Found in 1911
The 1911 census has solved one of my long outstanding mysteries. I clicked on the request for other members of the household of my great grandmother’s sister, Harriet, and there was an older Harriet there too – it HAD to be their mother, aged 70! That branch is largely made up of agricultural labourers from Warwickshire and I was intrigued to see from the family bible that my great grandmother was born near Swindon.
I reported all this to my father, but he was more interested in the tradition that his grandmother had been in the workhouse as a child. Was there any truth to this? He had been told that his grandfather, having a baby nephew to look after, had walked up and down the line of young women at the workhouse, and selected my great grandmother to bring up the child. My eyes were as round as saucers on hearing this story, already over a century old.
Gradually, I’ve added more facts. My great grandmother married at the age of 17 when her husband was nearly 30. The workhouse records came online in the 1990s and there were my great grandmother and her mother in 1881. Where was her sister? When I began to read message boards the importance of looking at witnesses on marriage certificates was stressed and prompted me to look again over mine and there was her sister, named in full, still with her maiden name. A cousin pointed out their father’s death certificate. He was killed on the railway near Swindon when the children were aged 4 and 2.
I emailed the archivist holding the workhouse records, to find out whether their mother had died there, since it seemed impossible to locate her after 1881. She confirmed that there were no records of departure from the workhouse, so no clue as to when the mother would have left. However, she was able to say that there was no record of their mother having died in the workhouse, so I knew it might still be possible to find her at a later date.
However, after nearly twenty years of fruitless searching, it was a genuine shock to find her, alive and well in 1911, with a new surname. A hasty check of the 1891/1901 census returns and the marriage indexes quickly located my great x2 grandmother with her second husband, running a village post office with him. I shall be watching the second series of 'Lark Rise to Candleford' with renewed interest!"
Moulting Owl© Moulting Owl 2009