A little over a dozen or so years ago, my younger self received a letter. It had come airmail—“par avion” read a sticker on the envelope—all the way from England. The letter had been written by a cousin, who, in reply to my inquiry, had jotted down what she knew of the family tree. For many years; until the advent of internet genealogy, that is, this letter was my main source for information on the Amos family. The more I matured in genealogical matters, the more I realized that the letter was merely a starting place, and the facts would have to be supported by more reliable documentation.
Fortunately, the facts outlined in that letter have, for the most part, stood up to examination. The names have occasionally required spelling correction, but the people have generally turned out to be properly placed within the tree. There have been two or three whom she named that I couldn’t trace, but that’s not bad percentage-wise.
Though she sent me a great many names and relationships, she sent me very few dates. Among the few dates she did send were that my great-great-grandparents George and Elizabeth Amos died in 1928 and 1942 respectively. Without any other evidence, I tentatively inputted those dates into my genealogy software and my various online family trees, waiting for the day I would finally have substantiative proof. The years passed by, and I located most of their children in the General Register Office’s birth, marriage, and death indices, but the deaths of the parents remained elusive. The longer the passage of time, the less secure I grew of the accuracy of the dates.
If you have any English ancestors, doubtless you are familiar with the GRO’s indices. They provide a name, registration district, year, and quarter for each event. And that’s it. No actual date—just a three month span. Obviously it can be very difficult to pick out the correct entry if you don’t know the death date in a case of multiple people with the same name. And to consult the actual document is currently £9.25 (depending on the exchange rates, about $15) a pop. Not being independently wealthy, I have not been terribly inclined to take a gamble like that without being pretty sure of my odds.
Finally, at the beginning of this month, all the circumstances aligned. I found an entry—and only one—which I felt reasonably certain was the right George Amos, the exchange rates were comparatively favorable, and I had a little spare cash. It was time to make my first purchase from the GRO.
It took over two weeks, but yesterday a brown envelope marked “Royal Mail” arrived.
I carefully slit it open, and looked inside. A cover letter detailed the facts of the order. Behind the cover letter was a delicately tinted certificate, which I couldn’t help but scan with my eyes before sitting down and seriously studying it. The word “Ferryman” jumped out at me. Ferryman! I was on the right track.
The rest of the information bore this out. The address given was the same address as on the 1911 census, and the informant was M. Bines: his daughter Minnie Bines.
So now I have a legitimate death date for George Amos: 3 May 1931. Now I just need to work on his wife...
Letter from cousin, since misplaced.
England and Wales, death certificate for George Amos, died 3 May 1931; citing 4a/624/13, Apr-May-Jun quarter 1931, Rochford registration district, Rochford sub-district; General Register Office, Southport.
1911 census of England, Essex, 27 St. Thomas Road, South Fambridge, Essex, household of George Amos; digital images, Ancestry, Ancestry (www.ancestry.com : accessed 16 Sep 2012); citing RG 78, RG 14 PN 10108, enumeration district (ED) 14, schedule number (SN) 91.