|William and Alice c.1916 |
Alice died when I was a baby, and my mother and aunt were surprisingly reticent about her early life. I failed to ask the right questions at the right time, sensed a reluctance to talk about her and I ended up with vague and conflicting information - a classic family history mistake. It did occur to me that she might well have been illegitimate, but then her father's name of Henry was given on her marriage certificate. Was this a fabrication?
Despite many years of hunting and using a professional researcher, I have been unable to trace a birth certificate for Alice to find out the name of her mother. Queries on message boards and on my blog failed to elicit any response, so I recently decided that it was time to review my research.
- My starting point for
research was the marriage certificate - Alice married my grandfather William Danson in April 1907, at St. Chad's
Church, Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire, when Alice was 22. Her father's name was given as Henry, a
- I was always told Alice and I shared the same birthday - September 23rd.
- The family story was that Alice had moved to Poulton (from Bolton, or was it Manchester?) as a nursemaid to the Potts family - prominent Methodists whose photographs featured in books on old Poulton, sitting on committees, opening fetes etc.
- Alice was confirmed at St. Chad's Church in 1904 - I have the prayer book presented to her on that occasion.
- Alice died in 1945 so I never knew her. Her age of 60 on the death certificate confirms her year of birth as 1884.
- A long ago visit to the then St. Catherine's House, London failed to find a birth certificate with these details.
- Early census returns proved no help - I could not trace her in 1891. In 1901 there was an Alice A. English, born Bolton aged 17, so born c.1884, living-in domestic servants at Stockport. This could well be my grandmother, but does not help with any more information on her family.
- I had to wait patiently for the release of the 1911 census to find her entry under her married name of Danson, with her birthplace given as Bolton. Yet even that did not take me further forward as Bolton Registrar had no record of an Alice English with the details I had.
- The Improved search facility for BMD and parochial records online came
up with a number of possibilities but none that tied in with my limited information. So more frustration!
I also have had no luck in tracing a record for her father Henry English with very little to go on.
- A further wait for the release of the 1939 National Register where I was pleased to find that Alice's birthday of 23rd September 1884 was confirmed, but I had hoped for more details on her birthplace and possibly parents - but these did not feature.
I recently put a query on CuriousFox, the village by village contact site for anyone researching family history, genealogy and local history in the UK and Ireland. The immediate response was gratifying in number, but not particularly helpful, apart from one respondent who took on board my query with great enthusiasm and pointed me in certain directions I had not considered.
- Look at Alice's address on her marriage certificate?: In 1907 she was at 7 Higher Green, Poulton which appeared to be in a row of cottage, with no. 7 in 1901 the home of of William Wigan a 36 year old gas stoker with a wife and 6 children - so a crowded household. Ten years on in the 1911 census, there was no entry for no. 7. So this approach gave no clues.
- Who were Alice's neighbours in 1911? One interesting factor was her next door neighbour - a Mrs Elizabeth Alice Ronson, also born in Bolton (37 miles away) and her husband was a house painter (as supposedy Alice's father). Intriguing! But no family connection could be found and there was only an 11 year age difference between Elizabeth and Alice.
- Who was Alice Ann Walch? She doesn't turn up under that name on any censuses, marriage or death register.
- Who was her mother? A likely suspect was identified as a Mary Jane Walch who was 19 years old in the 1881 census, a cotton spinner living in Bolton as a boarder with her 6 months old baby Thomas. They were staying with the Lowe family and interestingly there was a daughter Alice A. Lowe aged 5 years old, so born 1876. But Mary cannot be traced thereafter.
In 1891 Alice Lowe was 15 years old with a large number of lodgers in the household including a William Walch, born Ireland. The plot thickens! Neither this Alice nor William could be identified in the 1901 census.
Confused? So am I.
I was very grateful for the way my Curious Fox respondent had taken up my query. She suggested that perhaps this Mary Walsh had another baby Alice who at some point changed her name from Walch, corrupted to Welsh - changed to English?
It is an interesting theory, but I am sceptical. What do you think?
So the early life of my grandmother Alice English remains a mystery
and I am no nearer climbing over that brick wall!
|Alice with her children |
Edith, Kathleen (my mother), Harry and baby Billy. c.1916
Most likely taken before William went off to war.
Mysterious Monday is one of many daily prompts from www.geneabloggers.com
to encourage bloggers to record their family history,