We normally trace our ancestors by following the names and details on the birth, marriage and death certificates and confirming the details with reference to the censuses and it is generally fairly easy.
Well, it is as long as our ancestors behave normally, appear where you expect them to be, and have normal family relationships. However, if their lives were complicated, the research becomes rather more difficult.
My grandfather was Walter Dansy Emptage. On his marriage certificate, he gave his father as Walter, a deceased labourer.
His brother was Edward Lindsey Emptage. His marriage certificate records his father as Daniel.
Fortunately, both Walter and Edward had uncommon names and we were able to find them in the General Records Office index easily.
By purchasing copies of the birth certificates we were able to see that their parents were Henry Thomas Emptage and Malbry Jane Emptage, formerly Wilson.
So why had neither Walter nor Edward given the name of Henry Thomas Emptage as their father?
Henry died when he was just thirty eight, his son Edward was four and Walter was only one year old.
It appears that people who lost their parents when they were very young often had no knowledge of the parent’s name, and so had to make something up for the marriage certificate.
I imagine that if Malbry ever referred to Henry Thomas, she only used the words “your father” without ever naming him. After all, isn’t that what we do normally?
What would have happened if Walter Dansy and Edward Lindsey had more common names? How would we have known which birth certificate to order? How would we have found them on the censuses and traced them that way?
It is because they had uncommon names that we were not faced with what is known as a ‘brick wall’ and we were able to trace their family background. Because of those names, this website now exists.