Henry PEARSON, Barnet, 1850's

January, 2013




Anthony Pearson (pearson_anthony2 @t t sky.com) of Audlem, Cheshire, writes: My great grandfather Henry Pearson indicates on 1881/1891 census that he was born in Barnet 1857. Marriage cert 1880 (Aston Birmingham) gives father's name also as Henry (labourer deceased).

No trace of either Henrys in Barnet or Herts generally in 1861 or 1871 census. No trace of Henry (born 1857) in Herts in Nat birth database. (As he named his eldest son, my grandfather, Charles Henry, have also tried looking also for Charles as a possible connection but again without any success)

Nothing of assistance on Charles Henry's birth cert

Have widened search into nearby Middlesex without any conclusive result

Any suggestions for further investigation?

The first thing I did was to look up the details from the 1881, 1891 and 1901 censuses and noted the following points which in some cases could be relevant, bearing in mind the kind of errors that can occur in census returns:

I agree that a straight search of the 1861 and 1871 censuses for Henry Pearson, born Barnet in the 1850's proves negative - and there is very little evidence of other possible Pearson relatives living in the Barnet area in the 1850's.

It is worth considering common problems in interpreting census returns where the name was "recorded":

There are a number of advanced search techniques which I used to try and find entries with such errors - such as looking at all the surnames of people living in Lancashire born in Barnet to see if any might be a possible spelling or hand writing or pronunciation error for Pearson - and the best fit (and a very poor but not impossible fit) was:

Charles Pearce was born in Barnet in 1842 and in 1861 was working as a postillion in Stoneleigh, Warwickshire.

I reject this as too way out but you may need to consider cases which are significantly deviant from what you expect.

Another possibility is that the name/place of birth were recorded as Henry intended (and perhaps believed) but one or both are wrong.  A child may have been born before their parents married and therefore registered under the mother's maiden name. A child may have been unofficially adopted by a relative with no paper trail. ("Not another baby to look after - perhaps Aunt Betsy, who hasn't any children will look after him"). The birthplace as recorded in the census may be the first place the individual can remember living - which is not the actual birthplace. (I have come across one case where it seems that the child was born in Hertfordshire when the mother was travelling from London to the North of England.) In addition Henry might have been a criminal on the run - living under an assumed name .

Such cases are difficult but sometimes you may be lucky, as someone mentioned in related records may have a connection with the past. His bride may have been a cousin (unfortunately the 1871 and 1881 census return for the Caperen family shows no connection with Barnet). His widow's second husband might also have a connection (I haven't checked). More importantly maybe a witness at his 1880 wedding has a connection with his past (I haven't checked this either).

Finally it may be that Henry Pearson was born in Barnet in the 1850s but the records do not exist. Perhaps his birth was never registered and either he was never recorded in the 1861 and 1871 censuses, or the census records were lost (there are a few gaps) or his name was simply recorded as initials (sometimes done in institutions such as a workhouse).

Of course it is frustrating when you come up against this kind of brick wall. I have struggled with two among my own ancestors - and am resigned to never knowing who was the father following some kind of amorous liaison in the Forest of Dean - while in the other case the father was identified (after much unsuccessful searching) through a one line entry in a massive poor law account book I found when I was looking for something completely different!

You might find the advice page I've hit a Brick Wall ... useful.

f you can add to the information given above tell me.

Jamuary 2013   Page created