Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Family History throws up a surprise

 When I first started researching my paternal family history one of the people I discovered was a lady (Iris) who turned out to be my (step cousin x1) Unbeknown to either of us, it turned out our grandfather Charles had been married twice – Iris  was his granddaughter via his first wife and I’m his granddaughter via his second wife.
Of course this exciting news gave us lots to correspond about and we exchanged all the information we each obtained over the years about our paternal family ancestors….Eventually we thought there was nothing new to add to our family tree, until one day completely out of the blue, I found an old 1933 newspaper obituary notice of a lady named Mathilda
….I can’t explain why I had the compulsion to read this particular notice as her name meant nothing to me, but I did, and was stunned to read that our grandfather Charles was in attendance at this lady’s funeral, and reported as being her father!! This meant Iris and I now had an Aunt which neither of us had any previous knowledge of..

We exhausted every means at our disposal but couldn’t find this particular Mathilda on any early records or census’ It wasn’t until recently that we discovered that after the early death of their mother, she and her younger sister (Iris’s mother)  had been brought up by their maternal grandparents, and was known throughout childhood by  their surname not their own.
 Mathilda subsequently emigrated to Australia in her late teens after some altercation with her grandparents. Seemingly there was no communication between them after that, until she came back to England c1930 when she knew her health was failing…she was only in her early thirties at the time of her death.
The puzzling thing is that Iris’s mother never mentioned that she had an elder  sister who’d gone to Australia….maybe she was too young at the time to understand…

It appears our grandfather deserted his children after his first wife’s death and later went on to marry my grandmother and start another family…who he again deserted, leaving my grandmother with four young children.  He never divulged to my grandmother nor any of my direct ancestors that he’d been married before and already had a family.
 He even set up home with a third lady, but that’s another story!!

It became obvious with Mathilda being in Australia under a different surname why she didn’t appear on any of the relevant UK census’ and her existence wasn’t known among the UK family until I accidently found and read her obituary notice.

The knowledge of our family not only grew by one when finding Mathilda, but we now have two more cousins and their families to add to it, as she had two children of her own when living in Australia. The only information we have about Mathilda’s adult life is what little we have gleaned from correspondence with her Australian descendants.. they had no previous knowledge of the family she’d left behind in the UK.

Such complications crop up from time to time when researching Family History…. so it’s lovely when a golden nugget of information turns up unexpectedly to enlighten us. 


  1. Oh my goodness, it's the stuff of historical novels. What a wonderful and yet sad story to tell. Thank you for sharing it. xx

  2. It's funny how these things happen. I got contacted out of the blue by the descendant of one of my Gt Grandfathers brothers. Turns out he was sent away as a convict and none of us had known about it!