Marriage record finally opens doors to a brick wall

What a difference one little word can make on a historical document! Today's tip is to always view as many versions of an original record that you can possibly find.

For a long time I'd been unable to move beyond my 4 x great-grandmother, that is until now. I knew she was born in approximately 1786 or 1787 and that she may have been born in Widecombe-in-the-Moor in Devon although one census documented her birth place as Tavistock where she was living at the time.

Elizabeth Gale married my 4 x great-grandfather, Samuel Hellier, in Tavistock in 1815 but I could find no Elizabeth Gales baptised in either Widecombe or Tavistock in the correct time frame.

Then recently someone mentioned in the Devon Family History Society Facebook Group that FamilySearch had added to their collection of Devon Bishop's Transcripts (1558-1887). I'd already seen copies of Samuel and Elizabeth's marriage in the Parish Registers but the Bishop's Transcripts contained one vital piece of information which was missing from the other records. Elizabeth was described as a widow and so Gale would not have been her maiden name.

The marriage record between Samuel Hellier & Elizabeth Gale showing Elizabeth was a widow
The marriage record between Samuel Hellier & Elizabeth Gale showing Elizabeth was a widow

Armed with this new information, I soon found a marriage between a man called Gale and an Elizabeth; James Gale married Elizabeth Carton in Tavistock on 22nd July 1806.

James was a mason by trade but when their eldest daughter, Eliza, was born he was a hellier, an occupational name for a slater or tiler of roofs or a thatcher. This struck me as strange considering that Elizabeth later married Samuel Hellier who was himself a mason.

James and Elizabeth had three children but James died in 1812 and was buried on 5th March, less than four months before their infant daughter, Jane, was buried. That must have been a terrible year for Elizabeth.

Elizabeth had a son by Samuel called William Hellier who was my 3 x great-grandfather. Samuel was a widower when he'd married Elizabeth, having previously been married to Thomasin Langworthy. They'd had a son in 1802 called Thomas.

I promptly found Elizabeth's baptism on 12th November 1787 in Widecombe-in-the-Moor. Her full name was Elizabeth Wills Certon (note the different spelling from Carton). She was the daughter of John Kerton and Joan, nee Cleave. The name also appears as Kirton and Kirten in various records.

Through finding the word, widow, on a single document, I was able to trace the Kerton line back to my 9 x great-grandfather, Richard Kerton, who lived in Bickington in Devon and was probably born around 1650.

Elizabeth Certon's Ancestors
Elizabeth Certon's Ancestors

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Category: Ancestors Corner

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