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

Q and A


Q In the Christmas 2007 issue of FHM you very kindly answered my query regarding the WILSON family, looking in particular at the parentage of William WILSON. I am writing to you again to try and establish, once and for all, the truth of my great-grandfather’s parentage. I took your advice and managed to establish the parentage of James R WILSON (possibly William’s elder brother). His parents are, according to his birth certificate, Robert WILSON and Mary Jane DICKINSON. This tallies with the details of Williams’ parents. One of the discrepancies highlighted in your previous reply was the contradictory occupational details with regard to Robert (J) WILSON, father of James, William and their other siblings. On James’ birth certificate Robert’s occupation is stated as being ‘pointsman’, but on almost all documentation Robert is described as being a ‘bricklayer’ or ‘bricksetter’. During an approximate period (1874–1877), however, he seems to have worked on the railways – if the occupational details on James’ and William’s birth certificates are to be believed. Another potential fly in the ointment is that the only marriage I can find between a Robert WILSON and a Mary Jane DICKINSON is the one that took place in Liverpool in 1866, in a Roman Catholic church. It is the only Catholic marriage I have come across in my branch of the WILSON family thus far. Most, if not all, of the others have been Methodist. Could it be possible that even if only one of my great-grandfather’s parents was actually Catholic, this took precedence when it came to deciding where the marriage service took place? I am still very uncertain as to whether I have established the correct facts regarding this part of my WILSON family tree and would once again appreciate your advice.

George Wilson

A The information you supplied with your query includes the 1881 census entry for the family, in which the head of the family is named as ‘James WILSON’. This one of two records that states ‘James’ WILSON; the other is at the marriage of a son, William in 1889, when the father is given as ‘James Robert’ – all other records give his name as ‘Robert, including the 1871 census return. You also supplied details of the birth of several other children. Therefore we have: 1870 Robert W Bricklayer 1871 Robert W Railway Porter 1874 Robert W Pointsman 1877 Robert W Railway Guard 1879 Robert W Bricklayer 1881 James W Bricklayer 1888 Robert W Bricklayer 1889 Robert W Bricksetter 1899 James Robert W Bricklayer Although a pointsman is usually the job title of a man who has charge of railroad points or switches on a railway, you could perhaps wonder if in this case, with the bricklaying background, it refers to someone who pointed the brickwork. But this I think is very unlikely. If Robert WILSON and a Mary Jane DICKINSON married in a Roman Catholic church, then it is as certain as it can be that one or both of them was Catholic. Although the birth records of Robert (or James Robert) and Mary Jane will not show their religious persuasion, their baptism record will. Therefore, if you have not already done so, you will need to track these down.

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?