21 Nov 2015
I was very sceptical that the 1939 Register would deliver anything new for me. I have been studying family history for over 20 years, and if I needed information about the 20th century, I could mostly look at freebmd. And then jump straight into the electoral roll, to get an address of a living relative. I have done this countless times, so what good would sniffing around a 75 year-old summary do for my tree?
Child baptisms of around the year 1900 often gave the infant's exact date of birth - and assuming they lived another 69 years, you can then use this information to find their death record, particularly useful if they married overseas, had a common name or moved around unpredictably.
Child baptisms of around the year 1880 occasionally gave an exact date of birth, but the infant concerned is very unlikely to have lived another 89 years to produce such a record...
Believe me, I homed in on Catherine Jones (born 1881) pretty instantly, scouring the new 1939 Register for any evidence of a Catherine, but she eluded me. I was pretty sure she had survived and was living in Manchester, but she was proving a mite tricky to locate.
I knew that she'd had a massive bust-up with her sister Florence - the only family member to produce a will. And Florence goes to great lengths not to mention Catherine, so her archival betrayal means that Cath is utterly missing from our official family record.
Of course, I found her - and on the 1939 Register, too, but not by my own endeavour. Who should I spy living with Florence Jones in Manchester, 1939, but Katherine Bateman. Katherine! My fingers quiver as I double-check the birth-date. Yes, Katherine was born in March, and yes, she was born on 6 March 1881. And yes, there was a marriage (one of 23 possibles) in Liverpool 1905.
So, I was looking at the 1939 household before the barney. Katherine's two grandchildren lived nearby, and thirty years later, old Florence's heart softened and she added them to her will. Stupidly I had never checked out this reference, as the name Bateman had no resonance for me then.
EMMERDALE? Katherine's grandchildren both have large Irish-Manchester families. A great-great-grandson plays a cleaner living in the village of Eccup, just outside Leeds, in the soap Emmerdale.
WIFE-SWAP? Missed the wife-swap story. It's here.