How to Break a family History Stone Wall

If you are having problems researching your family tree then you may can learn something from my experience here. I had got no place with this ancestor’s birth, marriage or death — on or off-line — a chance trip to a family History Website and an hour or so looking at the transcripts and a stone wall in my genealogy and family history research came tumbling down! This, together with thinking of punctuation variations of names, opened up a new line to me.

My paternal line in Dartmouth, Devon, UK has always been a bit frustrating once the census records ran out in 1841. This, of course, is the earliest census available on-line for The united kingdom so that following this I needed to start to look at parish records. I had exercised that my three times great-grandfather was called John Thorn and from the information given in the census collections I knew that she had been born in about 1795 and his wife, Elizabeth, in about 1798.

Unfortunately Dartmouth parish records just weren’t microfilmed, but a selection of Devon Genealogy and family history Society booklets of the relationships of some of the places of worship in the town, including Saint. Saviour’s, were available. Deciphering one book for any likely family history I noted down that on 13 April 1817 a John Thorn married an Elizabeth Sissell. With this tentative lead, I hit the internet. I needed any evidence that this was the marriage of my family history. I opened the Dartmouth-history. org. uk website from the Dartmouth Archives and realising that this voluntary history group had an extremely good genealogy and family history section including transcribed baptisms, burials, relationships and census records. I could read the identical details, as i had welcomed in London, on this niche site. The information began in 1586 and ran to 1850! There was the marriage of John to Elizabeth and this time I pointed out that the experience got as John Adams and Sunass (sic) Sissell. I made the premiss that this particular person was the main bride’s family and may have been her father, but still the name Sunass gave me great concern as it simply didn’t seem right and I thought that possibly it was not legible to the transcriber.

After doing genealogy and family history for a few years now, I’m aware that names can be transcribed incorrectly. Perhaps written down as the transcriber had seen them (as best practice dictates) and not changed to easily participate in what is consider to be correct. I wondered if the first name and the second wasn’t written down by the person in question, as they may well have been illiterate. When you come to do your own research you should bear in mind this point. The vicar could have misinterpreted the name writing it as he previously heard it voiced to him and so that “Sissell” could possibly been “Cecil” or something different. As for Sunass — at that time I was clueless about what it has been!

There were no early enough christening records for John and Elizabeth on the Dartmouth Archives website, but I opened another web browser and navigated to the Latter Day New orleans saints (LDS) website or FamilySearch. org and here Used to do a search for Elizabeth’s christening and was lead to a baptism in one of the other places of worship in Dartmouth, Saint Petrox, on the 16 September 1878. The daughter of James and Dorothy Sissill was one Elizabeth Garden enthusiast Sissill — and here I noted that the punctuation had changed to Sissill with an “i” and not an “e”. This record made me wonder if the experience to Elizabeth’s marriage has been her father “James” and this has been interpreted as “Sunnas” because a flowing “J” for James had seemed like an “S” and the other letters had been misread as a “u” for an “a” and the double “n” as an “m”.

The purpose I’m making here is to take into consideration names and their punctuation. Before the numbers of literacy rose amongst the general public, our forebears would rely very heavily on a vicar writing down their given names as they appeared to him.

This success was because I located Dartmouth’s history website and then used their resources in conjunction with other Internet sites, such as the familysearch. org. I could then take the names and details further by looking for death certificates for John Branton Thorn and his wife Elizabeth Garden enthusiast Thorn, as they had died after municipal registration of fatalities happened in 1837. From here a physical trip to the Devon Record Office to see the parish records may be the next thing.

The first lesson is that you should always look to see the alternative research may have been done, for the area your family history originated in, and that is published on the internet. Should you locate a family history society, or local history group with an online site, could any of their publications or websites be of any use to you in your research? Secondly, be aware of the misspelling of names and keep your mind open to possibilities. In my case I must think of other spellings for the Sissells or names that may have appeared like Sissell to ensure that I may find this line back further and break down the stone wall.

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