Monday, 28 November 2016

Finding Matthew Taylor - using the new GRO Indexes

Three years ago I wrote about Matthew Taylor, the OH's 3x great grandfather.  My problem was that Matthew vanishes from Castleford, Yorkshire somewhere between 1852 and 1856.  By 1861 his widow is living with another man as a 'housekeeper' and appears to have had two more children since Matthew's disappearance.  I could not pin down Matthew's death as during that time there were 28 deaths of men named Mat*hew Taylor across the country,  none however in Castleford.  Matthew had been a sailor in his youth and could conceivably have died whilst on a voyage with his uncles who still ran boats between Leeds and Hull and beyond, although after his marriage in 1848 he had worked in the glassworks in Castleford. As age at death was not given for these early records I had no way of narrowing down the possibilities. 

Lost Cousins logo with a magnifying glass in place of the O of Cousins. Underneath 'Putting Relatives in Touch'.

A few weeks ago I heard via a newsletter from 'Lost Cousins' that the General Register Office (GRO) had updated their birth indexes to include mother's maiden name and death indexes to include age at death going right back to the start of registration in 1837.  Follow the link to the newsletter above to find a very useful explanation of the new indexes. 
"General Register Office: Official Information on births, marriages and deaths."
Additionally, for just a few weeks, the GRO were offering .pdf versions of certificates for just £6 instead of the usual £9.25 for a certified paper copy (£10 if you order them from your local Register Office), and we were promised them within five working days.  By the time you read this the trial will probably be over as it was due to end on 30 November or when they had issued 45,000 certificates, whichever came first.  Of course you can still order paper certificates from the GRO website and they are promising some further pilots over the next few months.  More information can be found in the FAQs on their site.  What makes this even more fascinating for me is that Baroness Scott, who proposed the amendment to the government's Deregulation Bill in 2014 (see this helpful article on Lost Cousins) is a distant relative of mine via my Bradford born Batemans!
Results for Matthew Taylor (or similar) deaths 1854 +/- 2 years, age 25 +/- 10 years
I dusted off my certificate 'wish list' and immediately tried a search for men named Matthew (and derivative variations) Taylor who died between 1852 and 1856.  Only one was the right age to be the OH's 3x great grandfather who, as we know he had been born in 1829, would have been between 23 and 27 in that time period. Matthew Taylor aged 24 who died in Newcastle upon Tyne in the first quarter of 1854. I had cut 28 options down to just one and that's the certificate I sent for.

My certificates (I did order another, but I'll save that story for my next blog post) should have arrived by last Thursday, but the GRO site was experiencing a 'Period of High Demand' as the notice on their log in page explained.  Not surprising really as I am sure that thousands of family historians will have done the same as me and sent for some certificates immediately they found out about the trial. I had a busy weekend (it was the OH's 50th birthday weekend!) but I kept checking my email as I knew from further Lost Cousins posts that the GRO were working weekends to cope with the demand.  By the time I woke up today, very late after the long weekend, they had arrived in my inbox, time-stamped 12.33 and 12.34.  Hooray!
1854 Death Certificate for Matthew Taylor aged 24 (with thanks to the GRO)

Here is Matthew's certificate.  After such a long wait I am almost reluctant to accept that I have solved this genealogical 'brick wall' at last!  The year and age fit - well, yes of course they do, they are the criteria I used to find the certificate! But we know it is the only recorded death that fits the man (I'll try not to worry about the possibility of an unrecorded death or a death at sea). His occupation is given as Bottle Gatherer, which I know from my studies of the glass trade in Barnsley was the man who picked up the blob of molten glass from the furnace ready for the blower to form the bottle. We know Matthew worked in the glass trade in Castleford in 1851.  The name of his wife fits - Matthew married Susannah Rogers in 1848 in Sutton near Hull.  Matthew died of 'Menningitis' (which has extra n's in 1854!) which is a horrible and sudden way to die so young. 

So with so many points of correlation the only thing left to consider is what on earth Matthew and Susannah, with two young children (probably) were doing in what looks like Mill Quay, Hewith, Durham which I assume is Heworth, just south of the River Tyne.  Given the Taylor family connection to trade and transport they will have know that there were glassworks along the Tyne.  When Aaron Rogers Taylor, their second child, was born in Castleford in 1853 Matthew's occupation was noted as Labourer rather than Glass maker as he had been on the census two years earlier.  Maybe there were reduced opportunities for skilled work in Castleford so the family packed up and moved to Newcastle looking for better paid work.  Once Matthew was dead Susannah would have had little choice but to return to Castleford hoping the Taylor family there would help support her and her children.

Durham Records Online: Search or 3,364,673 Durham & Northumberland parish & census records containing 8,325,100 names

A search on Durham Records Online for Matthew's burial (easy to do now I know the year!) brought back a hit which tallied with the death certificate (searches are free and often give enough detail for basic family history purposes, but in this case I paid £1.50 for the full transcription).

Burials, Gateshead District - Record Number: 658836.2
Location: Heworth
Church: St. Mary
Denomination: Anglican
15 Feb 1854 Matthew Taylor, of Bill Quay, age: 24

This makes it clear that Hewith is Heworth and that Mill Quay is actually Bill Quay.  The world is really getting smaller - I am sure that place name has cropped up in my own family tree, and it is a place the OH and I have visited on one of our holidays in the North East.

Thinking about the children I noticed I had no record of the marriage or death of Matthew and Susannah's eldest child, Mary Ann, who was born in Castleford in 1850. She appears in the 1851 census but not in the 1861 census (see my previous blog about the family as mentioned above).  I thought I'd try a search for Mary Taylor in the new GRO death indexes. Castleford fell within the Pontefract registration district until 1862 and there is one record that might match. Mary Ann Taylor aged 1 who died in the Pontefract district in the first quarter of 1852.  As she was 7 months old in March 1851 this age fits.  However there is also a Mary Ann Taylor aged 2 who died in Newcastle upon Tyne in the fourth quarter of 1853, and now we know the family were there in early 1854 I cannot rule this result out.  Something to come back to later I think.

That is quite enough for one day.  I have found the OH's 3x great grandfather and closed off his record satisfactorily.  The link with the North East is fascinating and I still have many other questions about Susannah, his widow and their daughter Mary to answer.  But for now I am very happy.

Thank you to the GRO for making my day!

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