GRO Index Discrepancy or Name Variations?

So far in the 50 Marriage Mondays series, I have presented marriage certificates that were issued on the day of the event, or by the General Register Office.  This marriage certificate was issued on 30 October 2000 by the superintendent registrar for the district in which it occurred, Abingdon.

Marriage certificate - William Dunsdon & Eliza Ellen Kembry

Marriage certificate – William Dunsdon & Eliza Ellen Kembry

Bride: Eliza Ellen Kembry or Kembrey
Groom: William Dunsdon
Date: 29 April 1871
Location: parish church, Fyfield, Berkshire

A quick recap on the registration system:  Two registers kept by the church where filled in as the marriages occurred. Every quarter, copies of the marriages were made and sent to the General Register Office (GRO), which prepared a national index of all marriages.  This is the index that is widely available online (e.g. FreeBMD) and on microfiche, and is the one I consulted to order the certificate.  Once the registers were full, one was sent to the district registrar, who created their own index of registers in their keeping, which is different from the GRO index.  Some of these indexes have been published and are searchable at UK BMD, but Fyfield parish is not yet included.  The second register may remain at the church, but most have been deposited at County Record Offices or Archives.

The April-June 1871 GRO index entries for this marriage provide this information:

Surname Forename District Vol Page
DUNSDON  William Abingdon  2c 547
KEMBREY  Eliza Ellen Abingdon  2c 547

The certificate is a handwritten transcript of the register.  The superintendent registrar, who is obliged to ensure that certificates are accurate copies of the register, included a note pointing out that the bride’s name was spelt differently, Elisa Ellen Kembry.

How might the discrepancy have arisen?

The GRO index has at least two copying events in its provenance (copy of original register submitted, details copied on creation of the index), the certificate just one.  Does that mean the certificate is more reliable?  We do not know if the two original registers are identical, so there is a possibility that the bride did not consistently spell her name.  How was her name recorded on other records?

Oct-Dec 1851 GRO birth index Eliza Ellen Kembrey
1861 census Ellen Kembrey
1871 census Ellen Kimbrey
1873 daughter Emily’s birth certificate Eliza Ellen Dunsdon formerly Kembrey
1881 census Elizabeth Dunsdon
1891 census Eliza Ellen Dunsdon
1901 census Eliza Dunsdon

Is there a correct spelling?

Usually it is fairly easy to find alternative forms of a surname through one of the websites that gives statistics on surname frequencies and origins such as British Surnames and Surname Profiles or PublicProfiler gbnames.  However, Kembrey and Kembry are not listed.  Similarly a search on Ancestry’s ‘Learn about the history of your surname page’ indicates a mere 757 census and voters roll records spread across time, so it seems the name is rare indeed.

The Kembrey name could be a corruption of something that sounds similar, which is something I should bear in mind when I try tracing earlier generations.  Soundex provides a means of comparing phonetically similar names.  The soundex code for Kembrey/Kembry is K516 or C516 if you replace the K with a C.  RootsWeb’s Soundex Converter suggests other surnames sharing these soundex codes:

Kemper, Kempers, Kimber, Kimberlin, Kimberly, Kimbrell, Kimbro, Kimbrough, Knepper, Knippers, Camber, Cambridge, Chamberlain, Chamberlin, Chambers, Comfort, Comper, Confer, Conibear, Conover, Conpropst, Converse, Convery, Coomber, Cumberland

© Sue Adams 2013