Re: Grandma watkins
- From: "Don Moody" <dpmoody@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Fri, 23 Nov 2007 20:28:18 -0000
"Bryan" <bryan@xxxxxxxxx> wrote in message
Thanks for all the helpful comments - but I am no closer to a
Some more details of my searches -
The trouble really started with my grandfather's marriage
when James William Watkins , aged 27 - son of Thomas Watkins
Emma Jane Gill daughter of Henry Gill, aged 20 in East Stonehouse
(Plymouth) . It later developed that both must have lied about their
ages - Emma Jane cannot have been more than 18 and her father Henry
died in 1874, and James (according to his birth certificate) must
been 28. James was a soldier and, on his attestation papers from May
17, 1883 when he joined the North Sfaffordshire Regiment he says
he was born in Wandsworth. His supposed birth certificate gives his
birth address as 52 Hunter Street with mother Helen Scully and
Thomas Watkins. I can find the reference to his birth on the BMDs
no marriage between Helen Scully and Thomas watkins) and no trace of
father Thomas or mother Helen (with variants) in the 1861 census
(according to records on Ancestry, Origins network and The
Genealogist) - or even for a James of the right age and right
on the same sites for the 1871 census.
I wander back to these sites every so often to see if I may have
missed something - but no luck - so still hoping for some fresh
from the group.
A possible scenario: 'James' gets girl pregnant, abandons her, joins
Army to get away and uses an alias: James WW. Gets posted to
Plymouth - it was a garrison town and still is - and gets a girl
pregnant. Girl doesn't have father's permission to marry so lies to
Going back a generation, Helen Scully may be real but never was
married to a Thomas Watkins, that being an invention when first
enlisting in the Army, maybe a lodger, one of many 'uncles, or
so-called common-law husband. If a James Scully was 'on the run' from
an irate father of a girl he'd got pregnant, (or a wife and kids he
didn't want to support), then a name change, occupational change, and
area change would go together.
I'm not suggesting any version of this scenario is the truth. I'm only
pointing out, again, that people lie when they can get away with it.
Once you have found them out in one shading of the truth, you cannot
apply the notion that they ever did do what they 'ought' to have done.
You certainly cannot deduce anything from the absence of a record
which you think 'ought' to exist.
It's your time and money but the question which inevitably arises
after you've had a good shot at the problem is 'Is it worth continuing
with this?' The short answer in my opinion is NO!. The long answer is
illustrated above, and consists of generating wilder and wilder
scenarios amongst which you have no logical means of selection. I
suspect that your only hope of a breakthrough is serendipitous
happening on one document which gives 'before' and 'after' names.
Many of us live, and many more have lived, under names with which they
were not born.
In my own case, as an adoptee in the 'clean break' era, all references
to my birthname were supposed to disappear. They all did, except for
two things. My adoption certificate, which I did not see until
clearing up my adoptive father's papers after he died when I was 67.
And my Post Office Savings Book. It was sent for re-issue on the day I
was adopted. In those days the post worked. The re-issued book was
back two days later. Only it wasn't the new book it was supposed to
be. It was the old book with the birthname simply crossed out (but
still visible) and the new name written in. This was an 'economy
measure' according to the note in the book. For 57 years it was the
only document available for anybody else to see which linked two
apparently different persons.
Since I've always known my birthname anyway, 'clean break' wasn't
going to work for me. But it worked for very many people and whatever
the reason for the clean break. Those who made their own clean break
to escape a past only had to ensure that they carried no paperwork
from the past, and went where there was nobody to recognise them.
Then because a person without a past is a suspicious character, they
invented a fictitious past. Success in that only required that the
lies were plausible, and couldn't be checked upon by anybody in the
In our documented life it is ever more difficult to do a vanishing act
without official connivance. In those days it was as easy as walking
from one town to the next. In the conjoined villages which made up
London, it was as easy as walking a couple of streets away. In the
1950's it was possible to be one person under one name on the south
side of The Strand and a different person under another name on the
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