Tue. Jul 23rd, 2024
Unfinished Jigsaw Puzzle

I can’t begin to tell you how addictive the genealogy hunt and the find is. It has to be experienced. I am so glad I completed the Diploma of Family History at the University of Tasmania, it has been very interesting and useful..

Genealogy is like the ultimate jigsaw puzzle. Each piece must be carefully found and fully examined before joining it into the puzzle. The slightest mistake can completely distort the picture. Just like a jigsaw, you could find yourself having to go right back to the beginning because the offending mistake is not obvious. For this reason, I am fastidious about referencing and cross-referencing every piece of information inserted into my family tree.

I have been slowly tracking down a particularly difficult Scottish ancestor called Margaret. Firstly the combination of her first and family name is unbelievably common in Scotland at the time she lived. Secondly, she never married and so I had no documents that listed her parents.

She was the mother of my grandfather Edward who was illegitimate. I was able to find his father Charles Edward in Glasgow the 1891 Scottish Census where Margaret is listed as his Housekeeper.

At first, my fascination was with Charles’ wife Mary whom he married in Edinburgh – what happened to her, was she still alive at that time? I tracked her down fairly quickly, discovering that she lived her life out in Galashiels. That was some time ago, and now my focus was on my ancestor Margaret.

I needed more information, so although I knew who the children were, from the Scotland Census in 1881, 1891, and 1901, I decided to lash out and get their birth registers.

The Scots are proud of who they are and lead the English speaking world in access to primary family history sources. For less than £1 I can instantly download an image of the page in the registration book. To access that information here, in Australia, it can cost up to $45 and can only be accessed by snail mail.

I digressed. Charles Edward had ten children by these two women and Margaret already had two other children whose fathers’ were not named. I could not find anything to define when one relationship ended and the other began, I suspected that they overlapped – not an unreasonable guess for the Victorian era. There were too many Margaret’s to prove or disprove her status in either 1881 or 1911.

Now I was frustrated, returning to the lesson on brick walls in my genealogy course I thought about the collateral lines (using siblings) and I decided to get the birth registers of her second child Alfred Edward. His middle name implied that Charles could be his father but he had not been given Charles’ surname so I knew his father was unnamed and had ignored him so far.

This was when I struck gold. For reasons unknowable, on Alfred’s birth, she called herself Margaret Ann Hatt. Now, assuming she predeceased Charles because neither woman was named on his death register, I moved to a death search between 1901 and 1920 where I found a possible Margaret whose mother’s maiden name was given as HATT, the informant, her daughter Alice with a different surname, could possibly have been Margaret’s eldest daughter Alice, now married.

Finally, could I prove or disprove this death register with a birth? It was known that she was born circa 1865 in Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire. Two possible births were found one Margaret and one Margaret Ann. Margaret Ann’s mother had a maiden name HATT and so closed the circle of proof.

Margaret was born Margaret Ann on 5 November, 1864 in Morningside, Aberdeen. Her father was Robert a clock maker and her mother was Annie. She was never married and had seven children, Alice and Alfred, then Charles, Thomas, Edward, John and George. Alfred and Charles both died in infancy. Margaret died in Glasgow on 23 October, 1919 nine months prior to the suicide of Charles Edward, the father of at least five of her children. No mention of Charles is made on her death certificate, her daughter now Alice informed the registrar.

Stay tuned for the another exciting genealogist’s adventure.


Who am I? I am different things to different people. I am a poet, a visual artist, a sculptor of found objects, and a writer. I am a bookkeeper, an office manager, an administrator and software support consultant, even a short-order cook and barista. I am a parent, a grandparent, a sibling, a cousin and a friend. I am a traveller, a technophile, a philosopher and a student of all things.

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