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

Q and A




 My great-grandmother, Emma Jane COURTIS gave birth to my grandmother, Blanche Edith COURTIS on 19th October 1876 at 1 Southside Street, Plymouth – registered on 1st November 1876 in Plymouth St Andrews, Devon. No father’s name was on the birth certificate, but it did say that Emma was a domestic servant.


It would appear that Blanche was raised by John C RENDLE and his wife Dinah: they were named on Blanche’s marriage certificate when she married Frederick Arthur CHAPMAN in 1898. On the 1901 census for Plymouth, when they were aged 62, they were living with Blanche and her husband and listed as father and mother-in-law.

I have been unable to trace a birth certificate for Emma Jane or any trace of her after she gave birth to her daughter. I do not know her age or where she was born, but I have found the following on the various censuses: 1861, Emma J COURTIS, aged 11, born Lifton, Devon, living Lifton; 1861, Emma J COURTH, aged nine, born Plymouth, Devon; 1871, Emma J COURTICE, aged 18, living in Stoke Damerel; 1871, Emma COURTIS, aged 21, a servant, born Biddington, Gloucestershire; 1881, Emma G COURTIS, aged 31, born Lifton, Cornwall. I have also found an Emma Jane CURTIS, born about 1860 in Plymouth, but she died aged 25. Did she die giving birth to Blanche?

Do you think any of these are my Emma Jane, and if so how do I verify the connection? I have tried to find a marriage certificate for Emma after she gave birth to Blanche without any luck. The main choice seems to be either born Lifton or Stoke Damerel, but I am lost.

Dave Jones


You have the problem that many of us will come across during our research: an illegitimate birth with no indication of who the father was and, frequently, no real indication of who the mother was either. Was COURTIS Emma’s maiden name or had she been married before Blanche arrived?

Let’s look at the entries you have listed, starting with the Emma born in Lifton about 1849. In 1851 she is shown as plain ‘Emma COURTICE’; in 1861 as ‘Emma J COURTIS’; in 1871 as ‘Emma L CURTIS’; and in 1881 as ‘Emma L COURTIS’ (not ‘Emma G’ as has been generally transcribed). Her birth was registered in Tavistock Registration District in 1850 as ‘Emma Louisa COURTICE’. So she can be discounted as Blanche’s mother. The ‘Emma J COURTH’ you have noted in 1861 is in fact part of the COATH family, shown as ‘COANTH’ in 1861.

Next, the Emma born in Devonport about 1852. In 1861 she is shown as plain ‘Emma COURTIS’; and in 1871 as ‘Emma J COURTICE’. I have not been able to identify any birth registration for this Emma in 1852–1853. Possibly this Emma is the mother of Blanche. I have not been able to discover any marriage or death for her so perhaps your immediate searches should concentrate on this.

The other question is: who were John and Dinah RENDLE? John Christopher RENDLE married Dinah WYATT in 1861 in Plymouth. Blanche Edith is living with them as their daughter in 1881. In 1891, Blanche E RENDELL is shown as a servant with John E and Dinah RENDELL. Was there perhaps a family connection with Emma COURTIS? You need to research the extended family to see if there is any connection. John and Dinah do not appear to have had any natural children of their own.

Regrettably, this may be a problem that you will never resolve. Perhaps a reader of FHM knows something about the family?

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?