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Sometimes the family knows best, but only sometimes

Discussion in 'Search tips - discussion' started by Bob Spiers, Oct 27, 2016.

  1. Bob Spiers

    Bob Spiers LostCousins Superstar

    As a general rule good Genealogical research will outstrip family knowledge, especially as you get further back in time. Indeed, even closer to home on a time scale, when information unearthed runs contrary to family hand-me-down information and legend. However, sometimes the tables are turned and this happened to me last week.

    As I often mention in posts, I greatly enjoy investigating family ancestry for friends who, in their own words, haven’t a clue about their Grandparents or Great Grandparents. I tackled one such back in the summer given only his mother’s maiden name, the year she was born, and where. He knew his paternal grandparents (sort of) but neither he nor his sister knew anything of their maternal grandparents. However, the sister said she thought she knew the maiden name of their Grandmother which I found pleasing knowing how much easier the job would be to trace the family. Of course it did help, but not as intended as I shall relate.

    I shall change the two surnames (to protect the innocent Mam!) and advise I had to seek a Goose marrying a Gander and look for Goose children. His mother was Norma Goose born 1924 in (shall we say) Coventry. So (post 1913) the mother’s maiden name would almost certainly be shown. A simple FMP Birth registration for Goose children with a Gander mother; a year range of 1928 (+/- 10 years) and Coventry should do the trick; and if did. Just ONE cast iron result of Goose/Gander combination showing 7 children (one of them Norma) all born Coventry; time range 1919 up to 1934. They married in Coventry in 1919. Bingo.

    I showed them the names of the children and between them they instantly recognised Uncle Charles & Aunt Beatrice, their mother of course, and vaguely one other named Arthur. The remainder were unknown but they accepted I had indeed found the family. So it was simple matter to identify their Grandparents via a marriage as Arthur Goose and Mildred Gander and via the 1911 Census both sets of Great Grandparents.

    A month or so later I produced a simple Genopro Chart plus various printouts which they gratefully accepted. So I could relax with a job well done; except this week came the bombshell via an email.

    We have learned via cousins and from an elderly Aunt who we though had died, that our Grandfather was Charles Goose married to an Eliza Gander. Yes 4 of the children you identified were correct and possibly a fifth as they believe Charles & Eliza had 5 children and one died young, but the other two did not belong nor of course, Arthur Goose & Mildred Gander?”

    I was mortified to learn this and to cut to the chase using Charles Goose & Eliza Gander I found a marriage in 1923 (yes in the same town) and deduced that the two children born 1919 & 1921 did not belong to them. So I had been caught with the identical combination of Goose & Gander in the same town over a similar time frame. (And although they are not the real surnames, they were far removed from Smith & Jones I can assure you). One check of the 1911 Census soon found the right Great Grandparents.

    So a lesson learned that the ‘Occam’s Razor’ principle -“it looks like a duck, swims and sounds like a duck, so it must be a duck” - doesn’t always produce the right results. In my case I came up with a 'Gosling';) and a lesson learned which I pass on to others.
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  2. Gillian

    Gillian LostCousins Star

    So it wasn't a wild goose chase in the end! Thanks, Bob.
    • Thanks! Thanks! x 2
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  3. Liberty

    Liberty LostCousins Megastar

    Much as I enjoyed Bob's post I have to take issue with his linking William of Occam with the saying about ducks. If Occam's Razor equates to any other zoological saying it is "When you hear hoofbeats, think of horses not zebras".
  4. Gillian

    Gillian LostCousins Star

    Here's an interesting article about the origin of the duck saying quoted by Bob.
  5. peter

    peter Administrator Staff Member

    To be on the safe side always check for other marriages between people of the same surname when you're researching this side of 1911. Even if the surnames are very rare there could still be two brothers marrying two sisters - there are several examples of this in my tree (though admittedly all in the 19th century).
    • Agree Agree x 2
  6. Bryman

    Bryman LostCousins Megastar

    . . . or even more involvement between two families. I have found one instance where 3 brothers and a sister (blood relatives of mine) married 3 sisters and a brother from another family, all within a period of just 12 years (1837-1849). Perhaps they were the only families in that Sussex village/parish?
  7. jorghes

    jorghes LostCousins Superstar

    I have a few fun ones - one in my immediate ancestry is a couple of first cousins marrying (nice pedigree collapse there - their mothers were sisters) and there is a lot of further intermarriage between cousins within that same family; then I have a few more this time not in the direct line where cousins - not first - have married, and thus they share the same surname; plus a couple where there were three families and they seem to have intermarried (a lot), and then the three surnames keep coming up with different spouses and I'm not always sure where they link in!

    So perhaps it is something that used to be more accepted? Admittedly for one of my groupings of intermarriage were Jewish, so marrying within the ethnic/religious circle could be an explanation for the number of intermarriages between cousins.
  8. peter

    peter Administrator Staff Member

    At least this doesn't risk genetic disorders (unless the offspring marry each other).
  9. Bob Spiers

    Bob Spiers LostCousins Superstar

    Only just spotted your post Liberty, and although I know full well the technical interpretation of the 'Occam's Razor' principle, I merely used an example lifted from the web, preferring that to the more popular...'if it look's like an Elephant' ...one.

    I must admit your 'hoof beat' example works well and is more easily understood than the official précised explanation "Entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily." But when I see the mystified look on people's faces when I try to explain verbally, the 'Duck' or 'Elephant' explanation seems to get through every time. The one that works for me (and the one I applied when I alluded to Occam's Razor) is: "If there exists two explanations for an occurrence, often the simpler one is usually better. ('Often' & 'usually' being the operative words!)
  10. Bryman

    Bryman LostCousins Megastar

    No sign of that in the first generation. They do seem to have been quite prolific. I have followed a couple of lines for 2-3 generations and discovered/identified about a dozen 7th cousins but unfortunately they are all deceased. :(

    I have just been notified of a match with my latest 1881 census entries from a direct descendant of someone who married into one of the lines so perhaps I may learn more from someone more closely involved. :)
  11. Bryman

    Bryman LostCousins Megastar

    It looks like I may have to wait a little while for my anticipated 'insider' information about this family.

    I sent off a contact request and received a basic reply within the hour but nothing since. I even sent an introductory note of my own, hoping that the newly found relative might not be put off by my being the other side of the world and explaining that I used to live in that area of England until a few years ago. However, still no reply so I shall just have to sit and wait. Perhaps he has gone on a business trip or even a holiday.

    Meanwhile, I have tried to check for missing children by using the new facilities from the GRO. I thought that the provision of mother's maiden name would help but in this particular case, there are just too many families with the same male/female surname combination in the same locality to be able to assign infants to the right family.

    I think that I shall record the details and leave the individuals unattached on my GenoPro charts until further information makes the parents more obvious. I am not wanting to splash out on lots of certificates, even at the new reduced rate for pdf copies, as these blood relatives are somewhat distant (7th cousin?) from me.
  12. Bob Spiers

    Bob Spiers LostCousins Superstar

    Whilst on the subject of 'family knows best' I thought this might amuse as something passed on to me by a new member of the family (by marriage) as I asked for information I could use to add his 'roots' into my Tribal Pages Tree (of which he was in favour I might add). He said his parentage was complicated, and he wasn't wrong, as you can judge for yourself as I record the notes I made at the time.

    (The first names are as given, but have changed the surnames as all are still living but they are not so important as the relationships that unfold)

    "My mother Joy Hanson first married my father Bert Price and they had me followed by my twin siblings Jonathan & Alison. Bert Price left Joy and his children and took up with Jacqui Williams (nee Davis) -married to Ian Williams - who also had 3 children.

    Joy became acquainted with Jacqui's first husband Ian Williams and they became a unit and together brought up her 3 children. Likewise, in reverse, Bert Price with Jacqui Williams brought up her 3 children. In due time divorces ensued and each tied the knot with their new partners. So Joy (previously Mrs Price) became Mrs Williams and Jacqui (previously Mrs Williams) became Mrs Price.

    Joy (now Mrs Williams) remained married to Ian who is now my step-father but my father Bert Price later left his second wife Jacqui (my first step-mother) and they later divorced. Following this he took a third wife Heather Mathews (not sure whether Mathews was her maiden name or a previously married name*), and she became the 3rd Mrs Price and my second step mother!"

    *I later discovered she had been previously married and her maiden name was Newton.

    So what could be simpler ;) and eventually it all fell into place -genealogically speaking - and, as all are well into their 70's and get on with one another -with the exception of Jacqui who departed the family circle apparently - it is now water under the bridge.

    But spare a pity for a future Family Historian trying to make sense of it all without those precious family notes!
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