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I have been looking for my great-grandfather’s marriage for some time. His name was James ROSBOTHAM and he married Margaret MCMULLEN. They had two sons: Thomas born 1880 and Andrew born 1884. I know James was baptised 1st August 1852 at Derriaghy, Co Down. His profession was flax dresser and he was a Protestant. I know nothing about Margaret except that she was a Roman Catholic. I had been told they went to England to marry because of their different religions.

I found James ROSBOTHAM on the 1871 census: age 22 years, flax dresser, a boarder from Ireland at 2 James Henry Street, Salford. Next door in 4 James Henry Street there was a Margaret MCMILLAN: age 21 years, flax spinner, a boarder from Ireland. On 7th December 1872 in the Cathedral, Manchester, I found the marriage of a Margaret MCMULLEN of the above address and a James ROSBOTHAM of 9 North Hill Street. Everything seemed right until I came to James’ father. On the marriage certificate Andrew ROSBOTHAM was down as James’ father, but my James’ father was called John and his mother was Jane (nee LUNN). I do know Andrew is a family name but surely this is too much of a mistake.

I cannot find the birth of their first son Thomas, born 1880. I was told he would have been four years older than my grandfather, who was born in 1884. I have checked for his birth in the General Register Office, Belfast, from 1879 to 1889. I did find his marriage certificate of 1916 and he states that he was 36 years old at this date.

I would appreciate any help on where to look for both the birth and marriage of the above relations.

Ethel Ervine


Irish research is always a challenge, even for residents of the Emerald Isle. Just one of the major problems is that many of the records that were generated on the British mainland were never generated in Ireland. Therefore you have to be more wide-ranging when considering which records you need to consult in researching Irish ancestry. Few of the records that do exist have been indexed and digitalised and so are not available on the internet or indeed outside Ireland.

Having looked at the census returns for 1871, 1881 and 1891 for the ROSBOTHAM family, I have only able to locate James and Margaret in 1871 who, as you state, were neighbours, both as boarders with other Irish families. I also note that James’ age is given as 22, giving a year of birth as about 1848/49. Although not all children were baptised as infants the majority were – and if the age is correct on the 1871 census if would mean your James was three or four years old when baptised. If you have not already done so it may be worth consulting any other available sources to build up a more complete profile of James, such as locating his death certificate, burial record and will, if he left one, which will supplement the information that you have already obtained.

From your letter can we assume that the family returned to Ireland sometime between 1873 and 1881? A census of the Irish population was taken every ten years from 1821 until 1911 and manuscript returns for each household survive for all 32 counties for 1901 and 1911. No manuscript returns survive, however, for 1861, 1871, 1881 and 1891, having either been destroyed by government order or in the burning of the Four Courts in Dublin. Have you been able to locate the family in Ireland in the 1901 or 1911 census? If not it may be prudent to do so to try and build a more complete picture of the family. The National Archives of Ireland has established a research partnership with Library and Archives Canada to facilitate ‘digitisation, indexing and contextualisation’ of their 1901 and 1911 census records. You can find more information on this project at These census returns should confirm the place of birth for Thomas, born about 1880, which may in turn help you in your quest for his birth certificate.

Possibly you need to reassess the information you have that leads you to believe that the James ROSBOTHAM baptised on 1st August 1852 at Derriaghy, Co Down, is your ancestor. When undertaking any research – be it local, family or house history – it is always important to work from the known to the unknown and verify your sources as you progress backwards through time.

Luckily for you the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has filmed the parish registers for the Cathedral church, Manchester, 1573–1946. This can be ordered through your local Mormon Family History Centre, for you to view locally, at a cost of around £4. A list of Family History Centres can be found at It may be worth ordering a copy of the registers to check the details on the church copy – information given by James himself at his marriage – to confirm that there is not an error made by the General Register Office copy of the event. If this in fact confirms Andrew as the father then you need to go back to the parish registers and search them again extracting all incidences of the ROSBOTHAM surname. It is not unknown for several children with the same name to be born in the same village within a few years of each other – all with different parents!





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