Bringing your Family History to life every month APRIL 2012
  • Contact Us

Q and A


Q I hope you can help me with my brick wall. I have spent about five years trying to find a marriage for my maternal great-great-grandparents John BEECH and Mary GOSS. So far I can only trace them back as far as the 1871 census, which is particularly frustrating as this side of the family has a high level of illegitimacy. Obviously without a marriage certificate I can’t prove parentage or birth dates and places. On the 1871 census they are at 65 Millgate, Wigan, as lodgers. Both are unmarried. John is an umbrella hawker, while Mary is with her son William who was born in the workhouse a month earlier. I managed to locate the birth, in 1873, and death, in 1876, for a Joseph BEECH in 1876. These confirm that Joseph was the son of John and Mary BEECH (formerly GOSS). My assumption was that they married between census night 2nd April 1871 and 11th July 1873 when Mary registers Joseph’s birth. But did they, and if so where? I have considered the idea of Mary marrying under a different surname either because of matrilineal lineage or a previous marriage. I have Gypsies in my paternal lineage so in view of the occupations recorded for John and those he lived with I have considered he may have been a traveller. I belong to the Romany and Traveller FHS in the hopes that I might find a marriage for John and Mary through them They had another son called Joseph in 1879 – this son died within hours of birth. Their other known children who survived are Ann (born 1876), Henry (born 1883) and Mabel (born 1886). Henry is my direct ancestor. They are all christened (as recorded on the International Genealogical Index) but I can’t find christenings for William or the Josephs. Ann, Henry and Mabel all married at St George’s Church in Wigan. I think I have tried all the obvious online sources. Even a recent visit to Wigan and Preston record offices didn’t prove fruitful. My lack of success is definitely not due to a lack of time invested. I might have to conclude they never married, but I am not ready to give up just yet!

Tracey Murphy

A The probability is that John BEECH and Mary GOSS did not marry, but you do need to consider all the possibilities. What must be certain is that they were not married at the time of William’s birth or when the 1871 census was taken. The fact that they are in the same lodgings when the census was taken does not of course mean that John BEECH was William’s father. This may have been where the couple met. If they did marry it may have been some time later, even after there several children were born. The Indexes to marriage registrations do not appear to contain any reference to such a marriage, right up to the end of the century. However, it needs to be remembered that these indexes can be faulty, and also that occasionally details of a marriage did not find their way from the local register office to London. If you did not do so on your visit you should make a check at the Wigan Register Office, and you need to investigate the church registers as well. If John and Mary did not marry, then why? Possibly it was for their own personal reasons. Or one of them may already have been married. Is there any earlier marriage of either John BEECH or Mary GOSS that might fit? It is understandable that the second Joseph was not baptised, but it is likely that both William – especially as he was born in the workhouse – and the first Joseph would have been. The International Genealogical Index (IGI) is a fantastic resource but cannot be relied on alone, so you do need to have looked at the relevant parish registers of baptisms. Also, are there records of the Wigan Union Workhouse that you could investigate?

Search again:

Browse Q and A by Heading
You need to Get the latest version of Adobe Flash to view this.


Subscribe to our
email newsletter:


Win British Newspaper Archive Subscriptions

Discover the genealogical goldmine that is the British Newspaper Archive ( with an online subscription. This recently launched digitisation project has four million pages of searchable family notices, advertisements, obituaries, letters and illustrations from over 200 historic local and national newspapers.

We have a one-year subscription (worth £79.95) to give away as well as two 30-day subscriptions (worth £29.95 each) and four 2-day subscriptions (worth £6.95 each). To be in with a chance of winning one, simply answer the following question. Send answers to or write to the usual address on page three, by the 15th March.

Q: Who invented the printing press in the Holy Roman Empire in 1440?