02 December 2019

This Experienced Amateur Family Historian Gets it Wrong

In a single sentence I blew it while interviewing Charlotte Gray.

You were born in Sheffield in Yorkshire. A little genealogy research says your father was John Gray, your mother Kathleen Beckett and their marriage was registered in Norwich, in my birth county of Norfolk. 
Immediately after I named each of her parents Charlotte cried "Wrong."

How did I end up with egg all over my face?

Charlotte's Wikipedia page gives her birth date as 3 January 1948. Using FreeBMD I found a birth registration in the index with her mother's maiden name.

I didn't know if there were siblings so went looking for them in Sheffield. There was only one, Nicholas R Gray with birth registered in the last quarter of 1946.

So I looked for the marriage of a Gray to a Beckett. From 1940 onward there were none in Sheffield but there was a marriage of John A. Gray to Kathleen M Beckett in the 1st quarter of 1945, a respectable period before the birth of Nicholas. It was in Norwich, but then lots of marriages occurred in places where servicemen met their match while posted away from home during the war.

Had I had time, which I didn't, I could have ordered her birth certificate which would give the parents names.

Is there any other way using readily available documents online I could have avoided this blunder?

My interview with Charlotte, whose latest book is Murdered Midas: A Millionaire, His Gold Mine, and a Strange Death on an Island Paradise, will be posted shortly.


Chuck Buckley said...

Murdered Midas is a very well written book. Gray provides rational explanations for the point of view and analysis of the fiction around the murder of previous biographers. Engaging and enjoyable!

Donna said...

Good question. I’m interested in the answers as I have a similar situation; a second cousin born in 1944 in England that I’d like to make contact with but can find no clues online. First step is to order her birth certificate to confirm her parents and like your example, they look like a match from the index.

Anonymous said...

Interesting question John. All I can think of is that perhaps there was a youthful, earlier marriage to someone else, from whom Charlotte gained the surname Gray.

As I know myself, once you are working and have gained a reputation for whatever work that is, it is awfully tough to change your surname when that reputation is gained ..... even if you divorce the person from whom you got that surname.

I googled Charlotte Gray's husband's name along with former DM of Natural Resources Canada and and found this.

The 2011 Trudeau Mentors are:
George R.M. Anderson, Ont. : President and CEO of the Forum of Federations, Anderson brings to the Trudeau network his experience and leadership at the highest levels of public service in the areas of natural resources, energy, international affairs, and public policy.

So George's full name is George RM Anderson.

And then I tried Free BMD and located a marriage of George RM Anderson to a Charlotte J Gray at Bakewell in the fourth Q of 1979. On reversing the positions of those names it's clear that they married probably not long before they arrived in Canada in 1979. I suspect that they moved here to further George's career.

That doesn't tell us what Charlotte's maiden name was, but that's all I feel like doing on this. Cheers, BT

Gail Benjafield said...

I look forward to your post on Charlotte Gary. I admire your maturity in stating you did not get the search quite right. Too few Family Historians, Experienced or not, fess up. But then you are dealing with records, which so often can be misleading, as many have discovered.

best regards,

Gail B

John D. said...

Canadian Who's Who for 2006 has this:

GRAY, Charlotte Judith, B.A.; author, columnist, broadcaster; b. Sheffield, UK 3 Jan. 1948; d. Robert and Elizabeth Gray; e. Cheltenham Ladies Coll. 1965; Oxford Unv. B.A. 1969; London Sch. of Econ. & Pol. Sci. Dip. Social Adm. 1970; m. George s. Reginald and Alice Anderson 27 Oct. 1979; ...