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Tracing the Smith Family



I need some help tracing my paternal grandfather. Although he is one of the most recent members on my family tree, I cannot find anything out about him.

My father only met him once in the ten years he was alive while my father was.

If anyone would be so kind as to help research him, I have the following info about him.

James Smith
b. 10 Apr 1920, London

Marriage: to Anne Rose Fannon (Her original name was Rose Anne, I believe, but she changed it - not sure when to Anne) Oct-Nov-Dec 1948

Death: 3 Nov 1963, London

Thanks for any help.


Name: James Smith
Spouse Surname: Fannon
Date of Registration: Oct-Nov-Dec 1948
Registration district: Stepney
Registration county (inferred): Middlesex
Volume Number: 5d
Page Number: 1269

Spouse - Annie Fannon.

Last edited:
Using Stepney and April as a reference.

Possible birth.

Name: James Smith
Mother's Maiden Surname: Heill . Could be NEILL.(original difficult to read).
Date of Registration: Apr May Jun 1920
Registration district: Stepney
Registration county: Greater London
Volume Number: 1c
Page Number: 536

Last edited:
Hey Steve,

Well, I was on the FreeBMD and there were a lot of James Smith's on the birth index, but as I have no idea as to maiden names or even parents' first names, I couldn't accurately say if one was my grandfather or not.

As for whereabouts, I have stepney written down from another family members searching (or just general knowledge) or at least Stepney for the marriage.

Unfortunately that's about all I know as he isn't really spoken about in the family.

Thanks for your help, Steve.

Hey Steve,

We had the certificate a few years ago in some box they went through after Anne Rose's death. I'll have to track it down!

Hi Steve,

Found the marriage certificate in the loft! :)

James was a General Labourer.

James' father was similarly named James Smith and is also listed as a General Labourer.

They were married in SS Mary and Michael's Church, Stepney. Their religion is listed as Roman Catholics so would they be officially defined as Non-Conformists? Despite the fact this is in 1948!

If there are any other details you need, let me know.

The area they are based in is definitely Stepney, and Annie Rose Fannon (my nan) lived in Shadwell. (Is that nearby? :S)

Thanks for any help.


One last thing, a witness is a T. Smith or a P Smith, it's quite illegible, so that may be Annie's mother.
Sorry, made a mistake - the T or P Smith would be James' mother, not Annies.

So what was Ann Rose Fannons fathers name.

Also, being Catholic.....the birth details I gave you (mother maiden name NEILL) may be a goer.

Yes, Shadwell is in the same area as Stepney.

Last edited:
Ann Rose Fannons' father was William Henry Thomas Fannon b 28 Dec 1884 Tower Hamlets.

Hi Ryan,

Just trying to build a bigger picture here, regarding your Smith/Fannon family.
This record for William H.T.Fann(a)n, may help in finding your Smiths.

Name: William H T Fannan
Year of Reg: 1911
Qtr of Reg: Jul-Aug-Sep
District: Stepney (To 1921)
County: London, Middlesex
Volume: 1c
Page: 591

London marriages and Banns.

Name: William Henry Thomas Fannan. Occ. Carman.
Age: 26
Est birth year: abt 1885
Spouse Name: Mary Elizabeth Goss
Spouse Age: 22
Record Type: Marriage
Event Date: 20 Aug 1911
Parish: St Paul, Shadwell
County: Middlesex
Borough: Tower Hamlets
Father Name: William Fannan (Deceased. Occ. Labourer).
Spouse Father Name: John Goss (Deceased. Occ. Labourer).

Witnesses:- John Fannon + Charlotte Ratchley or Ritchley.(That name seems familiar somewhere. ??).

Henry's given address was 22, Love Lane.

Mary's given address was 30, Love Lane.

Hi Steve,

Yeah all that seems correct. The Ritchley's - the potential germans from Berlin in my other thread that I am having trouble with, which I am still awaiting the birth certificate of William H T Fannan to arrive.

I have had a look at the BMD and the brith details with the mother's maiden name as Neill or Heill I thought (probably read it wrong) seems to match as its Apr May Jun. and the correct year, stepney etc.

I've tried to search what I can in regard to marriage of James' parents as his dad is James Smith as well. But I can't find anything.

Staggering how hard it is to come by any info on my own grandfather! :confused: There just seems to be nothing - the common surname doesn't help matters.

Is there any other info that could help? Also, are there any records I could try to find him as census' usually provided parent names with other branches of my tree. But obviously they arent available for another 40 or 50 years!

Aaaah yes. Sorry Ryan, my brain cells are in cruise mode most of the time.redf) :)

As for the Neill as mothers maiden name, I think that is correct as regards the spelling.
Also a very good Irish name.

I was also thinking of Mary Elizabeth Goss. Has a good possibility of being German also. (I'm more than likely wrong).:rolleyes:

The Smith line will never be easy, I've been there and done that.

Well, ironically, Goss seems to stem from Ireland.

I suppose the only sure fire way will be to order his birth certificate, but even that requires knowing the birth index, and I can't decide on which one is most likely right.

Although the rate they're taking with delivering my 'Fannon' one, maybe it isn't worth the effort!

Thanks for your help, Steve.:)
Hi Ryan,

There will be the odd times when you'll have to dig into the piggy bank, and go for it.
Personally I'd go for the Neill one, but it's your choice. The area and date, plus your fathers bell ringing, would clinch it for me. But It's not my money.
I have taken even wilder stabs at certs, and came up lucky.
But I also have a small pile of wrong ones.

There is a backlog at the GRO, so be patient, hard I know.

Hi Steve, just a quick question.

Now that I have determined James' mother as Catherine Neill, how can I go about searching for her and her husband. I have no birth or death details only their marriage.

Are there any documents that might be on ancestry that I could go through, that would be available to see from the early 20th Century. I've never had this much trouble tracing someone before!

I found her and her husband James' marriage on the freeBMD but can't find anything else about them.

Hi Ryan,

There is a marriage in 1919 Apr/May/Jun 1/4 district St George in the East, inferred county Middlesex.

James Smith
Catherine Neill

Vol 1c
Page 529

You will need to check the vol and page number as the page number isnt as clear as it should be.

The details are from the Ancestry site, but you check it out on the free bmd site the same vol and page are given.

Hi Julie,

I saw that on the BMD so have got that down. It's really their dates of birth and death etc the essentials that I am having trouble finding. I can't think of a way to search their births without any idea as to their parents or actual ages.:confused:

Hit a real dead end.