Today is the 75th anniversary my grand-parents marriage.
On examining the marriage certificate I note the following:
It is the original produced on the day of the event, the 29 March 1937, and the certificate refers to the Marriage Acts in force at that time. So, the information it contains should accurately reflect that reported at the ceremony. It was passed down to my father when my grand-mother died, so its provenance is well accounted for.
The groom’s residence in Bloomsbury Street was less than a mile from St James church and the bride’s residence in Great Francis Street was roughly halfway between the church and groom’s address. The church and the two residences are no longer standing. St James was bomb damaged in World War 2 and demolished in 1956. A quick virtual walk using Google maps reveals only modern buildings on Great Francis and Bloomsbury Streets because the area was redeveloped in the 1960s.
Occupations may not be entirely accurate. In the case of the groom, Thomas Adams junior, the occupation of greengrocer could imply someone who ran their own business. However, on his first child’s birth registration, his occupation is recorded as “Retail greengrocer’s assistant”, an employee in a shop that sold fresh produce. The bride’s father, Edward Charles Coulson, is similarly promoted. A coal merchant was a large businessman who dealt directly with the mines, so only two or three are typically listed in contemporary trade directories for Birmingham. Edward Coulson is consistently listed in trade directories as one of many coal dealers, who delivered coal to households.
The witnesses to the marriage were Albert Adams, the groom’s brother and Matilda Bertha Dipple (Tilly), the bride’s friend. Often witnesses performed other functions during the ceremony. Albert was the best man and Tilly the chief bridesmaid.
The will of William Wilson of Claverley, Shropshire, England, made on 17 May 1833 and proved on 4 May 1837 revealed that he had three daughters who each married men with the Wilson surname. Dorothea was the wife of John Wilson of Aston Hall, Claverley, Elizabeth was the wife of Joseph Wilson of Bushbury, Staffordshire and Mary (deceased) was the wife of John Wilson of Astley, Alveley, Salop (=Shropshire).
Even though Wilson is a common surname, I wondered if it could possibly be true! The first step in verifying the will is to find records of the three marriages. English civil registration started too late (1837), so my best option is to turn to parish registers starting with Claverley, the place most strongly associated with the couples, followed by Bushbury and Alveley. The 40 years prior to 1833, the date the will was made, is the most likely time frame.
Normally I would use the IGI and any other online resources I could find to narrow down which original registers to examine. Viewing the originals could possibly entail travelling from Norfolk (on eastern side of England) to the visit the Worcestershire, Staffordshire and Shropshire County Records Offices.
How much clobber do you take to archives, repositories and libraries? Notebook, laptop, camera, pencils, change for photocopies, library card or other identification, spare batteries for gadgetry, … You could probably add to the list. I wanted to travel light, so I left the heavy stuff behind. I could have taken just this:
Yes, a flash drive! Not an empty drive. It had my research plan, copies of related documents and other stuff on it. I used one of the many computers in the library to read the contents of my flash drive and consult the catalogue. All the records I consulted were available on microfilm or fiche, so I used the free film scanners to copy the records I wanted directly onto my flash drive.
Getting back to the three marriages project.
First, I found that a published transcript of the Claverley parish registers was available:
Fletcher, W.G.D. 1907. Shropshire Parish Registers. Diocese of Hereford. Vol X. privately printed for the Shropshire Parish Register Society. (FHL microfilm: 162094 item 2, book shelf mark 94245 B4sh v.10)
1795 June 21 John Wilson of Alveley, b. & Mary Wilson, lic by Matthew Pilkington, Clerk.
Wit: James Wilson, Sarah Wilson
1808 Apr 21 Joseph Wilson of Chetton, b. & Elizabeth Wilson, sp., lic.
Wit: Dorothy Wilson, Wm Wilson
Note that these are transcriptions of the parish registers, not the originals. The book contains a detailed description of the registers and their contents and claims the transcript is faithful to the originals. The originals comprise ten volumes: vol VII contains marriages from 1795-1812 and vol VI contains marriages from 1774-1795. According to the transcript, both marriages are in vol VII.
The will indicates Elizabeth married Joseph Wilson of Bushbury, so why is he recorded as of Chetton on the marriage? Chetton is ca 15 km west of Claverley. Bushbury is in Wolverhampton ca 15 km NE of Claverley.
Then, I searched the FamilySearch index for a marriage between John and Dorothea Wilson which lead me to this:
Bishop’s transcript, Brewood (FHL microfilm: 425497, entry no 11)
8 July 1816 Brewood, Staffs John Wilson of Aston Claverley m Dorothea Wilson of this parish [Brewood] by license
Witnesses: Wm Wilson, Beatrice Hill
This clearly seems to be the marriage of our Dorothea, but why is she recorded as being resident in Brewood, and not Claverley? Brewood is near Wolverhampton, ca 13km ne of Claverley. This is the bishop’s transcript, a copy of the original register that was submitted to the bishop periodically (usually quarterly).
So, these do look like the marriages of William Wilson’s daughters, but not all the details match up. How many other Wilsons were there in Brewood, Chetton, and other locations? If the husbands were as mobile as seems to be indicated, then I should check surrounding areas to rule out other possible men of the same names.
Other considerations are:
- The records I found in the Family History Library are copies, so may not be reliable.
- The index (e.g. IGI) entries on FamilySearch are derived from the FHL holdings, and may not refer to original or the most reliable records.
- There are original parish registers available, but not at FHL.
Before I can truly claim to have cracked the three Wilson-Wilson marriages case, I need to:
- resolve the apparent discrepancies
- complete the search in likely locations and extend the search area
- identify and rule out other possible husbands
- as all three marriages were by license, search Lichfield and Worcester diocese records
Lots still to do then!