Correcting My Family Tree Mistakes

I have been an member since 2008 and enjoy building my family trees on their website. They have a vast amount of records that you can search and are adding to their collections each month.

One of the perks of being a member is having the ability to communicate with other family tree owners. They have a Members Connect area that shows you similar trees that may contain your relative. Clicking the “connect” button will notify the owner that you have a common ancestor and gives you the ability to trade information on that ancestor.

Another way to communicate on Ancestry is by using your e-mail account located at the top of the page. I have used this service many times, especially when I want to communicate with owners of family trees marked as “private”. You can also use your e-mail to ask a member for additional information or to make corrections to an ancestor’s profile.

The other day, I received an e-mail dated March 6, 2019, asking me to make a correction to one of my ancestor’s profiles. The member’s name is Carole, and she very kindly suggested to me that I had the wrong woman attached to Sidney Stephen Oxborough.

In her e-mail, Carole explained that Lily was her great-aunt and that she had a copy of a marriage record showing that Lily married Harry Holt in 1921, not Sidney Stephen Oxborough in 1911. Carole also stated that the document listed Lily’s father as Christopher Wainman and a witness to the marriage as Florrie Wainman who was Lily’s sister.

I sent Carole a reply thanking her for this information and told her that I would correct my mistake. As soon as I pressed the “send” button, I went to my Oxborough family tree and pulled up Sidney’s profile.

I noticed that I had finished his profile back in 2017, and, sure enough, I had Lily Wainman, daughter of Christopher and Ellen (Bowker) Wainman listed as his wife. I started looking through the records attached to both profiles to see how this had happened.

Here is what I had added to Sidney’s profile:

On Sidney’s profile, I had added the 1911 England census. He was single and living with his parents in Nelson, Burnley, Lancashire.

I then found his military record in the British Army WWI Pension Records 1914-1920. One of the pages showed that he had married a woman named Lily Wainman on September 2, 1911.

With this name and date, I searched the England & Wales, FreeBMD Marriage Index: 1837-1915 and found the marriage record. (Keep in mind that the BMD database contains “indexed” records. They supply the name, year, record number, and registration district, which you can use to order a copy from the GRO.)

Here is what I had added to Lily’s profile:

The military record showed that Sidney and Lily were living in Brierfield, Burnley, Lancashire in September of 1911. And, based on the fact that the 1911 England census was taken in April of that year, I assumed that Lily must have been living in that general area.

I searched the 1911 census for Lily and here are the top five search results:

The fifth entry shows a Lily Wainman born around 1895 and living in Nelson, Lancashire. If you will recall, Sidney was living with his parents in Nelson in 1911. I felt 100% positive that this was the woman that Sidney had married. I added the 1911 census to her profile.

The last bit of information that I had added to Lily’s profile back in 2017 were two more marriage records. (I do not remember how I found these documents, but it was probably through viewing other family trees.) Sidney and Lily had divorced sometime before 1940 when she married Thomas Townson. She later divorced Thomas and married Benjamin Nicholas Smith in 1954.

You may be wondering how I knew that they had divorced. Well, the BMD indexes gave me the answer. When a divorced woman remarries, the BMD will provide one entry in her married name (Lily Oxborough) and one entry in her maiden name (Lily Wainman). Both of these entries will show the same Volume and Page Number (8E 684).


At this point, I thought this was the end of their story. I happily went on adding other Oxborough relatives to my family tree. That was until I received Carole’s e-mail and revisited their profiles.  Here is Carole’s e-mail:

As I pulled up Sidney’s information, I remembered that had added the 1939 England census to their database back in 2018. I did a quick search and found Sidney had remarried and was living in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. I knew that this was my Sidney from the description of “blinded solder” noted on the entry. Sidney was discharged from the army after receiving wounds to both eyes on August 13, 1916, in France.

I then went to Lily’s profile and started looking for her on the 1939 census. It did not take long to find her as she was still living in Nelson, Lancashire. Her marital status was listed as divorced and the name Oxborough had been crossed out and Townson wrote in above her last name. Wishful thinking on her part?

As I studied the entry on the 1939 census, I realized that Carole was correct about having the wrong Lily Wainman. The 1939 census listed her full birth date as June 4, 1891. On all the other documents that I had added to her profile, Lily’s birth year was estimated as 1895.

Could the year 1891 have been a typo? I returned to Lily’s profile page and discovered something else. To my dismay, I noticed that I had neglected to add a birth record to her profile. Oops! My bad!

I did a quick search for birth records on a Lily Wainman, born between 1890 and 1900 in the Burnley Registration District. Only two entries appeared in the search results:

After adding the correct birth record to Lily’s profile, I removed all information tying her to Christopher and Ellen (Bowker) Wainman. Now her profile was blank prior to her marriage to Sidney. The next step was to find out who her parents were and where they lived.

I started searching the 1901 and 1911 England censuses but was perplexed when nothing relevant appeared in the search results. I spent several hours trying different scenarios, modifying her name and birth year. Still nothing!

It then occurred to me that maybe Lily had been adopted. In past searches of other relatives, I noticed that some of my female relatives had babies before they were married. Sometimes their new husbands would legally adopt the child. Sometimes the child was not accepted by the husband and was sent to live with other relatives.

Could Lily’s mother have been single at the time of her birth? As I had found that she was born in the Burnley Registration District, I went to the UKBMD website to see what parishes were listed in this district in 1891. There were 26 civil parishes.

My next step was to go to Google Maps and see how many of these parishes were in close proximity to Nelson, Lancashire. Below is a map showing the parishes in an approximate five-mile radius. Notice that both Barrowford and Brierfield are within 2 1/2 miles of Nelson.

I knew that Lily was born a few months after the 1891 England census was enumerated. And, if the above scenario was true, I needed to search the marriage records for a Wainman female who had gotten married in Burnley between 1891 and 1895.

Here are my search results:

As you can see, there are three women listed; Sarah Ann (1892), Esther (1894), and Mary (1895). I wrote down each woman’s information including their potential husbands.

I then started searching the 1901 England censuses for each woman. Lily would have been about 10 years old at the time and still living at home.

I found that the only woman (out of the three named above) who had a daughter named Lily (or Lilley) was Sarah Ann Astin. The record shows that the family was living in Barrowford and that Lily was born in Brierfield. As noted above, both parishes are only 2 1/2 miles from Nelson, Lancashire.

Does this mean that I am 100% sure that Sarah Ann is Lily’s mother? No, it does not. The only way to tie the Lily who married Sidney Stephen Oxborough to the Lily born to Sarah Ann Wainman would be to order the birth record from the GRO.

However, if you were to order a birth record on everyone in your family tree, it would get very expensive. And, unless you are a millionaire, I have a different suggestion that might help.

On my Oxborough family tree, I did not stop at Sidney Stephen Oxborough’s profile. I had also added his children’s profiles and his grandchildren’s profiles. I have found that several of these grandchildren have social media accounts, and I have sent messages of inquiry to them.

I am hopeful that one of these grandchildren will be able to supply me with the information I need on Lily’s parentage. I will update this article as soon as I receive an answer back on my inquiries.

Photo by David Pennington on Unsplash.