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Birthplaces on censuses. Be careful.


Loyal Member
Staff member

I myself and many others have had problems with birthplaces of ancestors on censuses not tallying with their birth cert or a possible birth entry miles or even counties away. Here is my story on my great, great grandmother Mary Ann Kate Coombs nee Roberts.

I had her in the 1891 and 1901 census saying she was born in Stoke Newington, London in about 1864. In 1881 she was with her parents Thomas and Mary Ann Roberts in Holborn and she was 17 and her birthplace was given as London. She had married London born William Thomas Coombs in April 1886 and said she was 22. She died in 1943 aged 79.

For ages I searched at the FRC in the birth indexes 1863-1865 for a birth of a Mary AK Roberts in the Hackney district which Stoke Newington came under to no avail, nor could I find a Mary AK Roberts birth in those years.

In August 2004 I was at a record office in London and had free internet access to Anc and I tried to locate her on the 1871 census. I found her in Bow, London aged 7. Kate Roberts daughter of Thomas and Mary Ann. She had a 6 year old sister Alice born in London, but shock horror, her mothers birthplce was Sussex which I knew but for Kate it said "ditto" meaning she was born in Sussex.

I was left sceptical and confused but quite excited. Me and a cousin who was Mary AK's granddaughter decided to send off for the birth of a sister of Mary AK to get their mums maiden name which we didn't know and when the cert arrived it said the parents were Thomas Roberts and Mary Ann Roberts formerly Walder.

We then found a Thomas Roberts marriage in the Sep quarter of 1864 and on the same page was a Mary Ann Walder. We then found a possible birth for Mary AK under her mums maiden name in Cuckfield area of Sussex.

The cert arrived and on 25th July 1864 at West Hackney Church, Stoke Newington Thomas Roberts married Mary Ann Walder. Mary was the daughter of John a wheelwright.

The birth cert arrived and Kate was born 31 December 1863 in Warninglid, Slaugham the illegitimate daughter of Mary Ann Walder. This means that she moved to London just after the birth. 3 months after her mum married the baby was baptised Mary Ann Kate Roberts to Thomas and Mary Ann. Turns out Thomas had also lived in Sussex beforehand and was still married until just weeks before the baby was born.

Explains why I could never find a birth for Mary Ann Kate in London.


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