I have been helping a friend with a particularly tricky genealogy 'brick wall', and as we've now broken through that wall I thought I'd describe the process.
Here was the problem: It was known that a child named Eveline (May) BRIGHT was registered as born 1915, mother Alice BRIGHT (certificate below) and father unknown. The mother Alice BRIGHT was born abt 1894 according to documents below. Alice appears in the 1911 census of England as a domestic servant confirming her birth year. But nothing could be found of Alice from her birth till 1911, and nothing is known of her fate after 1915 (when she had her daughter), except that she did not raise Eveline (May), and a story exists that she perhaps died in the 1930's of consumption (tuberculosis).
First to the three pieces of hard data we have (mentioned above) that revealed information about Alice. I've included them below, and they show that Alice was consistent in the information she disclosed about herself - that she was born about 1894 in the Wyche/Colwall area. Wyche effectively straddles the counties of Herefordshire and Worcestershire, which makes record searching slightly more complicated. To the data!
Address: The Laurels, West Malvern, Worcestershire
Susannah Cracknell, head, 49, single, occupation Private Means, born London, Paddington
Alice Bright, servant, 17, single, general servant domestic, born The Wyche, Malvern
Ledbury Union Creed Register from Belle Orchard House where Alice's daughter was born.
From 1869, the workhouse master had to record the religious creed of each new inmate so that appropriate arrangements could be made in respect of their education (in the case of children), serious illness, or death.
Ledbury Union Creed Register (B6/13/i)
Mother: Alice Bright
Date of birth: 1894
Admission: 1 Jun 1915
Whence admitted: The Wyche, Colwall
Name of informant: Herself
Date of entry: 1 Jun 1915
Masters initials: JK
Discharged: 24 Jun 1915
Date of birth: 6 Jun 1915
Admission: 6 Jun 1915 (birth)
Whence admitted: Birth
Name of informant: Mother
Date of entry: 6 Jun 1915
Masters initials: JK
Discharged: 24 Jun 1915
Birth certificate of Eveline May
Certified copy of an entry of birth
Registration district: Ledbury
1915 Birth in the Sub-District of Ledbury in the County of Herefordshire and Worcestershire
When and where born: Sixth June 1915, Belle Orchard House, Ledbury
Name: Eveline, girl
Name and surname of father: -
Name and surname of mother: Alice Bright, domestic servant of Colwall
Profession of father: -
Informant: J Kendwick, Occupier?, Belle Orchard House, Ledbury
When registered: 8th June 1915
Working backwards from these three pieces of information, the obvious ports of call were the 1901 census, and a civil birth registration for Alice Bright. Extensive searches of both offered no possible matches. Parish records were also searched on IGI however few parishes have their records from this late period indexed. So if Alice couldn't be found I reasoned there were two possibilities. The first was that she was missing from the 1901 census and birth through the normal errors and mistakes (lost, missed, mis-transcribed, travelling, name mis-spelt, etc.). Secondly, it was possible she adopted the name Bright after 1901 due to a change of circumstances (mother widowed and remarried, informal adoption by a family, etc). One might argue that Alice had intentionally altered her details in the 1911 and 1915 information above, perhaps as she had a child out of wedlock, however this is extremely unlikely as she could not possibly have been guarding her identity in 1911 in anticipation of a social awkwardness four years later.
So I was looking for a girl named Alice Bright born on the border of two counties in 1894. I decided to look at BRIGHT family units in the area and catalog them in 1891 and 1901 censuses to see if there were any clues, or perhaps a whole family unit not recorded in 1901. There were 5-6 families in the area, and all seemed present between the two censuses, but of course there were many changes. It gave me hope a solution existed though as several generations were born in the Colwall area, and there seemed to be a 'landed gentry' line among them suggesting a long connection with the area.
I then decided to turn to parish baptism register searches to see whether the local churches recorded a BRIGHT family. It seemed to me that the only church in Wyche proper was a non-conformist church, now known as the Wyche Free Church (www.wychefreechurch.org.uk) whose pastor informed me that no records prior to 1920 existed. This was disappointing, and presented a possible 'brick wall' - especially as Alice gave her religion as 'Congregationalist' in 1915.
I next turned nearby Church of England (Protestant) churches to see where local families lived. There is not a church in Wyche, but many nearby. While they are not indexed, the Rootschat forum (www.rootschat.com/forum/index.php) is a wonderful exchange for information, and I put out a query for BRIGHT baptisms in the 1890's.
Sarah Ann Alice, girl, born sixth Jan 1894, Upper Wyche, Hanley Castle, father Henry Bright, cab driver, mother Catherine Bright formerly King. Informany Henry Bright Upper Wyche Great Malvern.
Why isn't Alice in the 1901 census? Maybe she is. Maybe we'll never know. But the children of Henry and Kate are scattered even in 1901. Looking through the censuses for children from the 1891 census:
How did they afford education for a daughter in London? One thing is clear, it's likely Alice was elsewhere being educated, or perhaps with with a family member. What became of Alice BRIGHT after 1915? That is the next question.
But we found her. Extensive searches of parish records has found most of the children baptized at St Peter's, Malvern Wells. Amazingly, the parish book is blank from 1891-1894. Yet again Alice eluded documentation!!
We would very much like to hear from people with an interest in the BRIGHT family from this area - perhaps they even are aware of what became of Alice. Please comment on this post or contact us by email at