This is a remarkable story shared recently by one student on a recent Leicester family history beginners course.
I recently started my first WEA family history course at Leicester College and began tracing my family tree. It didn’t take long before I identified a problem on my mother’s side of the family. Whilst I found my mother, who died in 2011, I could not find any trace of my grandmother or great grandmother. I had always believed their Christian names were Dorothy and Margaret respectively, but I was unable to find any record for them.
I went on to try several variations of their names. I began with Dorothy, recalling that, as a child, I had always called her ‘Aunty Dot’. Having no-one else to ask I attempted to find other names that might have been shortened to ‘Dot’.
I knew her surname by marriage so I looked for marriages in her area with the name Butlin. Fortunately there were only a couple and only one that amtched her husband’s name, Roland. There was her names alongside – not Dorothy, but Doris. I could now set about seeking her details.
I had been told by a relative some years ago that she had died, but I could not find any such record in the death indexes after a considerable search. Just as I was about to give up I considered the possibility that she might still be alive: was it possible she was living in the same village? I decided to consult the electoral register for the village of Wolstan and found that at the age of 93 she was very much alive and still residing there.
On the off-chance that she might still be living at the same address, I drove over out of curiosity and called at the bungalow. We ended up having a long chat and she clarified why I could not find any record of her mother. It appears that she had not been Christened ‘Margaret’ but ‘Maggie’! This was the lead I needed.
My curiosity has led to my find out so much about my family history. I have found an elderly living close-relative and have been able to renew a once happy relationship with great pleasure. I will be visiting again with my wife to catch up on many lost years. Stephen Day
This wonderful story highlights the need to consider a range of possible spellings when searching for evidence for our ancestors. Family history is the kind of detective work which will often demand we ‘think outside the box’ and challenge family myths before simply accepting them. Well done Stephen!
This blog is about students and for students. If you have a story to tell about your family history or about how you overcame problems with research please send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org so it can be shared here.