Sarah Palmer, born in Keighley, West Yorkshire in 1835. I’d found her via her marriage to my 3 x great-grandfather and discovered her date of birth from census records. She was the brick wall I just couldn’t break down and she was my 3 x great-grandmother. Or so I thought.
Sarah was one of the ancestors on what was one of the easiest branches of my tree to trace. As a family history newbie 15 or 20 years ago, I’d shied away from the Irish branches of my tree (and there were quite a few), taking comfort in the fact that Sarah’s line was largely UK-based, in an area local to me and should, therefore, be easy to trace.
An unbreakable brick wall
Try as I might, though, I could never get beyond Sarah’s birth. I couldn’t find a record of her parents’ marriage, or see them on any census. The only records that might work were for families miles away from Keighley. Ancestry sent me record hints, offering related records from far and wide but none fitted. I think even at that early, inexperienced stage, I knew that something wasn’t right. And so, I left Sarah and carried on building my tree, learning new skills and connecting with other researchers. But something kept calling me back.
I was fond of Sarah Palmer. She was born just down the road from me. She was alive when the Bronte sisters were a few miles away in Haworth, she would have been about twelve when Charlotte Bronte published Jane Eyre. It was time to go right back to basics.
That long-ago mistake comes to light
So, it was back to the starting point and hopefully, with more experience behind me, I might be able to make progress. As it would turn out, the answer had been there all the time. Looking at the marriage details again, I realised that I’d never examined the original record. As a newbie, I’d been happy to accept the transcription I’d found at face value and had diligently copied the details down onto my tree. So now for a look at the original record and there it was – Sarah Milner.
Even though the brick wall had come tumbling down before my eyes, I couldn’t help feeling a little sad. I’d lived with Sarah Palmer for so long she actually felt like a relative. Not this Sarah Milner. But of course, soon after came the rush of excitement that I’m sure many of us feel on finding a new ancestor – time to dive into the records, find her mother and father’s marriage, a new maiden name to discover, where are they on the censuses? So much to explore – and of course (blush) checking the original record each time.
And so it was goodbye to the Palmers and hello to the Milners. It’s been lots of fun tracing the Milner line and in that exciting way that family trees tend to do, the Milners have led me down an exciting route. I’ve followed them to Georgian Manchester and on to a textile trader in Lower Saxony, Germany. My journey will go on. I do miss Sarah Palmer. Without knowing it, this Yorkshire lass from my own neck of the woods has led me on a record tracing adventure across the North Sea. Maybe she was never mine, but I won’t forget her.
(photo by Renee Fisher on Unsplash)