One of the things that really frustrates me in genealogy is when ancestors disappear. It happens more often than you’d think. You’re happily searching away, finding ancestors right, left and centre and then ….. They just vanish and leave a dead end in your family tree.
I’ve come across this many times and it does frustrate some people as they think you can find anyone, but in reality you can’t. You search every set of records you can think of. You try different spelling to their names and you check they didn’t travel abroad, but still you can’t find them.
The one person in my tree that frustrates me the most is my Great grandfather’s sister Edith Staton. She was born in Worksop and went to school in Somerset. She then joined her eldest brother in Peterborough. In 1901 she was on the census living with her mother, step father and sister in Dunstable. The last time I found her was in 1904 in Dunstable. I found a newspaper article from the Luton Times on the 1 April describing the marriage of her sister in which Edith was mentioned as a bridesmaid. After that nothing! Where did she go? I’ve checked the 1911 census for her. Since her parents were dead I checked her siblings and she wasn’t with them. I’ve check the marriage and death records, emigration records, the newspaper archive and even military records. Nothing!
Over the years I’ve come up with many theories. Some are logical some are just weird.
Theory 1. Was Edith a suffragette? This could indicate why Edith wasn’t on the 1911 census. I wasn’t uncommon for suffragettes to not be on this census. They used it as a form of protest again them not being allowed to vote. This could solve one problem but not all. I’ve found no evidence she was a suffragette and certainly no evidence she was ever arrested. But even if she was she would surely have been found in other records such as marriage or death records.
Theory 2: Did Edith leave the country. Again I’ve found no evidence that she did. No application for a passport and no documents showing she left the country.
Theory 3: Did she actually get married but the marriage is not in the records or her name was misspelled. I’ve checked many times but to no avail.
Theory 4: Edith was abducted by aliens. Might happen!
Theory 5. Something bad befell Edith. Again this could have happened but surely if it had someone would have reported her disappearance to the police and it would have turned up in the newspaper?
Theory 6. Did she for some reason start living under an assumed name. I can’t think of a reason why she would, but it may explain why she vanished. It’s perfectly legal to begin living under an assumed name as long as it wasn’t for illegal reasons. If this is the case I have no hope of ever finding out what happened to her.
Now I know in the grand scheme of things it’s not the end of the world that I can’t find out what happened to Edith, but it is mildly annoying. It also shows that genealogy is not an exact science. Some people think you can just type in a few things and find a person. Sometimes you can be lucky and this can the case, but mostly it’s not, especially for those searching for a common surname. You’ve got to take so many factors into consideration and if you’re unsure how to do it, it could be impossible. Even after all these years I’m still finding new methods and ideas on how to find people. This gives me hope that one day I will find Edith, but in reality I’ve resigned myself to accepting that Edith is probably lost to history.