Annie Elmer, my great grandmother, was fairly simple to locate on the 1911 census. At 17 years old she was living with her parents and several siblings in Croydon, Surrey, and worked as a domestic servant. Her parents William and Ellen had been married 28 years.
The family can just as easily be found on the 1901 census, but going back to 1891 took a little longer. The family surname had been recorded as “Elma”, and William and Ellen’s place of birth was “N.K.” – not known. They were also recorded as 26 years old, suggesting a year of birth of around 1865. Their estimated year of birth did vary between the 1901 and 1911 censuses by a year or two, but in William’s case it was 5 years off what I later found out to be his correct year of birth.
The next step was to find their marriage record, which would hopefully give the names and occupations of their fathers. Eventually I did find them – William Almer and Ellen Hickey, married in 1882 in Croydon. The certificate showed William and Ellen signed with an X, which made sense of the issue with the Elmer/Almer surname – they were both illiterate.
Unfortunately I’ve not been able to find William in the 1881 census. At the time of his marriage he was living in Croydon, although the 1901 and 1911 show he was born in Colchester, Essex. The marriage certificate gave William’s fathers name as John, a labourer.
I again found the details I had weren’t completely accurate. The 1861 & 1871 censuses and the the birth index showed there was no William Elmer (or Elma, Almer etc…!) born in Colchester around 1860. William was actually from Boxted, Essex, a village a few miles north of Colchester.
Although I have solved a few mysteries here, there are still a few more remaining. Along with finding William in the 1881 census, I’ve not found definitive death records for either of them. There is only one entry for William that seems likely – one that died aged 89 in Surrey North Eastern registration district in 1949. For Ellen there are two possible entries – one died aged 55 in Croydon, and another 1939 in Surrey Mid Eastern. I may just have to take a chance and order the certificates to find out…