Alan Crosby: Demolishing an Essex brick wall

By Jon Bauckham, 4 June 2015 - 5:20pm

Despite his years of family history experience, Alan Crosby still had a frustrating brick wall – and this week, he finally broke it down!

Dr Alan Crosby is the editor of the Local Historian and a columnist for WDYTYA? MagazineThursday 4 June 2015
Alan Crosby
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Alan's ancestors John Woodley and Susanna Francis hailed from the leafy village of Stansted Mountfitchet – now just two miles from one of Britain's major airports (Photo: Getty Images)

We hear a lot about brick walls, but what about the demolition jobs when we break down those barriers?

It happened to me this week. Doing some census searching, I decided to try yet again to find the 1841 entry for my 3x great grandparents in Essex. I’d checked them several times before with no results, but evidently I’d not done a good job, for there they were: Mary Alice Francis with several of her progeny including my great great grandmother. Eureka!

Even better was that they were living in the village of Great Waltham, near Braintree. I’d also been looking for the death of her husband, John Francis. He and Mary Alice were married in 1812 at South Weald near Brentwood, when she was 16 and he was a whole lot older (22 years older, as it turned out)! I knew he died before 1843, but his absence from the census was crucial. A quick check of burials revealed that John Francis, aged 66, died in Great Waltham at the end of 1840.

So he was born in 1774. His daughter (my great great grandmother) was Frances Woodley Francis, and I guessed that Woodley was her mother’s maiden name. I already knew that a John Francis and Susanna Woodley were married at Stansted Mountfitchet in 1772. Surely they were the right couple? Another quick check – and there’s the baptism of their son, John, in 1774. Lovely: all the pieces fit together perfectly.

And there are online family trees created by distant relatives, charting Susanna’s ancestry back to the beginning of the 17th century. I’ll need to look at the details (never accept online data without checking for accuracy) but that chance census discovery has added two hundred years, several dozen ancestors and collateral relatives, and some exciting new places to my family tree.

Now, can I claim my share of Stansted Airport?
 

Alan Crosby lives in Lancashire and is editor of The Local Historian. He is an honorary research fellow at Lancashire and Liverpool universities

 

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