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Q When I discovered from her birth certificate that my grandmother’s father’s name was Jeremiah, I thought that this would prove to be the easiest of my researches. I soon found it to be a most interesting though, up until now, impossible task. I was able to find him, his wife Rebekah (sometimes Rebecca) and their children with no difficulty in the 1881 and succeeding censuses (but not before) and pinpointed a likely marriage range. They were married on 11th August 1872, when his age shown as 20 years and hers 19 years. His address is shown as Williams Place, Swansea, and there is a line drawn through the columns for ‘Father’ from which I deduced that his father had died. Armed with this address I revisited the 1871 census and found him listed as Jerry, aged 17, at 4 Williams Place. The family was headed by William BENNETT, aged 53, and his wife, Jane, aged 46. Jerry is described as ‘son’ and there is a daughter, Mary, aged 14. All were born in Swansea. My next move was to look for and obtain a copy of his birth certificate. I was absolutely amazed to find that Jeremiah had been born on the 20th February 1854 to a Jane BENNETT at the Union Workhouse in Swansea. The age of 17 years in 1871 ties in with that of Jerry. I tentatively looked at the 1861 census for all these names but drew a complete blank. I thought I should try a Christian name search for Jeremiah and found only one in Swansea but he was listed as WILLISON, aged 7, with: William, aged 46 and born Sunderland; Jane, aged 36 and born Penrice, Gower; Mary, aged 3 and born Swansea, and William, aged 11 and born Swansea. Is this too much of a coincidence? I have tried all avenues I can think of to trace Jane, without success. The City of Swansea Archives has no records of workhouse residents for 1854. There is no further reference to William WILLISON or the family in local censuses either side of 1861 and I have failed to find birth records for Mary or William BENNETT junior. Are you able to help?

A Goodwin

A Your initial assumption, that the line drawn through the columns relating to information on Jeremiah’s father referred to the fact that he was dead, was of course the wrong one. The lines indicate that Jeremiah was illegitimate and that his father was unknown, at least officially. However, you say that the birth certificate you have obtained shows that Jeremiah’s mother was Jane BENNET, but were details of the father given or was Jeremiah illegitimate? Although you have searched for the births of William and Mary BENNETT, have you searched for the births of William and Mary WILLISON, or WILSON, in order to eliminate that possibility? I wonder if you have you noted that a William WILSON married a Jane BENNETT in the June Quarter 1871 in Swansea Registration District? This must surely be worth following up. And there is an 1881 census entry for 6 William Place, Swansea, for William WILSON, aged 58, born Gower, and his wife, Jane, aged 56, born Gower. Could William WIL(LI)SON and Mary BENNETT have been together from the late 1840s but only married in 1871? Their children were variously named BENNETT and WIL(LI)SON. This may seem a bit far-fetched but I think does need to be considered.

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