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Stuck on your family history? Jackie Patrick


Come along to Family Tree Live and get one-to-one expert help from a professional researcher to help solve that family history puzzle you’ve long been wondering about…


The one-to-one expert sessions are manned by professional researchers from AGRA (the Association of Genealogists and Researchers in Archives).


Family history enthusiast Jackie Patrick wanted some help to find out who her grant-grandmother Mary was. We asked AGRA member professional researcher Anthony Marr to share his thoughts on what the evidence reveals, and which leads Jackie can follow up next…


Jackie Patrick’s question:

I am struggling to find out who my great- grandmother Mary was. She died in January 1939 aged 79 in Ipswich, Suffolk. In 1901 she was living with her 'husband', Alfred W Gooding. Alfred and Mary did not marry as he had a wife Isabella. The couple had three children and on each birth certificate her maiden name is given as Davison/Davidson/ Daverson.

Her daughter Annie/Ann was born in Durham in 1890 and on Annie’s marriage certificate her surname was given as Adamson. In the 1891 Census Mary and Annie were living in Spennymoor with her 'husband' Robert Adamson (b1855 in West Cornforth) and other daughters. On these daughters' birth certificates Mary's maiden name was given as Davison but on the middle daughter it was given as Taylor.

In 1881 Mary was also said to have been born in Ebchester and living with Robert Adamson in Kimblesworth. Jane Ann Taylor who was born in 1877, probably in Swalwell, was also living with them. By 1891 she had become Jane Ann Adamson. I have found a birth certificate for Jane Ann Taylor, born in 1877 in Swalwell. It states the mother was Jane Taylor (no father given).

I cannot find out anything more about Mary before 1881 when she was aged 21. There is no marriage of Robert Adamson and Mary Davison/Taylor. There were no Mary Davison/Taylor born or baptised in Ebchester 1858-1860. I did find a Mary Taylor born in Lanchester workhouse in July 1859 and baptised in Lanchester a few days later. The mother was also given as Jane Taylor.


AGRA researcher Anthony Marr’s answer:

Ancestors can cause real problems when they decide to use different names at various times in their lives.

The approach to follow is to gather ALL the evidence you can and analyse it carefully to look for matching or contradictory facts so that you can build an evidential argument that will prove or disprove your theory.

From the registration records it is important to remember that:

  • Births, marriages and deaths should be registered in the name a person uses, or is known by, at the time of the event – not necessarily the name they were given at birth. Other names may be shown as ‘formerly’ or ‘otherwise’, but they don’t always have to be.
  • The maiden name recorded for the mother on a birth entry for registration purposes is the ‘name in which she first contracted a marriage’ so should be consistent – however, it is common to see confusion and variation where multiple marriages (or partners) are involved.
  • That confusion over maiden names does provide useful evidence for you though – varying between Davison and Taylor suggests that these are both names she has been known by or used in the past, even if she never actually married using them.
  • The Mary Taylor born in 1859 to Jane Taylor looks promising – they seem to disappear under those names so identifying them in the 1861/1871 Census is a priority. Did Jane marry (or live with) a man called Davison that would account for the later use of the name by Mary?



Come along to Family Tree Live where you too can get one-to-one expert help from a professional researcher in an AGRA one-to-one expert advice session.

The one-to-one sessions are included in your Family Tree Live day ticket price.

To book your ticket to Family Tree Live, please go to: https://www.family-tree.co.uk/ftre/show/family-tree-live/book-now

To pre-book your one-to-one advice session, please click here.


About the AGRA expert

Anthony Marr is a professional genealogist and a member of the Council of AGRA and chair of its board of assessors. Having worked as a deputy registrar he also has a keen interest in the records of civil registration. www.chalfontresearch.co.uk


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