A much-discussed topic among genealogists and the subject of numerous books and classes is the difficulty of finding the maiden names of female ancestors, particularly in the U. S. and the U. K. It can often feel as if these women didn’t exist until they married and assumed their husbands’ surnames. Such terms as “elusive women” and “lost female ancestors” have been used to describe them, making them sound more like shy woodland creatures or misplaced reading glasses than half of our family tree.
Extensive research hadn’t uncovered even a given name for my husband’s 3rd great-grandmother, the wife of William POOLE (ca. 1785 – 1869). However, as described in an earlier post, the discovery of the online index to the first newspaper published in Wales, The Cambrian, yielded many details about the family, including an 1856 death notice that lists her given name as Elizabeth. An 1866 death notice for her younger son, Edwin, gives his middle name as Manley, which had not been found in any other source. My husband’s third cousin Patrice suggested that Elizabeth’s maiden name might have been MANLEY.
A search on Ancestry.com yielded a good match from Pallot’s Marriage Index. A couple named “Wm POOLE & Elizth MANLEY” married in 1804 at Taunton St. James in Somerset. Volume 15 of Somersetshire Parish Registers of Marriages, published by Phillimore, gives a specific marriage date of 2 Nov 1804.
These two indexes are certainly not proof that I’ve found the right couple. However, because both the date and the place are consistent with other details discovered about the family, particularly the births of sons Charles Frederick (ca. 1810) and Edwin Manley (ca. 1816) in Yeovil, Somerset, a town less than 30 miles from Taunton, I will continue to do research in the parish records for this area. I will also analyze other middle names; several of William POOLE’s descendants in the next generation were given intriguing middle names that could prove to be maiden names.
Interestingly, when I added Elizabeth MANLEY and the marriage date and place to Family Tree Maker, no shaking leaf appeared next to her name to indicate a possible match in Ancestry.com’s database.
Ancestry.com also gave results for several other women with the given name Elizabeth and other surnames who married men named William POOLE in England in the early 19th century. However, the counties where these marriages took place do not appear in any other records for the POOLE family
Order the following microfilms from the Family History Library.
1) #1796124 — A subset of “Parish Registers of St. James’ Church, Taunton, Somersetshire, 1610 – 1909,” that includes the “General Register of Marriages 1718 – 1812.” Look for additional details on the 1804 POOLE-MANLEY marriage record that would help to determine whether this is the right couple.
2) #917548, Items 3-5 — “Parish Register Transcripts for the Parish Church of Uffculme, Devonshire, 1538 – 1837.” Look for the baptism of William POOLE to establish a more precise birth date for him. Since it is only known that Elizabeth was born in Devon, look for her baptism, also.
3) #1526122, Items 18-19 — A subset of “Bishop’s Transcripts of Yeovil, Somersetshire, 1607 – 1861.” Look for the baptisms of Charles Frederick and Edwin Manley to establish more precise dates for their births and the name of their mother.
4) #1471053, Items 31-32 — This film includes the “Bishop’s Transcripts” for many of the parish registers in #1796124 and should be ordered if the registers on that film are not legible.
5) #962417, Item 1 — “Barnstaple, Devonshire, Parish Register of Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials 1538 – 1812.” Since William and Elizabeth POOLE were living in Barnstaple at the time of the 1841 census, it is possible that she was born in that town. Look for her baptism record if it was not found in the Uffculme register. This register is also available as a book which can be borrowed through inter-library loan.
6) #1526508, Litems 37-50 — “Parish Registers for Churchstanton, Devonshire, 1662 – 1902.” An online family tree shows William POOLE and two previous generations of the family in Churchstanton. Order only if the Uffculme registers do not include William’s baptism.