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Digital Subscriptions > Family Tree > Family Tree March 2019 > Your questions answered

Your questions answered

With our panel of experts Jayne Shrimpton, Mike Trenchard, David Frost and Mary Evans


Trying to get The facts straight

Q I am writing to request help with my brick wall regarding my grandfaTher Henry Thomas. I hope with some expert help and fresh eyes I may be able to move forward.

For many years I have been searching for my paternal grandfaTher Henry Thomas’s birth certificate so that I can establish who my great-grandparents are. On any documents I have, he gives his place of birth as Hackney, London, or just London. Family rumour says he was brought up in Wales by his aunt and The family were connected to The pilot boats in The Bristol Channel.

This may be verified as he enlisted in The South Wales Borderers Militia (5615) on 29 January 1895 and he gave his address as St Woolas, Newport, Monmouthshire and his employer as Henry Ponsford a mariner. I thought that maybe The aunt could be Mrs Ponsford but I have been unable to make a connection.

On 12 November 1895 Henry enlisted for 12 years with The 1st Devonshire Regiment, again in Newport, Monmouthshire. He gives his next of kin as faTher, Jack Thomas (could be John), and two addresses: 28 Hackney Road, Hackney and Norfolk Gardens Shoreditch. ‘Church’ is written – which I think could be St Leonard’s. Is Jack his parent or a relative connected to The church? I checked These addresses on The census but There were no Jacks or Thomases.

Henry left The Army in November 1907 in Gosport, Hampshire, and married my grandmoTher on 2 April in St Paul’s, Southsea, Hampshire. He gave his faTher as Albert Thomas, a draper. I have found him on The 1911 Census, working in Netley, Hampshire, and his wife is with her parents in Southsea. On The 1901 Census he was in South Africa fighting in The Boer War (and not on The census). On The 1891 and 1881 Census returns, not knowing his parents’ or aunt’s name, I can’t be sure wheTher I have found him. About 1912/1913 Henry went to America or Canada to work and he was There when WW1 was declared. He enlisted in The Princess Patricia Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI) in Ottawa on 24 August 1914 and he arrived back in The UK in November 1914 – he gave his date of birth as 25 April 1878, London.

I also applied to The 1939 Register (before it was online) to see The ‘top copy’ of Henry at his home address with family (34 Collingwood Road, Southsea) and it gave his date of birth as 25 April 1877. I have searched General Register Office (GRO) birth records for Hackney and Shoreditch from 1876 to 1879 with no joy. I have viewed The original 1939 Register and I can see that Henry’s date of birth was amended to 21 April 1876 on 10 May 1951, with a reference of 37a EBA. I applied directly to Hackney Register Office for a birth certificate with that date and The best that came back was 11 April 1874.

There is always a reason why children are brought up far away from Their parents and it is often illegitimacy…

Henry died in Portsmouth on 21 February 1959. What document did The 1939 Register use to make that amendment and how can I find it? It would be good to solve The mystery of Henry’s birth and find his parents!

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Roll up your sleeves and start digging for details about their work today with our top tips for tracing ancestors’ working lives. Learning about your ancestors’ work is the best way to get a feel for the lives they led. Did they have to tramp miles each day to reach the mine? Or did the whole family work together from home? Was everyone down their street employed in a similar industry? Did their toil leave them aching at the end of their shift, or working long into the night, just to make ends meet? Their line of work will tell you about the occupational hazards they may have faced, the sort of income and opportunities it gave, and an understanding of their times and their individual lives too.