t seem to matter that much at all; it was nice to be able to confirm the rumours but the past, as they say, is another country. I’ve yet to find out if the marriage was annulled as I think that will involve a trip up to the National Records Office in Kew, but it’s definitely on my to do list.
It turns out that even official records can be wrong sometimes, and not just due to inaccurate transcriptions. John Lovegrove gave a different date of birth on several occasions and even his name was changed by common usage.
Mostly though I learned that, whilst genealogy can be both fascinating and frustrating, it’s also highly addictive. So never give up! By all means step away from your research completely for a period, pursue other branches of your tree or research other individuals, but never stop trying; and use every available resource that you can think of. Also, talk to your living relatives while you still have the opportunity.
(Extracted from article first published in the April 2018 issue of WDYTYA magazine)