This is part 2 of the method I used in conducting the research for my book on family history – A BULLET FOR LIFE – now FREE TODAY on Amazon
I hope you find some of the pointers useful and Part 3 will follow
My assumption that Lily Stanford was one and the same person as the Lily from Barrow was difficult to prove. I was certain that this lady was the common law wife of George and they had not married legally, in fact it would have been bigamously if they had – something that did not stop Mary Hannah remarrying. George had stated that Lily was born in Preston. She was not, so I concentrated on the sister of the Cumbrian Lily, Evalena and tried to trace her. I found her quite easily in 1911 working in Cumbria as a servant and later discovered that an Eva Stanford had married in Preston but this was in 1934 to an Alfred Cant. 1934 would have seen her entering middle age so was this likely to be the correct Eva(lina) Stanford? It seemed unlikely but I had to pursue it. By chance I had found a death of a man that could be this Lily and Eva’s father, a man that also had a very elusive and fractured family tree, one that even now I have not totally unravelled. This man that fitted the information I had so far was living in Shawforth, a small town close to Bacup, Lancashire. On an off chance I sent for this certificate and on opening there was the name of the informant – Eva Cant. To clinch that she was Lily’s sister I continued looking at George and Lily’s lives. I had no information from Lorna’s mother as these Grandparents had died before her birth and she herself had been put into care at around five years old so had no family history to pass on. Bearing in mind that George and Lily must have been together since 1905 I still thought it worthwhile in going farther on in time and looked at any possibility of a marriage and I found one in 1931 in Rochdale, a safe distance from Preston. They had left Preston for the event as this marriage was still bigamous as Mary Hannah, although bigamously married herself was still alive. The reason why they finally married was that Lily was dying and her death followed two months later. On the marriage certificate were the names of the witnesses and one was Eva Cant, Lily’s sister. The case was finally solved – well nearly. I wanted to find out where George and Lily were buried. The Cant plot is in Bacup but Lily is not buried there. If you are trying to find a grave then do try the Cemetery offices as they are usually very helpful and now also there is the https://www.deceasedonline.com/ website which is excellent. I had to assume that they were buried in Preston as this was their last known address and so I turned up at the Cemetery office with I have to say quite muddled information but they were extremely patient and brought out the old record books and located very quickly the Hatton plot and there buried together were George and Lily. The grave itself is unmarked but coincidentally very near to a plot on my side of the family that also yielded much valuable information. That was my methodology for this puzzle so I do hope there are a few pointers as to the direction to take but the best advice with a problem like this is take your time and try if possible to have a confirming source. It was very difficult solving this one and probably took about two years in total but I have to say it was great fun doing it.
When I set out on my search for all these previously unknown family members, and I now have over 900 relatives that I never knew existed, I initially thought that my side of the family in particular was pretty boring. Lorna’s side from day one was clearly not in the least uninteresting and with the research I have done I can certainly say that her line would make a better programme than any WDYTYA that I have ever seen. If you find from your initial research that there appears to be little reason to carry on digging into the lives of these people then try to dispel that thought. The first research will of course be based on the Census’ available and these will give you the family line and brief details regarding occupations etc… My suggestion from the research I have enjoyed is to go to the military records as a next step. Take some time and patience to check any possible people that could have been involved in conflict. For World War II you may have to try Google or check Member’s trees etc… on Ancestry. Newspapers also can be useful for 1939-45 but again will need patience. What you may uncover can be quite remarkable as in the case of my Grandfathers brother who died as a child and his tragic records were included in my G/Grandfathers war papers. If you find that a relative has died in the war then almost certainly the newspapers will have a record and I found such fascinating details for Alan Atherton, Jonathan Walkden and Roger Orrell. Don’t stop at the easily obtainable records on Ancestry for instance. It can be worth contacting the regiment they served with and these can be most helpful in providing more details. Checking online by searching for their regiment or known actions can also be extremely rewarding and many people and regiments have blogs that provide accurate information about the circumstances your ancestor may have fought in and sadly died in.
I found also that contact with other researchers was invaluable. There are times when you reach a dead end and no amount of searching can unlock the path. Other people may have access to family records that give you the break you need and this happened quite a few times over my years of research. Some of the information provided by these distantly related contacts has been truly extensive and invaluable. It is always worth cultivating contacts although just very occasionally you may wish you hadn’t!