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For the past several years I have endeavoured to solve a marriage mystery. Ada and Fred WEST were my wife’s great-grandparents – but were they married, and who was Fred WEST?

The facts that I have established are these. Ada was born Ada ATTENBORROW on 17th September 1864 in Radford, Nottinghamshire, the daughter of George, a master builder, and Elizabeth (nee LEWIN). On 25th March 1883, in Carrington, Nottinghamshire, Ada married Arthur KRAUSE, son of William, a lace merchant, and Eliza (nee DEXTER).

On 11th March 1884, Ada gave birth to a son, Percy Harold Leopold KRAUSE. The father Arthur, having been described as a ‘traveller’ at the time of his marriage, was now a grocer. Jump ahead seven years to the census of 1891 and we find Ada as the wife of Fred WEST, living in Birmingham and with two children: Percy WEST, aged seven, and Albert WEST, aged four.

Ten years on the 1901 census shows the family living in Snow Hill, Birmingham. It now includes Gertrude, aged 12, Ethel aged 11, Maude, aged seven, and Gwendoline aged two. Ethel was my wife’s grandmother, and her birth certificate shows she was registered as Florence Ethel WEST, her parents being Fred WEST, a book seller, and her mother Ada WEST ‘formerly ATTENBORROW’.

By 1901 Fred WEST had become a ‘dealer in antiques’ and it is known that he and Ada traded in antiques in both Birmingham and the town of Warwick. In 1911 Ethel WEST, then aged 22, married Frank HAYES, with Ethel’s father being named as Fred WEST, antique dealer, on her marriage certificate, with an unknown Frank WEST being one of the witnesses. The other witness was Ethel’s sister Gertrude.

Those are the facts, supported by certificated and census record evidence. The mystery is when did Ada KRAUSE become the wife, or partner as we might say today, of Fred WEST?

I have searched high and low for a marriage certificate for Ada and Fred, but cannot find one. I have searched for a death certificate for Arthur KRAUSE but cannot find one; he doesn’t seem to have remarried, and he is not listed in emigration records that have been searched. I cannot find him in the 1891 or 1901 censuses.

And I cannot identify who Fred WEST is, for without a marriage certificate I have no idea who his father might be. Could Fred be Arthur KRAUSE, who for some reason felt it necessary to change his name to a more English sounding one? Or did Ada and Arthur simply separate and Ada moved in with Fred? But if that were the case, what happened to Arthur? He seems to have disappeared.

There are discrepancies in places of birth in the census records of 1891 and 1901 and that confuses me. Fred and Ada were in 1891 said to have been born in Derby, but in 1901 Fred is born in ‘York – Hull’ and Ada in Nottingham!

As a child my wife can recall there being tensions in the family on certain occasions when Ada and Fred were being talked about, with one or both of them being referred to as ‘the German(s)’. I have discovered that Arthur KRAUSE was a descendant of a family that settled in London in the late 1700s.

Edward Monk


The 1901 census includes Gertrude aged 12 and Ethel aged 11, but they are not with the family in the 1891 census: the question is why, and who was Gertrude’s father? Was she WEST or KRAUSE? Similarly, who was Albert’s father? If you have not already done so, you need to fill in these gaps in your information as this may help you narrow down the period when Ada moved from Arthur KRAUSE to Fred WEST.

Discrepancies in places of birth given in the census returns is nothing unusual: how much did the informant know accurately, and how many mistakes were made when the enumerator copied out the original information into the final enumeration book? Look at the earlier census returns, which should help you discover the true places of birth, as will the relevant birth certificates if you are able to identify them.

As you have intimated, possibly Arthur KRAUSE changed his name at some point because of the German connotation, and that possibly Fred and Arthur are the same person. This was nothing unusual and many thousands of families did exactly that, particularly during the run up to, and during, the First World War. You say that you have already discovered that Arthur KRAUSE was a descendant of a family that settled in London in the late 1700s. The 1871 census has the nine-year-old Arthur Langdon KRAUSE living in Basford with his family with his place of birth given as Basford. In 1881, he is still living at home with an occupation of ‘lithographic artist (apprentice)’. Possibly your searches in records after 1883 should ignore the surname and concentrate on Arthur/ Arthur L/ Arthur Langdon born in Basford in about 1861.

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