I’ve been busy working on a fantastic family tree for a client whose ancestors come from Argyll and the Isles, a part of Scotland that I love to visit. My starting point was with the client’s maternal grandfather, Alex who had been reluctant to talk much about past generations, so we had little to go on. His parent’s names were unknown and he had been brought up by a grandfather, moving around the Western Isles as a child, where his grandfather worked as a farm labourer. We knew his date of birth in the 1920’s, a little about his career and that he had served with the RAF during WW2. I love a mystery!
Having identified Alex’s birth record the dreaded brick wall was immediately obvious. Although both parents were named, they were not married at the time of his birth. Both parents having extremely common forenames and surnames in the Argyll area and no indication of their ages made positively identifying them difficult. A total of ninety one women were identified as potential mothers!
To solve this mystery I turned to Alex’s RAF record. Not available online this was easily obtained by my client for a small fee. As well as adding interesting background to the research, there was a high chance that it would contain the name of Alex’s next of kin, which, indeed, it did. Now we knew that the grandfather who brought him up was his maternal grandfather and gave an address for the time of his enlistment.
Turning back to the 1911 census for Argyll, I was able to look for families with the forenames of both the grandfather and mother, which still gave a fair few possibilities. However, narrowing down the addresses on the census solved the mystery. A family where father and daughter had the correct names and occupations were living in the cottage where Alex was born. Mystery solved and able to carry on researching back the maternal side of Alex’s family tree.
Brick walls can be so frustrating but often there are ways to break them down if we know where to look. Have you come to a dead end with your research? I’d love to help.
Off to investigate a few possibilities for Alex’s father now.