Using Twitter For Genealogy Brickwalls

November 2nd, 2010

Yesterday I had a spare 30 minutes while dinner was cooking so I thought I would do a quick UK census search as I have been having quite a lot of success finding families that I couldn’t find years ago while searching through microfilms.

My gg grandmother was Harriet Judge who was born in Brackley, Northamptonshire in 1840 and she married George Gardiner in 1860 in London. A quick search found them in Tottenham, Middlesex with a daughter Mary Jane. No wonder I never found her in microfilms for Brackley, Northamptonshire and how much easier it is today doing online searching.

However a similar quick search didn’t find them in 1871 and after trying a few searches on George, Harriet and Mary Jane I skipped to the 1881 census and there they were with quite a few more children but at the same address as 1861. So back to the 1871 census as it looked liked they hadn’t moved.

I tried looking for the other children’s names but no luck. Then surname variations Gardiner, Gardener, Gordiner, Gordener and as dinner was well and truly cooked by this time, the family started stomping round saying ‘we want dinner’! While I would have preferred to stay and solve the puzzle, I quickly put a message on my Twitter account @HicksShauna expressing my frustration, not expecting any response.

However, when I went back to Twitter some hours later I had all these messages with various suggestions including perhaps they were visiting elsewhere, or even that they had gone to Australia for a visit, plus tips for just searching on given names and also surname variations. It was really pleasing to see that others were intrigued with my problem and so willing to share their own experiences and knowledge.

One person even said if I sent the details they would have a quick look for me. So I did and within the shortest time possible, he messaged back that he had found them under Gardner. With hindsight I can’t think why I didn’t think of that variation, perhaps it was because I was trying to do it quickly and the family were hassling me for dinner. A lesson here is don’t try and multi task! Research is a serious business.

Anyway I had know found Harriet in both 1861 and 1871 census and that proved that she did not raise her daughter Elizabeth Judge born in 1857 as part of her family with George Gardiner.

So this still leaves me with the problem of who did raise Elizabeth as she does not appear in the census returns for her grandparents John and Hannah Judge in Brackley, Northamptonshire. In fact, and I hesitate to say this, I still can’t find Elizabeth Judge in the 1861 and 1871 census. I know she married Thomas Price in 1878 in Staffordshire and they immigrated to Queensland, Australia that same year. Elizabeth must have been somewhere and I assume it was under the name Judge as that is on her birth and marriage certificates. When I have some more uninterrupted time, I will revisit this brickwall and try again.

The real point of this blog is not for others to solve my brickwalls for me but to highlight the value that Twitter can bring to genealogy. In an earlier blog, Using Twitter For Genealogy, I pointed out all the reasons why I like Twitter. My experience yesterday reaffirms my belief that it is a wonderful resource for those researching their family history and that others are only too willing to help with suggestions that we might not think of ourselves.

If you are not using Twitter, but reading this blog and do go back and read my earlier blog, I encourage you to have a look at Twitter as a genealogy resource. I don’t think you will be disappointed.


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