Complex Family Relationships

Well the last few days I have been trying to resolve a few mysteries surrounding a Henry ALDERMAN (b. 1860 Andover), son of Thomas ALDERMAN and Martha WARWICK.  This mystery clearly became one of those of complex family relationships that are often mentioned these days by genealogists, magazines and websites etc.  This as they often say is not a modern issue, we know today that many families are created without marriage society accepts couples having children “out of wedlock” as they never would have in the past.  The modern term “blended families” is often used when two households come together, this is nothing new we see in many cases in the past a re-marriage after a death of a spouse very quickly because of the young children left without a parent.  These households are sometimes shown on census records with their birth surnames, sometimes with the step-family surnames.  Children born in the past illegitimately often took the name of their mother’s spouse if she married after they were born.  All of these issues are ones that must be considered when researching these complex families.  I have come across many such complex relationships in my years of researching but never quite so complex as the story below.

Before marrying Thomas in 1859, Martha had had two daughters Susan & Ruth WARWICK (both illegitimate), these two girls are shown on the 1861 census with Thomas, Martha and baby Henry, at this point Thomas has described the girls as his “daughter’s in law”.  By 1871, both girls are still living at home and are now described as “daughter’s”, their surnames are still shown as WARWICK.  By 1881 the confusion starts, Ruth WARWICK is now listed on the census as “Ruth W ALDERMAN”,  daughter of Thomas ALDERMAN, along with her half-brothers Henry & Charles.

The confusion then got worse, Ancestry was missing the 1891 census for the family of Henry ALDERMAN, I found him in 1901 at Yately, Hampshire.

Extract from 1901 Census for Henry Alderman (b. 1860 Andover)

The extract above shows part of his entry, from this I assumed that the children Kathleen & Percy were Henry’s and that he had married at some point between the 1881 & 1901 census dates and that his wife had died.  On the surface this seems like a logical solution.

The 1911 census lead me to the same conclusion

Extract from 1911 Census for Henry Alderman (b. 1860 Andover)

Again we can see Ruth is shown as his sister (ALDERMAN does seem to have been added as an afterthought though) and Percy is shown as his son.

Things got left with these conclusions on my Ancestry tree for a while until yesterday I wanted to start updating the records for this family on my family tree on this site.  I searched and searched for an entry in the 1891 census, but to no avail.  I then thought lets try FindMyPast, yes the family were there.  As I don’t have access to the records there (I don’t like the credit system and prefer a monthly payment option which sadly is not available), I posted on the FindMyPast Facebook page to see if someone could help me.  A very helpful lady came back with this.

1891 Census transcript for Henry Alderman (b. 1860 Andover)

Great I thought I have the name of his wife and they had another child, so off I went to research a bit more and it turned out Henry didn’t marry Margaret (surname BARRETT) until 1888, so what about William R ALDERMAN (b. 1883), well as you might have guessed his surname was actually BARRETT.  Yet again a surname is recorded as different to what it truly is!!!

I then searched for the death of Margaret, she died in 1892 and thought if she is died then who is Percy’s mother?  He wasn’t born until 1895, so maybe Henry married again but a search for another marriage provided nothing,  and Percy’s birth record clearly has his name as ALDERMAN.

Confused, I certainly was but then I thought the name Percy ALDERMAN is not common in the tree, lots of names like Henry, William etc are but not Percy so I moved on to find out more about him.  I found out that he like so many other young men he was a casualty of the First World War and that he died in Mespotamia (modern day Iraq) on the 21st January 1916.  Ancestry’s “UK, Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919″ did give me his regiment, service number and more but did not give me any parental information so I went to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) website where I found Percy.  The additional information stated “Son of Mrs. Ruth WARWICK ALDERMAN, of Olive Cottage, Yateley, Hants.” so Percy was not Henry’s son but Ruth’s.  A copy of Percy’s certificate from the CWGC is available below.

CWGC Certificate for Percy ALDERMAN (1895-1916)

Well all of this was extremely confusing, working out whose child was whose, multiple cases of illegitimacy, name changes etc.  It just goes to show that no matter what things seem like on the surface you do need to check and check again, if a census is missing try to find a copy if it is available, if one genealogy site doesn’t have it try another. 

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