Great Uncle George,
"Where are you?"

by: Alison Forte

My Genealogy research hit a snag when I started trying to put together my grandfather's family. I had only been doing research for about a year when I hit this roadblock. As you'll see I didn't use a highly technical or fancy research technique to solve this mystery, perhaps it was just a little bit of good fortune.

I had been able to find my grandfather Fred's birth entry in the England birth indexes and I had sent for his certificate, which revealed who his parents were, his date of birth and the address where his family lived when he was born.

Fred was born in 1905 and I had found out that his parents, William and Elizabeth, had married in 1902. I looked through the birth indexes from 1902 to 1912 and sent for all the birth certificates for "George" that I could find hoping to find Fred's brother whom my mother had spoke about. My mother wasn't sure if George was his name, but I decided to start there. I was hoping it would lead to a new discovery. Unfortunately one letter after another kept coming back with the same results, it wasn't the George I was looking for.

Well I kept trying to think of where I could look next but found I was always getting sidetracked with other lines that were progressing nicely. My mom and I used to always joke and say that if his name was something else, that I would have to enter him in my database with an alias of "George."

Several years passed by and I still hadn't gotten anywhere with this problem, but decided not to give up. I volunteer at the Family History Center and while there on my shift on 24 November 1999 I decided I was going to give it one more try. I pulled open the drawer of the birth indexes, which were on microfiche and I noticed that there was only the third quarter of the 1908 indexes, followed by 1911, 1912 and so on. I was going to start at 1911, when my hand hesitated for a minute and the next thing I knew I was going through the 1908, 3rd quarter index.

I was putting the fiche into the reader, when I was called to the aide of a patron. Sometime later when I returned to my fiche I had forgotten where I was. I stared into the screen and found that I had left it at the THOMAS surnames. I was about to move to the G's, because the fiche was left on the W's. All of a sudden I saw the name GEORGE. I stop and looked further. It said William George. Could it be? I continued reading on, Devonport 5b 298. Well that was the right registration district. I was very excited on the inside, but I was calm on the outside. I didn't want to be disappointed if it wasn't my George. It made a lot of sense though because his father's name, grandfather and great grandfather's name were all William.

After work I came home and wrote a letter and went to the bank to get a money order. I put it in the mailbox and thought to myself, "I hope this is it!" All there was to do now was to wait. I tried distracting myself by working on a few different lines, but I kept thinking about George.

The postman must have thought I was a bit strange, because he would just barely get my mail in the box and there I was to get it out. This went on until 14 December 1999. On that day in my hand was the letter from the register office in Devon. I couldn't open the envelope fast enough. There before my eyes were the words William George Thomas, born 23 August 1908. To the far right of the certificate were listed the parents. The names were right. I had found my mother's uncle! Even though my mother had passed away before I could find him, I was so excited that I went straight to the phone to call my aunt. I was unable to give her this good news as she had just left for holidays. I had to wait until late January to tell her.

My roadblock was removed by just being at the right spot at the right time, which is not a fancy or technical research technique at all. Maybe "Great Uncle George" was looking over my shoulder. I am so glad I didn't give up and decided to try one more time. Now the doors are starting to open. I am determined to carry on to find his marriage and maybe even his children.


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Additional articles:

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  • Unpuzzling the Past Via Naming Patterns
  • The Information Jackpot for Genealogists
  • Effective Correspondence
  • Listen To The Dead
  • Rooting Female Ancestors

    Suggested Reading:

  • Ancestors : A Beginner's Guide
  • An American Family
  • Ancestral Trails
  • The American Family Home, 1800-1960
  • An American Family Album

    Alison is a stay at home mom who is addicted to genealogy. A wife and mother of two children, Alison has been researching her family since December 1992.

    She received an award from Broderbund Software in 1997 to further her studies in genealogy. The experience has been very rewarding and it has afforded her an opportunity to meet many people who share the same passion for genealogy.

    For more information about Alison and the surnames that she is researching, please take a moment to visit her on the web at Alison's Genealogy Page.

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