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My recent success story. How it all unfolded.


Staff member

Here is how I managed to finally unravel the mystery on Sarah Bradford who I had suspected all along was my ancestor.

Matthew George Coombs was born in 1812 baptised in 1813 son of George and Sarah Coombs of 114 Grays Inn Lane, Holborn, George a coachman.

His younger brother William Thomas Coombs was born in September 1828 in Soho. Baptised 4th March 1830 at St James Piccadilly son of George and Sarah Coombs on Husband Street a coachman.

In July 1845 Matthew G Coombs married in Paddington to his second wife Elizabeth Auber. One of the witnesses was a Sarah Bradford. My cousin found this out in 2004 by sending for the certificate. She said "Could this Sarah Bradford be the mother of the groom and she remarried?"

Matthew married his first wife in Paddington in 1835. My cousin consulted the original entry and the two witnesses was James and Sarah Bradford. Again Sarah Bradford cropped up.

My cousin sent off for Matthew's first wife's death certificate in the spring of 1845. Sarah Bradford registered the death. She gave her address as 11 Carburton Street, St Marylebone. Righto. Now we can search for her in 1841 or 1851 census. No luck for 1851.

On a genealogy trip to London in January 2005 I was trawling through the 1841 census returns for Marylebone at Westminster Archives and come across Carburton Street. I found Sarah Bradford living at No 11 Carburton Street, a laundress, but what was awe inspiring was that she had a son called William aged 12. Matthew Coombs younger brother William would have also been 12 at this time. I was so excited.

Later on my cousin sent for a death cert of one of Matthew's children in 1839 and Sarah Bradford of 11 Carburton Street registered the death.

I knew for the next few years that she had to have been the right Sarah. She was the right age to be Sarah mum of Matt and Will Coombs, same first name, and she had a son with matching details to William Coombs and witnessed Matthew's two weddings and registered his first wife and one of his child's deaths. Too many coincidences.

Maybe she reverted back to her maiden name and James Bradford was a brother or she was always Sarah Bradford but was under the guise of Coombs for 2 decades when she was with George Coombs and they never actually married.

But in September 2009 I found the banns of marriage of a James Bradford to Sarah Coombs in 1834 in Marylebone, the area Sarah Bradford lived in. James was a widower and Sarah was a widow. I was sooooooooooo pleased and excited. Sarah Bradford was Sarah Coombs until 1834 when she got with James Bradford.

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