Our resident expert Stephen Rigden, pictured below, answers your queries.
From Michelle Colclough:
‘I am contacting you in the hope you can advise me on what to do next concerning two members of my husband’s family:
Mary Jane Green, estimated year of birth 1888, married Noah Colclough on 26 November 1910. She died on 26 March 1946 in Todmorden, Lancs. The difficulty we are having is finding her parentage. On her wedding certificate it states an ‘Edward Green, deceased’ as father but we cannot find anything to confirm this.
The second family member is Lily Ryder, estimated year of birth is 1899. She married George Henry Hulme on 3 September 1921 and died on 13 December 1922 in what we consider suspicious circumstances. On her wedding certificate it states a ‘Percival Ryder’ as being her father, but once again we cannot find anything to confirm this.
We have been trying to solve the problem of Mary and Lily for three years now and have got nowhere. We would be very grateful for any advice you can give us as to what to do next.’
‘Thanks for writing in Michelle.
Both the names – Mary Jane Green and Lily Ryder – are quite common. You may, therefore, have to advance your research into your husband’s family using some trial and error, carefully listing and looking at potential candidates and then gradually eliminating them until you are down to just one or perhaps two or three individuals, who you can then examine in more depth.
General advice when working backwards from the present day towards the early 20th and late 19th centuries is to try to place family members on the 1911 and 1901 censuses. If you can find them on one or both of these censuses, it will give you more detail and help orientate your research and, with a little luck, you may then be able to go back two or three generations quite quickly.
I see that Mary Jane Green married Noah Colclough in November 1910. She will, therefore, be easily found on the 1911 census under her husband’s (very distinctive!) name. The census image reference is piece number 24685, RD 470, SD 7, ED 1, Schedule 223 (use our census reference search). That’s the good news! The bad news is that the census says that Mary Jane was born in Dublin, Ireland. By bad news, I mean only that typically it is more challenging to research Irish genealogies than English ones, due to the loss of some key record series (such as most of the censuses).
On the positive side, however, you know the city of her birth, and her recorded age on the census – 21 years in 1911 – suggests a year of birth circa 1889/90. The other bonus on the census is that Mary’s widowed mother is in the same household, and has the name Sarah Divine. She was born in Ballinrobe, Co Mayo. Her age is shown as 60, which may or may not be accurate. Statisticians have shown that in census returns there are unacceptable frequencies of rounded ages from middle-age onwards, i.e., there are peaks of people aged 55, 60, 65, 70 etc compared to the numbers of people with surrounding ages such as 57, 61, 68 and so on. In other words, the certainty of recorded ages decreases with advancing years. So be prepared to look for Sarah’s birth or baptism a little either side of her suggested year of birth circa 1850/51.
The other thing you will have noticed is that Sarah has the surname Divine and not Green. There are a number of possible scenarios here. The simplest is that Green was her first married name and that she married a Mr Divine after the loss of her first husband. We can establish the parameters for the search – Mary Jane was born as (presumably) Green circa 1889/90 and Sarah was widowed before the 1911 census. In fact, we can narrow down the parameters a little further, as on the 1901 census there is a widowed Sarah Divine, aged 39 (= born circa 1861/62 – a 10-year difference from the 1911 census) and born Ireland, residing at an address in Littleborough (which is where the Colcloughs were residing in 1911). See census reference RG13, piece 3845, folio 160, page 17. She is with a Mary Divine (not Green) aged 11 years (= circa 1889/90) and born Ireland. There is the big discrepancy in the declared age of Sarah between the 1911 and 1901 censuses; however, Mary’s age matches and it is quite likely that this is the correct entry. If so, the window in which Sarah married Mr Divine has shrunk by a decade to 1889/90 to 1901.
You can view Irish birth, marriage and death indexes as part of findmypast.co.uk’s World subscription, but note that these are just indexes and give only the basic information about entries to enable one to order certificates. There is a Mary Jane Green whose birth was registered in Dublin North in June quarter 1889, who could well be the one you are after – although you will only know for sure when you apply for the certificate. I could not see an obvious marriage entry for Green to Divine. I suggest you order the Mary Jane birth certificate and, if it proves to be correct, take it from there. Irish certificates can be ordered online at www.groireland.ie/apply_for_a_cert.htm or www.hse.ie/eng/services/list/1/bdm/Certificates
Unfortunately, I was not able to apply the same approach successfully to Lily Ryder! I looked for a Lily (or Lilian, Lilly etc. using the search term Lil* – called a ‘wildcard search’ where you use a * symbol in place of a letter or multiple letters – and un-ticking the ‘include variants’ box) Ryder residing with a Percival or Percy in the same household in 1911 and 1901 without success. There are no entries under the name Percival Ryder in our 1881 or 1891 census, and only two in the 1871, 1901 and 1911. It is likely that sometimes a Percival will appear as a Percy. I also noticed that one of the earlier Ryder families became Rider at a later date.
As well as this variant, I would recommend that you search under Ryde* as the last letter in a surname is sometimes written either lazily or with a flourish and therefore an ‘r’ may resemble an ‘s’ or an ‘n’. Similarly, there doesn’t appear to be a single Percival Ryder in the indexes to the civil registers of marriage for England and Wales all the way from 1837 to 1905 (when there is a Percival John Ryder marrying in Prestwich district).
Good luck with your research, Michelle!’
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