Finding Grandma’s birth family

Ari’s great-great grandmother Winifred (Nigel’s Grandma) was adopted as a baby, and this has always been the most solid brick wall in our family tree.

Yesterday, I was thinking about putting her story on the blog in case anyone could help solve the mystery. I started by looking at her birth certificate, which shows that she was born Edith Winifred Morris on 22 Jul 1903, to Annie Morris, a milliner, residing at The Fleet, Belper (no house number given).

I had read recently that it is a good idea to check the birth address in case it was a nursing home or institution that might have some adoption records, but with no house number this wasn’t so easy. While I was looking at the certificate and thinking about this, it occurred to me that it might be possible to see if another child had been born at the same address, i.e. a sibling of Winifred’s.

Now that we can use the GRO website to check for births without having to order the birth certificate, it is a bit easier. I started by looking for a male or female baby with the surname Morris and mother’s maiden name blank in 1901, but nothing came up as a match. Then I tried 1905 and found a Frederick Hargreaves Morris born in 1904 and an Ida Morris born in 1905.

So the next step was to check these two children in the 1911 census. I could rule out Frederick as I found a baptism with a mother Agnes. But I got very excited as I looked for Ida! It didn’t come up on Ancestry immediately as it had been transcribed as Jda, but this is what I saw:

As I clicked on the link to the census page, I was thinking “Please be a milliner!”

And look what I found:

The family are living at 100 Dale Rd in Derby, but Annie’s parents were both born in Belper. So it seems likely that this is Winifred’s mother Annie, with another child Ida, living at home with her parents, William and Caroline.

Of course, this raises almost as many questions as it answers. Why did she keep Ida but give Winifred up for adoption? Did the two girls have the same father? Did Winifred know that she had a sister? Did Annie and Ida ever go and see her or keep in touch? Who was the friend or relation in The Fleet, Belper, with whom Annie stayed to have the baby? There is much still to discover. There was a story that Annie had gone off to America, but I had never managed to trace her (especially as I had guessed her age to be younger and hadn’t thought to extend the search to Derby).

Winifred worked as a hosiery mender at Brettles Factory, and married Harry Spencer on 7 Apr 1928 at the Salem Chapel in Belper. She had six children, three of whom are still living in Belper.

I have now ordered the birth certificate for Annie and the marriage certificate for her parents William Morris and Caroline Dawson. I am hoping that having Annie’s exact birth date will allow me to find out what happened to her and to Ida, but in the meantime there are plenty of cousins to find, and maybe Nigel’s DNA matches will provide evidence for this new connection.

Postscript 21 Aug 2017: I now have the birth certificates for Annie and Ida, but still can’t track them down! Annie was born on 14 May 1880 at 6 Harrington Street in Derby. Ida was born on 25 Jul 1905 at Swainsley Court, Milford, Belper. This has now been demolished but was apparently a building where single mill-workers lived. The birth certificate supports my view that this is the right family though, because Ida’s mother is also Annie Morris, a milliner.

Ari, this shows how you are related to Winifred:

#GRO #Morris #Derbyshire #TheFleet #Dawson #Adoption #Belper

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About my blog

I started my blog when my grandson Ari was born in Feb 2017. His birth gave me an opportunity to focus on part of what has become an unmanageably large family tree, looking again at all the records I

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