Any genealogist, amateur or pro, will always come across a stumbling block during their research which somehow prevents them from taking their investigation further. This is what genealogist often call “a brickwall”. Most cases tend to be resolved, although often no as speedily as one would like. This sections is designed to share with you the individual stories which have constituted a long-lasting brickwall in my own experience:
Ann Williams – the mystery of her origins and first marriage
My English ancestor Edward Allen (b. Colwall, Herefordshire) married a woman called Ann sometime in the 1830’s. I know this because their first child, also called Ann, was born legitimately in Colwall in 1838. Edward’s wife was also born in Colwall around 1809, as consistently indicated on the 1851 and 1861 census. A contact shared information on a likely entry of marriage which took place in Withington, Herefordshire, so I ordered the marriage certificate. It confirmed Ann’s maiden name was Williams (father’s name Thomas Williams), and that she was a widow (married name Lewis). Edward was also listed as a widower on the certificate, but strangely it did not mention either one of them as residing in Colwall at the time. Unfortunately, all attempts to find a marriage certificate or an entry for a marriage among church records for Ann Williams to a Mr Lewis proved fruitless. Even more worryingly, I couldn’t find a baptism for a Ann Williams in Colwall in 1809/1810, nor for an Ann Lewis for that matter. Read how this mystery was solved here.
Mary Elizabeth Vickress – when and where did she die?
My great-great-grandmother’s second cousin Mary Elizabeth Vickress was born in Pensnett during the first quarter of 1860. Her birth was registered in the Dudley registration district; her name was registered as Elizabeth Vickers (sic). A year later she was listed on the 1861 census, living on Fox Street, Kingswinford with her father Henry Vickers (sic), her mother Sarah and her half-sister Caroline; although Henry’s surname is also misspelt, his age and place of birth match all other records, having been born in 1830 in Hope-under-Dinmore (Herefordshire). Ten years later, according to the 1871 census Mary Elizabeth (this time recorded only as Mary) was recorded as living at 91 Pearson street, Wolverhampton with her parents Henry Vickers (sic) and Sarah, and siblings Mercy (aged 8), Jane (3) and William H (2). Ten years on, following the death of her father and most of her siblings, Mary Elizabeth’s mother and sister Mercy were recorded living together in Wolverhampton; strangely, Mary Elizabeth does not appear on the 1881 census. In 1886 her sister Mercy died in the Erdington Workhouse in Birmingham; her will was probated on 11 November 1886: Mary Elizabeth is mentioned as “of 263 Great Lister street Spinster the sister and one of the next of kin”. No further reference to her can be found.
Elizabeth Symonds – parentage and origins?
Born presumably in 1719, Elizabeth Symonds married William Allen on 9 October 1751 in Colwall. Transcripts by Herefordshire Family History Society indicate no information on the bride’s place of origin; therefore, she may have been from Colwall, or elsewhere. The couple had the following children: Richard (1752), Elizabeth (1753), William (1755), John (1757), Joseph (1759), Thomas (1760) and Peggy (1762). It is possible that the name of any of their children reflected Elizabeth’s parents’ names, given that her husband’s parents were called Richard and Margaret. In any case, Elizabeth died on 15 November 1795 and was buried in Colwall, being survived by her husband. Her headstone says she was 76 years old, and confirms she was the wife of William Allen (cordwainer),of Evendine, Colwall.
Robert Allen – first marriage?
Born in Colwall in 1821, the youngest son of Thomas and Sarah Allen, Robert married Judith Bond in Colwall in 1858; he was 36, while Judith was 60! They were apparently both widowed at the time, as per a transcription which someone sent me years ago, and while her first marriage has been proved, his remains a mystery. Although Robert’s location on the 1841 census has not been established, he may have been living in Hanley Castle (near Colwall), where he worked as a blacksmith. There is likewise no trace of him in the 1851 census. After his second marriage, he lived in Colwall with his second wife Judith until their deaths. Given Judith’s advanced age at the time of his death, there were no children from his first marriage, but there are no indications that he had children with his first wife either.