British Ancestry

A Mr Stephen J. Deacon wrote to the IHGS some time ago with an interesting collection of genealogical notes, starting off with one Charles who was born out of wedlock .. "as she was in service, it is possible (likely?) that her employer fathered child."

Charles was born on 10th October 1867 at No Mans Land, New Forest, Hants, and died on 5th June 1933 having been a soldier who enlisted in the Royal Hampshire Regiment and served in the Boer War. - - - - - - - - - The material Mr Deacon sent was interesting and he goes on "as you see, my grandfather was illegitimate and my first question would be what happens with a family tree when this type of obstacle is encountered?" He continues, "my side of the family appears relatively 'normal' but my wife's maternal line has some more interest. Her maternal great-great grandfather was Sir Lionel Phillips who was heavily involved with Cecil Rhodes at the time of the Jameson raid - sentenced to death for being there. The death sentence having been commuted, he was a key player with Jan Smuts". Unfortunately, Mr Deacon failed to date his letter or to give a name and address. I would be delighted to advise him on tracing both the Deacon and the Phillips lineage and, particularly, that of his great grandmother.

One does not come to an end in genealogical research because of various illegitimacies. Apart from making efforts to discover the identity of the putative father, it is always of interest to follow the maternal as well as the paternal line of ancestry. Indeed, the former is the more certain! Assuming that the surname in its present form is a phonetic variation of its original, then there should be no difficulty in discovering your emigrant ancestry from Britain in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Genealogical research is, of course, an exacting task of locating and reading a mass of documents of various kinds and content widely disseminated and held publicly and privately in archives, record offices and collections. There is no panacea on an Internet web site or in an index on a bookshelf. We would first localise the surname under its variant spellings by extracting the records of death from General Registration for a period of about 15 years and then locating the families of those deceased persons in the early Census Returns. This would give a distribution of the name and the common Christian names held in each generation.

In the case of emigrant ancestry, we would then wish to match the results found by the above method with those of ancestors' descendants in the first and second generations in the New World to discover any patterning that might lead us to the precise locality. We would turn to the original parish records and hope to be able to find that there was an individual who is recorded as having left the country for the New World, Antipodes or wherever abroad. For this purpose, unless the clients are prepared to carry out this work for themselves (and it can really only be done in the U.K.), we would require to know the given names of the migrant ancestors' children in the first and second generation; the name of his wife, if known, and the given names of her siblings and parents in order to eliminate those names from the list of his children; and the names and given names of the families in the locality where the migrant ancestor settled. Among these may be neighbours and friends from the old country.

I can assure you that I have had a success rate of around 80% using this method over the past fifty-odd years. While it may involve 30-40 hours of research, or more, it is always well worth the expenditure and no doubt you will budget for the exercise. The principle is based upon the fact that while migration has occurred through all generations in England and Wales, there is a tendency for the epicentre of a particular name to be virtually unchanged since the 16th century through to the 19th century, when General Registration records began to be kept nationally. But why write with a problem of this sort without giving an address ... or was it on the back of the envelope destroyed in the post room ? Per haps Mr Deacon has more information.

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