Saturday, 31 May 2014

Widen the Search: a Genealogy Success Story

Source: South-East Queensland cemeteries photo collection
Many genealogy 'brick walls' can be overcome by
  • researching the subject's siblings or other relatives;
  • searching outside the geographical area where the subject lived.

A friend of mine is interested in descendants of Walter and Elsie CHATTERTON, who lived in England. A family tree on Ancestry suggests that they had a son, Reginald Walter CHATTERTON, who went to Australia. My friend was not able to contact the owner of that tree. This is how I helped her to find out more about the family.

  • FreeBMD:
    • Marriage: Reginald W. CHATTERTON and Doris A. MUNNINGS, Dec qtr 1940
    • Birth: David M. CHATTERTON, mother MANNINGS, Mar qtr 1943
    • Birth: Colin M. CHATTERTON, mother MUNNINGS, Sep qtr 1945
    • Birth: Johannes CHATTERTON, mother NUNNINGS, Dec qtr 1946
    • Birth: Maria CHATTERTON, mother MUNNINGS, Jun qtr 1948

    I found three of those entries easily, but variation in the spelling of the mother's surname meant that I only found the other two after seeing the names in the shipping record mentioned below.

  • A Google search for the surname led me to a reference on I copied the text into Google Translate, which said, 'According to immigration records, Reginald Walter Chatterton nationality was English, his birthplace being more specifically Hull. Farmer by profession, arrived in Argentina on the boat Highland Chieftain having embarked in London.'

    Argentina?! That was unexpected.

  • Passenger Lists leaving the UK 1890-1960:   The image of the original passenger list gives these details (and more):

    Name: Reginald CHATTERTON
    Date of departure: 29 January 1949
    Port of departure: London
    Passenger destination: Buenos Aires, Argentina
    Age: 33
    Occupation: Farm Worker
    Ship: Highland Chieftain
    The following people with the same last name travelled on this voyage: Colin M., David M., Doris A., Johannes and Maria CHATTERTON.

  • Queensland Registrar-General's online death indexes:
    1978/C2007, Reginald Walter CHATTERTON; father: Walter Frederick CHATTERTON; mother: Elsie Gertrude NEWTON

  • '1978' is the registration year. I could have found the exact death date by repeatedly changing the search's date range to narrow it down to a month and then a specific day; but I found the date by other means.

  • Web page for Gheerulla cemetery:
    An entry for 'Doris Amy & Reginald Walter Chatterton' leads to a photo of a different headstone, which says 'Doris Amy Chatterton nee Munnings 19.12.1919 - 23.10.2007. Reginald Walter Chatterton 24.1.1916 - 10.6.1978. Rest in peace.'

  • Australian Commonwealth electoral rolls 1903-1980 on Ancestry (some are missing):
    I found multiple entries for the CHATTERTON family. The 1980 Commonwealth roll for the electorate of Bowman lists Colin Michael CHATTERTON, Doris Amy CHATTERTON and Susan CHATTERTON at Edith St, Wellington Point. (So we now have the second given name, not just an initial, for Colin; and Susan is an extra name to research.)

The next step would be to get death certificates for Reginald and Doris CHATTERTON. In Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria, death certificates are very informative. Family historians in the UK will be pleasantly surprised by the list of details shown on our certificates.

Other suggestions:
  • Search indexes to Supreme Court wills and intestacies, and the most recent Commonwealth electoral rolls and State electoral rolls, as explained on Queensland Genealogy and Archives Research Tips.

  • If there is no will/intestacy file with a copy of the death certificate, look for other Archives files that may include the certificate (see 'Free Certificates in Archives Files').

  • If all else fails, buy the certificate from the Queensland Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages.

  • Sources listed above, and others including the Ryerson Index to recent newspaper notices, may help to locate living descendants.

I am passionate about using original records in Archives, but as this case study shows, the Internet can certainly speed up the research process.
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  1. I'm a big believer in crawling all over my family tree and researching siblings of my direct ancestors as well as the siblings and other family of their spouses. I have found out so much about my direct ancestors as a result. I lost my great great grandfather after he immigrated to the U.S. from Scotland. Tracing one of his nephew's passenger ship record provided my great great grandfather might be in Iowa. And sure enough he was. He'd left his first family, married another woman, and died there. I would have never known without that initial clue found by tracing his brother's children.

    1. Schalene, thanks for sharing that excellent example of how 'researching the relatives' can solve a long-standing mystery. Another great source is the National Probate Calendar for England and Wales (an index of wills and administrations that includes the names and whereabouts of vast numbers of people in other countries).


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World Wide Genealogy Team