George Alfred Davies. General Hawker. 30 Bridge Lane, Lancaster.

This was my paternal grandfather’s name, occupation and address, as stated on my father’s birth certificate.

Dad had told us his father was a gypsy and he had memories of him bringing fruit to the children’s home where he was raised, just outside Kendal, Westmorland, in a village called Staveley. Dad’s mother, Emily Cunningham, according to his birth certificate, had died when Dad was 3 years old.

This was the very start of my research to discover the identity of my paternal grandparents. How could I find out more about George Alfred Davies?

I guess I had already started by looking at Dad’s birth certificate. He was born in 1934, his parents were named George Alfred Davies and Emily Davies formerly Cunningham. George was a General Hawker and they lived at 30 Bridge Lane, Lancaster. If I were to find their marriage, I would be able to find out more; their addresses, their father’s names, and hopefully their occupations at the time too. Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it?

First step, find the marriage of George and Emily. This was the 1980’s. This was before Ancestry.com. This was even before the internet! I booked a microfiche reader at York Library, packed my pencils and notebook and set off to the Library to discover my ancestors. Loading up the first microfilm, I started my search in 1934, assuming that, as they had registered my father as a married couple, then they surely must be married! Disappointingly, looking through the marriage indexes thoroughly, working through the years from 1934 back to around 1910, I could find no record of a marriage. I had looked under the name Cunningham, but could find no records for a marriage to anyone named Davies or Davis. So I searched again, noting all instances of the name Emily Cunningham, making notes of locations and reference numbers. This seemed the sensible way round, as I imagined that with Davies being one of the most common names, there would be many more George Alfred Davies or George A Davies or even simply George Davies’s listed, more than likely too many to manage in my notebook. I initially restricted the search to the Lancashire area so having a map with me was useful, as being quite young at the time, and from the other side of the Pennines, my knowledge of Lancashire and Westmorland was limited to Blackpool and The Lake District! This search was still fruitless. I had no new information, no luck at all. I had to consider that, as Dad had told me his father was a gypsy, maybe they didn’t marry in that area, or maybe they didn’t have a traditional marriage ceremony at all.  I switched the search to look for all marriages of George A (or Alfred) Davies entries, noting the surnames of their brides and locations and reference numbers. It had occurred to me that Emily may have been widowed so may have married George using a previous married name. So, as time-consuming as it was, I had to go through each marriage, find the corresponding bride and discover her first name. This narrowed the search down to around three entries from all over the country, but they were long shots and I was not convinced that any of them were correct.

I turned my attention to the death of my grandmother, Emily Davies nee Cunningham. I knew she had died when Dad was around three years old, so I guessed she could have been aged between twenty to forty years old when she died. It was difficult to know really, as parent’s ages are not stated on birth certificates, and with no marriage certificate, this really was a guessing game. So I looked for all deaths of Emily Davies/Davis or Cunningham in Lancaster after 1934 (just in case she had died in childbirth). There were no obvious entries. There was an Emily Davies and an Emily Cunningham, both died in Lancaster, both who I felt would have been too old at 52 and 59 respectively and as the deaths were registered in 1940 and 1941, my father would have been more like 6 or 7 when they died. The 52 year old Emily Davies wasn’t an impossibility, so I ordered this death certificate, if for no other reason than to rule it out.

I already had my first brick wall on my first day of research!

To be continued….