Compile background information
The first thing I did was read over all my notes and research on the family. I had three generations to work with: an Evan Evans, born about 1840, who married Mary Hughes in 1865 (we’ll call him Evan A); his father Evan Evans, born about 1812, who married Elizabeth Jones (he’ll be Evan B); and his grandfather Evan Evans, born about 1781, who married Elizabeth Reynolds (make him Evan C). Do you know your ancestor's occupation? That can be an important clue. Making a chart, timeline, or ancestor profile can help you visualize the information you have better.
Two pieces of information ended up being keys to my success:
- The name of the town where the family lived. With common names, it’s crucial to pinpoint their locality as much as possible, down to the city or town, and then to the township or parish if possible. I had a short family summary from my husband’s grandmother (Evan A's granddaughter) that said the family lived in Carno, a small town in Montgomeryshire. It was enough to get me going. Admittedly, I was lucky because my family stayed in one place. If your ancestor moved, can you estimate when? Collect clues on both localities.
- A list of all the children of Evan A and some children of Evan C, from the same family summary. With census records, it’s helpful to have the names of as many family members as possible—children, siblings, even in-laws and neighbors.
|The family of Evan and Mary (Hughes) Evans
Start your search where you know the most
Like other aspects of genealogy, it’s usually easiest to start with the most recent generation and work backwards. Since I had the names of Evan A’s children and knew some of them immigrated to America in the 1880’s, I started with the 1881 UK census. This first step ended up being pretty easy. Ancestry.com returned 55 results in Montgomeryshire for an Evan Evans born within two years of 1840, but only four of these met my criteria. One Evan Evans living in Carno with a wife Mary had four children whose names and ages corresponded with those on my list. There was one extra person listed in Evan’s household: 46-year-old John Higgs, whose relationship was “brother.” My first thought was that Higgs must actually be Mary’s brother, since her maiden name was Hughes—perhaps the enumerator got the spelling wrong. But as you’ll see later, that assumption was a mistake.
|1881 census of Wales (see below for source citation)
It was relatively easy to find Evan A in the 1871 census, too. Ancestry.com returned 53 results in Montgomeryshire for an Evan Evans born in 1840 (plus or minus 2 years), but only three matched my criteria for both town (Carno) and wife’s name (Mary). One of these, an Evan living in the township of Trawscoed, had children corresponding to the names and ages of Evan A’s three oldest kids (Evan, John, and Thomas). And there was John Higgs again, a 34-year-old laborer, identified as Evan’s brother.
|1871 census of Wales (see below for source citation)
So far, so good. But going back to 1861 meant taking the search back a generation, before Evan A’s marriage to Mary. I didn’t know if Evan A had siblings, so I didn’t have any names other than his parents, Evan and Elizabeth, as a guide. Would my strategies be enough to overcome this hurdle?
Milk every bit of info from the records you find
Ancestry.com showed me 59 men named Evan Evans in Montgomeryshire in 1861 who were born about 1840. Fourteen of them were residing with fathers named Evan, three of them lived in Carno, and several had a mother named Elizabeth. I went through them one by one. But none of them seemed like a good match for my Evan. I had given up at this point before, because it seemed like I just didn’t have enough information to make a connection. He had to be floating around there somewhere, but where?
I took a closer look at the locality information for the two census records I had found. In both 1871 and 1881, Evan Evans was living in Trawscoed township. His registration district was Newton, and his sub-district was Llanwnog. (US censuses often note the township, and in various years the enumeration district and/or post office district.) Now, it’s certainly possible that he lived in a different place as an adult than he had as a child. But it’s also possible that he lived in the same place. There was one Evan Evans residing in Trawscoed township in 1861, and he had a father named Evan. But there was no wife named for the elder Evan; he was marked widowed. Four children were listed, but I had no names to compare them with. It seemed inconclusive at best, risky at worse, to assume this was my man. I tried searching for a death record for Elizabeth Evans, but without at least an estimated date, there were too many possibilities. It looked like I was drawing a blank on 1861.
If you’d like to know how I eventually solved this, and the rest of my tips for finding common names in the census, stay tuned for the next part of the story later this week!
1881 census of Wales, Montgomeryshire, Carno, Trawscoed Township, folio 28, page 3, household 16, Evan Evans; digital image, Ancestry (www.ancestry.com: accessed 5 January 2012); citing original records, The National Archives of the UK, London, GSU roll 1342318, RG11, piece 5483.
1871 census of Wales, Montgomeryshire, Carno, Trawscoed Township, folio 28, page 1, household 6, Evan Evans; digital image, Ancestry (www.ancestry.com: accessed 5 January 2012); citing original records, The National Archives of the UK, London, GSU roll 892470, RG10, piece 5611.