Searching for Alice West

The family tree project is going well, but there are still a few gaps to be filled in for the mid and late-19th century. I received an incredible amount of detail from a distant cousin from my grandfather’s side of the family, including details of where my great-grandfather was born, where his father died just a year later, and where my great-great-grandfather was married. However, I decided that I didn’t just want too much information handed to me on a plate, so I will do my own research on that side of the family.

Over at my grandmother’s side of the family, the Clinch dynasty, there have been a few walls to knock down. Still the most pressing is the identity of my great-grandmother, Alice West. This was not an uncommon name in 19th century London, so some clues were required. I decided to cough up for my grandmother’s birth certificate, even though I supposed I had all the info that it would contain. However, it arrived yesterday and it revealed one crucial piece of information… a middle name, Maud. This meant that I could discount any candidate who wasn’t shown as Alice, Alice M or Alice Maud… and that narrows it down significantly.

There was one other interesting piece of info… my grandmother (also Alice) was born at the family’s home, 32 Wood Street. Yet in the 1901 census, ten years earlier, the family lived at 30 Wood Street, and my great-grandfather’s older brother lived at number 32. Stranger than truth, except it’s true (or it could have been an error on the part of the census taker).

The next obvious step in revealing more details of Alice Maud West would be to obtain her marriage certificate. This should be found by cross-referencing marriages of Henry Clinch to Alice West in a time period and in London. I’ve used this method successfully for other ancestors, but on this occasion it drew a blank. Despite an exhaustive search, one that I’ve repeated several times, with variations on names, I’ve failed to find any record of their marriage. Perhaps they didn’t get married. There’s a thought…

But then I hit on something. Normally if you search a marriage register and view an index number in a given district it will display an even number of men and women, signifying that these men married these women, although you won’t be sure who married who (in 1911 they changed the marriage register to show who married who without the need of the actual certificate). However for the 2nd quarter of 1898, in the London district of St Saviour (Southwark) there are five names… three women and two men. So, a fair guess that one of the men’s names is missing. The trouble is, the Alice West listed could have married one of the other two men, that I can’t tell from the marriage register.

I then looked at the birth register and discovered that in 1879 (the right year) an Alice Maud West was born in St Saviour. Okay, this could all be highly coincidental. There is only one way to find out, and that’s to obtain the 1898 marriage certificate for Alice West of St Saviour and see what it says. It could be £7 down the drain, but it could be one of the most important pieces of the jigsaw. If she does turn out to be my great-grandmother, I already know the names of her parents and her grandmother (courtesy of the 1881 census). Mind you, I’ve been sure of details before, only to have found they were wrong later. It’s worth a £7 gamble, so here goes…

One Comment

  1. Dammit… even before that marriage certificate turned up my frolleague Cali Clarke explained why it was an incorrect strategy (one of the ladies was incorrectly transcribed). Back to square one.

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