Organizing 30+ years of genealogical research is a daunting task. If I’d known in 1976 what I know now, I’d have done so many things differently. I’ve always used pedigree charts and family group sheets but, in my teen years, my citations, when I made them at all, were minimal at best and most are useless. Since taking the Boston University course, I’ve been aware of how shabby my early citations were, and I’ve been working [at a snail's pace...] to update them. This process has forced me to revisit a lot of my old work and it’s clear that for a good part of it, whatever thought process I went through, in terms of inference and proof argument, has long been forgotten. Again, if I’d known then….. My plan for 2012 is to tackle one family line a month, organize the brick walls associated with the surname and chronicle it all into a research report which I can then use as a starting point whenever I get a chance to work on that particular line in the future.
I created a Word template for the “brick wall” report, and incorporated elements of a research plan, research log, proof arguments, research report and organized it all into sections to facilitate the way I like to work:
- Genealogical Problem—this is a summary of the brick wall
- Goal—here I define in one sentence what I hope to accomplish next
- What is Known—these are facts I am absolutely sure of… no assumptions or inference required
- Analysis—all previous research is discussed, conclusions drawn from evidence are explained. It’s organized into topics
- Research Plan—based on what is known, analysis of existing research, and the goal, these are the steps I plan to take next. This is an overall outline of my approach to tackling the brick wall.
- Research Notes—as I move through the research plan, I create a log of all findings including negative.
- Next steps—these are bullets jotted down as I go through the plan. If something in the research notes creates a question, I write the question in the notes but also add a task in this section. with a link back to the page in the notes section.
- Documents—everything of significance to What is Known and Research Notes goes here.
My plan is to create a Brick Wall Binder with different sections for the various Turner Collins families. Everything about a brick wall is kept together, and no matter how long it’s been since I last worked on a problem, a quick read through should bring me up to speed on what to do next. No more having to reinvent the wheel. All my work, inferences, positive and negative results is in one place.
Putting it into Action
For January, I decided to start with [what I thought was] my smallest, most clear cut brick wall: the mystery of Ellen Brown. I started with my pedigree chart and family group sheets generated by my Rootsmagic database and then spend a week pulling it all together in the Word document. It took twelve pages. Yikes!
Here are a few excerpts. You can see the whole file here. To keep the file’s size down, I’ve only included a couple images.
Genealogical Problem: Ellen Brown was born in Reading, Berks, and was baptized at St Mary’s Church on 20 July 1823. She was described in the register as the daughter of John and Lucy Brown. We know from Ellen’s marriage certificate that her father was deceased by the time she married Charles Turner and that he’d been a wood turner in the Chapelry of Greenham, in the village of Thatcham, Berks, before his death, but there were quite a few John Browns from that area who were skilled turners, many employed as mop makers. Although there are no baptismal records of the couple’s other children in the St Mary’s register, it appears from other records that. John and Lucy had at least five children, born between 1814–1825. There is also no obvious marriage record for this couple in the parishes of Greenham, Thatcham, or Reading, although there are several John Brown marriages to women named Lucy which should be evaluated. The surprisingly abundant number of John and Lucy Browns living in Berkshire at that time, combined with the confusion of all the John Browns working in the wood turning trade in the area, makes proving the kinships very difficult.
Goal: Properly identify John Brown and Lucy_____, the parents of Ellen Brown, and locate their birth, marriage, and death records.
What is known:
- Ellen Brown was baptized at St Mary’s Church in Reading, Berkshire , on 20 July 1823. Her parents were identified in the register as John and Lucy Brown [i]
- According to Ellen’s marriage certificate, her father was John Brown, deceased, of Greenham, and he had been employed as a turner. One of the witnesses to the wedding was Hannah Brown.[ii]
From the Analysis section:
John and Lucy’s Family:
The only baptism on record in Reading parishes (St. Mary’s, St. Giles, and St. Lawrence) is daughter Ellen’s in 1823, but, it’s possible to reconstruct their family using census records and inferential genealogy. That Ellen’s marriage was witnessed by Hannah Brown, suggests Hannah was a close family member. Traditionally, an older sister stood up for the bride, although if Ellen were an only child, Hannah may have been a cousin. Ellen was 18 in 1841, and although her record in the 1841census hasn’t yet been located, there is a record of Lucy Brown, age 50, and three young women—Lucy, age 20, Hannah, age 20, and Mary, age 15, living in Greenham, the village in which Ellen was married four years later. [iii] Lucy was described as a charwoman (what is today known as a cleaning lady) and the younger Lucy was a dressmaker. There is nothing in this census record which directly identifies the family as Ellen’s; however, other census and church records corroborate the connection.
Following Ellen through the UK censuses provides clues to her own family:
From the Research Notes section:
Locating Ellen on the 1841 Census:
A search of FindMyPast reveals four possible Ellen Browns who were born around 1823, and were living in Berkshire in 1841:
||Too old; however, if she were an unwed mother, she may have lied about her age. Should be researched further.|
||A member of the Abraham Brown family|
||A member of the William Brown family|
||One of three servants living with Richard Best, surgeon. Too old, and no obvious connection to John and Lucy Brown.|
|1 “1841 UK census,” digital images, FindMyPast(http://www.findmypast.co.uk : accessed 30 December 2011), entry for Ellen Brown, age 20, White Waltham, Cookham, Berks, citing TNA microfilm HO107, piece 11, folio 14/9, page 12, line 4. 2 “1841 UK census,” digital images, FindMyPast(http://www.findmypast.co.uk : accessed 30 December 2011), entry for Ellen Brown, age 15, Chievely, Newbury, Berks, citing TNA microfilm HO107, piece 16, folio 8/5, page 4, line 8. 3 “1841 UK census,” digital images, FindMyPast (http://www.findmypast.co.uk : accessed 30 December 2011), entry for Ellen Brown, age 17, St. Helen, Abingdon, Berks, citing TNA microfilm HO107, piece 32, folio 1/14, page 22, line 6.
4 “1841 UK census,” digital images, FindMyPast (http://www.findmypast.co.uk : accessed 30 December 2011), entry for Ellen Brown, age 20, Newbury Union, Berks, citing TNA microfilm HO107, piece 32, folio 2/16, page 26, line 10.
From the Next Steps section:
- Look for more details on the death of John Brown, who was buried at Reading St Mary on 15 June 1836, age 49. Also look for an associated birth record around 1787.
- Order birth certificate for Leonard Brown, possible son of Ellen Brown. GRO birth certificate Jan–Feb–Mar 1845, Cookham, Berkshire, Vol. 6:202. See Locating Ellen on the 1841 Census.
- To verify that Ellen’s brother Joseph and his wife Eliza were the parents of Ellen’s niece Hannah Brown, born 1848 in Reading, order her birth certificate: GRO certificate Jan–Feb–Mar 1848, Reading Berkshire, vol. 6:260. The birth record should show Eliza’s maiden name, which point to a marriage record, which might have more information about Joseph and Ellen’s father John.
- Ellen’s brother Joseph died a pauper at Newbury Union Workhouse in early 1890. Order his death certificate: GRO Jan–Feb–Mar 1890, Newbury Berkshire, Vol. 2c:165.
- Continue to search for Ellen’s brother Joseph on the 1841, 1861, and 1871 UK censuses. Consider the places his children were born: Wallingford, Berks, and West Cowes, Isle of Wight.
- Check record of Brown/Fulton marriage at St. Michael Church, Coventry, Warwickshire, on 29 September 1817, to determine if it might have been a second marriage for Ellen’s father John. See John and Lucy’s Family.
[i] “England Births and Christenings, 1538–1975,” database, Ellen Browne, 1823; Familysearch (http://www.familysearch.org : accessed 30 December 2011); citing St. Mary’s Baptisms, 1813–1869, images of original records, FHL British film 1,040,618. Note that FHL British film 1,279,467, citing “Bishop’s Transcripts of St. Mary’s Church, Reading, 1607–1835,” shows the baptism date of 6 September 1823.
[ii] Newbury, Berkshire, England, marriage certificate for Charles Turner & Ellen Brown, 1845, citing Jul-Aug-Sep, Newbury, vol. 6:279; given at General Register Office, London; copy held by author.
[iii] “1841 UK census,” digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 15 March 2009), entry for Lucy Brown, age 50, Thatcham, Greenham Chapelry, citing TNA microfilm HO107 Piece 17; Book: 34; Folio: 12; Page: 18; Line: 11. Enumerators for this census were instructed to report the ages of children under 15 exactly, but to round down to the nearest 5 for anyone 15 and older. So Lucy was age 50–54, young Lucy and Hannah were between ages 20–24, and Mary was age 15–19.
[iv] “1851 England Census,” digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 3 March 2009), entry for Charles Turner, Reading St Mary; citing TNA Microfilm HO107, piece 1692, folio 285, p.41, household 183.
[v] “1861 England Census,” digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 3 March 2009), entry for Charles Turner, Caversham, Oxfordshire; citing TNA Microfilm RG9 Piece: 883; Folio: 13; Page: 20, household 86.
[vi] “England Births and Christenings, 1538–1975,” database, Hannah Brown, 1848; Familysearch (http://www.familysearch.org : accessed 30 December 2011); citing FHL film 1,040,618.
[vii] “1851 UK census,” digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 29 December 2011), entry for Joseph Brown, Northwood, West Cowes, Isle of Wight; citing TNA microfilm HO107, piece 1662, folio 161, page 20, household 83, Brunswick Road.
[viii] Irene Littleby, Michael & Margaret Woodall, transcribers, Parish Registers for the Parish Church of St Giles, Reading Berkshire, 1564–1990, cd-rom ed., pdf format (Berkshire: Trustees of Berkshire Family History Society, 2008); citing Reading, St Giles – Marriages 1868–1875; Berkshire Records Office, ref: D/P 96/1/23.
[ix] “1891 UK census,” digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 30 December 2011), entry for Hannah Angliss, Tottenham, Middlesex; citing TNA microfilm RG12, piece 1077, folio 66, page 35, household 225.
[x] “1881 UK census,” digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 30 December 2011), entry for Joseph Brown, age 66, Newbury Union Workhouse, Newbury, Berkshire; citing TNA microfilm RG11, piece 1270, folio 98, page 2, line 25.
[xi] “1861 UK census,” digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 30 December 2011), entry for George Brown, Northwood, West Cowes, Isle of Wight; citing TNA microfilm RG9, piece 652, folio 40, page 14, household 87.
[xii] “1871 UK census,” digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 31 December 2011), entry for Ellen Brown, Newbury District 6, Berkshire; citing TNA microfilm RG10, piece 1250, folio 30, page 13, household 85, Borough Arms.
[xiii]Pat Ford and Dr. Hugh Kearsey, “Caversham St. Peter Parish Registers,” typescript (Oxfordshire: n.p., 2002), “Marriages,” p.12 , citing Berkshire Records Office (BRO) D/P 162/1/15 ; Oxfordshire Parish Register Transcripts, South Oxfordshire Area, Volume I, CD–ROM ed., PDF format (Oxfordshire: Oxfordshire Family History Society, 1994–2002), digital scans of micromedia.
[xiv] “1881 UK census,” digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 31 December 2011), entry for Ellen Brown, Reading St Giles, Berkshire, citing TNA microfilm RG11, piece 1308, folio 38, page 25, household 125.