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Q How does one narrow it down more when one has a very common surname and it seems there is nothing earlier than a certain point? My ancestor Frederick Lindsay WOODS was allegedly born in Worcestershire in 1847. He emigrated to Australia in 1867 and married in South Australia, but I cannot find his birth, and nor can I find his name on the census in 1851. He should be in England prior to 1867, but is proving elusive. 

Suzanne Maiden

A The comprehensive supplementary information that you sent about the family reveals your first stumbling block. You say that Frederick Lindsay WOODS’ death certificate states he was born in Worcestershire. Unfortunately, the information given on a death certificate is not given by the one person who really knows the truth – the deceased. The person giving the information doesn’t always know, so makes their best guess. Civil registration began in South Australia in 1842. From 1868 the information contained on the marriage certificate should include: date and place of marriage; bride and bridegroom’s names and ages; condition (marital status) and occupation; residence and fathers’ names. Although you refer to the marriage of Frederick and Ellen Elizabeth GODDARD having taken place on 28th December 1870, have you obtained a copy of the full marriage certificate, which may provide you with this additional information, most importantly his father’s name? If you haven’t already, I think you need to broaden your research considerably, looking at what other records may contain information about Frederick. The more information you have about him the greater the chance of being able to locate him in the UK (or elsewhere) prior to arriving in Australia. South Australian State Records has produced a number of information sheets listing records relating to passenger lists and assisted immigration. More information on these can be found at Did Frederick become an Australian citizen? Microfilm records of persons naturalised in South Australia from 1848 to 1903 are held by the Adelaide Office of the National Archives of Australia, so it would also be worth checking these. The last year or so has seen developments by many commercial genealogy websites allowing you to locate other people researching the same family. These include Genes Reunited, Ancestry, FindMyPast, The Genealogist and, more recently, FamilyRelatives. Look at these to see if you can discover anyone else researching this family. Lindsay is an unusual forename for this period. Have you looked for him under the surname of Lindsay? This may have been his birth surname, with his mother marrying into the Woods family later. Looking for a WOODS/LINDSAY marriage may give some clues. Remember, a name (especially at this time) is only something that you are known by. If Frederick wanted to start a new life or perhaps forget the past, this may not have been his birth name. It is most important to search thoroughly any records that have survived for the given time period. Keep a log of what and when you have searched and what you find – or perhaps, more importantly, don’t find.

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