Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Trove Tuesday : A brick wall falls

As a genealogist we all face brick walls during the course of our research. One particular brick wall I faced was with tracing my great-great-uncle Peter Auld. This post recalls how Trove helped me in my research to break down this particular wall.

The Wall

John Wallace Auld and Jane Fair’s third son Peter was born 10 September 1861 at their home in Cardigan Street Carlton (VIC, AUS). At eleven years of age, Peter's mother Jane passed away and by his twelfth birthday his father had remarried Elizabeth Lithgow. At twenty three years old in 1885, an iron moulder by trade, Peter is known as Peter William Auld. It is at this time that he married widower Rose Mitchell nee Halstead at the Erskine Manse in Carlton.

Following the dead ends

Unfortunately the trail of Peter went cold after his marriage to Rose. All subsequent research indicated that Peter Auld had changed his name to Frank Gresham. Purchasing certificates for the death of Rose Gresham confirmed I was on the correct path and that I had found Rose Halstead, but the Auld name was not mentioned. To muddy the waters even further, Rose was also known by the names of Grace Gresham, Grace Halstead and Rose Grace Gresham! Rose's marriage in 1885 was listed...but to a Frank Gresham.

Thinking that Frank Gresham could be my elusive Peter Auld, research found that Frank was also known by the name of Frank Jones and that he was a stage manager and theatrical producer.Unfortunately research also proved that Frank Gresham was not Peter Auld...so what happened to Peter?

Trove to the rescue

The first clue happened by coincident whilst looking for another Auld branch in Western Australia. What was found was a memoriam that listed a Peter and Nellie Auld who had lost a son the year prior: 
Source: Family Notices. (1902, October 1). The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 - 1954), p. 6. Retrieved March 18, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article24844808

The question now was, could this be the Peter Auld from Victoria that I had been looking for? Further investigation on trove found a death notice printed the year prior in the West Australian newspaper:

Source: Family Notices. (1901, October 1). The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 - 1954), p. 4. Retrieved March 18, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article24760317

Interestingly the name listed in the death notice is W.P. Auld...Peter William / William Peter, not an uncommon scenario switching first and second names around. With further investigation of the WA BDM indexes and Trove, the death of a William Peter Auld was tracked down and confirmed in 1934:

Source: Family Notices. (1934, September 3). The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 - 1954), p. 1. Retrieved March 18, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article32935117

...and on the same page a funeral notice was also listed:

Source: Family Notices. (1934, September 3). The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 - 1954), p. 1. Retrieved March 18, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article32935117

The wall crumbles

With the clues found in the above Trove archives, continued research and purchasing of certificates confirms that this was indeed the elusive Peter Auld from Victoria. The marriage of William Peter Auld and Nellie Wallace (daughter of Robert Wallace and Martha Rodd) was recorded as having taken place on 30 January 1892 at the All Saints Church in Hindmarsh (SA, AUS). William Peter Auld's father is listed as John Auld and his occupation is also confirmed as an iron moulder. Another clue is that the signatures that appear on both the 1885 and 1892 marriage certificates prove with an extremely high degree of certainty that it is the same person. The couple had two daughters in South Australia before moving to Western Australia where another two children are born, the only son unfortunately dying at a young age due to pneumonia. The children of the marriage are:

  • Janet Millicent Victoria Auld (1893-1951)
  • Dorothy Adelaide Auld (1895-1956)
  • Nellie Muriel Auld (1898-1967)
  • William Peter Auld (1900-1901)

What can we learn from this experience?

A valuable lesson learnt is that no matter how frustrating your research can get and no matter how many brick walls you come up against, never give up in trying to knock your research walls down. The smallest clue can sometimes bring a whole wall tumbling down. Don't give up, just tackle the problem from a different angle.