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I’ve hit a brick wall and don’t know what to do next

34 replies

Snuzzle · 31/01/2022 15:09

I’m researching my great grandma and I’ve found two marriage certificates for her but can’t find out anything about her first husband or what happened to him.
I have his age and fathers name on their marriage certificate but can’t seem to track him on any earlier census to find out where he came from. They married in 1905 and on the 1911 census she’s visiting her sister and listed as married but again I can’t find him anywhere. Then in 1913 she married her second husband but yet again can’t find any record of what happened to her first husband.
Feel like I’ve exhausted the census records and don’t know where else to look, does anyone have any suggestions please?

OP posts:
Saker · 31/01/2022 18:26

I presume you've looked at death records? Also for different spellings of the name etc. Another thing might be to look at wills and probate. I always like a challenge and I am happy to have a look too if you want to post the names or PM me.

Snuzzle · 31/01/2022 20:50

Thanks @Saker happy to post names.

He is Albert Edward Webster born 1883 father was Eli(deceased) according to the marriage certificate. He married Ellen Grange in 1905 at Guisborough registry office.
I’ve found birth and death records for 2 children but can’t find any other records for him and then she married her second husband in 1913

Any help would be amazing

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Snuzzle · 31/01/2022 21:00

I’m not 100% on his birth year, only going on his age at marriage but I know Ellen lied about her age on the certificate so his may not be right.
His father was a farm labourer but I’ve got no clues to where they came from as his address on the certificate is her sisters address.
Have searched birth and death records so many times and got nowhere.

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whiteroseredrose · 31/01/2022 23:13

Hi. It may be worth searching a different provider.

I am mainly with Ancestry but have searched Find My Past when they have free access weekends.

For example I was able to find my GGF on the 1901 census on FMP but not on Ancestry - the same census. No idea why.

Plus they have slightly different data sets.

See if you can look at earlier censuses for family names eg brothers and sisters and try searching for them.

Names vary widely, as do ages. One relative's name is Soames, Somes, Soams in different censuses and his age is out by 10 years in one census. You may want to widen your search.

You could also try Parish Records - maybe at a local history centre, as not everything has been transcribed.

Or maybe buy the actual certificates for more information.

FMP also includes old newspapers. You may find a death announcement or obituary.

Rebeccasmoonnecklace · 31/01/2022 23:24

Have you checked Military records for him?

Snuzzle · 01/02/2022 07:08

I’ve checked military records but don’t really have enough info about him to help.

Can’t find him in local parish records but have no idea where he was from originally.

Birth records on various sites show 10 with his name and I’ve checked census records for them all. Only one has a father with the correct name but the father is still alive in 1911 and according to the marriage certificate his father was deceased by 1905.

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Saker · 01/02/2022 07:35

I've had a look too, and I agree it is really hard to find anything about him. Is the census record you found and ruled out, the 1891 one from the Loughborough area? Eli is the father and Albert is the right age son, though Eli is marked as a newsagent not a labourer.
Is there any information on the marriage certificate about witnesses - no possible siblings? Also what is the profession of Albert on the marriage certificate?

Snuzzle · 01/02/2022 09:55

@Saker yes that’s the one I’ve ruled out because the father is still alive after 1905.

One of the witnesses is her sister and the other is a R Robson so no clues from that.

Albert is an ironstone miner probably in a mine in Brotton as they listed a street in Brotton as their address - this is either her sisters or step fathers address.

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Saker · 01/02/2022 11:45

I'm sorry I really can't find anything! It never ceases to amaze me how there can only seem to be one single record for somebody - you can understand some going missing or being misspelt or mistranscribed, but not all of them! Especially with a name like Webster which is easy to spell and read and not so likely to have loads of different spellings. If the census is right, then he must of died in a very limited period 1911 to 1913, and as she stays in the area, you would think he would have died there too, even if he wasn't born there originally.

I see that her sister's husband is also a miner of the same age and I wonder if Albert was a friend of their family or even a lodger so he might have been living there at the time of the wedding. I also see that her sister's husband's parents originally come from Cornwall and Lincolnshire so it's possible families were moving into the area to work in the mines. A lot of my relatives came from the West Country but moved to become miners in Wales during this period. Also my great grandfather was illegitimate and used his grandfather's name on his marriage certificate, so that is a possibility - that Eli isn't Albert's father but his grandfather. I keep turning it over in my mind to see if I can come up with any other angles! But you have obviously been very thorough. Smile

Snuzzle · 01/02/2022 12:27

@Saker thanks for looking, he really does seem impossible to find. I did find one census record for 1901 that I wondered about. He’s living in Scarborough and listed as born in Canada approx 1884. I’m thinking with there being no other records at all maybe he came from elsewhere and potentially even went back there sometime between 1910 and 1913. There’s no place in Canada named though and I wouldn’t know where to start with international records.

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Saker · 01/02/2022 12:40

Certainly coming from abroad would explain the lack of records. However, if he didn't die, then it's quite a big thing that Ellen remarried. It would be bigamous, but I suppose it's possible if she knew he was never coming back. I wondered about prison or mental asylum or something like that as well.

Snuzzle · 01/02/2022 12:56

It is but knowing her history I wouldn’t be surprised.
She lied about her age and said she was 21 on her first marriage certificate when she was actually 19.
Her second marriage certificate lists her as a spinster and her father as John Webster deceased so we believe she never told her second husband she’d already been married.
She also had an affair during the war with an American serviceman and had a child with him while her second husband was away.
So nothing would surprise us now regarding her.

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Selford · 01/02/2022 13:13

Can you tell from the birth of the first child if it was a shotgun wedding? I'm wondering if he had moved for work and met Ellen and if he gave a false name (possibly because he was already married). I know this was illegal, but it doesn't mean it didn't ever happen. (Sorry to think the worst, I'm wracking my brains for avenues you haven't already explored.) And it's possibly he lied about his father being dead because he didn't want Ellen meeting his family (or even that the vicar made a mistake and e.g. it was the previous wedding that day where the father was deceased)

Re Canada, a general Ancestry search would normally bring up immigration/passenger lists (both inbound and outbound). Although it might be worth drilling down to them specifically and seeing if he crops up.

And is it worth trying to find his father? Eli is a more unusual name than Alfred Edward, although obv Webster is pretty common. I've just done a quick check for a 10-year marriage period (I don't currently have any subscriptions) and there weren't a ridiculous number. You would then have a location to find a birth record for Albert Edward (it could have been wrongly transcribed).

Selford · 01/02/2022 13:17

I've realised I assumed they had children, but having re-read your OP, I'm guessing you're descended from the second marriage, so not a shotgun marriage, and prob less likely to have been already married.

movingschmooving · 01/02/2022 13:23

Travel records??

Snuzzle · 01/02/2022 13:24

I’m descended from the second marriage but there were two children who both died at birth as far as I can tell. They were born 1907 and 1910 though so not likely to be a shotgun wedding.
Ellen was the last of 4 sisters to marry and both their parents were dead so we do think perhaps she was eager to marry and get away from her step fathers house.
Definitely worth another search for Eli as I would like to track what happened to Albert if possible.

OP posts:
Saker · 01/02/2022 14:44

I have searched quite hard for Eli on the basis that it is a less common name, but not really found anything. Gosh from what you say it seems quite likely that her Albert Edward might not have been dead when she remarried! I haven't really been looking for him beyond 1913 assuming he was, but maybe he just carried on living nearby all along!

ShowOfHands · 01/02/2022 14:58

I've helped out a couple of people who've contacted me re a common ancestor who they've been baffled by and in my case, it's only having oral histories and correspondence preserved by a diligent Victoria granny that meant I could help.

I have a couple of relatives who've simply changed their name (one because she was abandoned by her husband and couldn't divorce but met somebody else and wished to live as man and wife. Another who found out he was born to an unmarried mother in the workhouse and decided to use her name from then on). Throw in some time in workhouses, running away to other countries, military enlistment and emigration and some of my relatives appear missing from official records until you know where to look and what you're looking for. They also like to use the names they were actually known by on official records. Hence my Uncle Will (102 when I was born in 1980) who nobody knew was actually called John and Aunt Nance whose really called Miriam and then there's all the misspellings and transcribing errors.

Are there any family tree matches anywhere because somebody out there might know.

I love a puzzle but it's flipping frustrating.

ShowOfHands · 01/02/2022 14:59


Saker · 01/02/2022 15:17

There's an Albert E Webster who married Margaret A Murphy in 1918 in Middlesbrough. Perhaps they were both at it?

Gastonia · 01/02/2022 15:49

Looking at the two children who died, do you have their birth and death certificates, with the place of death? For Nellie who died in 1910, you could look up who is living at that address in 1911.

Why was the first called Norman John? Were they family names? It seems strange that then the second child is then called Nellie, after the mum, but the first child wasn’t named after Albert. Had Albert already left, perhaps even before Norman was born? Then Nellie was really someone else’s child.

Where did she get married the second time? If it was in Guisborough, and he had died, why not say she was a widow? It’s more likely he had left and she didn't know whether he was dead or alive.

Gastonia · 01/02/2022 15:52

Looking at the first wedding, if you were going to lie about your father's name, you would be more likely to say his name was a common one - eg John. Why make up a more unusual name like Eli?

Maybe Eli is his father's name - perhaps short for something. But maybe Webster is wrong. eg the Anglicised name of a Jewish name? Or maybe he is the person you found, whose father is still alive.

ShowOfHands · 01/02/2022 16:03

There's an Albert Wester with a matching birth date who is listed as a habitual criminal in Yorkshire. Serves time and uses an alias according to the records.

Not saying it is him BTW but I had never seen a habitual criminals list when researching before!

Snuzzle · 01/02/2022 16:12

@Saker lol I wouldn’t be surprised at this point.

Norman isn’t a family name on Ellen’s side so no idea where that comes from but John was her fathers name.
I haven’t seen birth or death certificates for either child only the parish records which both list Albert as their father. Will have to try ordering the certificates and see if they say any different.

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Snuzzle · 01/02/2022 16:22

@Gastonia the second wedding took place at Brotton parish church.
I don’t think her second husband knew about her previous marriage - her children definitely didn’t though her 3 sisters all did.

I think the address listed on the record for Nellie was her sisters house so not a huge help, I’ll have to dig it out and check though.

I have to agree it’s most likely he’d left and she didn’t know where he was or if he was still alive but it’s very frustrating not being able to find him.

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