We should have spent the weekend doing boring domestic things like cleaning out cupboards and throwing away toot, or doing literary society work.
But we haven't.
The only domestic stuff I managed to do was (a) the regular paperwork and make sure the bills are paid and (b) to put together the Saturday and Sunday evening meals. That really isn't good enough considering the jumble-sale state of the house.
But did we care? Did we hell!
Instead we worked at cracking a couple of blockages in tracing my family history. We haven't cracked them but we have made progress and narrowed some of the options. In both cases this is down to two heads being better than one, and Noreen having a couple of brainwaves.
The two cases are totally unrelated; one in my father's family the other in my mother's. The former in Kent; the latter in London. But both at at the end of the 18th century and beginning of the 19th, so way before there are birth, marriage and death registrations or censuses to help much.
In my father's family I have a gg-grandfather the date of whose marriage I can't prove and whose parentage I can't prove. There is later census data which shows a string of children and there are death registrations for both gg-grandparents. I can't prove which of two candidates is my gg-grandfather: there are two guys with the same names, born to different parents, within 2 years (1805-1807) in the same village. Which of them was it who married my gg-grandmother? I cannot tell. At very best I have some extremely vague circumstantial evidence. (Note that at this date most parish records do not give the names of the bride's and groom's fathers.)
But Noreen did solve part of the puzzle over gg-grandfather's marriage. The marriage dates for my gg-grandparents don't fit with the string of children — several are born before the apparent marriage. Noreen said "I don't suppose he had two marriages?". And yes, from the baptism records, it looks as if he did and that my gg-grandmother was his second wife. The first half of the children are by his first wife; and my line descends from the youngest child of the second wife. And that puts the marriage in the right place on the timeline. I still can't prove it conclusively, but it looks likely.
This is going to be a case of go and hunt in the actual parish registers for the relevant villages and see if there are clues which aren't in the transcriptions.
Late-1930/early-1931. My father (centre) aged about 10, with his parents, younger brother and baby sister.
It's my grandfather's line I'm trying to fix.
[Apologies for the scan of a poor copy of a poor original!]
In the other case, on my mother's side, I have as good as fixed the problem gg-grandparents already, although corroboration would be nice. But I cannot fix my gg-grandmother's parents or their parents.
We have likely baptisms for the ggg-grandparents, and also ggg-grandfather's death. There appears to be a marriage, but the date is in doubt (by all of 10 years — choose 1822 or 1832!). 1822 is the more likely as the first child appears to be born in 1823. But by dint of diligent searching and some good guesswork we've managed to fix ggg-grandparents' family on the 1841 census which we couldn't previously and found a couple of their children who we didn't previously know about and who probably died prior to 1841.
That doesn't help unravel the problem of the gggg-grandparents although there are now a few clues to work on. And fortunately in this case we are looking at people with relatively uncommon surnames, but in London where many of the parish records aren't available online (yet).
But we have made progress. Again it is going to be a case of looking at the original parish registers of a couple of well known London churches to see what clues they can offer which the available transcriptions can't.
How do we do it? Basically I work as far as I can and draw out the options. In each case I then take Noreen through the case, outlining what I know and can prove, what we need to prove, and where there are conflicts or gaps. We then check the data together. And hunt together (or separately) other avenues which present themselves. We have ideas and hunches and try to prove (or disprove) them. And I do the same for Noreen's researches. One of us presents our case and the other acts as judge. When we agree a position we then both act as investigating magistrates.
Yes, it is hard work and it does need two brains on the problem. It has to be approached forensically. One needs to know the result is correct; I liken it to having to convince a court. Many people are far too slapdash and make assumed connections where there are none; too much of what I see others doing I can easily prove to be wrong. I have to be convinced beyond reasonable doubt.
And it's as annoying as hell not to be ale to crack the problems.
But it sure beats doing housework!