FamilySearch kindly reminded me that I should look for Alice Searles, my 3 great aunt. Almost 10 years ago, I researched her parents and their 8 children a few years ago. At the time I was able to find the marriage for Alice no birth record. There should have been a birth registration for her. She was born about 1892 in Cardiff, Wales. Births were generally registered in England and Wales and have been since 1837.
The baby of the family, Alice Searles was born to Samuel Searles and Elizabeth Atkins Searles about 1892 according to the 1901 England and Wales Census. When she was 15, she and her father left England on board the ship Tunisian to join other family members who had already emigrated to Canada. It appears that Alice was designated the caregiver for her aging parents. She married Harry Fielding on August 25, 1915 in Toronto. On their marriage record it states they both lived at the same address. Harry must have been a boarder at her parents’ house. I was able to find all this information on Alice by researching her and her parents. But for some reason I couldn’t find her birth record.
Birth records in England are kept at a country level in a central repository – the General Register Office. There is an index available on their website. Another source is the FreeBMD website, where volunteers have indexed births, marriages, and deaths. These indexes are also available on Ancestry, FamilySearch, and FindMyPast. The way I usually look for England and Wales births, marriages and deaths is to use FreeBMD to find the name that lists what quarter of the year the event took place and the volume and page number. Then to go to the General Register Office website to confirm the event and order the certificate. With all of these resources, I should have been able to find her birth.
I started again. Ancestry and FamilySearch were my first attempts. I tried searching under every name variant for the Searles name. Nothing showed up. Then I went to the FreeBMD. Once again, trying all the alternatives, even searching with no first name and every county – there was nothing that matched my Alice Searles. So I searched the General Registry Office indexes and came up with the same results, nothing. Flummoxed, I decided to try FindMyPast. They allow you to search by name variants for the surname. I choose this option. Going through the results, I finally found Alice. She was registered as Alice Searls, a name variant I had not found before. The place of registration, Cardiff, and year were correct but I wanted to verify it was really her. I went back to the GRO website and put the information in their search engine. The reason I went to the GRO is that they list the maiden name of the mother. Alice Searls mother’s maiden name matched. This was my Alice Searles. I finally found her birth.
What could I have done differently? When I searched for Alice in Ancestry and FamilySearch I should have used a wild card symbol after the “l” in her surname (Searl*). That would have resulted in finding her birth very quickly. As a genealogist, I am always learning new and better ways to search on websites. I know that most websites have a “search tips” page. I should start learning to efficiently search by using those tips. Have you ever searched and then realized there was an easier way? Let me know in the comments below what you learned.