Sunday, 4 February 2018

#52Ancestors, Week 5, In the Census

Searching for connections and reconnecting

Back in the early 1990’s when the 1881 UK census was the only census available freely to researchers with roots in the United Kingdom, (and only on CD or microfiche) many researchers spent hour upon hour trawling through fiche after fiche in darkened Family History Centre rooms and libraries.

We had only begun piecing together information in my maternal grandmother’s family from the little information she had given away to us over the years. My Dad and I spent hours in the evenings at the Family History Centre reading church records hoping to find something concrete. Sometimes we went alone.

We knew from Nana that her mother’s family was from the “Black Country” and that she had a brother. We also knew that Nana’s grandfather married three times and that she also had two half siblings. Her mother’s brother and a half-brother (although I don’t think that Nana referred to him as such) had emigrated to the US. We knew their names and the names of their wives. We also knew an elderly aunt had emigrated to the US.

Between 1989 and 1991 some certificates were purchased from the GRO and we discovered that my great grandmother had been born in Wolverhampton on 17 July 1878[1], and that her parents were married in Dudley in a Primitive Methodist Chapel on 23 August 1875[2] (a WHAT !!?? – researching Primitive Methodism soon became another obsession). We also learned that her mother died in Wolverhampton on 5 May 1879[3]. What became of the children ?

I remember Dad’s jubilation when he returned home one day from the library with a piece of paper detailing the residents of one household in Dudley.

Residence: Paradise, Dudley (Worcs), Staffordshire, England[4]
Henry James
Leintwardine, Herefordshire, England
Elizabeth James
Leintwardine, Herefordshire, England
Albert Kelsey
Grand Son
Wolverhampton, Staffordshire, England
Laura Kelsey
Grand Daughter
Wolverhampton, Staffordshire, England
Amnie H Richards
Mold, Flintshire, Wales

So, here she was, living with her grandfather and aunt…and a cousin ? To be fair, we didn’t make much more progress until the arrival of that wonderful phenomenon – the internet. I dabbled, I joined Ancestry in 2002.

One day (5 March 2003) while dabbling, I came across a post on a bulletin board -remember those ? Someone in the US had come across that same census entry. She was looking for more information about the Henry James family, last known living in Dudley with a daughter, niece and two grandchildren. I posted a reply, from work. Could it be ?

On returning to work the next morning there was a reply email. Needless to say, not much work was done that day. I couldn’t wait to get home. I replied, I sent the email to my Mum and Dad, I rang them to make sure they checked and read their email. I was dancing on air. The poster, was the great granddaughter of my great grandmother’s brother Albert who had emigrated to the US. We are 3rd cousins. We knew they existed somewhere in the US – they had no idea we were down here in New Zealand searching the same tree.

Since then we have filled out the family so much more, broken some brickwalls down and reconnected with other members of the extended Kelsey family all over the planet. There are still some brickwalls to smash, but to think this all began with people on opposite sides of the Pacific, reading microfiche in Family History Centres and libraries.

[1] Certified Copy of an Entry of Birth, Laura Ellen Kelsey, General Register Office, England.
[2] Certified Copy of an Entry of Marriage, Thomas Kelsey and Mary James, General Register Office, England.
[3] Certified Copy of an Entry of Death, Mary Kelsey nee James, General Register Office, England.
[4] "England and Wales Census, 1881," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 13 December 2017), Henry James in household of Henry James, Dudley (Worcs), Staffordshire, England; from "1881 England, Scotland and Wales Census," database and images, findmypast ( : n.d.); citing p. 2, Piece/Folio 2881/23, The National Archives, Kew, Surrey; FHL microfilm 101,774,821., accessed 4 February 2018.

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