RAINBOW, St Albans, 1873?-1940
In cases like this it is essential to collect all the information together and see if there is a pattern - or a clue as to where else to look. It is clear you have information which may be relevant which you did not include in your message. and which may not be linked to Hertfordshire - so here are some initial comments which may help.
Birth: If he died without family support (including support from your grandmother) the authorities would have no way of confirming any information about him. Whoever registered the death didn't know his parents and may have only got an approximate age. His name would have been the name he used when he was admitted to the workhouse - which may not have been identical to the name that was registered at his birth. (My step-grandmother had differences in her given names on her birth certificate, her marriage certificate and her death certificate!). If he didn't marry your grandmother it might be because he was already married and had deserted his wife - in which case Walter William Rainbow may even have been an assumed name to deliberately disguise who he was. (See What did your Ancestor call himself? for another example.)
Relationship with your grandmother: As the couple had three children there clearly was some kind of moderately stable relationship. You don't give names, dates or places - but it seems likely that at the time William Rainbow lived in the same area - and possibly the same house - as your grandmother. For this reason the address where the children was born, and details such as the occupation of the father (included on the certificates) and the identity of the person who registered the birth could be important clues. As this would seem to be the earliest period for which you have information this is the area where you should concentrate your search.
Did the couple separate and if so when? While William Rainbow fathered the children the "couple" may have split up later for some reason. Where was your grandmother when he died? When they were together did they live in the St Albans area? Or perhaps he went to St Albans to get away from her?
The Children's Marriages: Marriage certificates include details of the father's name and occupation - so if the children married their certificates may say something relevant. (If the fields are blank it may be because they disowned their father.) Witnesses to the wedding might just be relevant if they can be linked to William Rainbow.
Oster House: At the time he died the St Albans workhouse was mainly used to house the infirm elderly poor, and later became the hospital. If there was no immediate family the information on the death certificate probably came from their records. As he was believed to be single they presumably did not know about the relationship with your grandmother or the children. In these circumstances any information they had, including his age, could be unreliable.
The Accident, Death and Inquest: The death of an elderly inhabitant of the workhouse would not have been newsworthy but because a traffic accident was involved there could have been some coverage in one of the local newspapers. If there was an inquest (was the death certificate signed by the coroner?) there may have been some additional coverage. Such information might well be very interesting, but is unlikely to say much about his origins.
If you want to know more about his death HALS may be able to tell you if they hold any relevant documents connected with the workhouse, or the inquest, but don't be too hopeful. Your best bet would seem to be concentrate on the area and date period where the children were born
It is definitely a possibility and if you can let me have a digital scan of the picture I could post it here (possibly in my "Rogues Gallery") and someone might be able to identify other people in the picture.
The St Albans Museums have a large collection of old photographs and may be interested in adding a copy of your picture to their collection.
There is a web page for St Albans
If you can add to the information given above tell me.
Page updated April 2007